sights & culture


Beethoven’s favourite getaway – Brunszvik Castle honours Ludwig’s legacy


  • Annamária Jász

07/06/2021 10.47am

One of the most beautiful castles in Hungary, the snow-white Gothic Brunszvik stands half an hour from Budapest. From the surrounding swampy, barren wilderness, the Brunszvik family created an idyllic English garden and regularly welcomed their friend Ludwig van Beethoven as his feelings deepened for one of their daughters. There are three interesting museums, a decent restaurant and lovely park to stroll around, all within the pretty town of Martonvásár.

The Brunszvik family enriched their estate over four generations, guarding and cherishing the memory of Ludwig van Beethoven. His romantic passion is revealed in the museum here and his music has been performed every summer for 60 years on the island garden in summer.

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

The English-style gardens are among the most beautiful in Hungary, while the Neo-Gothic style of the castle itself is also English.

A corner of England

Writing in 1815, English physician and Hungarophile Richard Bright described Brunszvik Castle with these words: “Everything around me reminded me so much of England, I almost imagined myself in England”.

The estate was owned by the Brunszvik family from the time of Maria Theresa, Habsburg empress through the mid-1700s. Its first owner, Antal Brunszvik, invited settlers to the village depopulated under the Turks, and built the church that can still be seen next to the castle.

His son Antal erected a one-story Baroque building as his home with his wife, Anna Seeberg, whom we must thank for the Beethoven connection. They had four children, and the estate enjoyed its heyday when the son, Ferenc Brunszvik, shaped the castle’s appearance between 1784 and 1785, based on the plans of court architect József Tallherr. This created the female wing facing the church. This was how Beethoven would have seen castle when he visited several times between 1800 and 1808.

Beethoven statue on the island

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

Ferenc’s sister, Teréz Brunszvik, became a world-famous founder of kindergartens, while Jozefin is considered Beethoven’s secret passion, the “Immortal Beloved” of his letters. The daughter of their sister Karolina, Teréz Blanka Teleki, became one of the pioneers of Hungarian women’s education. In 1846, she established the first serious girls’ school in Hungary, and even went to prison after the War of Independence against Austria in 1848-49.

The Neo-Gothic castle is also English in style

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

The passion of Ludwig van Beethoven

Anna Seeberg was a big fan of Beethoven, and even travelled to Vienna to persuade the composer, ever the reluctant tutor, to teach Teréz and Jozefin to play the piano over the course of two weeks. Through the girls, the composer met their brother, Ferenc, who then became his main supporter and a good friend until his death, arranging performances for him in Buda and at other theatres.

Francis played the cello excellently, while Anna Seeberg accompanied him on the piano – they often played music together in the castle. Beethoven completed the Appassionata sonata at Martonvásár, which he dedicated to Ferenc. Beethoven corresponded with Teréz (dedicating to her the Sonata in F major Op.78), while Jozefin invoked in him a completely different emotions.

Due to their difference in status, marriage was out of the question, but their platonic relationship persisted despite her marriage to Count Joseph Deym, which lasted until his death in 1804. Beethoven continued to see the young widow even after her remarriage, and they met regularly in Vienna. Undated, mysterious letters addressed to his “Immortal Beloved” were written to her, according to researchers, and found in 1827, after the composer’s death.

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

With Beethoven’s 250th anniversary in 2020, the exhibition here exploring the relationship between Beethoven and the Brunszvik family was revamped. A contemporary display now includes many interactive elements, music to listen to, Beethoven-era figures to use as selfie shots and details of the other women in the composer’s life.

Highlights include Brunszvik family’s correspondence, Teréz Brunszvik’s diary, a strand of Beethoven’s hair locked in a medallion, and the family’s Streicher-made piano from 1829, now renovated, which Franz Liszt himself played in 1846.

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

The rest of the building is given over to offices closed to the public, run by the Agricultural Research Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Agroverzum). Their canteen is housed in the former barn, and in the other building they have created an exciting, interactive exhibition about the seemingly dry subject of the agricultural economy, well worth a look. Tickets do not include admission to the Kindergarten Museum in memory of Teréz Brunszvik, located directly opposite the castle, but it can be included as part of any visit.

2020-ban újult meg a kastély 30 éves kiállítása

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

Ferenc Brunszvik modernised the castle after 1822, rebuilding it in Classicist style and adding an extra floor. It then gained its English Neo-Gothic appearance when Ferenc's son Géza remodelled the building around 1875.

The Brunszvik family, in dire financial straits at the end of the 19th century, was forced to give up the estate after four generations. It was bought by Archduke József Habsburg and then by brewer Antal Dreher, before post-war nationalisation and the current benign ownership of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Agricultural Research Centre.

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

An English country garden

English landscaped gardens are characterised by the fact that, unlike their French Baroque counterparts, they do not strive for an over-regulated, artificial character, but rather to fit into the landscape, to act as part of nature with winding paths, spacious lawns and picturesque groups of trees.

Transforming the swamp

“When grandfather Brunszvik took over Martonvásár, he found only a swampy wilderness. In a dry area of ​​8,000 acres, there was a single house, some shepherd's whiskers and a tree,”  says Teréz Brunswick’s diary.

The first owner, Antal Brunszvik, took care of the marshy, woodless area, planted fruit trees, willows and lindens, and designated the location of the lake. His son Antal continued to work with chestnut trees and oaks, and, after his death, Anna Seeberg managed the English garden alone.

Her daughter Teréz installed the so-called linden tree republic, whose members comprised residents and regular visitors, including Beethoven, whose own tree can still be seen behind the castle.

Her brother Ferenc planted plane trees, many types of ash, Japanese acacias, koelreuterias and alders in the park, enlisting the help of German gardener Christian Heinrich Nebbien, also responsible for the trees in Budapest’s City Park

In addition to native species, many exotic varieties were planted, including silver pine, Port Orford cedars, dawn redwoods, tulip trees and Eastern black walnuts. Even today, there are a couple of veterans from the early 1800s.

The information on local botanical and cultural history provided along by the park’s nature trail, which also leads to the island fed by St László creek, where the open-air stage is located, and Beethoven's favourite place. Here you also find the five-metre-tall American bald cypresses, the pride of the park collection with their special roots, dating back to the early 1800s.

Admission to the park is 900 forints, allowing you to stroll around and take in the castle from afar. You can also have lunch at Postakocsi alongside, built in 1768 and operating as a restaurant ever since. Renovated a couple of years ago, it now offers decent Hungarian-Italian cuisine and its garden allows those without an Immunity Certificate to dine.

Regular trains to Martonvásár (single 650 HUF) leave from Déli or Kelenföld stations, journey time 25mins.  To drive, take the M7 motorway, allowing you to go on to Lake Balaton – or drop in on the way back, but do allow a good couple of hours to explore the gardens and castle.

Brunszvik Castle
2462 Martonvásár, Brunszvik utca 2 
Current opening hoursApr-Oct daily 9am-6pm. Nov-Mar Wed-Sun 10am-4pm
Combined ticket 3,500 forints/reduced 1,400 forints 

Related content

Admin mode