Visiting the Buda Castle.
For the first time is always a memorable experience: looking out from the Fisherman’s Bastion, you find yourself perched high above a modern city, with ‘fairytale’ towers around you, having walked through beautiful cobble streets to get there. Once experienced, it won’t come as any surprise to hear that the locals of Budapest love strolling within the Castle District just as much as the tourists do. And neither will it be surprising to learn that this castle, the most famous castle in Budapest, is also an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But why does this relatively small district inspire such positive reactions?
Three Icons of the Budapest Skyline:
The Fisherman’s Bastion.
This famous collection of turrets, ramparts and arches, provides some of the most spectacular views there is of Budapest.
The Royal Palace.
The baroque, 18th Century Royal Palace stands upon the site of the original Hungarian castle built here in 1265. Within its confines are located the National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library, and as with the Fisherman’s Bastion, it’s a joy to wander the ramparts here, taking in views of the Danube, the bridges of Budapest, the Citadel in the distance and the grandeur of the Royal Palace itself.
Another iconic focal point of the Buda skyline, this Late Gothic church is stunning from afar, and dazzling up-close. Genuinely, rich in both history and beauty, (with some fantastic artwork in stained glass and ceramic roof tile), the church is well-worth a step inside. Viewed from Pest or during a boat trip, the church is especially enchanting when lit up at night.
Entering the Castle:
There are a number of routes into the castle, but here are the three most enjoyable:
Entering via the Buda Castle Funicular railway. Up the side of the hill! It takes you up from Adam Clark Square and the Chain Bridge. The view and mode of transport makes for a memorable little trip.
Entering via the Viennese Gate. (By bus or on foot.) On foot, it is the starting point of a gentle stroll through some pleasant streets. Past the beautiful glazed tiles of the National Archive building, this entrance is also an interesting choice, because the route is a little deceptive. The streets within the Castle are flat, but as they lead to the Fisherman’s Bastion, the horizons suddenly begin to open out and the visitor realizes just how high above the city she or he is.
Entering via the Fisherman’s Bastion. If you choose to enter via this route, it does involve quite a lot of steps and may be too strenuous for some, but there is a genuine sense of mounting anticipation as you near the top.
Within the Castle District:
With its baroque memorial to the 17th Century plague victims, you might envisage the Trinity Square being a sad, somber place. In fact, it’s a wonderful center within the Castle District. Dominated by the Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion, it is also in close proximity to a number of cafes, restaurants, wine cellars and bakeries.
The President’s Palace (Alexander Palace)
In close proximity to the Funicular Railway, the President’s Palace is popular with visitors as there is an hourly changing of the guard ceremony. The times for the changing of the guards are usually as follows: Starting every day from 8.30 am to 5 pm, the change occurs every hour. (For example 9am, 10am etc.) Please note that times may vary for days of national celebration.
Art Galleries and Statues
The Castle District has a number of Art Galleries. As for statues, there are some wonderful examples here. They are distributed in various locales and you may need to plan your tour accordingly if you want to see each one, but here are some of the most well-known statues: the Statue of Saint Stephen located at the Fisherman’s Bastion; the Statue of the Turul, (a mythical Hungarian bird), overlooking the Danube; the Hungarian Hussar (on horseback); Statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy; the Matthias Fountain.
The Tower of the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene
If you can manage the steps to the top, the Tower affords some panoramic views atop of the Castle District below and the Buda hills in the distance.
Other Museums within the Castle District
Besides the great museums located within the Royal Palace, there are a number of other museums to be found here:
The Military Museum of Budapest
There are no shortage of wonderful uniforms and flags, and of course a large collection of weapons. The exhibition on the 1956 Revolution is particularly moving.
The Medieval Jewish Prayer House
Recently rediscovered and opened, this small medieval synagogue was built in 1364.
De La Motte Palace
Step inside to catch a glimpse of how people lived two-hundred years ago.
The House of Houdini
Born in Budapest, Houdini went on to be a world-famous escapologist. Exhibits here include his handcuffs, straightjackets and a copy of the water torture cell. There are also conjuring tricks on show.
Three smaller museums:
The Museums of Music History, The Museum of Telephones and The Museum of Pharmacy
These three smaller museums often prove popular with visitors. At The Museum of Music History, it’s possible that you may be able enjoy a concert that comes free with your entry ticket.
Beneath the Castle
There are extensive tunnels and caves beneath the Castle. Not surprisingly, over the years, many developed a military function.
The Hospital in the Rock
Once a secret military hospital and bunker, the Hospital in the Rock now displays a collection of waxwork figures, giving a vivid sense of what life would have been like here during a time of conflict.
A descent into the Labyrinth of the Buda Castle draws out mixed reactions. Some love it, some feel less enthusiastic. (It certainly can be a little frightening for young children.) Over the years it has been used to exhibit different concepts, but for this writer, the experience has always been interesting and enjoyable. You can take an Oil Lamp Tour here, and yes, within the gloom, it is possible to find a so-called ‘Dracula Gargoyle’ too.
Around the Buda Castle: Castle Garden Bazaar
If you are anywhere along the Danube bank in central Budapest, the chances are that you’ll have a breath-taking view of the Buda Castle to gaze up upon. Exploring the winding streets and the steps that lead up to the different parts of the Castle, can be very enjoyable, if not a little tiring for some. Of all the areas around the Castle though, there is one place that genuinely should be explored: The Castle Garden Bazaar. An architectural place of wonder on the exterior, remarkably, the Castle Garden Bazaar also has a modern exhibition center within its confines, and often displays some remarkable exhibits.
The Buda Castle: Wine, Dine and Enjoy this Unique Atmosphere
History, architecture and art, (along with a ‘surreal’ labyrinth experience), the Buda Castle District has plenty that will satisfy most visitors. But despite all of these cultural aspects, it’s enough to just to enjoy being here, soaking up the unique atmosphere of these old streets. Most visitors find time to relax on a café terrace with a glass of something, or they might indulge in some Hungarian or more international cuisine in one of the restaurants. And for those that can stay a little longer, there are a number of hotels and apartments located right in the heart of the Buda Castle.