The Discreet Luxury of Páva Restaurant in Gresham Palace, Budapest

Páva Restaurant (Pava Étterem) in Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest was closed down. Sorry.

Formerly it was not only luxury with its food, service and the architecture of the Art Deco Gresham Palace, but quite extraordinarily, with its views too. The panoramic-view windows of Páva are overlooking the Chain Bridge spanning over the River Danube, leading the eyes to the Royal Palace, the green forests of the Buda hills making you feel at home. As Fodor’s travel guide puts it: “The hotel’s premier restaurant is everything you’d expect from the Four Seasons chain: discreet luxury in a unique and historic building. The international menu hardly let’s you know you’re in Hungary, but the food is so expertly prepared you’re willing to settle for the breathtaking views of the Chain Bridge and Budapest Castle as a reminder. Service is friendly but white-glove all the way.”Frommer’s refers to this ‘friendly but’ factor as “While the atmosphere here is a tad stiff, the dining experience is memorable.

Interestingly enough the official website tells you that the menu is Italian, Frommer’s guide says it’s Italian (“serves really great Italian cuisine: this is a 3-hour, six-course meal,“) but several other reviews dub the kitchen international.

Pava Restaurant (Pava Étterem) in Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest

Address: Roosevelt tér 5-6, 1051 Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-268-5100
Opening hours: (dinner hours) Mon – Sat 18:00 – 22:30
Getting here
:

  • metro (blue line) Deák tér station,
  • tram/streetcar: number 2 or 2A
  • bus number 15, 16, 105

Note: Book a table in advance (closed on Sundays). Expect the experience to be pricey & memorable. Attire: business casual. Pava restaurant seats 78 people, while the private dining room 14. Páva means peacock in Hungarian (see the motif on the gate)
See the location of Páva Restaurant in Gresham Palace on the Budapest Tourist Map (check the knife and fork map icon in the middle, and click on the icons to learn more about the neighboring places of interest or click on the View Larger Map blue link under the map). Notice that Páva Restaurant in Gresham Palace is very close to the Parliament, the Basilica and Roosevelt square with the Chain Bridge, plus there’s the Funicular Railway on the other side of the bridge (5-10 min walk).


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Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest.

Budapest Chairlift: Libego on Janoshegy

The Chairlift in Budapest is on János hill (Jánoshegy) in a beautiful green part of the hilly Buda side of Budapest. Although the Chair Lift is run by the Budapest Public Transportation company, Budapest travel passes and tourist cards known as Budapest cards, do not include a free ride on the Chairlift.

Budapest Chairlift

Budapest Chairlift

Opening hours: weekends and fair weather 10 am – 4pm
Prices: 500 HUF for adults, 200 HUF for kids, 400 HUF for students and retired people. Return tickets are double.
Address: Zugligeti út 97, Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-394-37-64
Note: Groups need to book in advance.

The location of the Chairlift is indicated in the middle with a blue (sorry) ‘helicopter’ icon on the Budapest Tourist Map, you can see the Children’s Railway (Gyermekvasut), the Lookout Tower and the Langos vendor close by. All highly recommended for a relaxed family-friendly or inspirational romantic program.


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Here’s a nice video on the Chairlift on Janos Hill (the second major part of the video is about the neighboring lookout tower, Erzsebet kilato from 1910). Watch out for the retro panpipe music characterizing the 1980s:

 

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) on János Hill, at the Children’s Railway in Budapest

If you want to breathe some nice fresh air, be in the green and take panoramic photos of Budapest, it’s a good idea to take the Children’s Railway and get off at Janoshegy, at the Elisabeth Lookout Tower (in Hungarian Erzsébet kilátó). Skip to the video at the bottom if you want to watch not read.

Although it’s a beautiful memorial, admission is free and kids also love it very much. Most of the time it is open all year round. On the first floor there is a mini-exhibition (a few words about the history of the lookout tower), which tells you that the tower was built between 1908 and 1910 from lime and sand stone (by Pál Kluzinger), and the top part was rebuilt by Frigyes Schulek (who also planned the Fishermen’s Bastion, so if you felt a resemblance between the rampart in the Buda Castle and Erzsebet kilato, you are right). Renovation took place between 2001 and 2005.

