The Castle district (Varnegyed) on the Castle Hill in Budapest, Hungary is on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage and is one of the top places to see in Budapest. It is not only historic and romantic, but also fun (!) – and a superb budget programme as many of the places to see are free (e.g. to walk around the courtyard of the Buda Castle is free of charge and open all year round), or very affordable (e.g. museum fees in the buildings of the Buda Castle, or the entrance to the Matthias Church).
Castle Hill Budapest
One of the best things about the Castle Hill is that you can take the best – free – panoramic shots in Budapest from here (or from the Citadel on Gellert Hill) – day and night, as most attractions along the Danube are floodlit at night. The ideal spot for the best captures of the UNESCO World Heritage site are from the romantic Disney-esque Fisherman’s Bastion where you don’t need to pay for standing on the level of the rampart, only if you want to get higher in the bastion, about +3 metres in one of the turrets (reportedly not worth the extra fee). Here is a wonderful photograph made by Synwell, which summarizes the night views.
The Castle Hill is also one of the attractions, or rather group of attractions, which in itself can fill up a whole day of your Budapest schedule. The Castle district is not very big regarding its size, but it is quite packed with landmarks and programmes that might be of interest to you (great option for solo travellers, families, business travellers alike). There is something exciting for everyone, and it is not a touristy slogan here.
The top attractions in the Castle District on the Buda Castle Hill, Budapest are the following:
- Matthias Church on the Buda Castle Hill Budapest
- Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda Castle Hill Budapest
- Buda Castle / Royal Palace (the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum are in the castle itself) on the Buda Castle Hill Budapest
- Faust Wine Cellar for an excellent wine tour in the cellars of the Buda Castle Hill Budapest
- Funicular Railway on the Buda Castle Hill Budapest
In addition, some warmly recommended places to see are as follows:
- Cafe Ruszwurm (confectionery since the 19th century) on Castle Hill Budapest
- Labyrinth under the Castle Hill Budapest the former Labyrinth under the Buda Castle Hill was closed down by the government permanently (this labyrinth featured a wine well and an exhibition). The new concept of the Labyrinth has less imaginative features and no wine well.
- Hospital in the Rock Museum (hospital and bunker built under the rocks of the Castle Hill Budapest in the 194os and 1960s) open from Mon to Sun (from 10 am to 8 pm)
- Hungarian National Gallery – a collection of some of the best fine arts of Hungarian artists from medieval times to the 21st century (open from Tue to Sun from 10 am to 6 pm)
- Budapest History Museum (open from Tue to Sun from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 6 pm at weekends)
If you still have time, and strength in your feet or are just simply interested:
- Church of Maria Magdalene on Castle Hill Budapest
- Museum of Hungarian Telephony on Castle Hill Budapest
- Hungarian Military Museum on Castle Hill Budapest
- Pharmacy Museum (Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum – Arany Sas Muzeum) in the Castle District on Castle Hill Budapest – small but fascinating medical museum
There are also many statues and monuments of interest like the Holy Trinity statue (right next to the Matthias Church), the Matthias well at the National Gallery (a must see), the equestrian statue of Andras Hadik (legend says ‘lucky horse
shoes balls’), etc.
Medieval Castle District?
Although the top of the Buda Castle Hill has been a great and central strategic point in Buda from the 14th century, most of the attractions that remained intact or relatively in a good shape originate from the 17-18th century.
You can wander in the cobblestone streets lined by 17th-19th century houses. There are very few really medieval houses or details left due to the constant military give and take games (the Turks, the Austrians, etc.), sieges, battles and also to the changes of taste over the centuries.
The streets are not the typical narrow and dark medieval streets but wide and civic, enlightened but still romantic – as the 19th century.
There are several festivals in Budapest including some festivals on the Castle Hill e.g. the Budapest Wine and Champagne Festival in September, the Palinka (Brandy) and Sausage Festival in October, or the Festival of Folk Arts, Budapest in August. There is a Foie Gras (Goose Liver) Festival in May, hopefully a nice new festival that will stick around (Hungary is one the world’s top foie gras producers, with exports worth $89 million in 2007 – as Reuters wrote).
The statues on the courts of the Buda Castle Royal Palace are well worth a visit for themselves: they are not only beautiful but dramatic, romantic and intense:
This is a relief on the Viennese Gate in the Royal Palace, Budapest: