Buda Castle - Budavar, Budapest
It was noon when we came across the changing of the Guards in front of the Hungarian Presidential Palace.
The crowd watching wasn't that big, although I imagine the crowds would swell in high season.
The palace is called Sandor Palota (Alexander Palace), and is located by the Funicular.
The display was quite small compared to displays I had seen in other countries.
The guards were dressed in khaki uniform, (which I didn't like either), they marched, saluted, turned their rifles, etc before disappearing to where-ever they came from.
I must admit I was rather disappointed, as the noon "Changing of the Guards" is meant to be the best one to see.
The changing of the guard in the 1st courtyard is held every hour on the hour from 5am to 11pm
FREE TO WATCH.
When I walked further south, nearly to the end of the Danube Terrace, I found a wider terrace with flower beds and a impressive equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy. This Neo-Baroque statue was made by sculptor József Róna for the town of Zenta but the town could not afford its price, so the monument was bought in 1900 as a temporary solution until the planned equestrian statue of King Franz Joseph was completed. As you can see, this never happened, and Prince Eugene has remained here ever since. Prince Eugene is the man who was responsible for defeating the Ottoman Army and liberating Budapest from the Turks. The pedestal is richly decorated with statues of Turkish prisoners and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Battle of Zenta in 1697.
One of the many excellent viewpoints at Buda Castle is Danube Terrace.
As it is named "Danube Terrace," you can expect wonderful views over the River Danube and the Pest side of Budapest. We happened to strike a thunderstorm, so no sunny pictures for me!
I was happy with the lovely views of the Chain Bridge and the other bridges along the River. I could see the Houses of Parliament in the distance, the old part of Pest, and I loved watching all the Tourist Boats plying the river.
Below the terrace, were the original walls and other terraces, a paved pathway led down and past these.
The best thing is, you can come here and enjoy the views for FREE!
After I had viewed the large mythical Turul bird sculpture, I decided to head down a level to what is known as the Danube Terrace.
To reach this area, I first had to pass through the beautifully decorated Habsburg gate, and then proceed down the double flight of steps, called the Habsburg Steps - these connected the Habsburg room with the Royal Gardens on the Danube terrace. I imagine many famous people would have walked these steps!
In this area of the Palace was the Habsburg Room, situated right in the middle of the long palace complex. Baroque decoration with half-pillars and gilded stuccoes, a vaulted ceiling with a huge fresco "Apotheosis of the Habsburg Dynasty," made this room spectacular.
The Habsburg Room survived World War II, but in the 1950s, it was deliberately destroyed for political reasons.
This is a delightful area of lawn & gardens including statues and fountains.
Just below the steps was an attractive Fishing Children Fountain, created in 1912 by Károly Senyey and restored in 2001. Rather cutely, it shows two children grappling with a fish while water is spouting from its mouth and into the air.
The mythological Turul - THE SACRED BIRD OF THE MAGYARS.
NO, It isn't an Eagle like I first thought, although the mythological bird known as the Turul is quite similar to that and a Falcon.
On the north side of Buda Castle is where I saw the massive bronze sculpture of this bird. Its' wings were spread wide and its talons were grasping a sword. It looked ready to take flight!
Based on folklore, it is believed to be an ancestor of Attila, a symbol of the Huns, a symbol of strength, God's power, will and nobility.
This Turul was made by Gyula Donáth in 1905, and can be found sitting on the plinth above the ornate Neo-Baroque railing, overlooking the Danube.
This is most probably not the only Turul statue you will see in Hungary, as scattered around Hungary are another 195 Turul statues.
I loved the wrought iron Matthias Gate. Many people walked straight through without stopping, not me though, as this Gate looked like a giant Spiders web and was just too interesting to walk straight through!
The story goes that in the 15th century, Hungary was having trouble hanging onto its' foreign Kings, bloodline and border. All was doom and gloom until the Hungarians looked to a 15 year old boy, Mátyás (Matthias in English) for salvation.
The legend goes that Matthias’ mother sent for him with a Raven with a ring in its beak. The Raven flew non-stop from Transylvania to Prague, and thus, the boy King of Ravens was crowned. The Raven-with-ring motif became part of the family crest, as well as the family name - Corvinus (Latin for “Raven”).
Matthias Corvinus returned to Buda, becoming the first Hungarian-descended king in more than 150 years. He loved Italian Renaissance, the arts and built palaces for their beauty. He dressed up as a commoner and ventured into the streets to see first-hand how the nobles treated his people.
The Raven is the symbol of King Matthias and live birds can be found hopping around the yard. He is considered by Hungarians as the greatest of all kings, so don't be surprised to see the symbol of the Raven with the ring in its beak located around Budapest..
The handle which locks the gate is a little man, I wonder if this is the King?
The gate is open all day, closing at 6pm
The Horse-herd Statue I came across in the Western courtyard of Buda Castle. I really liked this "different" bronze statue, as it was complimented by lovely flower beds and the castle as a backdrop, - Really nice.
The statue is the work of György Vastagh. It was sculpted in 1901, and depicts a horseman from the Hortobágy area, taming a wild horse.
The statue was displayed in the Exposition Universelle in Paris, but was damaged and removed in the 1960's, to be restored and re-located in the western forecourt of the palace in 1983.
As Lions are the symbol of Budapest, you will find many statues of Lions situated around the city.
Statues of Lions abound in Buda Castle.
There is the beautiful Lions' Gate, with four Lions guarding the gate, two on the inside and two on the outside. When I passed through the Lions Gate, I was then in the Lions' courtyard.
The statues were made in 1902, and do vary in stance. One Lion was looking very aggressive, ready to eat anybody trying to pass through the gate, whilst another was quite passive. Another looked majestic and as if he should have been pounding his chest. A closer look at the buildings revealed more Lions, this time just their aggressive heads!
The location of the Ferdinand Gate of Buda Castle, is the area where some of the original medieval remnants are still standing.
Buda was one of their most important western strongholds of the Turkish Empire. This southern end of Buda Castle, was a huge military base that hasn't changed much up till today.
The Mace tower is to the left of Ferdinand Gate. It was built in the 14th century, during the time of King Sigismund. The Turks decided to keep the Tower and set about thickenening and coating the walls, plus renaming it the "Small Frengi tower."
To the right and further down the pathway from Ferdinand Gate, is a path that leads past an impressive Bastion and the Castle walls. Inside, I stopped and took a look through one of the small windows in the Castle walls, and found quite a nice scenic view.
We travelled by public transport to Buda castle, getting off at a bus-stop when we could see the Castle. Unfortunately, we could have gone one stop further, then the walk uphill would have been much shorter.
We had come from the Tabán (the green southwest area outside the Castle), walked along Szarvas Terrace and then up the wide steps from Váralja street and through Ferdinand Gate.
We were very surprised by the lack of tourists, just us and another couple! Then I found out, not many people use this gate, but the other two main gates.
Once through Ferdinand Gate, we passed by the Mace Tower, the Great Bastion and the Palace Gardens. From here, it was up the stairs and to the History Museum in the Lion Courtyard.
The views on the Royal Palace from the Pest side are in daytime and at night one of the nicest castle views I know in Europe. The location on the Buda hill dominating the wide Danube is exceptional.
The history of the Buda castle is complex and can be read with all details on Wikipedia, but the following is important for the understanding of what the visitors can see now.
Most of the exteriors we can presently see go back to the end of the 19th c.
From the 13th century on the Royal Palace suffered from battles and sieges.
Most destructive was the great siege of 1686 when the Austrian Habsburgs re-captured Buda occupied by the Ottoman army and destroyed the medieval palace.
Next important destruction happened at the end of 1944 when the Buda Castle was the last major stronghold of Budapest held by German and Hungarian Axis forces during the siege of Budapest by the Soviet army. Heavy fights and artillery fire rendered the palace into ruins.
The communist government decided in 1948 a modernist reconstruction plan. The exterior and interior of the palace were thoroughly modernized. The remaining interior, including undamaged rooms and halls were destroyed. Consequently the interior of the Royal Palace would be of no interest for the visitor if there were not the museums! (ref. my "Discovering Hungarian painters and sculptors.").
