Back out in the cold I made my way up Gellert Hill which overlooks the Danube from an altitude of 235 metres. As I climbed higher and higher, an increasingly better view opened up of the city. The hill is named after St. Gerard, an 11th century bishop, who was supposedly put into a barrel and rolled town into the water from the hill. At the top of the hill, the Liberation Monument commemorates Budapest’s liberation by the Russian troops in 1945. The gigantic statue of a woman holding a palm leaf is often compared to a bottle opener. The view from the top is breathtaking.
A few steps away is the Citadel, a fortification that was built in the 1850s by the Habsburgs to intimidate the Hungarian population. Today it holds a restaurant and a hotel. From there I went down the steep northern flank of Gellert Hill on a pedestrian footpath with lots of switchbacks. Towards the bottom, a statue of St. Gellert overlooks the Elizabeth Bridge.
Once arrived in the valley I crossed some busy roads and headed back uphill, this time on Castle Hill. Past the Baroque Taban Parish Church I climbed ever higher towards the Royal Palace that was initially completed in 1265 while the Habsburgs built a gigantic palace here in the 18th century. The castle was the location of the last German and Hungarian strongholds in WWII, and during the last days of the war, the castle complex was utterly destroyed. After WWII the complex was rebuilt and completed in 1952. Some of the major sights inside the castle complex include the Hungarian National Gallery, the Matyas Fountain, and the Lion Gate with sculptures from the early 20th century.
Then I walked over towards the Danube side and continued my stroll on the hill towards the Old Town which is anchored by the Matthias Church, an impressive construction that has morphed from a Roman Basilica of the 13th century into a Gothic hall church of the 1370s. The church was almost completely destroyed in the 16th century and became the city’s main mosque after the capture of Buda in 1541 by the Turks. The church underwent extensive renovations in the late 19th century and was restored with Neo-Gothic elements. An original church building had actually been located here as early as 1015 AD. The church was the location of several important coronations, including the 1916 coronation of Charles IV, the last Habsburg king.
Flanking the Matthias Church is the famous Fishermen’s Bastion, a lookout terrace that was opened in 1895 that actually never had any defensive function. The sun was setting now and the view over the Danube to Pest and the Hungarian Parliament Buildings on the east side of the Danube was fantastic.
It was getting very cold now, and I made my way down the hill to Adam Clark Square who was the engineer who oversaw the construction of the adjoining Chain Bridge. The view up Castle Hill with its illuminated Royal Palace, Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion was amazing. At the bottom of Castle Hill is a tunnel that is the quickest way of getting to the other side of the hill.
Now I was ready to head back into Pest by crossing the Chain Bridge, the most iconic bridge of Budapest. Originally opened in 1849, this suspension bridge was the first permanent bridge over the Danube. It was severely damaged during the Second World War and rebuilt and reopened in 1949. Gorgeous views opened up from the middle of the bridge towards Castle Hill on one side and the Hungarian Parliament Building on the other side.
Back on the eastern side of the Danube I was looking for dinner and settled in at Café Dorottya close to Vörösmarty Square. A very friendly owner, some warm tea and fried cheese from Malta with a delicious salad strengthened me for my walk back through some of Budapest’s main shopping streets. I made it back safely to my comfy room at Gaia Hostel, stretched on on my double bed and started to work on downloading my photos after a long day of explorations in Budapest.