Budapest Castle District - A World Heritage Site
Budapest’s Castle District is packed with historic sights and attractions (the Royal Palace, the Matthias Church, medieval houses), interesting museums, charming, crooked streets following the shape of the hill, as well as some good cafés and restaurants.
Besides the monuments, you get a breathtaking panorama of the Danube with the Chain Bridge and the Pest side of the city on the opposite side of the river.
Everything at one place! It’s ideal to spend a romantic morning here in spring or on a sunny autumn day, before the tourists overrun the hill.
Buda Castle and its many courtyards host several festivals and events all over the year including an international wine festival, a beer festival, and a folk art festival.
If you can time your visit to one of these events to make your experience of Budapest's castle even more satisfying.
Quick Links to Buda Castle Hill
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Major Sights in Buda Castle:
Getting to Castle District
Other option is to take the Várbusz (Castle bus: no. 16 and 16A), it departs every few minutes from Széll Kálmán tér (formerly called Moszkva tér) (M2, red metro line, or tram 4,6).
A more romantic way of getting to the Castle is by taking the steps leading up the hill from Clark Adam Square.
TIP: Kids Tour in Buda Castle - Fun Discovery Tour Tailor Made to Children's Needs Why is there a fish on the bastion? Where has the squirrel gone? Let's spot all the animals hiding away on the church! And why is King Matthias showing 3 with his fingers on the picture...?
This tour is especially made for the little ones, they will be engaged and entertained:
- there will be hand-outs
- tasks to resolve
- treasure hunts
- and a lot of laughter
Reserve the Unique Buda Castle Tour for Kids online.
Address: Hess András tér 1-3, district I., (within the Hilton Hotel)
Entrance: turn left in the Hall of the Hilton Hotel, walk till the Dominican Monastery Cloister, 54 steps lead down the cellar
End your sightseeing in the Castle with wine tasting in a romantic stone cellar within the Hilton Hotel.
The vaulted cellar is a part of the underground labyrinth system built by the castle inhabitants during the middle ages.
English-speaking wine experts will introduce you to the wines and wine regions of Hungary.
You can choose from several tasting packages based on wine producing regions. The cellar also offers tasting of pálinka, a traditional Hungarian fruit spirit - there's a choice of 30 types of pálinka.
Choose a wine tasting package and book it online by paying 10% in advance.
A Bit of Buda Castle History
First inhabitants moved up here in the 13th century after the devastating Mongol attacks. The Castle District's Golden Age started when the Royal Court moved here. During the 15th century, under the rule of King Matthias, Buda became one of Europe’s most influential cities.
The Turks invaded the Castle Hill in 1541 and ruled it until 1686 when the Austrian Habsburgs and their allied armies took back the hill. The siege left Castle District in ruins.
After the Turks the Habsburgs moved here. Reconstructions began immediately, following the old street layout. The Castle became a government district. The current elegant Baroque appearance was formed by the mid 18th century.
The battles in 1944-45 ruined the place again.
Reconstructions after the war rebuilt the District: the buildings by the Habsburgs were reconstructed, the street pattern of the medieval city has been kept and much of the architectural features have been restored.
People still live here. Cars are banned from the area: only people who live or work there, guests of the Hilton Hotel, taxis and the Várbusz have permission to drive up.
TIP: See also our map-based Buda Castle walking tour suggestions - easy to use itinerary with lots of photos.
Bécsi kapu tér (Vienna Gate Square) and its Surroundings
Bécsi kapu tér (Vienna Gate Square) with the National Archives Building
The only existing old town-gate. A very good spot to start your walk in Buda Castle. This is the northern gate of the District; all four roads that run along the hill converge here.
From here it takes only a few minutes to get to busy Széll Kálmán tér.
Bécsi kapu tér served as a Saturday Market in the middle ages for non-Jewish merchants.
You can walk up to the top of the gate where you get a beautiful view of the Buda Hills.
You can see the imposing Budapest Parliament from an unusual angle.
Vienna Gate (Bécsi kapu)
You'll find some charming houses around Vienna Gate too (No.-s 5-7). The most famous is the house at No. 7. It was built on the site of a medieval house.
A priest and teacher, who lived here, rebuilt it in 1807. Beautiful grilles decorate the windows and the door of a staircase in the gateway.
