Many sightseeing trips begin with the Castle Hill with the royal palace on the top. This hill is about 50-60 metres high, and it has been habited since the Bronze Age. Since 1987 Buda Castle has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The most popular place is Matthias Church with the Fisherman's Bastion - or Halászbástya in Hungarian.
Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya) in Budapest
Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church from Above
Castle Hill - Home of The Fisherman's Bastion
Castle Hill was first settled and fortified in the 13th century by King Béla IV after the devastating Mongol invasion of 1241. This formed a part of the king's decree that fortified towns be built across Hungary and also ordered that people previously living at the foot of the hill move up to the Castle Hill itself. On a rocky height rising above a crossing place across the danube he founded Buda, which over the centuries was to become the residence of the kings and the capital of the country.
The Royal Court was established on the hill and the long golden age age of the district began. In the 14th century the Anjou dynasty built a gothic palace, considerably enlarged by King Sigismund of Luxembourg. King Matthias had it reconstructed in Italian Renaissance style, the first of its kind among European royal courts.
From the Turkish occupation of Buda of 1541 the palace began to fall in ruin and by the time the town was liberated – in 1686 – it had almost fully destroyed.
When the Turks were expelled, the Austrian Habsburgs took power. As part of the Austrian Empire, Hungary, together with Buda and Pest flourished, entering a period of social, cultural and economic advance.
During this period the Royal Palace was rebuilt, later Matthias Church was extended and was extensively restored in the late 19th century in Gothic style and Fisherman's Bastion was built around Matthias Church as part of the series of developments that were to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian state. The Bastion was inspired by the architectural style of the early medieval times (Neo-Romanesque) approx. the year 1000, when the first Hungarian king started his rule.
Under The Fisherman's Bastion Lies Watertown
During the medieval times, up to the 19th century there were thick castle walls on the place of the current viewing tower. There were many sieges, and the castle building, including its walls, were often destroyed and rebuilt.
This present bastion was built in neo-Romantic style over part of Buda's old medieval walls and, in case of attack, was to be defended by men from the fishermen's guild – hence its name. So, received its name from the medieval ramparts system which rose above the suburb named Fishermen's Town; furthermore, there used to be a fish-market behind the ramparts. Beneath the Fisherman's Bastion lies the old suburb of Víziváros (Watertown)
Víziváros or Watertown was inhabited since the Romans, later it was named after the fishermen who lived here. In medieval times was a village inhabited by them and craftsmen who often suffered the consequences of the Danube rising and flooding its banks. Some of its streets preserves the old names: Halász utca, Ponty utca, Aranyhal utca, Kagyló utca – in English: Fisherman street, Carp street, Goldfish street, Shell street etc. Charming town houses and winding streets make it a delightful place to stroll.
Watertown in 1900
Fisherman's Bastion was designed and built between 1895 and 1902 on the plans of Frigyes Schulek the designer of the "new" Matthias Church. Construction of the bastion destabilised the foundations of the neighbouring 13th century Dominican Church which had to be pulled down.
The plan made by Frigyes Schulek was rebuild Matthias Church and was first to free the church from the old building of the Jesuit College, then get rid of the Baroque layers put on the church - which were not considered to be very well built, and hid the older, original Gothic details. And finally, to build a viewing building by the church that further enhances its beauty, while, at the same time, provides a perfect terrace for a city view.
Having many viewers in mind on the Fisherman's Bastion, Schulek needed to transform the narrow, outworn steps of the Jesuit stairs – connecting the Castle hilltop with the Danube riverfront – into an airy and spectacular entrance, a welcoming portal to the Buda Castle quarter. Instead of the old Jesuit Stairs, new Jesuit stairs at another location were built.
The bastion has five round towers and a main tower with several storeys. The seven turrets on the bastion symbolise the seven Hungarian tribes that occupied the Carpathian basin in the late 9th century, founding this country. (The seven tribes - Jenő, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék and Tarján - formed a confederation called "Hétmagyar" ("Seven Magyars"). Their leaders, the seven chieftains of the Magyars, besides Álmos, included Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba and Töhötöm, who took a blood oath, swearing eternal loyalty to Álmos. Just for the record, the Magyar tribes consisted of 108 different clans.)
WW2: Matthias Church an Fisherman's Bastion in Ruins
In WW2 the Fisherman's Bastion was seriously damaged. In 1943 the Hungarian 2nd Army had been all but wiped out on the Russian front and German troops, fearing a Soviet invasion, entered Budapest in 1944. Hungary's regent Admiral Horthy was kidnapped by SS and a Nazi politician took control of Hungary. The Soviets closed in on Budapest embarking on a long battle with the Germans, Germans made a last stand in the Castle District and became one of the most horrible siege of WW2. Budapest had been destroyed in a huge amount.
The restoration of the Fisherman's Bastion was carried out by the son of Frigyes Schulek, Janos Schulek. The world war destroyed the neighboring buildings too.
Matthias Church and Water Town After The Siege of Budapest
During the Communist decades, there was a Soviet Red Star hung on the riverfront walls of the Fisherman’s Bastion, which could be seen every day from the Pest side too to remind people that it is the Soviet sheriff ruling the town, and the country.
The Fisherman's Bastion is now a splendid lookout point commanding exceptional views over the Danube and Pest. This white, fairytale-like building is decorated with ornate, lace-like stonework and is one of the best known landmarks of Budapest.
Don't Forget to Look for Woody Harrelson's Statue in Fisherman's Bastion
According to new urban legends Woody Harrelson is a real time traveller since his statue was discovered by tourists. Somebody shared a picture took in Budapest and people started to joke with it. To be honest, this statue is an Árpád-dynasty warrior - there are figurines under the arch to represent how ancient Hungarians used to look like.