Buda Castle

Former royal residence of Hungary


Szent György tér 2, Budapest 1014, Hungary

GPS: 47.499492132316, 19.037449444788

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Buda Castle was the former royal residence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1944. It was constructed in the 13th century on the foundations of a fortress that had served as the royal residence of Béla IV of Hungary, following devastating Mongol invasions led by Batu Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan). Buda Castle embodies the royal city of Budapest, the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages, where the various monarchs of the empire resided, including the rulers of the House of Habsburg. It grew under the successive reigns of Kings Louis I of Hungary (or Louis the Great), Sigismund of Luxembourg and Matthias Corvinus (or Matthias I) between the mid-14th and late 15th centuries. This period corresponds to the apogee of the city of Budapest and the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance.

Occupied by the forces of the Ottoman Empire from 1541 to 1686, Buda Castle was the site of many battles and military sieges. Charles V of Lorraine, general of the armies of the Holy Roman Empire, overthrew the Ottomans with the help of the Polish king, John III Sobieski, as part of a European Christian alliance against the expansion of the Muslim Turks. The Royal Palace in Budapest suffered several attacks and had to be rebuilt more than once. In the 20th century, Buda Castle fell victim to massive looting by Nazi troops who used the former palace as a retreat at the end of the Second World War. The Nazis were driven out of the castle by the Soviet army at the end of the Budapest siege in 1944-45 when the Russian troops occupied the building. Despite the popular revolt during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the country remained under communist influence until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

Renovations in the second half of the 20th century transformed the complex to house the Hungarian National Library, the Hungarian National Gallery (with paintings and works by the greatest Hungarian artists), and the Budapest Historical Museum (tracing more than 1,000 years of history of Hungary and its capital). The Buda Castle Esplanade hosts some of the most famous festivals in Budapest (Wine Festival, Beer Festival, Chocolate Festival, Folk Art Festival…). A major architectural project is presently underway to renovate the castle site and restore the interior rooms to their former glory.

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  • The most picturesque way to reach Buda Castle is to take the funicular (Siklo) from Clark Ádám tér square, overlooking Lánchíd Bridge.
  • Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the underground labyrinth of the castle.
  • The architectural beauty of the buildings is enhanced by their location along the banks of the Danube, creating one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world
  • The extraordinary underground labyrinth hidden under the Buda Castle Quarter
  • The Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest Historical Museum, and the Hungarian National Library; visits to these three landmarks are suitable for children
  • The Mathias Church (or the Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle), where the coronation of former Hungarian kings took place; the small 14th century Sephardic synagogue
  • The walks around the castle and the views of the Danube and the city of Budapest
  • The Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) with its turrets and watchtower; the series of bridges over the river including the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi), the oldest in Budapest
  • The wine and pálinka (traditional double-distilled brandy) tasting at the Hilton Hotel, in a vaulted cellar below Buda Castle; the trendy Szimpla Kert bar in an old, ruined building on the opposite side of the river (this venue also hosts open-air concerts and movies)
  • On the right bank (opposite the castle), the historical and romantic district of Budapest, with its houses, medieval streets, and Andrássy Avenue (the most important avenue in the capital); the majestic and impressive building of the Hungarian parliament on the banks of the Danube (it is the third largest parliament in the world)
  • The many festivals and celebrations around Buda Castle; the hot springs of the Hungarian capital
  • Before its merger in 1873, Budapest was divided into three separate cities on either side of the Danube: Pest on the left bank of the river, and Óbuda and Buda on the right bank, the old city where Buda Castle stands.
  • A project of the Orbán government aims to build a new museum district on the edge of Buda Castle, on the opposite side of the Danube. Called Liget Budapest, this controversial project plans to transform the capital’s oldest municipal park (Városliget) into an urban, artistic, and cultural centre. Several existing museums will have their exhibition space expanded, while new buildings will add to this unique complex. While the project is receiving praise for its tourist and cultural appeal, it is criticised for its excessive size and astronomical cost. Residents complain that they were not consulted and fear a drastic reduction in green space in a city that is short of open-air recreational parks. As for the Hungarian government, it welcomes the transfer of the cultural exhibitions from Buda Castle where it will set up administrative offices and a political residence as in the days of the monarchs of old.
  • The city of Budapest, with the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue, has been on the World Heritage List since 1987. However, UNESCO could place this urban ensemble on the List of World Heritage danger list if new constructions, demolition, or transformations alter its universal value.

Where to eat

  • Café Pierrot
    (elegant and romantic setting)
  • Ruszwurm Cukrászda
    (tasty pastries)
  • Arany Kaviár Restaurant
    (russian gourmet restaurant)

Where to go

  • Gellért Spa
    (thermal baths)
  • St. Stephen's Basilica
    (remarkable building)
  • Hospital in the Rock
    (fascinating historical museum)

Where to stay

  • All-4U Apartments
    (clean and functional)
  • Baltazár Budapest
    (chic and modern)
  • Four Seasons Hotel Gresham...
    (refined neoclassical palace)