In the first half of the 20th century Baron Lajos Hatvany lived here, a patron of arts. In 1935 and 1936 Thomas Mann was his guest in this house for three times.
The large building of the National Archives towers the northern end of the square.Lutheran Church on Bécsi kapu tér
Old House on Bécsi kapu tér
György Kálmán actor lived here
Europe Grove - Európa Liget
The so-called Europe Grove is to the right of the Gate. Mayors of all the major European cities planted rare trees here in 1972. You'll find about 16 types of trees here, for example Turkish hazel and Japanese cherry.
On the corner of Kapisztrán tér and Országház utca, you bump into the Maria Magdalene Tower. It was a Franciscan church in medieval times. Under the Turkish rule this was the only Christian church; the Turks converted all the other churches into mosques. Since this was the only Christian church, both Catholics and Protestants used it. In the end, the Turks converted it into a mosque as well. The church was destroyed in World War II, only its 15th century tower survived the bombings.
Behind the Maria Magdalen Tower is the Military Museum (Tóth Árpád sétány 40.).
Visit its room devoted to the 1956 Uprising and you'll find out everything important about these 13 chaotic days. The hand of the legendary Stalin Statue is here too. People destroyed the statue in the huge parking area behind Műcsarnok in Heroes' Square during the uprising. A remarkable historical weapon collection, uniforms, flags and coins are also exhibited in this museum.
Szentháromság tér (Holy Trinity Square) and its Surroundings
The centre of Budapest Castle District is at Szentháromság tér (Holy Trinity Square). The Holy Trinity Statue, the Old Town Hall, and Matthias Church are here.
Matthias Church (Mátyás templom)
Location: Szentháromság tér, Buda Castle
Open: Mon-Fri: 9.00-17.00, Sat: 9.00-12.00, Sun 13.00-17.00
- Adult: 1 000 HUF
- Children up to 6: free
- Students, pensioners: 700 HUF
- Family ticket: (1-2 adults +children): 2 500 HUF
- Audio guide + 500 HUF
Ticket is valid to the church and to the museum.
Admission is 10 % less if you have a Budapest Card. The card entitles you to discount admission to a wide range of attractions (museums, baths etc.) as well as you can travel on the city's public transport services free with your card.
TIP: Buy your Bp. Card online here (the 24-hour card costs 17.30 EUR / 4 500 HUF, the 48-hour card is 30.38 EUR / 7 500 HUF, the 72-hour one is 34.25 EUR / 8 900 HUF) . It's convenient and secure.
According to a legend, our first king St. Stephen started to build the church, but it hasn't been proved yet. Historical proof shows that King Béla IV founded the church in 1255 after he moved his court up to Castle Hill from Óbuda.
However, its name comes from the fact that the popular King Matthias held both of his weddings here. The main eastern gate and the long apse are 13th century, the central part was built around 1400. Every king and era added something to the church.
In 1541 the Turks captured Buda and transformed it into a mosque. They celebrated their victory here. Luckily the church's treasures had already been moved from Buda Castle to Bratislava.
After the Habsburgs recaptured Buda in 1686, Matthias Church came under Jesuit patronage. Frigyes Schulek rebuilt Matthias Church in neo-Gothic style at the turn of the last century. He incorporated the 13th century remains in the new design. You can view a King Matthias' small collection of religious treasures in the church museum.
The interior is very striking. Despite the vaulting and the stained glass windows, it's nothing like a Gothic cathedral; it has a sort of mystic, Eastern atmosphere. The wall paintings are scenes from the Bible and events from Hungary's history.
The church has excellent acoustics, so it often houses concerts. Matthias Church is probably the most popular place to get married in Budapest.
There are two hotels near Szentháromság tér:
- a luxury hotel: Hilton Hotel (Hess András tér 1-3.) and
- a small but cosy budget hotel: Burg Hotel (Szentháromság tér 7-8.).
Open: 24 hours daily
Admission to the upper-level lookout terrace:
- adult: 600 HUF, 10 % discount with Bp. Card,
- students between 6-14, pensioner from EU countries: 300 HUF
- free for children under 6 years
As part of the renovations, the Fishermen’s Bastion was added in 1905.
There are two explanations about the origin of the Bastion’s name: some say a fish market was nearby in the Middle Ages, according to others the Guild of Fishermen defended this part of the wall.