Important exterior parts that could have been restored were sadly demolished and the remaining façades were simplified.
Fortunately for the present visitors of Budapest these exterior changes are not much visible so that seen from Pest the palace remains quite nice and imo one of the nicest castle views in Europe I have seen.
The terrace and the courts of the palace are decorated with some nice sculptural monuments.
The first and most original one sees when arriving by the funicular is the impressive "Turul" a mythological bird, made by Gyula Donáth in 1905, perched on a pillar of the neo-Baroque railing.
Prominently on the terrace overlooking the Danube river and the city stands the equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Beautiful neo-baroque statue made by sculptor József Róna around 1900 for another city that could not pay and so that the statue is now standing on the terrace of the Buda Castle.
My favored one is the spectacular Mathias fountain on the western forecourt of the palace. A group of hunters led by King Matthias standing on rocks with a dead deer and dogs. An excellent work by Alajos Stróbl. It is sometimes called the "Trevi Fountain of Budapest" (less crowded!). My photo is from before the restoration.
This statue of the horse herd taming a wild horse was facing the riding school. This work of György Vastagh had success and was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1900). It stands in the western forecourt of the palace close to the Matthias Fountain.
An attraction for the tourists visiting the Buda Castle is the changing of the Guards in front of the Hungarian Presidential Palace, called Sandor Palota, located by the terminal of the Funicular and facing the monumental gate with the huge Turul bird statue and the stairs going down to the King's Palace.
The original palace was built in about 1803, renovated around 1867 by Prime Minister Andrassy and destroyed during WW II. After the fall of communism, it has been restored as the original building.
The palace is occasionally open to the public at weekends during the summer months but was not really on the list of my things to visit in Budapest; there are better things.
The "drill" of change of the Guards is rather spectacular. Purists will even say that there is too much fantasy. The turning about with the rifles is excessive. The rifles are of the WW II type with bolt handle and bayonet. Stock, forestock and handguard are made of wood. I even suspect that these are drill purpose rifles.
The guards belong to the "Nemzeti Honvéd Díszegység" (National Home Defense Ceremonial Band).
They wear a kaki uniform with a green "aiguillette" (ornamental braided cord) and the specific Hungarian army hat cap. With their leather boots they must feel warm in the hot Budapest summers. It was 35°C outside. They were wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from the strong sun glare.
A drummer is beating the rhythm of the marching.
(Part 3) Buda Castle is now the home of the National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galeria) and the Budapest History Museum, the opening hours of the buildings of the Buda Castle is same time as the opening hours of the Gallery and the Museum as well as the less known Hungarian National Library, which also often features exhibitions.
National Gallery opening hours: Tue-Sun 10 am – 6 pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays)
Budapest History Museum opening hours: 1 March – 31 October Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, November 1 – February 29 Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 4 pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays)
The courts, courtyards of the Buda Castle are open day and night everyday .It’s nice to walk around during the night because of the lighting make the atmosphere so beautiful.It’s one of the best scenery of the town both day and night.
There ‘s one small coffee shop outdoor and one inside the building.The out door one is behind The equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy that stands on the Danube terrace,(as seen on picture) and it’s opened on Monday as well.If you are in the area on Monday and need to use toilet ,it’ll be hard because the buildings are closed .Try in coffee shop,the nearest coffee shop that I can find ..just walk north towards funicular station ,keep walking pass “House of royal wines and cellar museum” (Királyi Borház és Pincemúzeum ) and you’ll see a nice coffee shop and restaurant on your right.
I went up to Buda castle from behind ,from parking area,not from the river front side.There 's the lift on Palota utca (the southeastern street outside the Castle) Actually I plan to walk to the front but I did the explore around the area and arrived the castle at the back side and saw the entrance with elevator.It’s not for free,it’s 200 Ft. one way .It’s free for libraries card holder ,disable,children age under 6 and EU citicens over 65.There’s a staff to assist in case you don’t have coin.The elevator brings you up to the Palace, in an exhibition hall displaying Buda castle history and then right to the Lion Courtyard.I took some times in the hall to read it's history ,very interesting.