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.
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 a very lovely walkway along the western hillside, also in wintertime. Even though it is not marked out as a pedestrianized street on the map, I don't think cars are allowed on it, at all. The promenade gently slopes downhill starting from Diz ter. It is easy to use it also for wheelchair users who will also appreciate the good pavement as a welcoming change from the Varhegy's many cobblestones. Beautifully renovated historic buildings.
It's not only the castle that is well worth seeing and all the other activities you can do in the Castle district such as visit museums and art galleries and churches but also the spectacular view of the Danube and the parliament buildings. There are so many photos waiting for you up there! Especially near the Fisherman's Bastion.
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.
Old Town, or Castle District, is a historical area with Medieval streets and colourful stone houses. It is a pleasant area to walk around in. Besides the big attractions, the Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion, there are many small museums worth visiting.
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.
In front of the Zsinagoaga, in Karoly Korut, there is a wonderul building with a baroque facade and mosaics. On the facade you can see the four seasons: from the left you can se the spring, the summer, the autums and the winter.
Here are some pictures from all around the castle district.
The Old Finance ministry was originally much higher and it was better decorated. Today hosts the House of the Hungarian wines and the Hungarian Cultural Foundation.
The Maria Magdalena church wich dates back to the XIII. cenutry,was havily damaged in the WWII and the communists didn`t want to reconstruct the church. That`s why nowdays we can only see it`s tower.
The construction of the National Archive finished in 1912. Originally it had a big and nice tower, wich was destroyed in the second ww. The internals are stunning. They are covered by "seccos" (dry frescos) that represent historical events from Hungary`s distant an recent Past. Maybe the funniest of all is the one caricaturize the construction of the Hungarian State Opera House.
THIS IS THE 10.000.TH PICTURE OF BUDAPEST PUBLICATED ON VT!!!
A speciality of this zone are the so called "gothic sitting niches". In the biggest part of the houses you find them. They are reminiscent of the middle ages.
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.
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.
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