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) at the Children’s Railway in Budapest on the Buda hills

It’s on the highest point of Budapest at 527 m/ 0.33 miles, while the tower itself, which has six floors, is about 23.5 m/ 77 ft. If the weather is truly clear you can see the hill tops of Pilis and Mátra as far as 77km/ 48 miles without binoculars.

The beloved Elisabeth or Sissi liked taking tours here, similarly to many Hungarians, so when the wooden lookout structure was replaced by a stone one, it was named after Sissi (in Hungarian Erzsébet, say: air-jay-beth)

The guard of the lookout tower used to live on the ground floor, then in 1923 he got a new building not far from Erzsebet kilato (not in use anymore). Now the guard uses the ground floor places again.

Needless to say, just like any other important building, the Lookout tower got a red star in the communist era:

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) with a communist red star

To go back to the city center you can take the mini railway operated by kids (the engine is driven by an adult), you can take a good walk or you can get on the Chair lift (Libego) and then on bus 158 to get back to Moszkva tér metro station.

Here’s the Lookout Tower on the Budapest Tourist Map in the middle (map icon for panoramic photo spots: lilac cameras)


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The video (made by Cix688) is good for three reasons: a, it starts with the Chairlift, which helps you decide if you want to sit on it or not, b, Erzsebet Kilato is shown from inside out, c, you can hear the cheesiest panflute-soft rock music since the 1980s:

Lookout Towers in Budapest: Where Can You Take a Good Panoramic Photo?

There are several lookout towers in Budapest where you can take a good panoramic photo, and I think one of the best gifts for your friends is a beautiful shot shared with them of the places you have been to.

City Center

To start with the city center, you should definitely get to the top of the Basilica on the Pest side, either being sporty and climbing the 364 stairs, or taking the elevator (see the link for more details on the opening hours). The Pest side is totally flat, so this could be the topmost part of the eastern part of Budapest.

As for the Buda side: the Fishermen’s Bastion is a typical choice since you can get a clear view of the River Danube with the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Parliament, the Gresham Palace, etc. Another frequented spot on the Buda side is around the Statue of Liberty on top of the Gellert Hill. I think the top of the Tunnel (right overlooking the Chain Bridge) is also a good spot.

Outside the inner city

Outside the city center you can take panoramic photos on Normafa, for instance, or take the Children’s Railway and get off at Janos

hegy, at the Elisabeth Lookout Tower (in Hungarian Erzsébet kilátó). Although it’s a beautiful memorial, admission is free and kids also love it very much.

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) at the Children’s Railway in Budapest on the Buda hills

Another option on the route of the railroad is to go to the Szechenyi Memorial Lookout Tower, which is slightly lower than the Elisabeth. The ride on the Children’s Railway itself also has a panoramic part.

Szechenyi Memorial Lookout Tower at the Children’s Railway in Budapest on the Buda hills

Check out the lilac camera icons on the Budapest Tourist map to find your panoramic photo places easily:

Crossing from Pest to Buda: Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)

Széchenyi Chain Bridge is one of the several nice bridges connecting the two parts of Budapest: the hilly Buda side and the flat Pest side. It was built in 1849 as the very first permanent bridge spanning the River Danube (the river ‘Duna’ has an average width of approx. 400 meters / 1,325 feet). In fact, when the Chainbridge was built, Budapest has not existed yet: the major city parts (Buda, old Buda aka Óbuda and Pest) were united more than 20 years later in 1873 partly due to the first bridge as a pre-condition.

“The bridge was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark in 1839, after Count István Széchenyi’s initiative in the same year, with construction supervised locally by Scottish engineer Adam Clark (no relation). It is a larger scale version of William Tierney Clark’s earlier Marlow Bridge, across the River Thames in Marlow, England. ” (wikipedia)

The Chain Bridge was blown up by the Nazis in WW2, so it was rebuilt in 1949.

Walk over the bridge, which connects Roosevelt square (Four Seasons Gresham Palace, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Sofitel Hotel Budapest) with Adam Clark square (Funicular Railway, Tunnel, Zero Kilometer Stone statue), and is part of the Unesco world heritage (with the Royal Palace, the Parliament, etc.).

Here’s a video made on the Chain Bridge (by hcjfisch) to give you some idea of the dimensions:

See the attractions close to the bridge on the Budapest Tourist Map (click on the icons to learn more about them, or follow the View Larger Map blue link under the map to enlarge it)


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Anecdotes:

  • Check if the lions guarding the ends of the bridge have tongues. Find out what’s the truth in this common Hungarian insider’s joke.
  • Do you think that the Chainbridge could be rolled into the Tunnel? When the weather is bad, the bridge needs to be protected, so there was a tunnel needed under the Castle Hill. Could it be?

Note

  • You can easily cross the bridge on foot (on bike too, although there’s no designated bike route so you’ll have to carefully meander through the pedestrians). It takes about 5-15 minutes to cross the bridge (3 min in a hurry, 15 min with taking photos, and a deep breath, 1h – proposal to girlfriends considerably expands time)
  • If you don’t want to walk, take the bus (number 16 and 105).
  • In the past few years, the Chain Bridge was closed down for cars and turned into a cultural program venue at weekends in summers (about June 23- Aug 12). Concerts, theater performances, buffets pop up. Buses usually cross on Elisabeth or Margaret bridge at this time.
  • Unfortunately, there’s a lot of graffiti on the bridge – but it’s still a landmark.

Here’s a video on the summer cultural festival on Chain Bridge (Lanchid):

Why the bridge is called Széchenyi is because this noble man, Count István Széchenyi was one of those few politicians and thinkers in the 19th century who wanted to make things better in Hungary and did accordingly so. Not only did he urge the construction of the bridge between the two sides of the river Danube, but he also gave away the full annual income of his estates for the establishment of the Hungarian Academy of Science, organized the first national Casino (nay, not primarily for gambling but in order to organize the reform-minded nobility – to encourage networking and thinking), he imported horse breeds to improve the Hungarian horse culture, etc. He is called ‘the greatest Hungarian’ although he was a Hungarian who could hardly speak the Hungarian language, and who was born and who died outside Hungary – but his family was an old Hungarian aristocratic dynasty and, most importantly, he considered himself a Magyar.

Fishermen’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) in Budapest

Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya) built in 1905  is one of the best panoramic views of Budapest & the river Danube (part of UNESCO world heritage). Halaszbastya is located on the Buda side overlooking the beautiful attractions on the Pest side with the river Danube and the 19th – 20th century bridges.

Fishermen Bastion Budapest Attractions

Fishermen Bastion Budapest (photo: Robert Marse)

The bastion can be approached by the minibus circulating in the Buda Castle District on top of the hill, or you can climb the many scenic stairs leading up to the Fishermen’s Bastion. The open air attraction is literally open, an open arcade with stairs, towers and balconies. It is one of the best sights to visit if you are staying in Budapest one day only.

Address: Szentháromság tér 5, 1014 Budapest

Opening hours: 24/7
Prices: free


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St Gellert Statue and Waterfall in Budapest (Szent Gellért szobor)

St Gerhard Statue (Szent Gellért szobor) shows St Gerhard, an Italian missionary and Benedictine abbot, later Hungarian bishop, who converted many a Hungarians to Christianity in the 11th century, and privately tutored the son of the first Hungarian king, St Emeric. However, after 8 years of education and conscientious preparation for the monarch’s role, Emeric (Prince Imre) was killed – by a boar while hunting.

Pagans did not like the efficiency of St Gerhard, so they put him in a spiked barrel and hurled it down Gellért Hill in 1046 (the hill, Gellérthegy, also bears his name). Historians point out that Hungary’s conversion to Christianity, which meant giving up the nomadic pagan life style in 896, was crucial to make Hungary a state and remain a constant player in the political field of the Carpathian-basin and Europe.

Tips:
It’s a nice walk up to the statue of the martyr and the waterfall: cool shadows, green in the gray, nice spot to have some tranquil moments, when it’s not busy.
It’s also ideal for taking photos of the Pest side of Budapest with the Parliament, the Gresham Palace, etc.
Take something to quench your thirst.
Mosquito repellent is not a bad idea in summer time.

