Just north of Gellért Hill is Castle Hill. And, you guessed it, there’s a castle there. It’s been rebuilt many times; the most recent is a post-World War II version.
The Royal Palace now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. I didn’t go in either one. I’m not sure how many people do. For me, it was enough to walk around the grounds. You get an amazing view of Pest from the front. Heading toward the back, you go through passage way to the courtyard and see the King Matthias Fountain. King Matthias Corvinus was the last Hungarian king and the only king of Hungarian descent during more than a 600 year span. He was known as the people’s king and mysteriously died at 47.
Before becoming king, Matthias was in Prague with his (first) wife who was a Czech princess. According to legend, Matthias’ mom sent for him with a raven holding a ring in its beak. (So much cooler than a pigeon.) Hence the raven statue on the castle gate and the new family name (Corvinus means “little raven” in Latin).
Just outside the castle grounds is the president’s office, Sándor Palace. I happened upon it just as they began the changing of the guard (which happens hourly). Call me geeky, but I like that kind of stuff—that pomp and circumstance. However, I would not want to be one of the guards. Just the thought gives me flashbacks to high school marching band. Memorial Day, a wool uniform, and a drum that doesn’t get any lighter as the sweat rolls down your back. But I digress.
Right next door is the National Dance Theatre where Beethoven once performed. As you walk further north, you’ll find Trinity Square anchored by the Trinity statue commemorating the victims of the 1691 plague epidemic.
Here you’ll also find Matthias Church. It’s actually called Church of Our Lady, but it’s nicknamed Matthias Church because King Matthias enhanced it and married there twice. I didn’t go inside; instead I enjoyed the outside features. I love how many Budapest buildings have the beautiful rooftops. That’s a subject for another blog.
Finally, there’s Fishermen’s Bastion. It’s a gorgeous area, especially when it’s lit up at night. One tip: don’t pay the charge to go up the stairs to the higher level of Fishermen’s Bastion. It’s only one flight of stairs, and you can walk up the flight of stairs on the other side for free. Plus, you can stay on the main level and see the same amazing views. I don’t understand why they charge for one side and not the other. And I feel sorry for people who get tricked into paying.
Coming up: My favorite place in Buda