Castle Hill, Budapest- Self-Guided Tour of the Points of Interest


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Crowning the hilly west bank of the Buda side of Budapest is Castle Hill, a district packed with historic sites and famous for its splendid vistas. | Exploring Castle Hill, Budapest
Buda Castle as seen from Gellert Hill.

Our first day in Budapest was spent exploring the Castle District. We had such a good time wandering the crooked streets, admiring the fabulous architecture, indulging in sweet treats, and revelling in the breathtaking panorama of Pest, that we didn’t make it off the hill until sundown.

As if a full day wasn’t enough, we returned again one evening just because we enjoyed the atmosphere so much, especially at night. Cleared of tour groups, Buda Castle felt like our own special place, in a big, bustling city. Romantically lit architecture provided the perfect backdrop for the lone violinist, who on the steps of Fisherman’s Bastion, serenaded couples as they gazed across the river, wrapped up in each other’s arms. | Castle Hill, Budapest- Self-Guided Tour of the Points of Interest

Castle Hill made such an impression, that it made me forget about my long list of things to see and do during our three days in Budapest. Instead, I started formulating a long list of things to see and do just in Budapest’s Castle District!

Castle Hill, Budapest- Points of Interest

Here’s a look at what we felt were the best places to see on Budapest’s Castle Hill, and one that unfortunately, really missed the mark. | Exploring Castle Hill- Things to See in Budapest's Castle District
Habsburg Gate- Entrance to the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace (Buda Castle)

As the name suggests, the Royal Palace was once the residence of Hungarian Kings. Rebuilt many times because of war destruction, and endlessly remodeled, today’s palace is a mix of architectural styles. | Exploring Castle Hill, Budapest

No longer a royal residence, the palace is now home to the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. The gallery hosts a large collection of Hungarian paintings, drawings and sculptures. | Castle Hill, Budapest- Self-Guided Tour of the Points of Interest

Eugene of Savoy Monument

In front of the palace’s main entrance is a statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy, hero of the Turkish wars. The statue was actually commissioned by the town of Zenta, but when the town could not afford to pay for it, it was bought and erected here instead. | Exploring Castle Hill- Things to See in Budapest's Castle District

Matthias Fountain

In the western courtyard of Buda Palace is Matthias Fountain. The fountain tells the story of Ilonka (heroine of a famous 19th century ballad by Mihály Vörösmarty) and how she fell in love with King Matthias when he was out hunting incognito. | Self-Guided Tour of Castle Hill, Budapest

Standing on the highest rock, a dead stag at his feet, is King Matthias. On the rocks below him a henchman blows his horn while another hunter rests. Three hounds complete the central part of the fountain.

Framing the basin on each side are two bronze statues. On the right is Ilonka and on the left, Italian chronicler Galeotto Marzio, who lived in King Matthias’ court. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill
King Matthias and Ilonka

Statue of the Horseherd

Also in the western courtyard of the palace, is a statue of a wild horse being tamed. It used to stand in front of the Riding School before it was restored and re-erected across from Matthias Fountain. | Castle Hill, Budapest- Self-Guided Tour of the Points of Interest

Sandor Palace

Sandor Palace was the official residence of the Prime Minister until 1944 and now is home to the president of the Republic. This neoclassical building is nicknamed the White House. | Castle Hill, Budapest- Self-Guided Tour of the Points of Interest

We were lucky enough to catch the Changing of the Guards, the most elaborate changeover I’ve ever seen. It looked like they were performing a choreographed dance- I swear I saw them do one of my old ballroom dance steps! | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill | Budapest Castle Hill | Sandor Palace

Across from the palace is an area of medieval excavations and next door is the Varszinhaz, a dance theatre that once was a monastery.

Trinity Square

Trinity square is essentially the main part of the Old Town. In the centre of the square is the Trinity Column, commemorating the end of the plague epidemic. The column is decorated with statues of little angels and larger statues of saints, topped off by a sculpture representing the Holy Trinity.

