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.
There are many cities in Europe that have maintained their old-world charm and Prague is certainly one of them. There are so many interesting buildings in Prague that display various styles and unique features. One of the things that makes the architecture of Prague so fascinating is that it encompasses several styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. From the castle complex that looms over the old town of the city to the many unique towers throughout the city, there is so much to see. Even if you never stepped foot inside one of the amazing buildings, you could walk the streets for a couple of days and still find yourself in awe of the stunning architecture.
From the moment that we arrived in Prague, we focused our cameras at the façades of the buildings as we walked through old town. One of the reasons that the architecture of the city remains so diverse is that it was not destroyed during WWII and therefore didn’t need to be rebuilt like many other European cities. The Romanesque architecture is based on what you would expect, the style of the ancient romans with symmetrical designs, round arches and towers. This style of architecture spans back to the 9th century and lasted for about 400 years.
Prague, like a lot of cities throughout Europe, was highly influenced by the Gothic architecture of the 13th century. With the flying buttresses and pointed arches, the Gothic style can be found in more than just the St. Vitus Cathedral in the castle complex. Between their dark exteriors, gargoyles, and imposing size, the buildings seem to demonstrate the power of the church and put fear in the hearts of regular citizens. Today, these buildings are truly fascinating with all of the intricate details and impressive towers.
Perhaps not surprisingly, following the Gothic period, the Renaissance architecture was lighter and more appealing. Based on Greek and Roman architecture with columns, symmetrical and geometric features, they are bright and open. Starting in Florence in the 15th century, the Renaissance style also features statues that were also influenced by the ancient works of Greece and Rome. These buildings provide quite a contrast to the darker Gothic buildings of the city.
There are other styles of architecture to be found in Prague that include Baroque, Classicism, and Historicism. Regardless of the period, walking the streets of Prague is truly a trip back into history. The contrasting styles located in such close proximity to each other, makes the experience even more fascinating. The architecture of Prague is part of what attracts so many visitors every year and has put the city on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
During our trip to Tuscany, Italy, one of the places that we visited was Lucca. It was a day trip from Florence that took us to both Lucca and Pisa. Lucca itself is a wonderful little city with beautiful and historic architecture. Located in the heart of the city is the Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower), which is one of the few tower houses that were built in Lucca. If you plan a visit to Lucca, the Torre Guinigi should not be missed with its oak trees on the roof and amazing views.
Built in the late 1300’s by the Guinigi family, who were wealthy merchants in the area, the tower certainly stands out amongst the other buildings in Lucca. The climb up the 235 stairs to the top of the 125 foot tower is certainly worth it as you are rewarded with amazing views of the historic city. If the views of the city weren’t enough, the roof garden with its oak trees for shade are equally fascinating. One can imagine the wealthy Guinigi family sitting on the rooftop to escape the heat of city below with its warm breezes and wonderful shade trees.
As you look down at the rooftops from the Torre Guinigi, you get a true sense of the narrow, winding streets of the city. The Lucca Cathedral, or Cathedral of Saint Martin, clearly dominates the cityscape. The color variations of the church tower are even more dramatic when viewed from the Guinigi Tower. The cathedral, which dates back to 1070, is also something that should not be missed when visiting Lucca.
There is a small fee in order to go to the top of the Torre Guinigi, but it is certainly worth the nominal price. We visited during the off-season, so there were no other tourists with us as we went to the roof to enjoy the views of the city and the Tuscan countryside. Unfortunately it was an overcast day, but that didn’t diminish how beautiful the scenery was from the rooftop.