Perched on a hill overlooking the Danube, the Castle District of Budapest dates back more than 700 years. King Bela IV staked his claim here so that he could ward off the attacks of the Mongols on his people. The palace was destroyed and rebuilt 6 times through the centuries.
The Castle District today includes a palace, a striking church, the Fishermen’s Bastion, ordinary streets and hotels and cafes, and so much more to see. If you are staying in the Pest side of Budapest, you can cross the Danube on the Chain Bridge, either walking across or taking a bus, and end up directly in front of the Castle District.
Here’s the first fascinating sight we encountered after walking over the Chain Bridge.
You have a choice of walking up a steep hill, climbing steps, or riding a funicular up to castle level. The funicular has two cars in constant motion up and down the hill. You can see over the river to the Pest side of the city as you climb. And the ride is fun!
We ran out of time and we didn’t get back to the palace later in the day when it was open. The palace includes two museums, the Hungarian National Gallery and the Castle Museum. We hope to return some day to see more of the palace. We did see these Medieval ruins right outside the gate.
Turning the other way from the river, we explored the twisty, delightful lanes of the Castle District. We soon came to Holy Trinity Square and gazed up at the imposing neo-Gothic Matthias Church. Parts of Matthias Church are 500 years old, though the building you see today was completed in 1896. Take your time marveling at the multicolored tile roof and the spires of various styles.
On the river side of the square is the popular Fishermen’s Bastion. I was confused about what this is until I visited it. It’s a neo-Gothic structure named for the guild responsible for defending this part of Buda from intruders. Seven white turrets along the walls represent the Magyar tribes that were here in the 800s.
You really can feel you are in a fairy tale at Fishermen’s Bastion. And it affords amazing views of the Danube and the Pest side of the city. This is my favorite of all the features of the Castle District.
Along the streets of the Castle District are shops and cafes — and lots of life and color. We stopped for lunch, and my sandwich came complete with a Hungarian flag.
On our way out of the Castle District, we found the residence of the president of the Republic, complete with guards to rival Buckingham Palace. We missed the changing of the guards ceremony, but I read that it is quite a complicated affair. This neoclassical building goes by the nickname, “The White House.”