Visiting the Citadel in Visegrád is not only a great activity for medieval castle fans, but for everyone as the surrounding area and the view are not to be missed.
The way Visegrád Castle rises above the beautiful Danube Bend, it is immediately clear why it was one of the favourite places of the Hungarian monarchs and why it is still visited by thousands of tourists every year.
The history of the Visegrád Citadel
If you want to learn about the history of Visegrád Castle, you need to go all the way back to the 13th century.
Fun Fact: This isn’t the original castle – another castle was built on the foundations of the former Roman camp in Sibrik Hill before the Tartar invasion.
Visegrád used to be the capital of Hungary
The double castle system was built by Béla IV from the dowry of his wife, Queen Mary of Laszkarisz. The castle consisted of a fortress surrounding the mountaintop, two towers, and a residential palace.
As years passed by, Visegrád Castle expanded and the kings paid particular attention to it. King Charles Robert, for instance, named it the capital of the country and continued its constructions.
Visegrád Castle, which provided the venue for the famous Royal Summit of Kings in 1335, was also credited to King Charles Robert. The Czech, Polish, and Hungarian kings met there, and thus the name The Visegrád Four (Slovakia becoming the fourth after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia) was born.
During the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg, the castle was further modernised and the Women’s House was completed, providing the ladies of the court with a residence that was considered modern at the time.
The Citadel was connected to the Lower Castle with a high stone wall that went all the way down to the bank of the Danube, ending in a watchtower. The road connecting Buda and Esztergom went over these walls.
Turks wreaked havoc on the castle and occupied it in 1544. After that, fights continued with the castle changing back and forth from Turkish to Hungarian rule on several occasions.
Finally, when the building was no longer fit for military purposes, the Turks left it. Along with the castle, the village also became extinct and it took a long time to repopulate it once again.
The reconstruction of Visegrád Castle began around 1870, and the works and maintenance have been ongoing ever since. After all, it takes a lot of work to keep such an old castle in a condition that is enjoyable and safe for visitors as well.
What to see? Permanent exhibitions in the Visegrád Citadel
Visegrád Castle welcomes visitors with numerous interesting performances and exhibitions, making this part of history even more exciting. If you are interested in the whole history of the castle and some exciting facts, don’t miss out on an exhibition.
Holy Crown Exhibition
The Holy Crown exhibition is one of the permanent exhibitions in the Citadel with the Crown Jewels being held at this venue for centuries.
It seems they weren’t guarded that well since in 1440, they were stolen by Mrs János Kottaner, a lady in court under the orders of Queen Elizabeth. Luckily, they were found later. Otherwise, the Holy Crown was held in the Citadel until 1529.
Of course, there is also a lifelike copy of the Holy Crown, while the original one is displayed in the Parliament in Budapest.
At this exhibition you get to learn about the history of the castle and what it looked like in the Middle Ages in detail.
There is also some interesting information about the rulers of the castle, including Charles Robert and King Matthias, and you can admire the coats of arms of Hungarian noble families of the time.
Once you’ve climbed up a short flight of stairs, you can enter the castle and enjoy the wonderful view of the whole city and the Danube Bend. Once you’ve had enough of taking pictures and selfies, visit the Panopticon inside the castle.
All the wax figures were made with meticulous work, paying close attention to the period dressing of the figures and adjusting them into the desired poses.
They are life-size and match the period perfectly, making it easier to imagine life back then. This way, the figures depict an even more exciting picture of the era, a person, or a past event.
The Royal Summit of Kings – which I mentioned earlier – was of central importance, as it was the occasion when the Hungarian, Czech, and Polish kings made an alliance. According to chronicles, the event lasted 3–4 weeks with feasts, hunting events, and musical dance merriments.
Medieval history of weapons
Interested in medieval weapons? Then this exhibition is a must for you. You will see shields, armour, bows, maces, and all kinds of stabbing and cutting tools.
Royal hunting in the Middle Ages
Here you get to see all kinds of game in stuffed form – there are mouflons, wild boars, various deer, and water birds.
Of course, there is no royal castle without a real kitchen. The kitchen is located a few metres from the hunter exhibition. It was built under the rule of King Louis the Great and remained in use during the time of King Matthias, as well.
That is where the delicious dishes were prepared and taken to King Matthias who allegedly feasted under linden trees in the spring and summer.
Outdoor presentation of the medieval war-equipment
Located not far from the entrance of the castle, this exhibition is a great place for relaxation for both kids and adults. You may also get to try the weapons of the past here.
My son and I tried javelin throwing, throwing stars, and bows, but you can also try various throwing weapons and a crossbow, as well. Trying the weapons is not free of charge, yet it is not expensive either. We tried 3 weapons for 1000 HUF.
Every day: 9AM – 6PM
- Adult: 1,700 Ft
- Student/Retired: 850 Ft
- under 6 and over 70: FREE OF CHARGE
Admission is free for children under the age of 18 with up to 2 accompanying persons on the last Sunday of each month.
On Hungarian national holidays (March 15th, August 20th, and October 23rd), admission is free for everyone.
Car: 300 Ft/hour
Bus: 1,200 Ft/hour
More attractions in the immediate vicinity of Visegrád Castle
These sights were once located within the walls of Visegrád. I may be wrong, but I consider them still to be sights of Visegrád Castle. They are also worth visiting.
Solomon Tower, the residential tower of the Lower Castle, is a unique building in the Hungarian architecture of the period. Its former main entrance opened from the first floor with stairways leading up to the upper floors and the southern wall corners.
Upper floor halls were heated with pillared fireplaces and there were residential rooms on the four floors. On the sixth floor there is a roof terrace and you can access the outdoor, wooden balcony corridor. There was also a privy tower on the northern part of the residential tower.
Between October 1st and April 30th the Solomon Tower is CLOSED.
- Adult: 700 Ft
- Student/Retired: 350 Ft
- under 6 and over 70: FREE OF CHARGE
The Citadel in Visegrád and the Royal Palace should be treated separately. The Royal Palace is a building complex constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries, and it is one of the most beautiful building complexes in the country.
This building was primarily the town house of King Charles Robert (built after his seat was moved to Visegrád in 1323, the present palace stands on this site). It was finally completed in the 15th century.
As for the design, the upper part belonged to the king and the queen, while the staff resided on the lower floors. Today they are exhibition halls, and the exhibitions of the Hungarian National Museum are located there.
Mátyás kori kőtár (Lapidarium of the Matthias era)
The Lapidarium is definitely worth visiting. The back of the cellar was used for storing barrels, while today the most important carvings from the Matthias era are on display here.
Once a part of the former Queen’s Flower Garden, the upper garden of the North-Eastern Palace, Oroszlános-kút (lion’s fountain) is a unique element of the exhibition. Of course, today we can only see a reconstructed copy of it.
Knights’ tournament track
The track for knights’ tournaments used to stand opposite the street façade of the palace.
Also, the balcony was built in the late 1400s and was beautifully decorated with huge coats of arms that served as the box-seat for the royal couple. You can still visit it today.
Suites in the Sigismund era
Those of you interested in the living conditions of former castle dwellers should visit the period rooms of the Sigismund era.
The room opening from the court d’honneur used to be the residence of the noble young men or court ladies as several noble families had their children educated in the castle. They could later stay and become court knights or court ladies serving the king and the queen.
- Adult: 1400 Ft
- Student/Retired: 700 Ft
- under 6 and over 70: FREE OF CHARGE