Photo: Buda Castle District | Budapest church © iStock/ TomasSereda
It’s Budapest oldest neighbourhood, it’s withstood more than 30 sieges and it’s been duly rewarded with UNESCO World Heritage status: the Buda Castle District a must on any Budapest itinerary. With photo opportunities around every corner, there’s plenty to see here, from the fine art that adorns the walls of Hungarian National Gallery to subterranean adventures in Buda’s caves and the promise of sweet treats from Ruszwurm. Prepare to uncover the heart of Budapest at these nine attractions in the Buda Castle District.
The Royal Palace
Begin your explorations at the famous Royal Palace. While it may appear to be a neoclassical masterpiece, the building was reconstructed after WWII as the original palace, which dated back to the mid-13th century, was looking a lot worse for wear thanks to dozens of sieges, battles and wars.
Hungarian National Gallery
Once you’ve marvelled at its grand façade, head indoors: the Royal Palace also houses several of the city’s premier cultural institutions. The largest of the lot is the Hungarian National Gallery, which encompasses four floors and traces Hungarian art history from medieval bas-reliefs up to 20th-century abstract paintings.
The Castle Museum
Inspired by Ottoman takeovers? Interested in ancient architecture? Dizzied by dynastic history? Hop next door from the Hungarian National Gallery to the Castle Museum (one of several divisions of the Budapest History Museum). After you’ve had your artistic fill, it’s the best way to quickly brush up on 1,000 years of history.
Discover the literal depths of Buda at the area’s natural caves. Both Szemlőhegyi Caves and Pálvölgyi Caves are open to the public and feature a fascinating array of stalagmite and stalactite formations as well as walls dotted with crystals and minerals. Plus, the lower temperatures down here make it a perfect place to cool off on a hot summer’s day.
Tomb of Gül Baba
One of the few surviving landmarks from the Ottoman era of Budapest, the serene tomb of poet and soldier Gül Baba offers a different perspective on Hungarian history. Thought to have been in Sultan Suleiman I’s army, Baba arrived in Budapest in 1541 and is believed to have died either before or during the Ottoman victory of the same year.
The Fisherman’s Bastion
Given its towering position above the Danube, Fisherman’s Bastion doesn’t actually allow for much fishing (the name honours the medieval guild of the fishermen, which historically protected this stretch of the district). However, what you will be able to do is drink in those city views. Perched on the edge of the castle fortifications and overlooking the picturesque Pest cityscape, it’s a photographer’s dream.
Buda Thermal Baths
As befitting a city known throughout the world for its thermal baths, some of Budapest’s best pampering spots can be found in Buda. Make a beeline for the Art Nouveau Gellert Spa, the Ottoman-style Rudas Baths or the spectacular 16th-century surroundings of the Király Spa.
Time for a sugar hit? Explorers in Buda Castle District can make a dash to Ruszwurm, a short walk from the district’s most popular sights. This old-world pastry shop has been a local favourite since 1827 and cakes like the utterly decadent, light-as-a-cloud Ruszwurm Torte keep them coming back for more.
Faust Wine Cellar
After you’ve washed down your cake with a coffee, finish up your explorations with something a bit stronger. Though unknown to many foreign visitors, Hungary produces a huge range of truly exceptional vintages. And while local grape varieties like Hárslevelű and Kékfrankos may leave visitors guessing, the Faust Wine Cellar offers tutored tastings for those looking to revise. It shouldn’t prove too taxing.