12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions of Budapest's Castle Hill
Castle Hill is a large limestone plateau where you'll find many of Budapest's most important historic sites and tourist attractions. Settlement here dates as far back as the Stone Age, resulting in an interesting mix of important medieval ruins and architectural highlights from the last few centuries.
Today, the most prominent building is Buda Castle, a huge palatial structure that dominates the hill and offers views over the beautiful Danube. Like much of Budapest, it's a great area to explore after nightfall, when it's lit up in spectacular fashion. And for adventurous night owls, the castle courtyards remain open 24 hours a day. Be sure to also take a trip on the fully restored historic Castle Funicular Railway, which departs from the Buda end of the Chain Bridge.
1 Buda Castle
Built in the 13th century, the first castle was located on the south spur of Castle Hill to provide protection from attacks by Mongols and Tartars. The current incarnation of Buda Castle (sometimes called the Castle Palace) is a massive 18th-century Neo-Baroque-style structure of more than 200 rooms. These are arranged in a symmetrical layout around the 62-meter-high central dome facing the Danube. The castle was badly damaged in WWII, but much of the exterior has been restored. Although the interior was stripped and destroyed during the war, parts are open to the public, and these contain its museums and galleries: the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the Széchenyi National Library.
Outside the castle walls, a number of Turkish tombstones can still be seen, while in front of the domed building, facing the Danube, stands a bronze equestrian statue representing Prince Eugene of Savoy, a hero for having opposed the Turks. This entire historic landmark is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2
2 Hungarian National Gallery
The Hungarian National Gallery is housed in the main wing of Buda Castle facing the Danube. A cross-section of Hungarian sculpture and painting is on display, ranging from the time of the Magyar invasion through the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods to the richly productive 19th and 20th centuries. Sculptures and panel paintings from the medieval and Renaissance periods are of particular interest, as are the late Baroque works, 19th-century paintings, and sculptures by Bálint Kiss, Mór Than, László Pál, Mihály Munkácsy, Alajos Stróbl, and György Zala. The collections of 20th-century paintings include works by Béla Czóbel, József Egry, and József Rippl-Rónai.
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2
3 Budapest History Museum
In the south wing of Buda Castle, the four floors of the Budapest History Museum are filled with artifacts and exhibits relating to Hungary's rich history. Highlights include rare documents, ceramics, wrought-iron work, textiles, household utensils, and other objects that give a picture of life as it once was in the independent towns of Óbuda, Buda, and Pest up to 1872.
In the Renaissance Room, a painting shows Matthias Corvinus and Beatrice of Aragon, his second wife, while the Gothic Room's fine sculptures date from between 1370 and 1420 (they were discovered during excavation work in 1974). The Royal Chapel contains a beautiful 15th-century triptych and Gothic sculptures. Other highlights include a restored section of the medieval castle and the rib-vaulted Gothic Hall. For fans of military history, the adjoining Museum of Military History includes weapons, uniforms, flags, and artwork.
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2
4 Fisherman's Bastion
Behind the Matthias Church, at the exact spot where the local fishermen's guild built their defense installations in the Middle Ages, is the spectacular Fisherman's Bastion. Built between 1895 and 1902, its seven towers, colonnades, and embrasures were designed in Neo-Romanesque style by Frigyes Schulek. From here, you'll find some of the best views over the city and the Danube. In the north courtyard of the bastion stand two statues of the monks Julianus and Gellért (Károly Antal, 1937), while in the south courtyard stands a bronze equestrian statue of St. Stephen (Szent István), the first King of Hungary (A. Stróbl, 1906). The plinth includes four lions, and the reliefs on the sides depict scenes from Stephen's life.
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 5
5 Matthias Church: The Church of Our Lady
A prominent sight in Budapest, Matthias Church (also known as The Church of Our Lady) was completed in 1269. Reflecting a distinctly Baroque style, this Catholic Church served as a mosque during the Turkish reign. Its side aisles were extended and given polygonal ends in the 14th century, when the magnificent south doorway with its relief depicting the Death of Mary was added. In 1309, Charles Robert of Anjou was crowned King Charles I of Hungary here. Under King Matthias, after whom the church is named, side-chapels were added, together with an oratory for the royal family and a new south tower bearing the arms of Matthias Corvinus, dated 1470. In 1867, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his consort Elisabeth were crowned rulers of Hungary here (Franz Liszt composed the famous coronation mass for the occasion).
