Castle District - Castle Hill, Budapest
Istvan was King of the Hungarians from 1000-1038. He established Christianity in Hungary and is generally recognized as the first king of Hungary. During his reign towns and cities were expected to build churches, foreign priests were invited to help with Christianizing. He further consolidated Hungarian (Magyar) rule over the Carpathian Basin. By means of war and adroit diplomacy, Istvan extended Hungarian influence significantly.
His feast day (since he is a Saint) is August 20, which is a national holiday in Hungary.
Walking around the Old Town in Castle Hill we ended up at Uri utca (gentlemen’s street) that the upper class used to have their homes. Most of them are in beautiful gothic or baroque style and numerous details. According to many guides from here there used to be access to a huge system of underground passages, germans took advantage of them during WWII.
We also noticed another statue (pic 2) showing Andreas Hadik (1710-1790) a Hungarian noble and commander of habsburg army that managed to capture the Prussian capital Berlin during the Seven Years’ World War (1754-63). The funny thing here was the tourist that was trying to climb up there, anyway we laughed and then walked towards Trinity square(Szentháromság Square) that we saw the Holy Trinity monument(pic 3), a nice alabaster column that was erected across Matthias church in 1713 for those who lost their lives by the plague of 1691 and then from another plague in 1709. The church (pic 4) was the highlight of our visit in the Old Town.
One morning we decided to walk up the Castle hill in Buda and visit the numerous attractions and monuments there. If you cross Danube from chain bridge you will be at Clark Adam ter. From here you can either take the cable car (the ticket is at 900Ft) or just walk up a few steps. Usually there’s a long line waiting for cable car and it doesn’t really take you to the top so we went from the steps and 10’ later we realized that the people were still at the same spot.
Up there you can just admire the view over Danube river or visit some nice museums (Hungarian National Gallery, History Museum etc). If you’re not into that you can just walk around and check numerous nice sculptures, fountains and gardens. The first thing we noticed was a sculpture of the mythological Turul bird (pic 1), then we walked towards the National Gallery. Before we go in we saw a nice fountain that is called Fishing Children (pic 2) made by Károly Senyey while in front of the Gallery there is a monument of Prince Eugene of Savoy(1663-1736) (pic 3) that dates from 1900 and shows his victory over Ottoman Turks in the battle of Zenta (1697) that ended the ottoman control over central europe.
We took some pictures of Pest (the view is great in front of the Gallery) and after visiting the gallery(see other tip) we went at the back side where we saw Matthias Fountain (pic 4). It’s an amazing neo baroque monument made by Alajos Strobl showing a hunting party led by king Matthias.
And then checked the inner yard of the palace, pic 5 shows the statue of the horseherd.
The Buda Castle District, on the hill overlooking the Danube and the Pest side, is almost a small town in its own right and in fact during its formative years it actually was. The original castle was built in the 13th century as a fortress to deter Mongol attacks and was extended in the 15th century when the royal family built their palace on the site.
Over the years the castle has been variously razed and rebuilt (still an ongoing process) and was severely damaged during the Seige of Budapest by the Russian Red Army towards the end of World War II. The post-war reconstruction has been mostly sympathetic (with the glaringly obvious exception of the Hilton Hotel) to its late Medieval layout, retaining the house styles and cobbled streets as well as the important buildings of that period.
The Royal Palace was a more recent project as during the Communist era this was viewed a symbol of decadence and much of what had survived the World War II Nazi occupation was torn out by the Socialists.
Reconstruction is pretty complete now (Jan 2011) and the district has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It contains several of the city's museums, a couple of fine churches and a lot of tourist shops and restauarants. It is still welll worth a visit, even if you are not a museum person, and the views over, and along, the river are pretty spectacular.
The Budapest Castle complex of buildings is on the west side of the Danube and perched up on Castle Hill overlooking the Danube. From the Pest side, you can stroll across the Chain Bridge, and then you can take the funicular railway 2 min ride, or walk up the hill.
A marvellous palace of impressive size, The Royal Palace in Budapest almost faces the Parliament Buildings across the Danube River. It houses several museums.
Buda hill with its medieval structure, old houses and small town ambience was probably my favourite part of Budapest. It was a welcome change after the very busy Pest. The area is not as untouched as you might expect (like Prague's Mala Strana e.g.) but there are many originally or well reconstructed old houses here. The basic structures are often medieval, the facades and interior are mostly Baroque.
I recommend to take bus #16 from Deak Ferenc ter to Buda hill (which is what I did) or Varbusz #16A from Moszkva ter (Metro stop M2). The latter crosses the old town of Buda from Becsi kapu ter (Viennese city gate square) to Disz ter while the other bus ends at the latter. Walking up is another option and not a bad one.
Aside from the obvious top sights like Fishermen's bastion and St. Matthew church I enjoyed walking along the cobbled alleys, watching the interesting facades, peeking into courtyards and in particular I *loved* the quaintness of the promenade on the ramparts at the western side - the beautiful sunset was a bonus.