Despite its name it's a look-out terrace. It has seven turrets one for each of the Hungarian tribes. The design was inspired by the Far East. "Kitchs but beautiful" according to the writer Szerb Antal. From its top you get one of the city''s best panoramic views.
TIP: to enjoy the breathtaking view and a fine meal try the Halászbástya Restaurant. You can eat inside the Knight Hall or enjoy the panorama from one of the terraces (Margaréta Terrace, Halászbástya Terrace) (entrance is to the right of the Fishermen's Bastion).
The restaurant is open all the year round from 10.00-22.00 The Halászbástya Terrace of the restaurant is open from spring till autumn from 10.00 to 22.00.
Prices are on the high side (soups: 1 400-2 200 HUF, main courses:2 600-9 000 HUF).
To make the area even more romantic, beneath Budapest's Castle Hill stretches a labyrinth of caves, tunnels and cellars. It's about 10 km in length and a section of about 1.5 km is open to visitors. Part of the labyrinth was formed naturally; the other parts were excavated mostly in the Middle Ages for protection purposes. During World War II thousands lived through the siege down there.
Labyrinth in Buda Castle - Budavári Labirintus
Entrance 1: Úri utca 9., two minutes walk from Szentháromság tér, GPS:
47.50018° N, 019.03408° E
Entrance 2: Lovas út 4/A. - GPS: 47.499637° N, 19.033177° E (accessible with wheel chair)
Opening hours: 10.00-19.00 every day
- Medieval architecture - travel back in time under the ground to see the magnificent royal palace of King Sigismund of Luxembourg and King Matthias as well as monuments from the era of the Turkish rule,
- The Most Beautiful Caves of the World - a photo exhibition
- Nightime Tours with Lantern: start at 18.00.
adult: 2 000 HUF,
(25% discount with Bp. Card)
students/pensioners/teachers: 1 500 HUF
children up to 12 years of age: 600 HUF,
- guided tours (by appointment): 5 500 HUF
- admission is free for people with disabilities
The Royal Palace
King Béla IV started building a palace in the 13th century after the Mongol invasion.
The original Royal Palace was destroyed and rebuilt many times. Its history is very much like that of the Matthias Church.
The original Gothic Palace was built and expanded for 300 years.The golden era of the palace was under the rule of King Matthias (1451-90).
It was totally destroyed in 1686 when the Habsburg army liberated Buda from the Turkish occupation.
The Habsburgs built a completely new, small Baroque palace in the beginning of the 18th century.
It was damaged again in the 1848-49 War of Independence.
The following reconstruction almost doubled it in length at the end of the 19th century (now it's 304 m long) and a large wing was attached to the back.In 1945 it was the last defense of the German troops in Budapest.
Post-war reconstruction revealed Gothic and Renaissance foundations that have been incorporated in the building during the works.
Thus the Palace is a mix of architectural styles.
Today the Palace Houses the Following Institutions:
the Budapest History Museum
TIP: visit the new temporary exhibition titled Light and Shadow-The 1000 year History of the Hungarian Capital in the History Museum that introduces the history of Budapest in a chronological order using the meandering Danube as motif.
the Hungarian National Gallery, and
the National Széchenyi Library.
Buda Castle, Royal Palace, Habsburg Gate
Events, Concerts and Other Programs in Buda Castle
Concerts by the Hungarian Virtuosi Orchestra
The Hungarian Virtuosi Orchestra regularly gives concerts in teh Castle District. They used to performed in Matthias Church but due to the renovation works of the church concerts are held in the Lutheran Church (Budavári Evangélikus Templom, address: Táncsics M. u. 28.), and in the ball room of the Hilton Hotel.
The next concert by the Hungarian Virtuosi Orchestra will be on Whitsun (27th May 2012), at night in the Lutheran Church.
Tickets for the Whitsun Concert:
- Bronze: HUF 3 900 / 15 EUR
- Silver: HUF 4 900 / 20 EUR
- Gold : HUF 5 900 / 25 EUR
Tickets can be purchased on the spot or at major ticket offices and online at: jegy.hu jegymester.hu interticket.hu ticketportal.hu ticketpro. hu
Summer Concerts in the Hilton Dominican Court
Date: 18th July 2013 Klezmer and gypsy music concerts in the Dominican court of the Hilton Hotel (Hess András tér 1-3.).
Festival of Folk Arts
Festival of Folk Arts the most renowned Hungarian folk artists and craftsmen from different regions of the country introduce their skills and craft work.
