Every good city tour needs fascinating stops as well as variety to spice things up (and, of course, beer!), so stop number 6 on the Budapest Beer Bus brings us something new – a castle! Well, it’s not exactly a castle but more of a fortress a century-and-a-half old that is locally known as the Citadella.
This sight sits atop Gellért Hill in Buda, the western half of the city, and the elevation of the hill and the strategically-situated fortress offer excellent, panoramic views over the city, so get your camera at the ready!
Though it shows us a piece of Budapest’s history, the story of the citadel is not one that Hungarians are particularly proud of. Firstly, this was because it was built in 1851 by the ruling Austrians shortly after they suppressed the Hungarian uprising of 1848-9. The construction was also led by the Austrian General Haynau, who was known for his cruel treatment of his enemies, which included Hungarian revolutionaries. After the Austrian-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed, the Hungarians asked for this symbol of oppression to be demolished, but troops remained at the fortress until 1897. In the next few years parts of the fortress were demolished by locals.
The Citadel was used again in World War II by the occupying Nazi forces, who used the fortress as a bunker and an anti-aircraft base, then it was used by the next invading forces, the Soviets. During the 1956 uprising against communist rule, the Soviets took advantage of the strategic position of the fortress to shell the city and wreak destruction in retaliation. So once again the fortress was used against the Magyars, rather than to defend them.
Since the 1960s the fortress has housed just a hotel, restaurant and nightclub, and there is also a WWII museum within a bunker which is open to visitors for a small entrance fee. There is also a Statue of Liberty of a socialist style that was erected to celebrate freedom from Nazi occupation – although this was shortly to be followed by occupation with another label.
If the history isn’t of much interest to you, then enjoy the incredible view amid a green space of the city. Then it’s back on to see where the Beer Bus of Budapest takes us next!