Buda Castle: Hidden Walls, Subterranean Chambers and Medieval Structures
Castles hold a particular fascination for many modern tourists and travelers. They are a unique way to understand the past and relive history. Ranked among the top ten most impressive castles in Europe, Buda Castle is located in the historic Castle district in the heart of the Hungarian capital, Budapest. The complex is full of great architecture and has many unforgettable attractions. It is also a World Heritage Site.
Buda Castle Has Been Besieged and Rebuilt Over Centuries
Buda Castle is not just a castle but a vast and sprawling palace, with structures from several different eras. The castle was built in the Middle Ages, but little of the original medieval structure remains. However, there are important examples of Gothic architecture to be seen, including the castle chapel and a hall that has particularly fine rib vaults. The earliest medieval rooms are a set of barrel-vaulted rooms that were once used as a prison. A series of extensive subterranean cellars dating to the medieval period were unearthed in the Post-War period which, because of its complexity, has been called ‘ the labyrinth of Buda Castle ’.
The Labyrinth of Buda Castle ( CC BY 2.0 )
The current palace complex was built over many decades. A particular feature of the design was its facades with their colonnades. Some of the original Gothic façade on the south side has been reconstructed as very little of the Renaissance building has remained. During the Hapsburg era, the castle was rebuilt mainly in the Baroque-style and in the early 18 th century a splendid U-shaped palace was built. The interiors of the palace were once some of the finest examples of Baroque interior design in Europe, but they were destroyed during WWII and only the facades and a few other structures remain of the 18 th century palace.
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The Prince Eugene of Savoy statue ( Fotolia)
There are many important artworks and monuments in and around the palace. These include statues of Prince Eugene of Savoy and the famous Fishing Children. The centerpiece of the palace complex is the aptly named Lion’s Court, a large courtyard which features two impressive lion statues.
In the Middle Ages, Hungary was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe. In the wake of the devastation caused by the Mongols, the Hungarian monarch built a fortress on a hill in Buda in the 13 th century. King Sigismund, who was also Holy Roman Emperor, added greatly to the castle and turned it into a palace which he used to express the great and growing power of Hungary.
The complex was built during the heart of the Northern Renaissance. In the early 16 th century, the Ottoman Empire repeatedly invaded Hungary. After the Turkish victory at Mohacs (1526), they occupied Buda Castle and controlled it, as well as Hungary, for over 150 years. The palace fell into disrepair during the Ottoman period, although they did add some towers. But that was not the end of the castle’s years of strife…
During the war, starting in 1686 when a Christian alliance retook most of Hungary, the medieval castle was mostly destroyed. Buda became part of the Hapsburg Empire and successive imperial governments oversaw the rebuilding of the castle. It was used successively as a nunnery, university, and later the residence of the new Habsburg palatine of the Kingdom of Hungary. The new Baroque palace was badly damaged during the Hungarian uprising of 1848, but was later rebuilt during the reign of the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph.
Lion statue at Buda Castle ( Fotolia)
The Royal Palace was formally opened in 1912. In the wake of WWI, the Hungarians became independent and the castle was the residence of the Regent of Hungary. The legendary German commando seized the Regent and palace in 1944 and Buda Castle became the center of the Nazi administration and was almost totally destroyed during the Soviet Siege of Budapest in 1945. Under the Post-War communist regime, the castle was restored but this was controversial as modern designs were added. However, many elements of the Medieval and Ottoman period were restored, including towers.
Since the fall of Communism, restoration work seeks to uncover and preserve architectural elements from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods.
The castle and its complex are open to the public for an admission fee. Inside you’ll find the Hungarian National Library as well as the Hungarian National Museum which holds many masterpieces of western art. The palace complex is also home to some of the finest gardens in Central Europe.
Top image: Buda Castle Source: Fotolia
By: Ed Whelan
Puczkó, L. and Rátz, T., 2006. Managing an urban World Heritage Site: the development of the Cultural Avenue project in Budapest. Managing World Heritage Sites, pp.215-225 <
Ratz, T., Smith, M. and Michalko, G., 2008. New places in old spaces: Mapping tourism and regeneration in Budapest. Tourism Geographies, 10(4), pp.429-451< https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616680802434064>.
Wheatcroft, Andrew (2010). The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe. Available on Kindle Books