Things to see and do - Budapest
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The Hill of Buda :
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The Hill of Buda
The Hill of BudaPedestrian, 4 km, 1 day
This is one of the classic walks of the Hungarian capital that takes you from the imposing Royal Palace to the narrow paved streets of the castle district. The view over Pest, on the other side of the river, is superb.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
It was King Béla IV who decided to build a fortress on this spot in order to protect Buda from the Mongol invasion. If the castle was extended under the reign of Sigismond of Luxembourg, it was under Mathias I Corvin that it was at its peak as it became a top centre of art and science. The 1686 siege destroyed a large part of it, but during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Habsbourg wanted to turn it into a suitable royal residence for their standing. Spend some time looking at the outside of the palace... A huge turul (a mythical bird, emblem of the Magyar tribes) seems to be taking of from the Neo-Baroque railings that circle the castle. The palace's Baroque façade is over 300 m long and over looks the Danube. The statue of Eugene of Savoy on horseback stands on the huge panoramic terrace. It is worth taking a photo of the magnificent view to be had over the river. You must not miss the King Mathias's fountain, an exceptional sculptural group in bronze. The Lions gate leads to the beautiful interior courtyard where you will find the Széchenyi national library, the most important in the country, on the right-hand side. Go up the staircase that leads towards the southern ramparts and the "War Hammer" tower, remnants of the Medieval fortifications. As you come through the castle wall by the Ferdinand gate, you will see the Barbican. The palace (Budavári palota) houses three museums: the Hungarian national gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the Ludwig Museum.
After strolling around the castle walls and enjoying the views or visiting a museum, why not enjoy the delights of wandering through the old part, where you can stop here and there to look at a shop window, a façade, a monument, to capture it on your video or in a photo. If you are hungry or thirsty, just stop one of at one of the stalls or the bars along the street and you will be spoilt for choice.
This square which stretches out in front of the main entrance to the castle is overlooked by two buildings on the right-hand side: the Neo-Gothic Sándor palace and former residence of the Prime Minister and the Castle theatre (Várszínház) with a Rococo façade, which was a former convent of the Carmelite order, which was dissolved in 1782 under the orders of Joseph II and altered by Farkas Kempelen in 1787. The first performance in Hungarian was given there on the 5th October 1790.
Built at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century using Frigyes Schulek's plans in order to mark the city's one thousand-year anniversary, the Fishermen's Bastion is a Neo-Romanesque set of ramparts and turrets that calls to mind a castle right out of a fairytale. Nobody is sure where its name came from: whether it was from the nearby fish market during the Middle Ages or whether the name was linked to the Fishermen guilds that helped to defend the town from the original ramparts. The seven turrets symbolise the seven Magyar tribes and each tribal leader is represented by a statue. The surrounding path cannot be overlooked as it offers magnificent views over the Danube and Pest, without forgetting the interesting view over the coloured roofs of Mathias church. The statue of Saint Stephen, the sculpture in bronze by Alajos Stróbl, stands in front of the bastion. The first king of Hungary, Stephen I is shown wearing the crown and head dress of the saint and holding the double apostolic cross that symbolises the countries conversion to Christianity. His halo refers to his canonisation in 1083. The magnificent Neo-Romanesque pedestal (by Frigyes Schulek) is a fine example of sculptured limestone. The bas-reliefs depict important moments form his reign. Note the attributes given to the four evangelists: Matthew, the man, Luke, the ox, John, the eagle and Mark, the lion.. Continue along to the end of the rampart. At the bottom of the steps that go down to the Víziváros district, you will see the statue of János Hunyadi, the military leader who defended Belgrade against the Turks in the 15th century.
A busy trading area in the Middle Ages (German merchants), Treasurer 's Street, is edged with beautiful houses with painted façades, corbelled balaconies and Baroque decorative touches. They now mainly house souvenir shops, or establishments selling typical folk costumes, embroidery and cafés and restaurants... for the passing tourists. Stop and admire the façade of no. 14 (Tarnok café): this house dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and was restore during 1950s.
At No. 7, you have to queue up in the tourist season before Ruszwurm Cukrászda (a cake shop founded in 1827) to buy one of its superb gateaux or to sit down in the small adjoining room. The "Start of the century" surroundings is also a curiosity. On the corner of Úri Street, a statue of András Hadik on horseback in the uniform of a hussar. This person became famous under the reign of Marie-Thérèse in which he gained his promotion to General.
A brief stop can easily turn into a long pause in the house of Hungarian wines! Even though tokaj is still the best known Hungarian wine abroad, there are still other names to be discovered. The twenty wine regions, with their different vines and vintages, are clearly set out on a map and information is provided on the boards (in English, sometimes in French). Hundreds of labelled bottles represent the production. Wine lovers can taste and buy wine there.
