When you think of a cosmopolitan city break, you don’t tend to imagine wandering around fairytale castles but in Budapest, that’s exactly what we did. It turns out that Hungarian Kings and Princes don’t scrimp when it comes to grandeur and they stand out even among the stunning architecture in the rest of the city. So with the sun beating down overhead – a glorious memory now that September’s chilly mornings are kicking in – Charl and I took off to explore the castles of Budapest. With the aid of an ice cream or two, obviously. First up…
Buda Castle is the most well-known castle in Hungary and it’s no surprise to see why. The oldest parts of the castle are believed to have been built as early as 1247, although the dome you’ll see a little further down wasn’t added until 1961! If you gaze across the Danube towards Buda (the city is actually split into two halves: Buda and Pest), the palatial structure completely dominates the skyline. In fact, the Castle District and Castle Hill Funicular are two of the most attractions in Budapest. We opted for the stairs instead of taking the scenic ride upwards, a move that we later regretted when the heat had us sweating buckets and looking for patches of shade every few minutes. In all seriousness though, the palace gardens are stunning with incredible views so they’re well worth a visit on the way up to the main event.
There’s so much to explore around the main courtyard including museums, churches and of course, the obligatory cafe looking across towards the Chain Link bridge and Parliament buildings. The Royal Palace is currently home to the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum! Want to know a fun fact I learned while writing this blog post? Katy Perry’s Firework music video was actually filmed here so skip through towards the end to see an incredible view of what it looks like at night. Budapest doesn’t do lighting by halves, let me tell you that.
This castle is a little further than the central location of Buda Castle but still well worth a visit. It’s actually just a few short minutes from the Szechenyi Baths and Heroes Square but I read very little about this stunning fairytale location in any guides before visiting Budapest. Instead, Jamie had told me there was an amazing castle near the baths so we went exploring after a morning luxuriating in the wonderfully warm water. Whale-like lolling is probably a more accurate description after all the pizza I’d consumed but who wants to hear about that? Anyway, digressions aside, we found the castle and it was stunning. One of the most beautiful spots is the boating lake which turns into a magical skating rink during the cold winter months.
Dreamy pastel hues and elegant detailing, combined with the sound of music floating over from a nearby concert, made it the perfect lunch spot to tuck into a pretzel the size of my head. Anyone who watched my Instagram Story will testify to that – anyone reading this now see it? Let me know! While the Gothic architecture makes the castle look fit for a Disney Princess, it’s never actually been used as a royal residence. It was only built 100 years ago to mark the 1,000th birthday of the Hungarian state. Who would have ever guessed from looking at it? Not me, that’s for sure. It was built out of temporary materials initially but was so beloved that it was constructed permanently in 1908.
Getting lost in these two very different – but equally stunning – castles was definitely a highlight in my trip to Budapest. With a city that beautiful, it can be hard to pick a favourite place but eating a pretzel in the sun underneath turrets and stained glass was undoubtedly up there.
Have you been to Budapest? Which castle did you love more?
Read more about Budapest: