Castle Hill Budapest | 17 Very Best Things to do in Buda’s Old Town District
The enchanting Castle Hill in Budapest sits on a large limestone plateau, 170 metres above the west banks of the Danube River, with miles and miles of underground tunnels. Often referred to as Buda’s Old Town District, Castle Hill Budapest is home to a wealth of historic monuments, medieval ruins and stunning architectural features that top most visitors’ list to Budapest. Winding cobblestones lead to quaint streets, baroque houses, and hidden alleys. Alongside Castle Hill, a little to the west is Gellert Hill, famously known for its thermal baths and hot springs as well as a large oasis of greenery.
Castle Hill Budapest
The most compelling building that dominates Castle Hill Budapest is the colossal Buda Castle, built on the original site of the 13th century Royal Palace by King Béla IV. The panorama terrace of the Buda Castle offers spectacular views over the other side of the Danube. The great Danube River, the second longest in Europe runs through the heart of the Hungarian capital city, and divides the city of Budapest to Buda in the West and Pest to the East. Extraordinary bridges connect both sides of the capital city, thus making Budapest an easy to explore and discover city.
Along with a rich history, architectural wonders and landmarks, Budapest is known for its dramatic skyline as well, one that you surely must experience from Castle Hill at dusk, going into nightfall. For a little nostalgia, ride the historic Castle Funicular Railway. This essential activity takes visitors from river level of the classic Széchenyi Chain Bridge to reach the heart of Castle Hill Budapest.
Budapest is a city that combines the old and new. From lively nightlife scenes in the heart of Pest to classical splendour sprinkled all around, the Hungarian capital has something for everyone.
What to Expect from this Guide on Castle Hill
In this comprehensive guide, we shall take a look at all the spectacular things to do at Castle Hill Budapest along with Gellert Hill, located in Buda, the west of the Danube. This complete guide to Castle Hill Budapest has all the information you need to plan your visit to the popular attractions here as well as some best tips for timeless experiences.
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BEST TIPS: Book tours and tickets in advance: Best tours in Budapest. Select the Budapest City Card for free entrance to museums, a guided tour, discounts and unlimited use of public transport.
17 VERY BEST THINGS TO DO IN CASTLE HILL BUDAPEST
Here are some of the unmissable experiences in Castle Hill Budapest, on the West Bank of River Danube.
1 | Fisherman’s Bastion in Castle Hill Budapest
The magical Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the best attractions in Budapest. The fairy-tale turrets present lovely look-out points for some of the best panoramic views over the Danube River and of Budapest. Experience some of the majestic views of the humming city, with boats bobbling across the Danube, minuscule trams crossing each other in the distance and, of the course the resplendent Parliament building.
Built between 1895 and 1902, the Fisherman’s Bastion has seven turrets to represent the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the country in 895 AD. There is a Chapel inside the Fisherman’s Bastion.
1.1 | Practical Information: Fisherman’s Bastion:
Open all year round.
The entrance is free. Balconies are accessible freely. Access to turrets and viewing points incur a fee.
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary
2 | Terrace Cafe at Fisherman’s Bastion
Take a break at the Terrace Cafe. Views over the Danube and of Pest are spectacular. The Cafe had a selection of hot and cold drinks, cocktails and sandwiches.
1 & 2 | TTS Best Tips: Fisherman’s Bastion, Castle Hill Budapest
1 | If you can, be here for the sunset.
The changing hues of the mild and mellow light, the gentle tint of blue, pink, lilac amidst the evening winds are absolutely glorious and magical.
2 | Combine an evening visit to Fisherman’s Bastion with a historical-ridden evening tour of the Buda Castle District. This tour is about the bloody side of Hungarian history. Stories of draculas and vampires amidst the backdrop of Buda Castle at night, all lit up in gold. >> Check availability
3 | Join a daytime Walking Tour. Learn the city’s 1000 years of history, look out for hidden gems, explore the Buda Castle District and walk on the very old cobblestones of the Castle District. >> Check availability
Read: The Best of Amsterdam, Netherlands
3 | St Matthias Church, Castle Hill Budapest
Just across from the Fisherman’s Bastion, is St Matthias, a Roman Catholic Church said to have been constructed in the 13th century. A church is believed to have existed on this spot in 1015, founded by St Stephen, King of Hungary. However, there is no archaeological evidence to confirm this.
