Behind St. Stephen’s Basilica, at the crossroad along Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, begins Budapest’s grandest avenue, Andrássy út. For too many years this broad boulevard bore the tongue-twisting name Népköztársaság útja (Avenue of the People’s Republic) and, for a while before that, Stalin Avenue. In 1990, however, it reverted to its old name honoring Count Gyula Andrássy, a statesman who in 1867 became Hungary’s first constitutional premier. The boulevard that would eventually bear his name was begun in 1872, as Buda and Pest (and Óbuda) were about to be unified. Most of the mansions that line it were completed by 1884. It took another dozen years before the first underground railway on the Continent was completed for—you guessed it—the Magyar Millennium in 1896. Though preceded by London’s Underground (1863), Budapest’s was the world’s first electrified subway. Only slightly modernized but refurbished for the 1996 millecentenary, this “Little Metro” is still running a 4-km (2½-mile) stretch from Vörösmarty tér to the far end of City Park. Using tiny yellow trains with tanklike treads, and stopping at antique stations marked FÖLDALATTI (Underground) on their wrought-iron entranceways, Line 1 is a tourist attraction in itself. Six of its 10 stations are along Andrássy út.
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