Castles in Hungary – 9 Historic Fortresses Around the Country

hungarian-castles

Hungarian castles are full of stories and historic importance. They’re some of the best places to visit in Hungary if you want to experience the country’s rich past and learn about the influences on contemporary Hungarian culture.

 

These castles and palaces, spread across Hungary, often also have museums where you can learn more about Hungarian history. Some of them have been rebuilt numerous times through the country’s tumultuous past, while others are the originals from centuries ago (or at least have original parts).

 

We’ve found the most interesting and beautiful castles in Hungary, so if you’re exploring the phenomenal country, you know where to go. Of course, there’s a little history and legends thrown in there, since its these immense structures’ past that makes them so intriguing.

 

Buda Castle

 

This immense castle complex is built on Castle Hill, surrounded by medieval, neoclassical and baroque monuments and buildings. The castle palace has been rebuilt a few times over the course of its history, but retains much of its original art and artefacts. In fact, the southern wing of the palace includes the Budapest History Museum, which you can spend hours (or days) exploring.

 

There are a number of Hungarian myths and legends woven around the Buda Castle and its dark catacombs. Perhaps the most famous is that Count Dracula, Hungary’s most famous vampire, was imprisoned within the castle labyrinth. Another is that during the Ottoman invasion, the women of the Turkish harem would sometimes be built into the walls of the tunnels, when the pashas would grow bored. Rather dark.

 

Buda Castle has played a massive role in Budapest’s history. The underground tunnel alone has served as a shelter, a prison, a hospital, and a Turkish harem. And that’s not to mention the castle itself!

 

The castle was first built in the 13th century. It’s made it through the Middle Ages, the Ottoman Era, and various massive wars, in various forms. What you’ll see is a lot more modern-styled than the original, highly ornate palace. But it’s still very much worth a visit.

 

Location: Castle Hill, Budapest

Entrance fee: 1 400 HUF ($4.50) / Student price – 1000 HUF ($3.20) / Free for children under 6

Open days: Tue – Sun 10:00 – 18:00 (Courts & courtyards open 24/7)

 

Vajdahunyad Castle

 

Vajdahunyad Castle is actually a reasonably modern castle. Its lovely architecture is an homage to the many cultural influences and architectural styles of Hungary’s past. In fact, the castle was built to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary since the Magyar conquest of the Carpathian Basin.

 

It was built in 1896, and was first created in cardboard and wood before becoming so popular that it was upgraded to stone. A very unusual history for a castle, certainly.

 

Despite being relatively new (note relatively), this castle is strikingly beautiful and romantic. It’s split into four parts, showcasing Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture.

 

If you’re only spending a weekend in Hungary and don’t have enough time to tick the other castles off your list, we’d definitely recommend spending a few hours here. Conveniently, it’s located right in the heart of Budapest, so you can easily make it part of your day.

 

Location: City Park, Budapest

Entrance fee: 1 600 HUF ($5.10) / Student price – 800 HUF ($2.50). Free to enter the courtyard

Open days: Tue – Sun 10:00 – 17:00

 

Boldogkő Castle

 

This fortress stands atop a hill in an otherwise flat landscape. You can’t miss it! The castle is a fantastic viewpoint to take in the Hungarian countryside. There’s also a wooden walkway leading to the very end of the rocky outcrop, where you can admire the panoramic views.

 

Boldogkő Castle sits above the charming little village Boldogkőváralja. You can visit the village and castle on a day trip. When you’ve trekked up to the fortress, be sure to try some medieval cuisine at the restaurant and explore the huge toy soldier collection.

 

It was built in the 13th century around the period of the Mongol invasion. Not much is known about its earliest history, but thankfully, there is a legend.

 

According to the legend, King Béla IV was fleeing the Mongols and hid in the cellar of a peasant man named Bodo. Bodo deceived the Mongol soldiers, pretending to be deaf. The soldiers left, and the king was safe. To reward him, he bestowed on Bodo two villages, on the condition that he built a castle. Bodo’s seven beautiful daughters told their suitors that they would only marry a man who had worked to build the castle, and so after seven years, it was built (perseverance). They held all seven weddings there at once, and the king attended as the guest of honour.

 

Location: Boldogkőváralja, Northern Hungary

Entrance fee: 1500 HUF ($4.80) / Student & seniors price – 1100 HUF ($3.50)

Open days: Sat & Sun 09:00 – 20:00 (while renovation goes on during the week)

 

Tata Castle

 

Built alongside Lake Oreg in the mid 14th century is Tata Castle. It was once the summer resort of the kings, so you can just imagine the games, hunts, and royal relaxing that went on here, along with the usual intrigues.

 

Tata Castle has been continuously renovated and rebuilt since its founding. Today, only one tower remains of the original building. The current, renovated structure is mostly 18 and 19th-century neo-Gothic style, and houses the impressive Domokos Kuny Museum.

 

This fortress, sitting on the northern border, has played an important role in Hungary’s history. It was captured by the Turks, retaken by the Hungarians, and later burnt down by the Hapsburgs. According to legend, the Hungarians retook it by sending in two men dressed as Turks and carrying in a bell filled with gunpowder. The bell-bomb’s explosion destroyed the gate and allowed the troops to move in and occupy.

 

Location: Tata, North-western Hungary

Entrance fee: 1200 HUF ($3.80) / Childrens price – 600 HUF ($1.90)

Open days: Tue-Fri 09:00 – 17:00, Sat-Sun 09:00 – 18:00

 

Siklós Castle

 

Siklos Castle is a 13th-century fortress on the southern border of Hungary. The building beyond the castle gates is quite modern, making it seem at first glance like its not worth the visit for history-lovers. Thankfully, first impressions can be deceiving.

