Walking Tour: Castle Hill

  • Start II Széll Kálmán tér
  • End I Clark Ádám tér
  • Length 1.2km; two hours

Walk up Várfok utca from Széll Kálmán tér to Vienna Gate, the medieval entrance to the Old Town that was rebuilt in 1936 to mark the 250th anniversary of the castle being taken back from the Turks. The large building to the west with the superbly coloured maiolica-tiled roof contains the National Archives (Országos Levéltár; 1920), which sometimes has exhibitions. To the west of Bécsi kapu tér (Vienna Gate Sq) – a weekend market in the Middle Ages – is an attractive group of four burgher houses at Nos 5 to 8.

Narrow Táncsics Mihály utca is full of little houses painted in lively hues and adorned with statues. In many courtyard entrances you’ll see 13th-century stone niches called sedilia (perhaps used as merchant stalls). Further along the road to the southeast, at Táncsics Mihály utca 9, is the former prison where the leader of the 1848–49 War of Independence, Lajos Kossuth, was held from 1837 to 1840.

The architecturally striking Hilton Budapest, incorporating parts of a medieval Dominican church and a baroque Jesuit college, is further south. To the southeast, in the centre of Szentháromság tér, is a replica statue of the Holy Trinity (Szentháromság szobor), a ‘plague pillar’ erected by grateful (and healthy) Buda citizens in the early 18th century.

Walking along Úri utca south to Dísz tér you’ll come face to face with the bombed-out former Ministry of Defence, a casualty of WWII, and NATO’s supposed nuclear target for Budapest during the Cold War. It's getting a long-overdue renovation and will eventually house the prime minister's office.

Further south on the left is the restored Sándor Palace, which now contains the offices of the president of the republic. A somewhat low-key (but ceremonial nonetheless) guard change takes place in front of the palace hourly between 9am and 6pm.

Just south of the upper station of the Sikló funicular are the Habsburg Steps, a 1903 ornamental gateway with steps leading down to the Royal Palace. Take the funicular down to Clark Ádám tér.