Castles and Magical Places
The largest castle in the country is in Budapest. Buda Castle sprawls over a long, wide hill 48m above the River Danube, dominating the landscape. King Béla IV moved the seat of the country here from Esztergom following the Tatar invasion of 1241 as it was more easily defendable. In times of hardship or siege, the residents could make use of the several kilometres of deep labyrinthine cellars and caves under the hill, though these can only be explored with experienced guides. To give an idea of the scale, 20,000 German soldiers were housed here during World War2. At the end of the war, the castle was used as a final stronghold and was extensively shelled, so that almost every single building had to be rebuilt. In modern times the rebuilt castle is a favourite place to stroll and get great views of the city.
The Castle at Visegrád is perfectly positioned to defend the Danube bend, overlooking a wide elbow of the river from a commanding peak. It dates back to King Charles Robert in 1323 and was used extensively through the Anjou period before falling into ruin under the Turkish occupation and lay unused and virtually unknown until a team of star archaeologists "found" it in 1934. Today a modern museum is located there, and jousts are re-enacted, but the spectacular views are the same as the kings of old must have enjoyed.
The Royal Palace of Gödöllö
Just 30km north of the capital, this is the largest baroque palace in the country, and the 2nd largest in Europe (after Versailles.) It is open to the public and features a royal theatre, permanent history exhibition and extensive grounds.
This wonderful old stately home dates back to 1775 and is famous for its English Garden. It lies 32km south of the capital, and was the home of the Brunswick family. Beethoven was their guest and wrote his beautiful music "Für Elise" here in 1810. Today it houses an agricultural college, a museum and hosts occasional chamber music concerts.
For the visually-minded, we present this wonderful aerial video of these and other castles and great buildings of Hungary.