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2
6 Trinity Square
The central square on Castle Hill is Trinity Square (Szentháromság tér). One of its most interesting features, apart from beautiful Matthias Church, is a large Baroque plague column designed by Barbier and Ungleich in 1714. Several other noteworthy buildings are grouped around the square, including the old Town Hall of Buda, a magnificent building erected at the end of the 17th century from plans by Italian architect Ceresola. The oriel balcony, small towers, courtyard, and staircase are of particular architectural interest, and below the east oriel window you can see Pallas Athene, by Carlo Adami (1795). Another landmark is the House of the Hungarian Culture Foundation, worth a stop inside to see its beautiful interior.
7 Andrew Hess Square
Named after the first printer of books in Buda (1473), this lovely old square includes medieval remains cleverly incorporated into the architecture of the highly modern Budapest Hilton. Among these important ruins is the St. Nicholas Tower (Miklós torony), a relic of the Late Gothic Church of St. Nicholas of the Dominicans, who had a monastery here. The monument to Pope Innocent XI was the work of J Damko (1936). Behind the monument is the architectural complex known as "Vörös sün" (the Red Hedgehog), which dates from the 17th and 18th century and was later remodeled in Classical style.
8 Gentlemen's Street - Uri Utca
Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture lines the popular Gentlemen's Street (Uri utca), where tourists can wander among the many boutiques, shops, and cafés. At No 40, you can see a superb example of fine vaulting and the sedilia (stone seats for clergy) from a church.
9 The Labyrinth: Caves beneath Castle Hill
Underneath Castle Hill is a vast and complex system of natural caves and passages that have been carved between them throughout their long history of human use, which dates back to prehistoric times. Puzzling remains, enigmatic stone monuments, and the general spookiness of this subterranean world have combined to inspire legends that mix with the known history. The Turks began the connecting passageways, and three Turkish tombstones dating from as early as the 14th century remain from their occupation. In the 15th century, it was a prison reputed to have housed the infamous Vlad Tepes, better known as Count Dracula. You can tour part of this six-mile underground world, where there are exhibits on caves of the world, as well as historical information on the various uses the caves have served.
Address: Úri 9, Budapest
10 Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum
During World War II, Castle Hill's caves and passageways were fortified and used as an air raid shelter and emergency hospital. Later, during the Cold War, the hospital was further fortified to protect it from chemical and nuclear contamination. This hospital and nuclear bunker, the Hospital in the Rock, is now open as a museum. Inside the subterranean facility are two exhibitions opened in 2016, one detailing the Siege of Budapest during World War II and showing the lifesaving efforts here during that emergency. The other explores the devastation caused by nuclear weapons.
Address: Lovas 4/c, Budapest
11 Széchenyi National Library
The huge Széchenyi National Library has been housed in the southwest wing of Buda Castle since 1985. Founded by Count Ferenc Széchenyi in 1802, this superb facility contains more than six million documents with an emphasis on manuscripts and maps. The highlight of the collection is the famous Budapest Manuscripts, some of the oldest known medieval illustrated scripts.
Address: 014 Budapest, Szent György tér 4-5-6
12 Museum of Music History
The exhibits at the excellent Museum of Music History consist of more than 1,000 musical instruments from the 18th to 20th centuries. Displays include rare violins plus folk, military band and other instruments. Guided tours of the facility are available, and often include a short concert afterwards. The museum also offers a first rate program of recitals and concerts, with a focus on Hungarian music, ranging from folk music, gipsy music and composers such as Liszt and Bartók.
Hours: Daily, 10am-4pm
Admission: Adults, HUF 600; Children (under 6), Free
Address: Táncsics Mihály utca 7, Budapest H-1014
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Budapest's Castle Hill
- Tours: The Castle District is part of the three-hour Budapest City Walking Tour, a small-group led by an English-speaking guide, which also includes main sights across the city and a stop for coffee and Hungarian pastries. Castle Hill is the sole focus for the two-hour Private Walking Tour: Budapest Castle District, led by a private guide, who will show you the most important attractions along with medieval streets and some places tourists normally miss, enlivened by local history, folklore, and legends.
- For Your Comfort: Wear good walking shoes. Castle Hill covers a large area with uneven stones underfoot. If you tour the caves, you'll want a light jacket or sweater even on a warm day.
- Festival: On August 20, the Hungarian national holiday, Budapest Castle is the prime viewpoint for the evening's mammoth fireworks display. During the day, the hill is alive with the Festival of Crafts, food stalls, and music.