Tracing its existence back to 1265, the imposing Buda Castle sits perched above the city atop Castle Hill (Várhegy) rising 157 feet above the Danube River. Today it is often referred to as the Royal Palace (Budavári palota) and is home to a number of cultural institutions including two museums: the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Much of Castle Hill is a residential area and cars have been banned other than those belonging to the residents. Visitors must rely on public transportation and the best way to access the locale is via the Sikló Funicular which connects Castle Hill with the Chain Bridge.
Visitors enter Buda Castle from St. George Square to the north, where an ornamental gate from the early 12th century separates the square from the former royal domain and palace.
The castle has been rebuilt many times over the centuries. There are a number of wings (named after the letters A to F) arranged around the Lions’ Courtyard (Oroszlános udvarba), the central courtyard of the Buda Castle. The National Gallery occupies four wings (A to D). Here you will find a comprehensive collection of Hungarian artwork from the Middle Ages through present day. The castle grounds consist of several courtyards decorated by flower beds, statues and fountains.
To the west of the courtyard, opposite the National Gallery, is the entrance to the National Széchényi Library. The library occupies the F wing of the Royal Palace. It was founded in 1802 by count Ferenc Széchényi, who donated his private book collection containing more than fifteen thousand books and manuscripts. Today the library holds a copy of every book published in Hungary.
Finally, located in the southernmost wing of the palace is the Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum). The museum contains exhibits tracing the history of Budapest from prehistory to modern times. Here you will also have the opportunity to see some of the remains from the medieval palace including a Gothic chapel and the Knights’ Hall. The museum also houses some of the marble sculptures that once decorated the palace.
There is a large interconnected cellar system consisting of natural caves created by thermal waters and man-made passageways. Part of the cellar system can be toured at the Buda Castle Labyrinth and at the Hospital in the Rock Museum.
The castle hosts several festivals and events throughout the year including an international wine festival in September featuring a Harvest Procession, concerts and various performances.
Admission to the Castle itself is free, however there is an entry fee to the museums and the Hungarian National Gallery.