City guide

Castle District

Photo : Balkányi László / We Love Budapest
Várnegyed, látkép

Spread atop Castle Hill, the Castle District is a key Budapest attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Easily reached by the funicular from Clark Ádám tér on the Buda side of Chain Bridge, the Castle District permanently attracts gaggles of tourists, who mill around the focal square of Szentháromság tér and the two most popular sights of Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion.

While much of this compact, panoramic vantage point feels medieval, only sporadic original edifices remain – the quarter suffered significant damage during two great sieges, in 1686 and early 1945. The other main sight, Buda Castle itself, aka the Royal Palace, was rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s and now contains the Hungarian National Gallery and Budapest History Museum. The palace complex is a short walk from the funicular as you arrive.

The other main cultural attraction is the Museum of Military History, with its detailed look at Hungary’s involvement in the two world wars. This is at the far northern end of the Castle District, near Bécsi Gate, another 20th-century rebuild. Today, steep streets lead down to the transport and retail hub of Széll Kálmán tér – in centuries past, as its name (‘Vienna Gate’) suggests, this was the main road out to the Habsburg capital.

Close by, another landmark, the Mary Magdelene Tower, can be climbed for more panoramic views.

To refill your energy in between sights, the upscale grill restaurant Baltazár Budapest, new-wave Hungarian Alabárdos and Jamie’s Italian should cover most bases. The Ruszwurm Confectionery is famed for its cakes and pastries.

The lack of traffic here is no coincidence – residents and taxi drivers enjoy special dispensation to drive up here, otherwise, the transport you’ll see are either tourist carriages pulled by clip-clopping horses or diminutive bus 16 that shuttles from Pest transit hub Deák Ferenc tér to Szentháromság tér and then to Bécsi kapu.