The square is surrounded by the Central Archive, Matthias Church and the Old Town Hall. | Exploring Castle Hill- Things to See in Budapest's Castle District

Former Town Hall of Buda (Regi Budai Varoshaza)

On the west side of Trinity Square is the early 18th century town hall. Looking out onto the square is a cute bay window, underneath which stands a statue of Athena, protectress of Buda. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

Matthias Church

The Church of Our Lady is more commonly known as Matthias Church. It is named after popular King Matthias Corvinus, who was married here (twice actually!) and commissioned a considerable expansion, including the addition of the oratory. | Exploring Castle Hill- Things to See in Budapest's Castle District

Matthias Church has hosted many coronations since it was built in the 13th century, making it one of Hungary’s most important churches. Franz Joseph and Elizabeth were crowned here, as were the last Habsburgs, Karl IV and Zita. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill
Colourful tiles cover the roof of Matthias Church.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most unique viewing terraces I have I ever visited! Its neo-Romanesque architecture features conical turrets, seven of which are said to represent the original seven Magyar tribes. | Exploring Castle Hill, Budapest

The bastion is believed to be named after the guild of fishermen who supposedly defended the area from invaders during the Middle Ages. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

Fisherman’s Bastion is unlike anything else we came across in Budapest and a great place to enjoy sweeping views of the Danube and Parliament building. Of all the places to visit on Budapest’s Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion was our favourite and we returned here several times throughout the day. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

Exploring Beyond Trinity Square

From what we saw, not a lot of people explore beyond Trinity Square, leaving the northwest side of Budapest’s Castle District relatively free of crowds. This area feels less like a castle and more like a small town. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

The Vienna Gate is the only existing old-town gate and all four roads on the hill converge here, the northern entrance of the district. Take the stairs to the top of the gate to see a great view of the Buda Hills. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

To the left of Vienna Gate is the National Archives building and opposite that is a small Lutheran church. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene managed to survive significant wartime bombardment. All that has been reconstructed is the tower and one Gothic window. At the end of the courtyard in front of the church, is a tall structure that looks like a church window. Below that is a bronze recreation of the Hungarian coronation robe. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

Buda Castle Labyrinth

The complex cave system under Castle Hill was created almost half a million years ago by hot-water springs. The caves were inhabited by early man and more recently, used as a secret military base during the Cold War, and as a hospital during World War II.

The labyrinth was the one place we didn’t enjoy on Castle Hill. To just say we didn’t enjoy it is probably an understatement. This was the most bizarre place we visited during our five weeks in Europe, and that’s taking into account a Bone Church. I’ve heard Budapest has a lot of great caves to explore, but this is not the one to visit.

Nothing about this place felt authentic. It was a “show cave”, and a cheesy one at that. Unfortunately, the highly acclaimed exhibitions and programs that made this place world famous from 1984–2011, are no longer available. The labyrinth was inexplicably raided by police in 2011 and forced to shut down. It has since re-opened, but with a new company running the show. | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

Upon entrance, we were greeted by loud opera music bellowing down the tunnels. Soon we came across terrible wax figures set up to illustrate different scenes from an opera, I’m assuming the one that was playing over the speakers. I’m not sure what opera has to do with an ancient cave system, but this definitely was an odd addition.

Continuing to walk through the dimly lit cave, we came across displays of seemingly random things, like fragments from buildings and the so called tomb of Dracula. Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Count Dracula, was imprisoned here in the labyrinth by King Matthias.

This place was just not my thing. For one, I always worry about caves collapsing. Secondly, I was honestly sensing some creepy vibes. And lastly, I don’t like feeling lost- mazes make me panic!

If the labyrinth focused more on the history of the caves and did away with the opera mannequins, it would have been more enjoyable. I’m wishing we would would have saved our money and visited a different cave instead.

Final Thoughts About Visiting Castle Hill in Budapest

We were surprised at how many places there were to see in Budapest’s Castle District and had no trouble spending most of a day exploring Castle Hill. It was especially lovely at night, when the crowds were gone and landmarks were lit up. The beautiful architecture and wonderful city views made Castle Hill my favourite place in Budapest! | Budapest- Exploring Castle Hill

Tips for Visiting Budapest’s Castle Hill

Getting There: The easiest way to get to Castle Hill is to take the funicular from Clark Ádám tér, at the Buda end of the Chain Bridge. We decided to walk up the path leading from Clark Adam Square. It was an easy, scenic walk.

Hungarian National Gallery: Entrance to the permanent exhibitions at the National Gallery costs 3400 HUF. The gallery is open from Tuesday- Sunday 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. The ticket office closes at 5:00 p.m. Confirm current prices and hours here.

Matthias Church: An entrance fee is charged to visit Matthias Church. Current prices can be found here.

Fisherman’s Bastion: There’s no charge to visit Fisherman’s Bastion unless you want to go to the upper-level terrace. Tickets can be bought from the ticket machines nearby. Current prices can be found here.

Where to Eat: You’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes on Castle Hill.

Information was updated March 2022, but can change without notice. Please confirm directly with service providers. | Castle Hill, Budapest- Self-Guided Tour of the Points of Interest

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