Doing a tour, whether self-guided or with a guide, of the Buda Castle District is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Budapest, the capital of Hungary. We decided to tour the district on our own and found the history and architecture to be fascinating. There is a lot to see in the Buda Castle District, so expect to spend the majority of a day enjoying the sights. The castle district is basically the castle complex which includes the palace grounds, churches, and fortifications. Today, it is also home to many small hotels, restaurants, as well as pubs, which will give you plenty of options to grab a meal during your tour. In addition to all of the sites within the complex, castle hill on which the complex sits, also provides amazing views of the Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica. These are the important places to see when taking a tour of the Buda Castle District.
The Royal Palace (Buda Castle) – Some of the best views of the palace are actually from the Danube River below, but the palace is obviously the main attraction within the complex. Unlike many other palaces that offer a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there, the palace buildings today house the Hungarian National Gallery and the National Library.
Matthias Church – With its colorful roof, Gothic architecture, and Holy Trinity Statue, Mattias Church offers a lot to see. Located in the heart of the Buda Castle District, the church’s bell tower rises high above the buildings in the complex. Like the palace, Matthias church can easily be seen from the river, but it is much more impressive up close.
Fisherman’s Bastion – Located behind Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion is made up of a fortress wall and seven towers. Built in the 1800’s, the combination of neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture make it quite interesting. Some of the best views of the Pest side of the Danube River and the Parliament Building can be seen from the walls and towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Magdaline Church Tower – As you reach the end of the Buda Castle District, you’ll find this wonderful church tower. The Church of Mary Magdaline was originally built in the 13th century, but suffered major damage over the years. Today visitors can climb the 170 stairs to the top of the tower to enjoy panoramic views.
Restaurants – Although obviously catering to the throngs of tourists who visit the Buda Castle District daily, there are wonderful choices of restaurants in the area. We actually had some of the best wine of our trip while touring the district. Whether enjoying a local dish such as Hungarian Goulash or choosing another cuisine, there are plenty of food options available.
Funicular and Castle Stairs – The funicular is the easiest way to get to the top of Castle Hill and start your tour and also provides wonderful views along the way. We recommend taking the funicular up to the castle complex and then walking down the castle stairs when your tour is complete.
The Buda Castle District is certainly one of the highlights to any trip to Budapest. With hundreds of years of history that extend back to beginning of Hungary’s history, it is an important cultural location. The Buda Castle District was home to Hungary’s royalty and wealthy aristocrats, which looked down upon the more humble dwellings in Pest. The Chain Bridge now extends across the Danube River at the base of Castle Hill and served to not only bridge the river, but also to blend the cities of Buda and Pest into the city of Budapest that we know today.
Sitting on the hill above the city of Bratislava is the historic Bratislava Castle, the Bratislavský hrad in Slovak. The original castle dates back to the 13th century, but it was obviously modified many times over the centuries. By the early 1800’s, the castle was in a state of deterioration and was being used by the military for barracks. It was also damaged more during the world wars, but in 1953 the decision was made to restore the castle to its former glory and it is now a popular tourist site within the capital city of Bratislava.
We visited the Bratislava Castle in May, so the gardens were just beginning to bloom, but we can certainly can imagine what they must look like in the summer months. The castle itself is a rectangular building with four towers, one on each corner. Although there is apparently only a single window left from the original building, the castle is still quite beautiful. We spent about an hour walking the grounds and enjoying the wonderful views of the city below. There is also a statue of King Svatopluk that was added to the courtyard in 2010, which apparently caused some controversy.
The history of the region, with its importance to Hungary and then recent gain of independence, the Bratislava Castle is a source of pride to the people of Slovakia. It is an interesting theme that we found during our tour of Bratislava of how the castle and the city were a seat of power for Hungary for centuries, which obviously is a frustration for Slovakians, but at the same time the country has recognized the importance of this period as part of their own history. Add to that the other occupations, including that of the Soviet Union, and the country has overcome a variety of historical obstacles. Needless to say, any visit to Bratislava should include going to the castle that overlooks the city.
The Buda Castle District is one of the most popular locations to visit in Budapest and the Fisherman’s Bastion is definitely one of its most unique features. Built in the late 1800’s, the Fisherman’s Bastion has some interesting architecture that is both in the neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles. It is basically a wall with towers along the edge of Castle Hill that surrounds Matthias Church and has wonderful views of the Pest side of Budapest, the Danube River, and the Parliament Building. Because so the Castle District is so popular, you will likely find the area to be very crowded, especially due to the river cruise ships that stop in Budapest and give their passengers a day to tour the city.
There are seven towers in the Fisherman’s Bastion that represent the tribes that settled in the Carpathian basin after migrating from Asia. Today, the towers present opportunities to see panoramic views of the city. The Fisherman’s Guild was responsible for protecting the Buda Castle walls, which is likely the reason that the wall and towers were named the Fisherman’s Bastion. There is also a statue of Stephen I, the first king of Hungary, on horseback in the courtyard behind Matthias Church.
If for nothing other than the amazing views, it is certainly worth walking along the walls of the Fisherman’s Bastion. Each of the different towers offer slightly different views and the architecture of the Fisherman’s Bastion is certainly interesting even without the amazing views. Located on the Buda side of the Danube, there are definitely plenty of wonderful sights to see throughout the Castle District.