The Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge to connect Buda and Pest, the two cities that merged to form what is Budapest today. Before the Chain Bridge existed, a temporary pontoon bridge allowed passage across the river from spring to autumn. However, it had to be disassembled for the winter each year to protect it against drift ice. There was a ferry service in place of the temporary bridge, but it was often halted due to bad weather.
In 1820, the ferry service was stopped when Count István Széchenyi, a leading figure in 18th Century Hungary, was trying to get to his father's funeral. This experience led him to decide that a permanent bridge had to be built. He became a major advocate of the project and founded a society to finance and build the bridge.
Construction of the bridge
In 1836 Széchenyi asked William Tierney Clark, an English civil engineer, to design the Chain Bridge. Clark had the right experience, having already designed two suspension bridges over the Thames in England: the Hammersmith Bridge and the Marlow Bridge. Construction of the bridge started in 1842 under the supervision of the Scottish engineer Adam Clark (who was not related to William Clark).
A symbol of Budapest
The inauguration of the Chain Bridge took place on 20 November 1849. At the time of its construction, it was considered to be one of the 'wonders of the world'. It is a symbolic icon of Budapest and the most widely known bridge of the Hungarian capital. During World War II, the bridge was damaged and its rebuilding was completed in 1949.
Getting there and when to visit
The Buda end of the bridge is at Clark Ádám Square, where the Funicular takes you up to Castle Hill, and the Pest end of the bridge is at Széchenyi István Square, a busy square in the city center. Crossing the bridge is just a short walk and, no matter which direction you go, the view is beautiful. It's also well worth a visit in the evening, when the bridge lights up. During the summer, festivals are held on the bridge almost every weekend.