Our second day of discovering Budapest, we headed to the west side of the river (the Buda side) to explore the palace, church and other Castle Hill sights. Once we were across Chain Bridge, we immediately ascended a set of shaded stairs to Parade Square, which sits between the Royal Palace and Matthias Church.
Castle Hill Sights: Holy Trinity Square & Matthias Church
We worked our way north past a local market and down the open and colorful street to Holy Trinity Square. In the center is a column dating from 1713 and, to our right, the Matthias Church. Not the original church that stood here 800 years ago (as it has been rebuilt, updated and changed several times over the centuries), it is a fantastic display of typical Hungarian style. The rooftop garners all the attention with designed tiles and several Gothic spires.
Castle Hill Sights: Fisherman’s Bastion & St. Istvan statue
East of the church, at the edge of the hill overlooking the river, is Fisherman’s Bastion. In a completely different style from the church, the arches along the columned arcade offer fantastic views of the Danube River and the Pest side of Budapest. The seven pointed towers represent the original Magyar tribes that founded Hungary. In the center sits a statue of St. Istvan, the king responsible for bringing Christianity to Hungary.
Castle Hill Sights: Budapest’s Oldest Cafe, Ruszwurm
From here, we walked away from the river down Szentharomsag Utca, passing Budapest’s oldest café, Ruszwurm, on the way. The street ends at a lookout point over the neighborhoods of The Buda Hills.
Castle Hill Sights: St. Mary Magdalene Church at the North End
We followed the less crowded promenade north to St. Mary Magdalene Church, which was first built in the mid-13th century. Since then, it has been expanded, used as a mosque and destroyed in war. Only the bell tower remains and both the inside and outside are currently undergoing renovation. We took in a few other sights, like an old Turkish grave, the archive building and Vienna Gate, at the north end of the hill before looping around and heading south toward the palace.
Castle Hill Sights: Sandor Palace, the president’s office
Along the way, we passed through ruins, a flag-lined street and Sandor Palace, which serves as the president’s office and has serious looking guards standing at the front doors.
Castle Hill Sights: Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is essentially a replica (of a replica of a replica) with barely any of the original features still standing. Its main use now is to house museums. Still, it is part of the Budapest landscape – and has some of the best views looking east over the city. We entered the palace grounds toward the back and the first sight we came to was the King Matthias Fountain, honoring the last Hungarian-blooded king of Hungary. Moving into the rather plain palace courtyard, its expansive size is impressive.
Castle Hill Sights: Statues Eugene of Savoy and Turul Bird
In front of the palace, under the large green dome is a statue of Eugene of Savoy, a French general who fought against the Ottomans. To the right of the palace is another statue, this one of the Turul Bird, a creature of Magyar legend.
Castle Hill Sights: Scenic Viewpoints
Turning our backs on the palace, we took in the sweeping views of Budapest. From the north end of Castle Hill to Gellert Hill in the south and everything in between. The grand buildings in the east, the Parliament and Basilica (which are two of Budapest’s most iconic sights), rise prominently above the rest of the city. The many bridges that cross the Danube can be seen, with Chain Bridge seemingly outshining the rest. From here, it is obvious that we have so much more of the city to see!
We want to know: Have you visited the Castle Hill sights in Budapest? Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!