Castle Hill is much more than a castle on a hill. It is actually the 13th C walled city of Buda which surrounded the castle built by King Bela IV after the Tartars had destroyed the old capital just up the river. The castle was replaced by a much larger one in the 14th C which was destroyed in the 17th C and rebuilt by the Austrians hoping to woo the Hapsburg monarch. This one was destroyed at the end of WWII and replaced with one that frankly doesn’t have much appeal and is devoted to several museums.
If you come up on the funicular the famous ‘turul’ bird is just to the left. This is the mythical Magyar bird that watches over the palace and is said to have led their migrations with Arpad and dropped his sword near here, a sign that this was home for the Magyars.
The Matthias Church is about 200 m north of the Palace and is a towering landmark over the city. It has been rebuilt several times since its founding in the 13th C. Another myth or legend is associated with it. They walled over a 16th C statue of Mary and Jesus in anticipation of Turkish plundering. 150 years later the Turks were using the church as a mosque when an explosion down the street crumbled the walls and the revealed Mary and Jesus frightened them away. Since then it is known as the Church of Our Lady but is named for a Renaissance king who was married here.
Just in front of the church is a plague monument erected in 1713after four outbreaks of plague had swept over the city. There were so many deaths that they burned bodies in mass graves and this monument was erected to them.
Standing in the square between the church and the Fishermen’s Bastion is a statue of St. Stephen (Istvan) on his horse surveying his kingdom. He was the first Christian king and was instrumental in converting his subjects, albeit by what we used to call in our office the “bigger hammer” method. He even subdivided into quarters one of his uncles and sent him on four tours simultaneously. I think they got the point and in not too many years Stephen was made a saint.
This is the medieval centrum for Budapest. The Romans had started a bit upstream and then the townsite centered more on the Pest side. That was indenfensible however, as the Mongols showed, in 1241, when they razed the town and killed everyone within. Rebuilding took place the next time with defenses in mind and the city was moved across the river to hill that became Castle Hill. The hill shows steep faces on north, east and south. On the south side, a large castle emerged with the town occupying the north end of the hill. Fortifications were constantly upgraded through the years, but when the Turks came in 1541, they played little role in the Turkish success. The Turkish occupation lasted 150 years and was overcome after a tremendous siege in 1686, inaugurating Hapsburg rule over the Hungarian kingdom until the Empire's fall in 1918. The castle was rebuilt in grander yet style under the Hapsburg reign, to be pulled down yet again in the terrible siege of 1945 when local Germans introduced a gulasch-version of Gotterdamerung.
Today, the Castle Hill has been rebuilt into a glorious reminder of what has been. Six museums are located atop the hill - three within the Royal Castle. Walk among the baroque buildings and among the leafy hillsides lying along the north and south flanks of the hill. If you get overwhelmed by castles, museums, cathedrals, statues, ancientness, crowds ... you always have the view stretching out to the vastness of Pannonia to the east.
Forming part of the massive Buda Castle palace complex, the Budapest City Museum shows off the long history of the city, from its early years as a Germanic-Hungarian trading town, through the Turkish occupation, to the tears of the 1956 uprising. The museum is deceptively large, containing not only four floors of exhibits, but also a maze like underground collection of rooms and passageways that make up part of the original medieval palace. If you wander around long enough, like I did, you'll find yourself in the original zwingers, the enclosed gardens that survived the palace's wrecking during the siege of 1686.
It's only a few euros to get in, which is quiet reasonable, but the additional cost of another three euros for the privilege of taking pictures is exorbitant.
It is quite easy to spend an entire day walking around in the castle district and it wouldn't be a waste of time either. There are several very good looking cafes and restaurants where you can get something to eat. We followed a suggestion from Maren's guidebook and had lunch at the trendy Cafe Miro Var (in Uri ut.). I had a pretty good potato soup warming me up from the inside.
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
* “The Castle District in Buda is the ancient kernel of the capital's right-bank settlement. Everything that surrounds it was once only suburbs. From whatever direction you reach the Castle District, you cross the ramparts which completely encircle Castle Hill. The whole area within the ramparts is protected as an ancient monument: the lines of the streets and the foundations and architectural remains of the buildings retain the atmosphere and memories of the medieval and eighteenth and nineteenth-century capital.” (http://www.iit.bme.hu/hungary/budapest/bptour/bpcast.htm)
Many of the cities richest attractions are in the district, which is compact enough to cover on foot. Its hilltop setting also offers many vantage points for superb views across the Danube to Pest. -
Muchas de las más importantes atracciones turísticas se encuentran en la zona del castillo, la cuál es lo suficientemente compacta para cubrir a pie. La cima de la colina donde se halla encalavado el castillo ofrece excelentes vistas para Pest
Let's go to the Fishermen's Bastion. There are two theories about the origin: Some say that there was a fish market in the Middle Age; others, that the Guild of Fishermen defended this part of the walls.
One theory or another, the views are breathtaking as you can see.
The second pic shows the statue of St. Stephen.
Shortly after the Chain Bridge was opened, the construction of a tunnel under Castle Hill began to make travelling on the Buda side faster. It was opened in 1857 with two beautiful entrances in classicist style. Only the one on the Danube side remains, the other one was destroyed during WWII. The tunnel was designed by Adam Clark and the square in front of it was also named Clark Adam ter.
And last, but no least, the Royal Palace (Kyrályi Palota). The original palace was destroyed and rebuilt many times.
The third pic shows Mathias Fountain.
Now, it hosts three Museums:
- Budapest History Museum
- Hungarian National Gallery (for some pics, see the next tip)
- Contemporary Art Museum (Ludwig Collection
There are many things to see in the castle district including St Matthias church, Fishermans Bastion, the castle, lovely streets and houses, gorgeous views across the Danube towards the Parliament,etc. Spend an afternoon taking in all the sights for hardly any money!
In particular, St Matthias church is stunning inside. Lots of stained glass and beautiful details.
See more pics in my Castle District Travelogue!
Apart from all the monuments, museums and grand buildings, the Castle District has nice little streets around which it's just pleasant to wander. You can take a horse-drawn carriage but I preferred to walk.
If you have a good guidebook, there's some interesting history to be learned along the way and there are a couple of nice cafes where you can have a rest.
It's with good reason that many books on Budapest open with a chapter on the Castle District. The majority of Buda's principal tourist sights - which include the Royal Palace, Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church - are situated here.
Don't be fooled into thinking that you'll be able to conduct a quick stop tour in a single day though. Almost every cobbled street leads on to a place of interest, whether it's a landmark building, a row of baroque houses or a charming little café where locals chat, play chess, or read the early morning papers. Regarded as Budapest's 'trump card' in attracting tourists, the beauty and historic importance of buildings here is reflected by the fact that the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whilst traffic within the Castle District is supposedly limited to taxis, buses and cars belonging to guests of the Hilton Hotel, we found it quite easy during the Autumn to drive up and park in Disz ter (car parking charges do apply). In peak season however, we wouldn't recommend you try, it's much easier to use public transport instead.
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.
I have visited Budapest twice, and I went there in March in both travels. So, I don't know the winter is a good season to call on, because I don't know Budapest in summer, in spring, nor in autumn.
Anyway, I think that winter is also a good season to go, as everything is covered with snow, and there must be fewer tourists than in other seasons.
I took this picture from Castle Hill, and Parliament, the Danube, and Margaret Island are shown on this photo.
However, in winter it can be very cold in Budapest, so be prepared to it!!!