We love European cities because of their cultural heritage, their amazing old towns and castles. We love the architecture and the atmosphere of European castles and whatever country we visit, we always find castles which are must-sees there. So we did in Hungary.
First of all, finding well-preserved castles in Hungary is not such an easy thing, even though we have countless castles and fortresses. Sadly, a lot of them was completely destroyed or seriously damaged during the World Wars or in earlier wars in the 18-19th century. Those who survived were often used as hospitals during and after the World Wars, so their interiors were not preserved.
But there are some gems to find. There are a few castles that look very special both from the inside and the outside. They were either lucky, or they were renovated and refurbished with an enormous effort – or a combination of both.
A lot to see in a short distance
Hungary offers another advantage: it’s a small country. So everything is close. Or kinda close. There’s no need to exclude places because you need to take a long detour to visit them. No long detours here, just tons of beauties close to you. 🙂
Whether you plan to explore by car or by public transport, both is possible.
Buda Castle, Budapest
Okay, we know we told you that this post will be about what to visit beyond Budapest. But we have to at least mention Buda Castle, because this royal palace is the most famous Hungarian castle.
It can be seen from most part of the city center and it is wonderfully lit up during the night. It was built in the 13th century after the Mongolian invasion. And it was completely destroyed when liberating Buda from the Turks, and also badly damaged after World War II. Nowadays it is rebuilt in a Neo-Baroque style.
It’s home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library. Yes, that means no furnished rooms to visit in this castle.
However its courtyard is open to the public and is home to several festivals year round – like the Wine Festival, Beer Festival, Easter Festival, Renaissance & Medieval Festival, Hungarian Palinka and Sausage Festival. And Christmas markets in December.
Esterházy Castle, Fertőd
Our favorite castle in Hungary! My first word to describe it would be: colorful. It’s enough to only visit a couple of rooms to understand why. Its interior is decorated with lots of different colors that vary in each room.
Sometimes referred as the Hungarian Versailles, it’s a very popular tourist attraction located in the Northwest part of Hungary, just 2 hours drive from Budapest (and on your way from Budapest to Vienna).
Esterházy Castle is a beautiful example of Rococo architecture. We like this architecture style very much because of its playfulness and lovely colors. And this castle is a perfect place for anyone to fall in love with Rococo.
Once the castle was the family nest of the Esterházy family, today it’s operated by the government as Esterházy Castle Museum. It can only be visited on a guided tour – and this is a good thing! We were told a bunch of exciting stories about the history of the castle and about the people who lived here.
Guided tours are available in Hungarian, German or English. Though if you need a German or English tour it’s a good idea to call them in advance, because foreign language tours are organized on an on-demand basis.
Most of the rooms in the castle are beautifully renovated and furnished. You can also see amazing pieces of the world famous Zsolnay Porcelain on display.
After finishing the guided tour inside the castle, don’t forget to have a walk in the castle gardens. They are open during the castle’s opening hours.
Royal Palace of Gödöllő, Gödöllő
Gödöllő is only 40 minutes drive from Budapest, and it has an amazing Baroque palace! It was built by Count Antal Grassalkovich I in the 18th century, and later became a royal palace as it was a coronation gift to Emperor Francis Joseph I and Queen Elizabeth (Sissi).
It was one of Sissi’s favorite residence to stay. Also, Sissi is one of the most beloved queens in the history of Hungary, even though she was not Hungarian. The permanent exhibition about the royal suites presents the story of her life, too.
Most of the rooms in the palace are furnished. We could see rooms both from the Grassalkovich era and from the time of Sissi. Temporary exhibitions are organized from different topics of the Hungarian history and everyday life.
The palace comes with a nice garden that’s free to access. The center of the small town of Gödöllő is also very close to the castle, and it’s worth a short walk if you have time.
See the official website of the palace for up to date info on prices, exhibitions and opening hours.
Festetics Palace, Keszthely
The town of Keszthely is located at Lake Balaton, Hungary’s biggest lake, just 2 hours drive from Budapest. Festetics Palace is its popular Baroque palace that’s a museum and an events center today.
The Festetics family was one of the most significant ducal families in Hungary. They founded Georgikon, the first agricultural college in Europe in 1797. And they built this amazing 34-room palace.
Now, this is another palace I could easily describe with one word: warm. It has such a warm and cosy atmosphere! Most of its furnished rooms can be visited as part of the permanent exhibition about the aristocratic lifestyle. Our favorite places were the large wooden staircase and the beautiful, old library. The palace is surrounded by a huge park full of old trees, lovely fountains and statues.
More info on the exhibitions and prices can be found on the castle’s official website.
Ruins of the Royal Palace of Visegrád, Visegrád
The lovely town of Visegrád on the riverside of the Danube is only an hour drive from Budapest. It has a rich cultural heritage and it’s most famous icon is the ruins of the Royal Palace of Visegrád.
This palace was a royal seat in the 14th century. It hosted the famous meeting of the Hungarian, Polish and Czech rulers in 1335. Just to illustrate the significance of this meeting: ‘Visegrád countries’ is a key notion of Hungarian diplomacy even today.
Later Visegrád and its palace became a Renaissance center of art recognized around Europe. Today tourists can visit the exhibit about the palace’s history and the renovated ruins of the upper and lower palace buildings. And the upper palace has a wonderful view of the Danube bend and the nearby mountains.
Bory Castle, Székesfehérvár
Bory Castle is a bit of an exception in this list, because it’s not a historical castle. Thanks to this fact, it’s not in ruins either.
It’s a monument of art and love. Jenő Bory, an architect and artist built it in the 20th century – based on his own design and mostly with his own hands. It was his family’s home and also an art studio for him and his wife, Ilona Komócsin who was a painter.
Bory Castle has seven towers, a very pretty garden and a romantic story. It’s the Hungarian fairy tale castle. You can visit it from March to November.
Brunszvik Castle, Martonvásár
About half an hour drive from Budapest, in the tiny town of Martonvásár there’s a lovely Neo-Gothic castle: Brunszvik Castle.
Though its interior was not preserved as it operated as a hospital during the Second World War, its park is one of the most spectacular English parks in Hungary. With a small pond in the middle and large shady trees of several special species, it’s a nice place for a romantic walk or a family picnic.
The building itself is home to a Beethoven Memorial Museum today. Why Beethoven? He was a friend of the Bruszvik family, more precisely a friend of the young girls in the family, to whom he also gave piano lessons. To commemorate his visits to Brunszvik Castle, concerts are organized in the castle park every summer.
Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest
Finally, another exception: a fake castle, again from Budapest. Vajdahunyad Castle is located in the City Park of Budapest. It was built as part of the Millennial Exhibition in 1896 to celebrate Hungary’s 1000 years anniversary. It’s a copy of Corvin Castle in Vajdahunyad, Transylvania.
This castle features styles from the Middle Ages to the 18th century – Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque – showcasing the architectural evolution through centuries and styles in Hungary.
It’s the home of the Hungarian Agricultural Museum and of several festivals and concerts throughout the year. And it’s very close to the famous Heroes’ Square, so it doesn’t require much extra time to include it in your Budapest sightseeing schedule.
Esterházy Castle, Pápa
Another pretty castle of the Esterházy family in the small town of Pápa. This renovated 18th-century Baroque palace is the highlight of Pápa’s Main Square. We enjoyed our guided tour through the elegant rooms where actors played the former noble owners of the palace. They and our guide told us about life and traditions at that time. There’s also a cute puppet theater at the end of the tour.
Have you visited any of these castles? Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts!
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This post was updated in February 2020.
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