There are a couple of small museums - none of them a *must* - which might be of interest if you have some hours to kill. The Apothecary museum seems to be nice, ditto the Telephone museum. Not so sure about the Military history museum. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to have a break in one of the cute looking cafes and wine bars.
The Royal Palace was begun under the reign of King Bela IV, in the 15th century. It was extensively modified later on under King Matyas. Razed under the Turkish occupation of the 16th and 17th centuries, it was rebuilt under the Austro-Hungarian empress Maria Theresa. It was destroyed once more in the last days of World War II, then rebuilt in the 1950s using a design from 1905.
Today, it's a collection of fine museums, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Without enough time to visit them all, I went to the Hungarian National Museum. It's well worth seeing even one of these museums.
Castle District is the overarching name for the top of Buda Hill that is enclosed within the defensive walls around the Castle (Budavár). Don’t let that fool you – this doesn’t mean that there are a few defensive trenches and tunnels and that’s it. Castle District is a massive area encompassing the Castle, shops, homes, churches, squares, a small market and the ruins of previous fortifications destroying during one of the many sieges and never rebuilt. A wealth of archeological treasures was uncovered here after the Second World War, and many have been left for the inspection of the masses. The Castle District probably provides you with the best views in the entire city (both Buda and Pest), which is to be expected, given that it is not only atop a hill, but that it also happens to have been chosen for centuries as the best defensive point in the entire city. Make sure to have plenty of battery power to be able to capture all of the views and vistas!
While the north-south axis of Castle Hill is very popular and sometimes even crowded, the northwestern corner of Castle Hill is quiet. For me, that was the chance to enjoy a walk with the old town on one side and a view onto Buda on the other. Here, you get an idea of the size of Budapest, considering that it streches again the same size on the Pest side. A monument which is not often visited is the tomb of Pasha Abdi Arnaut Abdurrhaman. He was killed in 1686 when Budapest was liberated from the Turks. Abdurrhaman was buried with full honours as a respect to a heroic foe. His tomb is located at the end of an alley, next to the wall and close to the national archive.
If you don’t have a lot of time to see Budapest, Castle Hill is the place I would recommend as the must-see. It doesn’t have only some of Budapest’s most impressive buidlings, but gives you also an incredible view over the rest of the city. The main places of interest are Fishermen’s Bastion, Matthias Church and the Royal Palace. For people with more time, also some smaller attractions as the Castle Labyrinth and some museums are to be recommended. Although Castle Hill still shows the Royal Palace, there isn’t a classic castle on the hill anymore. That one was destroyed by the Nazis while retreating in the last months of WWII. The ruins of the castle are north of the palace, but only little remains. Some other of Budapest’s most important sights, the Chain Bridge, the Citadella and Gellert Hill are wtihin a short distance.
I would consider four parts in the Castle District:
- The city itself, with beautiful buildings and streets.
- Mathias Church
- The Fishermen's Bastion
- Royal Palace
Here you can see pics of the city; in order:
- Wienna Gate/Bécsi Kapu
- Lutheran Church
- Fortuna utca
- Országház utca
- Uri utca
Not the oldest part of Budapest (that honour goes to Óbuda, further north opposite Margaret Island), but certainly one of the most quaint parts of the city. Vár 'shares' Castle Hill with the Royal Palace and its where the rank and file would have lived in the Middle Ages.
It includes the Fisherman's Bastion and Mátyás Templom, but there's lots of little alleyways, tiny museums, buildings of bright hues of yellow, orange, green and red as well courtyards to stick your nose into, small village squares with individuals celebrated or remembered with statues at the centre. It's easy to walk around - there are essentially four parallel streets running north to south to the Royal Palace.
170 metres above the Danube is the 1km limestone plateau that it Castle Hill upon which stands most of the important medieval buildings of Buda, many museums and numerous tourist attractions (see separate tips). Castle Hill can be divided into two distinct parts - the old town of Vár and the Royal Palace (Budavári palota).
The Royal Palace, built on the site of the original 13th century castle, has been, according to Lonely Planet, 'burned, bombed, razed, rebuilt and redesigned at least half-a-dozen times over the past seven centuries'. The current result is a rather uninspiring, squat, verging on the ugly series of buildings that house the Ludwig Museum (contemporary international art exhibitions), the National Gallery (Hungarian art with one wing of German art), the Széchenyi National Library and the Budapest History Museum. It's what's inside the buildings that are more inspiring than the buildings themselves. Certain vantage points in the gardens, however, provide great views - although the view of the Royal Palace on the banks of the Danube over in Pest provides a more majesterial perspective than close by.
Even though I don't speak the local language, I love museums.
Only one disappointment, i visited what was left of a roman bath (name?). Unfortunately it's slightly out of the way and under a bye pass and i'm sad to say, I lost interest when i saw it.
The History Museum and Art Gallery is highly recommended, be warned the history museum is huge and you will need a good half / full day if you want to appreciate everything.
Located in the Castle District, Buda's Old Town gives a taste of what it was like to live in old Hungary. The area is lined with small shops along cobbled streets and also includes Matyas Church and Fishermen's Bastion. Bring comfortable shoes.