St Matthias is a significant church with an important history. It has been built and rebuilt over the years. Two Kings of Hungary were crowned here, one being the coronation of Franz Josef, the Hungarian Habsburg king.
The slender and graceful architecture of this beautiful church dominates the main square of the castle area. The interior is breathtaking. The tower is 78 metres, 200 steps up. St Matthias is one of the finest Gothic architecture of its time.
3.1 Practical Information: St Matthias Church Buda
Opens: Monday to Saturday > 9:00 A.M to 5.00 P.M.
Sunday > 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Hungary
3.2 | TTS Best Tip: St Matthias Church
Experience an extraordinary evening of classical favourites from Mozart, Bach, Saint-Saens by extraordinary musicians at a stunning venue.
4 | Statue of St Stephen, Buda
One of the best statues of St Stephen, the first King of Hungary is in the square between Fisherman’s Bastion and St Matthias Church. The impressive monument of an equestrian bronze statue was erected in 1906, with a pedestal of 5.4 metres high. The figure sitting on the horse measures 4 metres.
5 | Trinity Column, Trinity Square in Castle Hill Budapest
Trinity Square is a notable part of the Old Town of Budapest, which is the central square on Castle Hill. Apart from the amazingly beautiful Matthias Church that sits within this square, is a large Baroque structure called Trinity Column. The first foundation stone for the column was laid in 1700. Trinity Column is decorated with statues of angels and saints. A sculpture of Holy Trinity sits atop it. Such columns were also known as plague-column, erected to ward off the deadly plague that had killed so many during the period in history.
Read: The Best of Milan Cathedral
6 | Buda Castle, Castle Hill Budapest
The historic Buda Castle and palace complex, once home to the Hungarian kings was first completed in 1265, rebuilt throughout the centuries, reflecting a turbulent past. The magnificent colossal Baroque palace that exists today was built between 1749 and 1769. It is now home to the Hungarian National Gallery, National Library and Budapest History Museum.
Buda Castle, more popularly known as the Royal Palace is a remarkable castle and a magnificent symbol of the capital city as well as Hungary. Occupying an enviable position atop Castle Hill, it dominates the city, giving an opportunity to enjoy stunning views over the Danube, Pest, and the iconic Chain Bridge.
Occupying four wings of the palace, the Hungarian National Gallery showcases Hungarian artworks from the Middle Ages to the present.
The National Library was founded in 1800 by Count Ferenc Széchényi, a Hungarian nobleman with his private collection of 1500 books and manuscripts. Today, you shall find a copy of every book published in Hungary here.
Budapest History Museum tells the history of Budapest from prehistoric to modern days. There are some ruins, reconstruction of the medieval palace, Gothic chapel and the Knights’ Hall.
7 | The Gardens and Courtyards of the Royal Palace/Buda Castle
Habsburg Gate and Steps
One of the entrances to the Royal Palace is via the Habsburg Gate. An ornate gateway dating from 1903. Beyond the gate, are the Habsburg Steps, which leads to the front of the palace where a statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy, hero of the Turkish wars.
The western courtyard of the Royal Palace houses the charming Matthias Fountain. The fountain depicts a young King Matthias Corvinus in his hunting attire, standing on the highest rock. Below him, a henchman blows his horn, while another rests. There are three hounds in the centre of the fountain.
The story behind the fountain is of Ilonka, a heroine of a famous 19th century ballad by Mihaly Vorosmarty. The story goes that Ilonka fell in love with this young and dashing hunter, not knowing that he was King Matthias. Feeling unworthy, Ilona died of a broken heart. Ilonka is represented by the bronze statue on the right.
7.1 | Practical Information: Buda Castle
The gardens and courtyards are open every day 24/7.
National Gallery & History Museum : Tuesday to Sunday > 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. (Closes at 4:00 P.M. during autumn and winter).
7.2 | TTS Best Tip: Buda Castle
Buda Castle Walking Tour > learn all there is to the 1000 year old history of the oldest district in Budapest from a knowledgeable guide. Walk on some of the oldest cobblestones and be mesmerised with the stunning views over the Danube and Pest from Buda.