The bronze statue of Szent Gellért made in 1904 by Gyula Jankovits was originally planned to be 3 meters/ 9.8 ft high, but to make it stand out more of the hill its size was increased to 7 meters/ 23 ft. The main figure is the bishop raising a cross towards the sky, and there’s a pagan soldier as a complementary figure, the latter is not really easy to take it out in this photo, I know. The waterfall is oftentimes interpreted as the symbol of Hungary’s baptism. St Gerhard statue is one of the ten statues presented by Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Budapest (it alone cost 100,000 crowns in 1904 – yes, at that time the currency was not forints but crowns).

The statue is overlooking the sleek modern bridge, Erzsébet Híd, and is very close to some of the spa baths in Budapest (the statue is in the middle of the map indicated with a yellow balloon icon – click the View larger map blue link under the map to enlarge, double click to zoom in, etc.):


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Budapest Children’s Railway: A Cheerful Blink From The Pioneer Past

Budapest Children’s Railway is not only an ideal program for those who come to Budapest with little kids, or who simply fell in love in (and with) Budapest and want to see the gentle green forest, the panorama, the old nostalgia trains, and to spend a nice sunny day away from the hustle and bustle. It is also a great historical tour: going through 50 years of the pioneer history in the adjoining Children’ Railway Museum.

Budapest Childrens Railway at Normafa stop in summer

Opening hours:
May-August every day from 9am to 7pm
September-April: (except for Mondays) every day. from 9am to 5pm
Phone: 00-36-1-397 5392
Prices:

  • Adults: one-way ticket for a few stops 450 HUF, full line ticket 600 HUF (return 1200 HUF)
  • Children (6-14): one-way ticket for a few stops 250 HUF, full line ticket 300 HUF (return 600 HUF). Kids under 6 travel free. Budapest card enables you & a kid to buy full line tickets at the price of a ticket for a few stops.
  • Pets (with lead and muzzle): 100 HUF
  • Family daily ticket: HUF 3000

Pioneer working at Budapest Childrens Railway

Getting here: the Children’s Railway is in the Buda hills (the hilly Buda side of Budapest), so don’t expect a central location. It’s about 35-50 minutes by public transportation from the city center. First go to Moszkva tér (red line metro), take a tram (choose either from 18, 56 or 59 – people speak English, so ask them where the stop is) and get off at the 2nd stop called Fogaskereku Vasut (Cogwheel Railway). Hop on the Cogwheel Railway and lean back until the terminal. You are at Szechenyi-hegy (Szechenyi hill), walk a few steps, and you are at one end of the Children’s Railway line. You can take a return tour if you are only here for the railroad ride.

But if you want to walk or get to know another part of Budapest, buy only a one-way ticket, get off at the terminal called Hűvösvölgy (‘Cool Valley’) and take the trams (again, choose either from 18 or 56) for about 13 stop to get back to Moszkva tér. Or get off at János hegy, check out the highest point of the Buda hills at the lookout tower called Erzsébet kilátó, and then take the Chairlift downwards. Number 158 bus takes you back to Moszkva tér again.

I would recommend another third way to get to the Children’s Railway from Moszkva tér though, which won’t take you to the terminal, but to the 1st stop called Normafa. Take buses 21 or 90 (about 16 stops or 20 minutes), get off at Normafa, try the freshly made strudel with mulled wine at the strudel vendor, or the goulash in the ski house (both great and highly popular in winter), or some more exquisite courses at the Normafa Cafe and Grill, which has a lovely, family-friendly summer terrace (open from 12 to 24). At Normafa stop, don’t expect a building for the Children’s Railway, it is a stop, wait, get on, and get your ticket from one of the children railway guys.

Location of Children’s Railway (map icon: blue train) on the Budapest Tourist Map. If you are specifically interested in other ex-communist traces in Hungary, check out the red flames icons for more tips.


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FAQ of Budapest Children’s Railway
Is it true that the trains are operated by kids?
Yes, it is. Children aged 10 to 14 years of age control the traffic, operate railroad switches & signals, sell and validate tickets, etc. under the supervision of adults (many times former kid employees of the Children’s Railway). The train/ engine itself is driven by an experienced adult. However, the railway is not a children’s toy train – all services and operations are in line with the regulations of any other railway line of the Hungarian State Railways (MÁV).
How long is the ride?
Length: 11 km/ 6.8 miles. Duration: about 40 minutes (full length from Szechenyi hegy to Huvosvolgy)
Is there any good Budapest panoramic view?
Sure, just by getting on top of the hill, you’ll surely have some nice photos of the beautiful view. Plus, on the train, you can get an exceptionally good glimpse of Budapest from a height of 323 meter/ 0.2 miles between Szepjuhaszne and Harshegy stops. Further places: Szechenyi Memorial Lookout, Erzsébet Lookout (527 m/ 0.3 miles).
Are there any special programs at the Children’s Railway?
Yes, there are. Quite a lot of them, from spring to fall. March 15 sees hundreds of people participating in a 6-hour tour from the foot to the top of the hill: the route touches upon the major spots of the Children’s Railway and some other memorable places in the neighborhood. The tour is about 6 km in length, starting from Széchenyi hegy leading to Hűvösvölgy. Join the tour for a nominal fee, get your map and off you go. Spots are to be ticked off in order and you can expect warm lunch at the end of the tour (included in the price). :) April 12: the day of the Children’s Railway. May 25 is Children’s Day celebrated at the Children’s Railway. June 14 Graduation ceremony for new children’s rail staff, June 23 Museum Night, July 31- Aug 03 (in 2008): 60 year old birthday of the Children’s Railway, Aug 20: the firework tour on August 20 (a Hungarian national public holiday, the celebration of bread, the Hungarian state and the first king), Aug 24 Farewell party of young children’s railway professionals, Sept 13 Nostalgia Day.

Check out this great video on Budapest Children’s Railway (yes, kids still salute the train and travelers):

History of Budapest Children’s Railway

The idea of the Children’s Railway in Budapest came only two years after the end of WW2, in 1947, and in a year (strictly in line with the expectations of the government) in 1948 the first 3 km of the railway was completed, the first couple of boys and girls aged 12-14 took part in a six-week course and started to operate the Children’s Railway (in the beginning it was called either children’s or pioneer railway). Mind you, some people were quite unhappy about the Children’s railway. There were opponents: those who doubted that kids could possibly run such a serious institution, and those who wanted to allocate resources to re-build the country elsewhere.

The Children’s Railway was modeled after the pioneer railways in the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. The aim was not simply a railway for and by kids, but the establishment of a tightly-knit children’s community. Needless to say, the plot for the Children’s Railway (as well as the neighboring pioneer mega-camp, also called Pioneer Republic in Csillebérc, Budapest, also build at that time) was a free gift from the Budapest municipality. By 1949, the second, more challenging part of the Children’s Railway was given over. There was special attention paid to the design: panoramic view and a tunnel were default, so they added a fancy tunnel of 198 m length to make the railway trip more interesting. The first elevator in Hungary was also built here, for the Children’s Railway. In 1956, during the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet dictatorship and occupation, the railway stopped working: but people saw the railway more for kids and families than as the emblem of autocracy, so there was no damaged caused. As the communist regime forgot to notify the Pioneer Railway management that the railway services should be resumed, the director sat down with the kids and decided to resume normal services at their own responsibility. Strangely enough, nobody made a big fuss about it. From the 1950s to the 1970s about 6-700,000 people used it per year (these days it’s about 300,000). It was extremely popular and it was a great pride to be a pioneer railway girl/boy.

After the change of regime in 1989, the Children’s Railway way reconstructed, and modernized. The communist red star emblems disappeared from the trains, the red scarves of the pioneers were replaced with blue ones, and the Children’s Railway pioneers stopped greeting each other with the traditional pioneer greeting ‘Előre’ (which means approx. “Forward!”). Instead, they just used the normal Hungarian greetings in accordance with the daily hours. Another big change was making the Pioneer Railway Museum public (earlier it was restricted to special guests).

Photos and info from the official Children’s Railway site.

Budapest Funicular Railway: Schedule, History & more

Budapest Funicular railway is one of the most popular programs in Budapest, Hungary. The Funicular Railway offers a beautiful nostalgic ride with one of the most unique city panoramic views in the world: you can see the Chain Bridge arching the River Danube, the opulent Four Seasons Gresham Palace on Roosevelt square the distant green of Margaret Island in Budapest, etc. It is the second funicular built in the whole world (1868-70), and it is the only one that has coaches that look like a three-step staircase. The third unique thing is that you will see (or even walk over) little metal bridges that are arching over the funicular itself. Great for taking photos too!

Operating hours: 7:30 to 22:00 every day (except for maintenance Mondays – every odd week: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc. AND also closed between April 2 & 6 in the spring general maintenance)
Length & time: 1.9 km (1.18 miles) and 7 minutes
Tickets: regular tickets and passes are not valid for the Funicular. You need to buy a separate ticket for about 3 euros/ 4 USD/ 700 HUF.
Alternatives: Of course, you can also take nice walks up the hill (about 15-25 minutes on foot depending on your fitness and urgency – it is about 50 m/ 16.4 ft difference in sea level) or take other means of public transport like the number 16 bus (also has a stop right at the funicular) on Adam Clark square or the so called Castle bus (Várbusz) a minibus leaving from Moszkva tér.

Budapest Funicular Railway at the Castle Hill  by Bruse LF Persson

The Funicular railway (or Sikló say: shik-loah in Hungarian) is a kind of cable railway a bit similar to the Angel Flight in Los Angeles, the Montmartre funicular in Paris, or the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh. The funicular connects the foot of the Castle hill (river level, Adam Clark square) with the top in Castle District (it is between the Alexander Palace and the the Royal Palace) taking you on a 48% steep. It is fun, beautiful, romantic and family-friendly. These days we are so much used to traveling by cars that it is refreshing to travel back in time and use a fantastically restored 19th century funicular – with a Number 1 city view.

History

Budapest Funicular was built between 1868 and 1870 as the second Funicular railway in the world. It was originally steam-powered (now it runs on electricity). The idea of a funicular – then very much in need due to the opening of the Tunnel in 1855 as well as the horse-driven tram over the Chain Bridge – came from Ödön Széchenyi, the son of the ‘Greatest Hungarian’ István Széchenyi (Hungarians thankfully honor this great politician for many of his great deeds). The work was carried out under the supervision of Henrik Wohlfarth engineer. The coaches were made in the Viennese Spiering Factory, while the steam engine came from the Viennese factory of Theodor Schultz.

Up until 1928 it was the only public transport to the Royal Palace and the Castle top as such. In 1928, however, the first castle buses appeared. Fortunately, tourists loved the funicular so much by that time that its traffic has not declined due to modernization. The real tragedy came in 1944: bombardments, broken cables and coaches. Budapest Funicular was destroyed in the WW2.

In 1948 and 49, the governing powers of the capital did not see much in the shattered funicular, so instead of envisioning its revival, they let the remains of the funicular taken away, reused etc. So Budapest had no Sikló (Funicular) for more than forty decades.

In 1986 it was beautifully reconstructed. Since then approx. 800,000 tourists take the funicular for a nostalgic joy ride every year. (The locals are in a hurry so they won’t take the pricey and slowish funicular for regular rides). Budapest Funicular is now part of the Unesco World Heritage. And as I have heard, this is basically the one and only property of Budapest Public Transportation Co. which is actually profitable. Maybe we should have a Budapest yellow submarine and other fun rides too.

But back to the funicular: as you can see in the photo, there is one thing that sets the Budapest Funicular apart from other funiculars all around the world: the footbridges over the railway. See the foot bridges and an upcoming funicular in this video made by a Dutch tourist (pyromax1):

And here’s the funicular from the outside (by GanzAlex):

Source: the official website of BKV (Budapest Public Transportation) on the Budapest Funicular history of BKV (in Hungarian)