The main square in the castle district or Trinity square, which owes its name to the Trinity column (Szentháromság szobor), which stands in the centre. This Baroque monument, the work of Fülöp Ungleich, was built in the 18th century to commemorate the plague epidemics in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was common practice at the time for the survivors to built a monument to the glory of God to thank him for having spared them. A large number of towns have a similar votive statue. Carriages can always be found waiting around the monument that will take you through the district. The Mathias church stands on the right-hand side of the square with its bell tower, a true example of lacework in stone, and its glazed tiled roofs. On the corner of Szentháromság utca, there is a Baroque palace built at the end of the 17th century by an Italian architect, which housed Buda's former town hall (Régi Budai Városháza). A pinnacle turret with a clock rises above what was formerly a chapel. Right in the corner, the statue of Athena, the town's guardian, is set in a niche under an arch. The goddess holds a shield sculptured with Buda's coat-of-arms in her right hand. There is a Neo-Gothic building on the other side of the square which house the former Ministry for Finance.
The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption owes its present name (19th century to King Mathias Corvin. A church has existed on this site since the reign of Béla IV, but what we can see today is the masterpiece of Frigyes Schulek: the Austrian emperor, François-Joseph I, sovereign of Hungary in 1967, ordered the works to be done. The outside is worth looking at in detail: the roofs are covered in beautiful glazed tiles that date back to the 15th century. The Mathias tower rises up 80 m above the main façade and there is the Romanesque Béla tower to the left of the portal. The main portal is topped with a tympanum showing the Virgin Mary with child and two angles and the south portal or Mary's door dates back to the times of Lous I, the Great. Inside the church, the walls and pillars are abundantly decorated with paintings using geometrical motifs or plants inspired by the Middle Ages or Art Nouveau. The St-Ladislas Chapel is decorated with frescos depicting the life of the saint, a knight king in the 11th century, painted by Károly Lotz. The Chapel of the Trinity contains the sacrophages of King Árpadien, Béla III and his wife. There is a beautiful three-winged altarpiece in the St-Émeric chapel, representing the prince, Saint Émeric. A good example of sculptured stone, the baptismal fonts have a bowl supported by small columns whose base is decorated with a lion. The Lorette Chapel, behind a beautiful forged iron gate, is devoted to worshipping the Virgin Mary. There is no doubt that this magnificent building, which houses the Museum of Sacred Art, deserves to be one of the city's most visited sites.
This square is named after the first printer to set up here in 1483. He published Buda's chronicals, the first book to be written in Hungarian. The statue in the centre is Pope Innocent XI who played a very important role during the war against the Turks. Behind the statue, you can see an old house called the "red hedgehog" house due to the tiny animal over the door. Note the beautiful yellow façade of the building that houses the Fortuna restaurant.
The longest street in the quarter of the castle must be walked along to admire the façades which decorate most of its Baroque houses. All these beautiful homes which appear one after another grant the street a certain residential look. Everything transmits calm and comfort. At No. 9, you will undoubtedly be surprised and your children will be pleased to walk through a labyrinth (Budavári Labirintus) of galleries and caves. This labyrinth was used as protection during the different wars but also as a military depot. Some low passageways underneath, sometimes ribbed where the water flows, some rooms, a wan light, a strange background music, some statues (one with a crowned head sticking out from the ground), a fountain where wine flows, in a word lots of mystery... The prehistoric part and the historic part inevitably end at the café-bar installed in a rib-vaulted cave. You can leave the quarter of the castle through the labyrinth by taking the exit at Lovas út.
The promenade of the Ramparts (Tóth Árpád sétány) spreads from the bastion of Esztergom to the North up to Dísz tér, the square of the Parades, in the South of the quarter of the castle. It follows the walls built in the Middle Ages, overhanging the Christian quarter. Its main interest is the view that it offers over the Western quarters of Buda, from the hills of the same name (with the highest one being mount János) up to mount Gellért, further to the South.
Surrounded by ramparts, Castle Hill rises fifty or so metres above the Danube and it takes on a new appearance thanks to the lighting effects at night. The castle or the royal palace with its huge dome, Mathias church with its glazed roofs, Fishermen's Bastion seen from the right bank of the Danube on the Pest side then shines with the light of a thousand spotlights. From Pest, you reach Castle Hill by crossing the Chain bridge and then taking the funicular railway ( Sikló). Just before the station at the bottom on Clark Ádám tér, there is a stone sculpture on the left that symbolises the famous 0 kilometre, from where all road distances are calculated from Budapest. A little further on, against the wall, you can see a mosaic of the coat-if-arms of Hungary, surrounded by those of the old provinces. The station at the top provides an interesting first view of the Danube and Pest (telescope).