Date: 17th- 20th August, 2013.
Beer Festival in Buda Castle
Date: 13-16. June, 2013.
Read more about the Buda Castle Beer Fest and other Beer Festivals.
Wine & Champagne Festival
Date: 11th-15th September, 2013. The most prestigious of all wine festivals organized in Hungary is held Buda Castle in the first half of every September. Read more details about he Budapest International Wine & Champagne Festival...
Sweet Days Chocolate Festival
Date: 20th-23rd September, 2013. A festival celebarting all things sweet.
TIP: see also our Event Calendar.
Where to Eat in Buda Castle?
Ruszwurm Coffee House
Address: Szentháromság utca 7.
Open: 10.00-20.00, Closed on Wednesdays
Tel: +36 1 375 5284
For a coffee and cake visit the city's oldest confectionery, the Ruszwurm in Szentháromság utca. It's a small Baroque coffee house dating from 1824.
Usually it's crowded with tourists, but in a winter afternoon you might get a seat in its tiny salon. On a hot summer-day taste its ice-cream.
See other historic cafes in Budapest.
Rétesvár Bakery - Delicious Strudels
Address: Balta köz 4., Buda Castle
This small bakery is in a narrow alley connecting Tárnok utca with Úri utca and specializes in strudels with various fillings (cottage cheese, cherry, apple etc.). We tried strudels of several other bakeries but Rétesvár's are the most delicious.
The place is too small so guests can't sit down inside but you can take the strudel and a cup of coffee to go with you and sit down somewhere nearby to refuel during your Castle District tour
Other Cafes, Restaurants in Buda Castle
Address: Úri utca 30.
Tel: +36 1 375 5458 For a modern world feeling try Café Miró in Úri utca, its surrealistic wrought iron furniture brings you back from the past.
Café PierrotAddress: Fortuna utca 14.
Tel: +36 1 375 6971
For something more substantial, your best bet is Café Pierrot in Fortuna utca.
Besides Hungarian dishes you can choose from a variety of pastas and sandwiches.
It has a free wireless internet access for its customers.
21 Magyar Hungarian Restaurant with BIB Gourmand Status from Michelin
Address: Fortuna utca 21.
Tel: +36 1 202 21 13
Open: every day 11.00-24.00
21 Magyar is an upscale Hungarian restaurant in Fortuna utca near Bécsi kapu tér. It received a BIB gourmand status from Michelin in 2010 for its quality cuisine at reasonable prices.
According to their motto 21 Magyar offers "Hungarian cuisine as it used to be in the “good old days”, updated to the 21st century".
The wine list includes only Hungarian wines from the country's best wineries (Tamás Günzer Villány, Tamás Dúzsi Szekszárd, Konyári Winery Balatonlelle, Otto Légli Balatonboglár, St. Andrea in Eger).
Price guide: soups: cc. 1200-1300 HUF, main dishes: cc. 3500-5000. See more top-rated Restaurants offering Hungarian Dishes in Budapest.
Arany Kaviár Restaurant - Michelin Recommended Restaurant
Address: Ostrom utca 19.
Tel: (+36 1) 201 6737
The menu of Arany Kaviár represents traditional Russian cuisine and the classical cuisine of the court of the Czars influenced by French cuisine.Guests can choose from the 5 course Tasting Menu, changed regularly, or the 8 course Gourmet Menu, both very popular.
Apart from the menu, the restaurant pays special attention to the selection of wines and spirits, which are chosen by two sommeliers from famous Hungarian wine cellars and from among the masterpieces produced by smaller artisan wineries.
Price guide: lunch menu (between 12.00-16.00): 4900 HUF, gourmet menu: 25 000 HUF (without wine) 40 000 (with wine)
Address: Országház utca 2.
Tel: +36 1 356 0851
Open: Mon-Fri: 19.00-23.00, Sat: 12.00-16.00 and 19.00-23.00
Alabárdos is in a 400 year old gothic building in Országház utca (a small street opposite Matthias Church).
The restaurant specializes in Hungarian cuisine but they're open to new culinary trends. The wine lists offers 70-80 different types of wine form Hungary's various wine regions.Price guide: soups: cc. 1600 HUF, main dishes: cc. 3200-4900 HUF.
TIP: for more recommendations on where to go out eatin see our Best Restaurant Guide.