8 | Vienna Gate Square (Bécsi kapu tér), Buda
The Vienna Gate Square is a public space on Castle Hill Budapest. The Vienna Gate is the northern gate of Castle Hill, where all four roads on Castle Hill converge. It was built around 1936 to celebrate the city’s freedom from the Turks rule, which was about two-hundred-fifty years before. Historically and strategically, the Vienna Gate was important as it led the road to Vienna, the most essential gateway for the Hungarians over several centuries. The space in front of the Gate (the square) was used during the Middle Ages as a market square on Saturdays. Vienna Gate is the only remaining old town gate in Castle Hill Budapest.
Vienna Gate is decorated with emblems and cupids, representing the Christian Revival of Buda in 1686.
8.1 | Practical Information: Vienna Gate Square
Located near the Hungarian National Archives, Buda Castle Lutheran Church and Medieval Jewish Temple.
Address: Castle District
9 | Explore the Castle Hill District
After or while visiting the unmissable monuments and attractions on Castle Hill, make time to explore the cobblestone paths and alleys. There are Medieval remains incorporated into modern architecture such as St Nicholas Tower and Budapest Hilton. The Gentlemen’s Street is an impressive combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural styles where there are numerous boutique shops, galleries and restaurants lined the street for a quintessential experience.
10 | The Caves beneath Castle Hill
There is a complex, vast system of underground caves beneath Castle Hill Budapest that dates back to prehistoric times. The six-mile underground Labyrinth has a long known history of human use and has inspired legends. Mixed with the general spookiness of the underground world, the caves are reputed to have been the home of Vlad Tepes, better known as Count Dracula.
10.1 | TTS best tip: Castle Hill Caves Guided Walking Tour
The length of the tour is approximately 1.5 km (1 mile), where you will walk through tunnels, limestone caverns and a 800-year old man-made cellars.
Book your unique experience at one of the most extraordinary caves in Hungary.
11 | Ride the historic Budapest Castle Hill Funicular
The Castle Hill Funicular links Adam Clark Square at river level to Buda Castle above. The funicular line opened in 1870.
The fun part is that the journey is very brief, just 1.5 minutes for a small fee. Rides are free if you purchase the Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing tickets.
11.1 | Practical information: Budapest Castle Hill Funicular
Address: Budapest, Clark Ádám tér, 1013 Hungary
Open daily: 7:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.
11.2 | TTS Best tips:
Take the Castle Hill Funicular when going up if you do not wish to walk up. Stay for as long as you can at Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion. When you are ready to leave, use the stairs by the Funicular, to come down to street level. The elevation is about 62 metres and is rated as easy.
While descending, you will undoubtedly be stopping many times to take-in the many changing hues of the evening sun while also capturing some awesome panoramic views over Budapest’s skyline.
Georgina: We did not have much time to fully explore Gellert Hill but here are some places to look out for that may be of value to you when you visit.
12 | Panorama from Gellert Hill, Buda
At 235 metre high, the steep block of dolomite called Gellert Hill overlooks the Danube River and is located in Buda, to the west of Castle Hill. The panorama over the Danube, Pest and as far as you can see is a stunning sight!
13 | Visit the world renowned Thermal Baths of Budapest
Belonging to the Buda Hills range, Gellert Hill sits on a geological fault line. It is here that you will find some of the city’s most favoured medicinal hotsprings and baths. Places such as Gellért Spa and Rudas Baths have been the centre of wellness, luring visitors from far and wide for centuries.
The origin of Rudas Baths goes back to the 1600s, when Hungary was under Turkish occupation. It is one of the very few remaining original Turkish bathhouses in the world and still being used from the Turkish era.
13.1 TTS Best Tips on experiencing thermal baths and hot springs Budapest
Enjoy a full-day of spa and a three-course bistro experience, along with breathtaking view of the Danube at Rudas Spa.
Check availability and book a timeless experience at Rudas Spa Wellness + Dinner Experience
14 | Monuments on Gellert Hill, Budapest
The hill takes its name from Bishop Gellért, who was rolled down to his death by pagans in 1046. A large statue of Bishop Gellért holding a cross was erected on the northeastern side of the hill, facing the Elizabeth bridge.
There are two other main monuments on Gellert Hill which are worth visiting: the Citadel built by the Austrians in 1851 and Statue of Freedom erected in 1947.
