The hilly side of town

Buda is the older part of Budapest; it’s on the Western side of the Danube and is quite hilly (Pest, by comparison, is newer, flatter and on the Eastern bank of the Danube). Buda is also where we spent our day sightseeing.


Views over the River Danube and Pest from Buda Hill.



Budapest is an ancient city, originally a Celtic settlement and then a Roman citadel. Along with most of Central Europe, the town was conquered by the fierce, horse-riding Magyars (i.e. Hungarians*) in the 9th century and became the capital of the newly established Hungarian Empire not long after. The Hungarian Empire was a European super-power in its time, beating back Mongol raiders and conquering many territories. Consequently Buda, the imperial capital, became very wealthy and powerful; from the 10th to the 16th century Buda was one of the largest and greatest cities in Europe.

*Given how unique the Hungarian language and culture is, we have often wondered where the language and the people of Hungary had originally come from. At the National Museum of Hungary, we found out today that Hungarians are descendants of the Finno-Ugric people – a tribe from the Northern reaches of the Ural Mountains. This tribe is believed to have travelled across Central Europe and conquered the Carpathian Basin more than 1,000 years ago. They also settled in Southern Finland – which is why the language that is closest to Hungarian is Finnish, despite the thousands of kilometres that separate the two nations. The truly fascinating thing is that, despite numerous invasions and influences from surrounding Slavic and Germanic nations, Hungarians have managed to keep their very unique language and culture alive for hundreds of years.


Buda & Pest were rich and powerful twin medieval cities.


These are the ruins of the Roman fortification of Aquincum that was built here. Aquincum became the capital city of the province of Lower Pannonia in 106AD.


Admiring the views of the city from Buda Hill.



Then, in 1541, the Ottoman army invaded and occupied Buda and it’s smaller twin city across the river, Pest. For the next 145 years the region was under Ottoman rule; during this time many of the old Gothic and Romanesque churches and buildings were destroyed and replaced with mosques and structures of Turkish design. When the Holy Roman Empire, under the banner of the Hasburgs of Austria, finally liberated Hungary in 1686, the entire process of destruction and rebuilding was repeated. Mosques were torn down and churches rebuilt, and Neo-Classical palaces built on top of Turkish buildings. As a consequence Budapest’s cityscape is actually quite uniform and “modern”, which we did not expect.


Following 145 years of Turkish occupation, Buda and Pest were liberated by the Haspburg’s army and the cities were rebuilt in a style similar to that seen in Vienna.


Buda Palace was rebuilt in the 19th century after being left to go to ruin during the years of Turkish rule.


The entry to Buda Castle is like something from a fairytale.



The city, and in fact the whole of Hungary, entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries when it joined the Austrian Empire. During this time Budapest became the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a centre of learning, culture and the arts renown across Europe. It was also during this time that the Austrian Empress Elisabeth (SiSi) became a favourite amongst Hungarians as she spent so much time in Budapest and championed the cause of the Hungarian Kingdom with her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph. It was SiSi who commissioned the rebuilding and restoration of much of Buda Palace. In 1849 Buda and Pest were united into one city and linked by the Chain Bridge, Budapest’s oldest cross-Danube structure.


It was Austrian Empress Haspburg (aka SiSi) who commissioned the rebuilding of Buda palace in the 19th century.


Admiring the views from Buda Castle. Not bad really….


We could see all the way across to Hungary’s famous Parliament House from up there.



We spent hours strolling through the grounds of Buda Palace today, enjoying the views over the Danube and learning all we could about this great city and Hungary in general at the museum which is now housed in one of the wings of the palace.


Statue of St Stephen, Hungary’s First Christian king. After a century marked by frequent raids on Christian western Europe, Prince István realised that converting to Christianity was the key to survival in Europe. The Christian Kingdom of Hungary was founded by the crowning of István (St Stephan) on the 1st January 1001.


Buda Castle now houses the National Hungarian Museum and the Hungarian Art Gallery. 



We also visited Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church, which are both up atop Buda Hill. The Halászbástya, or Fisherman’s Bastion, is a terrace in 1895 to allow the nobility of the time to sit and admire views of the Danube and Pest. Today it serves the same purpose, just for hordes of tourists instead. The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fishermen that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages. 


Fisherman’s Bastion was built as a viewing terrace more than 100 years ago. It was destroyed during WWII but rebuilt in the 1990s.


Epic views from Fisherman’s Bastion.


Taking 5 minutes to relax between photo shoots….



Just behind Fisherman’s Bastion is one of Budapest’s main cathedrals (there are 2: one in Buda and one in Pest): Matthias Church. Originally built in the 10th century and then rebuilt in the 14th century, the church is beautiful. It’s decorated roof, stained glass windows and hand-painted interior were just stunning.  


The beautiful 14th century Matthias Church.


The cathedral’s hand painted Gothic interior was awesome.


The cathedral’s roof was tiled in many colours, creating this lovely pattern.



After hours of exploring Buda Castle and strolling the streets of Buda itself we went back across the Danube via the famous Chain Bridge in search of some dinner. Hungary is, of course, famous for its lavish use of paprika and for its wonderful stews. Put paprika (and few other spices) into a hearty, meaty stew and you get this nation’s culinary signature dish: gulyás (translation = goulash). Yum yum yum! Bellies and brains full we must now retire for the night and prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s explorations across the river in Pest!


Crossing Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge.


View back up to Buda Castle from the bridge.


Looking forward to exploring Pest tomorrow!


2 replies »

  1. Sarah and I loved Budapest and it’s amazing that we were only there a couple months ago. Make sure you try the local donut they cook on the big rollers over hot coals. If you have time check out the motion sensing fountain near the Iberostar Grand Hotel in Pest.

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