About Buda Castle
Buda Castle (Budai Var) is a vast palace in Budapest’s Castle Quarter housing a series of museums including the National Gallery.
History of Buda Castle
In the 13th century, the then separate cities of Buda and Pest were endangered by Mongol raids, to which Pest succumbed in the 1241-1242. A few years later, King Bela IV decided to fortify Buda, a project completed in around 1265, offering his subjects defensive walls within which to shelter.
The first incarnation of Buda Castle dates to the 14th century, when it was built by Stephen, Duke of Slavonia (younger brother of the king) but since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, including by King Sigismund, and later altered by the Ottomans in the 16th century when they repurposed the castle as gunpowder storage and a magazine.
The castle was destroyed in the late 17th century during the great siege of Buda, and rebuilt as a much smaller Baroque palace in the 18th century. Construction was halted due to a fire and only finished significantly later for the Queen of Hungary. It was never really used as a royal residence – the Queen spent little time in Buda. Instead, it was temporarily used as a nunnery and university
In 1791, the castle was once more used as a royal residence for the new palatinate of Hungary. Several rebuilds happened during the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly following severe damage during the Second World War. As a result of the constant changes to Buda Castle, it’s difficult to identify the periods to which each part of the site dates.
Buda Castle today
The castle is often under layers of scaffolding, and parts of it are still undergoing major restorations. The building houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Castle Museum, and the National Széchenyi Library, all of which are open to the public. The Castle Museum also has a short history of the city of Budapest which is interesting. All parts of the castle are closed on Mondays.
Getting to Buda Castle
The site overlooks the city, on top of a hill: you’ll probably spot it from elsewhere in the city before you visit. There are multiple steep winding roads to access, or you can hop on the funicular which runs from Alagut up to the castle itself. Come over the Danube via the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to tick off several sites in one.