Budapest visit : First District

Budapest visit : First District

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Budapest 1st Discrict
Budapest 1st Discrict

The 1st district is Commonly referred to as the Castle District (Vár), Budapest’s first district is not only home to the Buda Castle District, the UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the royal palace and the old town, but also other neighborhoods.

The Buda Castle and theChain Bridge viewed from Pest
The Buda Castle and theChain Bridge viewed from Pest

During this first sightseeing tour I focused mainly on the Castle District itself, which is up on the hill and surrounded by the castle wall and where most attractions are. The cold and rainy weather most of the day and camera issues made me consider postponing this first district tour, but I continued as planned because I was very eager to begin writing this blog. Luckily things got better and I ended up having a pleasant experience.

Zero Kilometer Stone
Zero Kilometer Stone

After crossing the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) from Pest, I arrived at Clark Ádám tér (Adam Clark square), passing the small park where the Zero Kilometer Stone is located. This is the point from where all the city’s distances are measured.

Clark Ádám tér
Clark Ádám tér
I have always walked up the Castle hill, but this time I decided to take the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló) at Clark Ádám tér, enjoying the nice view from above and arriving at the Castle in a couple of minutes.
Funicular entrance
Funicular entrance
Funicular carriage
Funicular carriage
View of Budapest from the Castle
View of Budapest from the Castle
The mythical Turul birdis a national symbol of Hungary
The mythical Turul birdis a national symbol of Hungary
Gate detail - raven - symbol of KingMatthias - with golden ring.
Gate detail – raven – symbol of KingMatthias – with golden ring.

It was in the Buda Castle courtyard that Katy Perry filmed her “Firework” video.

Formerly a royal residence, the Castle now houses the National Széchényi Library (Országos Széchényi Könyvtár), the Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria) and the Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum), which I had never been to, and the cold and rain made it a perfect place to visit.

There was a temporary exhibit of paintings about Budapest. The objects in the permanent exhibition tell the history of Budapest from the prehistory to modern times, and also the turbulent history of the Castle through the times including the Turkish invasions, revolutions and World War II, all of which left the castle in ruins or significantly damaged and having to be restored.

While the Castle was rebuilt many times after the battles it witnessed, this building nearby still has bullet marks from the Second World War.

Budapest I 087 Budapest I 085 Budapest I 119For a cheap and quick lunch, the Fortuna Önkiszolgáló (self-service) restaurant fit the bill with their friendly staff and a good variety of Hungarian dishes. The restaurant is located in the Fortuna passage (pictured) on the left side, upstairs.

After eating I went to the Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya), which offers a great panorama of the city. During the day there is a small entrance fee, but at night it’s free, and that’s when you get the best view.

One of its seven towers representing the seven tribesthat settled in Hungary in 896
One of its seven towers representing the seven tribesthat settled in Hungary in 896
Fishermen’s Bastion and Statue ofKing Saint Stephen (Szent István)
Fishermen’s Bastion and Statue ofKing Saint Stephen (Szent István)
Matthias Church
Matthias Church
The Parliament and the Danube
The Parliament and the Danube

I also visited the Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom), which is where the German-speaking community attended mass, while Hungarians frequented the Mary Magdalene church on Kapisztrán tér. That church was destroyed during World War II and now only its tower remains.Budapest I 111

Reconstructed church window
Reconstructed church window
Mary Magdalene Tower - Mária Magdolna-torony
Mary Magdalene Tower – Mária Magdolna-torony

When I bought my ticket for the Matthias Church I received a discount coupon for the Hospital in the Rock (Sziklakórház), the former secret nuclear bunker and emergency hospital used during World War II and the revolution of 1956.

On my way there I made a stop at Ruszwurm, the oldest confectionery in Budapest (with an even older clientele) well-known for its pastries. It is a tiny and simple but cosy place with friendly service.

Hospital in the Rock Entrance
Hospital in the Rock Entrance

My tour ended at the Hospital in the Rock. It was an interesting and informative exhibit, but a little disappointing. My guide wasn’t very good, and the one-hour tour only lasted thirty minutes. But I learned a lot about the history of the place, with dedicated hospital staff making the most of difficult circumstances. It was also interesting to see the original equipment there and the (creepy) wax figures also helped bring the exhibit to life.

Budapest I 120 Budapest I 102

Overall, I’d say the theme of this tour was survival and perseverance. Buda, once a great city, was attacked many times but never fails to rise again, transforming itself and evolving each time. This history can be felt within the walls of the Castle District and in the present, as Buda continues to thrive as part of Budapest, one of Europe’s great capital cities.

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