The Budapest Metro
Budapest has one of the oldest Metro’s in the world, though from small beginnings it is gradually growing. Metro Line M1 opened in 1896 and is still in use today. The latest addition, Metro Line M4, opened in 2014 and a fifth line is currently being planned.
I was in Budapest for the weekend and the city’s public transportation system was going to be how I got around to the places I wanted to see. I would be using the metro system for those longer trips while relying on Budapest’s extensive tram network for those shorter ones.
Metro Line M1
Metro Line M1 Is a unique experience. Immediately upon entering one of the stations you are surrounded by tiled walls and wood panelling. The trains are small and simple, perfect for serving the short platforms. Inside there is little seating, instead leather straps hanging from the hand rails, to maximise standing room.
This line has been in constant use since 1896 and is known locally as a kisföldalatti, the small underground. Surprisingly M1 took less than 2 years to complete, which is incredible as the more recent M4 took 10 years. In the 1980s and 90s major reconstruction work was carried out though the original appearance was preserved. At this time three stations were added to the route.
Metro Line M3
M3 is the longest line in Budapest, with 20 stations and measuring 16.5km long. A number of times throughout its operation people have called for it to be updated but work has only recently begun. Due to construction work I was unable to travel using this line and instead had to regularly rely on a replacement bus service.
Metro Line M4
Metro Line M4 is the newest addition to the Budapest system, though construction eventually began in 2004 the first 10 stations weren’t opened until 2014. It was first proposed that the line would open in 2003 but faced continuous delays, 17 in fact. Finally open the line had cost 1.5 billion Euros.
The scale of the spaces is huge. The station platforms are large and cavernous, especially when you compare them to the cramped M1 line. Though I travelled at different times throughout the day there was never a time where they felt crowded. More often than not they were empty, which was perfect for taking photographs.
During my time in Budapest this line was the one I used the most, largely because M3 was closed for construction work, but also because it was home to some of the more appealing stations. It was clear that during the planning process they had given some thought to the individual design of the stations, though many involved large amounts of concrete.
There are two stations on the M4 line that stand out amongst the rest. Szent Gellért for its mosaic platform tunnel and Rákóczi tér which is decorated Red, white and green, the colours of the Hungarian flag.
I have come to find that using the Metro of places I visit has changed over the years. The reason to travel by metro is not only to get from A to B but the metro itself has become the reason. They are often places of design and interest, their symmetry and spaces are pleasing especially when it comes to photography. The journey has become the destination.