Hungary’s most historic neighbourhood is the Castle District, a World Heritage Site whose monumental sights spread across a Buda hilltop and define the city skyline. It’s always memorable to stroll around these narrow cobblestoned streets to admire Buda Castle, the Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church – but there’s so much more to discover that guidebooks don’t tell you about. In this two-part article, we share 15 hidden gems to explore around the Castle District, where centuries of Hungarian history still linger.
Explore the hidden gems of Budapest’s Castle District – Part I
In this first instalment of our two-part series, we feature seven attractions located in and around Buda Castle. Tomorrow, find out what there is to discover around the Fishermen’s Bastion.
Start your tour of the Castle District at the Várkert Bazár, visiting this impressively renovated edifice and an intriguing exhibition.
- Várkert Bazár
The Neo-Renaissance Várkert Bazár, built between 1875-1883 by prominent Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl, is a World Heritage Site. Magnificently restored in 2014, it now houses exhibitions and stages special events. Visitors can relax over a drink or a meal, and wander outside to the garden and enjoy a gorgeous view over the Pest skyline and Buda Castle above.
Address: District I. Ybl Miklós tér 2-6
- A New World Was Born exhibitionThis ambitious permanent exhibition guides visitors up to and through the 20th century – from the Belle Époque through wartime enthusiasm to disillusion. All is seen not only through a Hungarian, but a European perspective, offering a fresh look at the last 100 years of significant social change. Exceptional visual devices provide insight into the horrors of war.
Address: District I. Ybl Miklós tér 6.
Open: Tue-Sun 10am-5:30pm
Afterwards, continue your tour upwards to Buda Castle where, as well as historic attractions, pretty gardens, terraces and a perfect panorama of the Pest horizon all await.
- Renaissance Gardens, Szent István Tower The southern palace gardens are the hidden treasure of Buda Castle, created in the same Renaissance style as the major buildings during the time of King Matthias. Stroll through the greenery to reach Szent István Tower, providing an unparalleled panorama over Gellért Hill.
From Várkert Bazár, take the lift or the escalator.
- Medieval castle ruins in the Oroszlános Courtyard & Budapest History Museum
Lighter-coloured stones in the Oroszlános Courtyard outline where the castle and towers once stood during the Anjou era of the 1300s. On the lower floors of the Budapest History Museum, you can also admire Renaissance-era remnants that were unearthed after World War II.
Address: District I. Szent György tér 2, innermost palace court.
Extensive work began in recent years to reconstruct buildings demolished after World War II, mainly for ideological reasons. From the National Széchényi Library, you can see how the Royal Riding Hall and Stöckl Stairs have already been renovated. In the north-west corner of the courtyard, the original tower of Pasha Karakas is still standing from the Ottoman era.
Address: District I. Szent György tér 2, now only visible from the Hunyadi Courtyard & National Széchényi Library .
- Savoy Terrace
From here, you can admire the finest panorama of the Pest skyline and the Gellért Hill. An equestrian statue of Eugene of Savoy stands by the façade of the Hungarian National Gallery, commemorating Buda’s liberation from Turkish occupation.
Address: District I. Szent György tér 2, in front of the Hungarian National Gallery
For an alternative start to the day, join a guided tour to explore the Castle’s Mikveh Gallery.
- Mikveh Gallery – guided tours
The oldest ritual bath in the capital is found in the Castle District. You can explore the first Jewish Quarter of medieval Buda and the winding passages of the western cellar system during a 50-minute guided tour in English.
Address: District I. Palota utca 1.
Tours: Wed & Sun 11am
Note that all of these attractions will be featured on a fold-out map in our printed Insider pocket guide, coming out soon.
This article was sponsored by Várkapitányság.