 

You’ll enter through an old drawbridge, and stroll through an old courtyard with walls pierced by firing holes. Visit the Knight’s Hall, the 15th-centry Gothic chapel, and the torture chamber, where you can find out the morbid history of how the mechanisms worked.

 

The castle, interestingly, was taken from the noble family that owned it by king Sigismund after a failed rebellion. That’s the same king that took Tata Castle as his own after a similarly failed uprising.

 

In the mid-16th-century, Dorothy Kanizsai lived in the castle with her noble husband. She was a famously intelligent teacher known throughout the country. When the imperial army lost a battle to the Ottomans nearby, Kanizsai went to the battlefield with her men and buried thousands of dead. She is still considered to be one of Hungary’s greatest women.

 

In more recent history, British, American and Polish prisoners of war were kept here during World War II. It was in a pretty bad state by this time, and 11 years later renovations began again.

 

Location: Siklos, Southern tip of Hungary

Entrance fee: 1900 HUF ($6) / Student & seniors price – 1000 HUF ($3.15) / Childrens price – 700 HUF ( $2.20)

Open days: Tue-Sun 10:00 – 17:00

 

Brunszvik Castle

 

One of the best reasons to visit Brunszvik Castle is its incredible gardens. The grounds are stunning and romantic, and you could spend hours before even getting inside the palace. They even host summer concerts here.

 

Brunszvik Castle was built by the family that owned the area of Martonvásár. It was built over a long period, and changed hands a number of times, briefly becoming a military hospital in 1945.

 

The white-walled neo-gothic castle has a memorial museum dedicated to Beethoven, who often visited in the castle’s heyday as a friend of the Brunszvik family. In fact, he taught the two daughters to play the piano.

 

Construction began in 1783, which makes it a very late contender to Hungary’s best castles. But it’s so beautiful, and so tied in with the town’s history, that it’s well worth the visit.

 

Location: Martonvasar, central Hungary

Entrance fee: 750 HUF ($2,40) / Childrens price – 350 HUF ( $1.10) / Children under 6 free

Open days: Tue-Sun 10:00 – 12:00, 14:00 – 16:00

 

Diósgyőr Castle

 

Diósgyőr Castle is one of the most interesting and entertaining castles to explore in Hungary. The fortress has a rich history, and one that’s celebrated with historic jousting tournaments, fun markets and themed events today.

 

The first castle was built here in the 13th century on a rocky hill. In 1364, King Louis the Great built a proper castle, with a moat, four corner towers, and a great hall which is said to be the biggest of the time in central Europe.

 

Between the late 14th and early 16th century, Diósgyőr Castle became the castle of queens. It served as the country residence of six consecutive queens, with a prime position atop the hill, surrounded by lush forests, excellent hunting, and beautiful landscapes.

 

When you visit the castle now, tickets include a costumed guided tour, which is a fun and unusual twist which introduces you to the medieval history of the castle.

 

Location: Miskolc, North-Eastern Hungary

Entrance fee: 1500 HUF ($4.80) / Student & seniors price – 1200 HUF ($3.80)

Open days: Tue-Sun, 09:40 – 18:00

 

Sümeg Castle

Unmissable on its hilltop, Sümeg Castle is one of the most impressive fortresses in Hungary. It’s had a rough quarter millennium, after being burnt down and abandoned at the beginning of the 18th century. But efforts are ongoing to return it to some of its former glory.

 

The castle’s exhibitions include the medieval kitchen, chapel, blacksmith, torture chamber, and defence. It’s a fantastic place to see what medieval life looked like in much of Hungary. And like Diósgyőr Castle, it hosts some fun entertainment including tournament reenactments, traditional feasts and live music. A real immersive experience with a view over the valley.

 

Location: Sümeg, western Hungary

Entrance fee: 1500 HUF ($4,70) / Childrens price – 500 HUF ( $1.60)

Open days: Mon-Sun 09:00 – 18:00

 

Bory Castle

 

Bory Castle is a very unique castle, and one we had to include on this list despite being built as recently as 1959. This eccentric place was built by Hungarian architect and sculptor Jeno Bory, with the occasional help of his students.

 

It started as the summer home of Jeno Bory and his wife when it was just a wine vault and a little house. 40 years were spent building parts of the castle at random, from the end of WWII until Bory’s death.

 

Visitors can explore the castle and its turrets, walking among the garden sculptures and the galleries where his paintings line the walls. It’s a giant work of art, with hundreds of statues, antiquities, mosaics, paintings and fountains all over the property. Many of the figures are historical Hungarian heroes and kings, but his greatest inspiration was his wife.

 

This unique castle is a great day trip from Budapest, and you can spend the rest of the day exploring the beautiful countryside.

 

Location: Székesfehérvár, central Hungary

Entrance fee: 1800 HUF ($5.70) / Student, children & seniors price – 900 HUF ($2.80) / Children under 6 free

Open days: Mon-Sun 09:00 – 17:00

 

Last thoughts on these Hungarian Castles

Hungary has many castles in various states of ruin and renovation. Being such a central, and such a hilly, country, it’s no wonder so many hills come with their own hilltop castle.

 

These are the most beautiful, interesting, and historically significant castles in Hungary. Of course, there are many more contenders for the list. So if we’ve missed any of your favourite Hungarian fortresses, let us know, and we’ll try to add it (and visit it!).

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