Castle Hill stands on the western bank of the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd), opened in 1849, and – amazingly – the first permanent bridge between Buda and Pest. From Clark Ádám tér on the Buda side, you can reach Castle Hill on the dinky nineteenth-century funicular or Sikló, or simply walk the winding, leafy path up from Clark Ádám tér.
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On Szentháromság tér, the busy square at the heart of Buda, stands the bright-roofed Mátyás Church. Inside, the church is fabulously exuberant, with the original thirteenth-century structure used as the base for a late nineteenth-century redesign in a Romantic Nationalist style. The splendid gold leaf and nationalist motifs clearly reclaimed the church as Hungarian – it had been a mosque for a time under Ottoman rule. A statue of King Stephen (Szent Istvan) on horseback stands outside – he is revered as the founder of the Hungarian state and the one responsible for converting Hungarians to Christianity.
Topping the crest of Castle Hill, close by the point where the funicular railway emerges, stands Buda Palace. The fortifications and interiors have been endlessly remodelled, with the palace’s destruction in World War II only the latest in a long line of onslaughts since the thirteenth century. The National Gallery, which occupies the central wings B, C and D of the palace compound, contains Hungarian art from the Middle Ages onwards including heavily symbolic nineteenth-century representations of idealized national myths. On the far side of the Lion Courtyard, the Budapest History Museum in Wing E gives some further historical context with a gathering of artefacts from Budapest’s dark ages and medieval past, but is rather old-fashioned, and arguably underwhelming for the price.