Visit also the Jubilee Park, put in place to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Hungarian October Revolution in 1956. The park is home to many shady pathways, flowerbeds and sculptures.
14.1 | Practical Information: Gellert Hill Budapest
1 | If you are walking from the Pest side, you could walk up Gellert Hill either from Elizabeth Bridge or Széchenyi Chain Bridge;
2 | The path up via Jubilee Park is less steep.
3 | Take bus #27 and get off at Busulo Juhasz;
14.2 | TTS Best Tip:
Don’t want to hike up or take the bus? Opt for the best deal > the hop-on hop-off tour bus.
The hop-on hop-off bus is the best way to see the city and go up to Gellert Hill if you do not wish to hike or walk all of the time. This ticket includes a guided walking tour and a cruise.
15 | The Cave Church at Gellert Hill
The Cave Church at Gellert Hill is uniquely set within a natural cave, which forms part of a network of caves on Gellert Hill. The church is run by Pauline Monks, and has a modern entrance which was built in 1926. The chapel was inspired by similar rock chapels in Lourdes, France. There is a replica statue of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Poland.
Historically, the cave was once home to a 9th century hermit monk, Saint Ivan. Saint Ivan is believed to have used the thermal waters from a nearby muddy lake to heal the sick.
The Cave Church is located at the base of Gellert Hill, near the Gellert Hotel. Open daily with a small fee.
16 | Sunset over the Danube River and Pest from Castle Hill Budapest
Whatever you do, do not miss a sunset opportunity at Castle Hill Budapest. The west of Budapest has an enviable natural landscape where you can spot some stunning sunsets over the city’s iconic landmarks. Places like the Fisherman’s Bastion treat you to an extraordinary panorama over the Danube, Parliament building and Pest. You could also catch stunning views as you walk through the grounds and courtyards of the Royal Palace.
One of the best views for the evening as we were leaving Buda was the blue horizon over the Danube and the shimmering lights of Elisabeth Bridge.
17 | Elisabeth Bridge Budapest
Elisabeth Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges in Budapest, connecting Buda to Pest on the narrowest part of the River Danube. It spans only 290 metres.
Named after the nation’s favourite Habsburg queen, Elisabeth, affectionately known as Sissi, Elisabeth Bridge was originally a chain-type bridge without riverbed pillars. The bridge was blown-up in 1945, during World War II, and it was the only bridge in Budapest that was beyond repair. The construction of a new Elisabeth Bridge began in 1960 and was completed in 1964. It was built in the same place, standing on its old pillars but with added width.
We had a remarkable time in Budapest, discovering the city a little at a time. We enjoyed every visit to an attraction, every walk through an alley, cobblestones of centuries old, the vibrancy of the Jewish Quarter and all of the delectable food that Budapest offered.
Just me, Georgina – completely mesmerised with the views over the Danube and the Hungarian Parliament building glistening in the mild and mellow light of the evening sun.
*photo credit to my fabulous daughter
This guide on Castle Hill Budapest is only a small part of our experience in Budapest, but I like to share the details and offer useful tips to make your visit a timeless one as well. I shall be writing more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for a complete guide to the Queen of the Danube, places to stay and on the delightful Hungarian gastronomy.
If you are planning a visit to Budapest, my sincere wish is that you have found this guide on Castle Hill Budapest and the 17 suggestions to be helpful in planning your travel. If so, use the links embedded in this guide and related posts to book your activities, and places to stay. We earn a commission from qualified purchases at no cost to you. You could support TTS in other ways also. We appreciate your continued support to keep this blog going.
Happy exploring & discovering Castle Hill Budapest!
HUNGARY TRAVEL ADVICE
Budapest, capital city of Hungary
ESSENTIALS FOR BUDAPEST:
1 | From Budapest Airport to Budapest City Centre by Airport shuttle
2 | From Budapest Airport to Hotel Private Transfer
3 | Budapest City Card: Public Transport, 30+ Attractions and Tours
4 | Hop-on hop-off + walking tour + cruise
5 | 1-hour Evening Cruise + welcome drink
6 | Jewish Quarter: Jewish Cuisine + Culture Walk
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Castle Hill Budapest | 17 Best Things to do first published at timelesstravelsteps.com
Regularly edited and updated. Last update: August 18, 2022
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