View from the Citadella on Gellért Hill at night

View from the Citadella on Gellért Hill at night

The history of Gellért Hill, and the Citadella atop it, on the West bank of the mighty Danube in Budapest, goes back thousands of years. According to archeological findings,  a watchtower stood there in Roman times and it later became famous as the venue of Saint Gellért‘s martyrdom.

The immediate predecessor to the present Citadella (Hungarian for citadel) was a fortress; built in 1851 by Julius Jacob von Haynau, a commander of the Habsburg army, and designed by Emánuel Zita and Ferenc Kasselik, after the Hungarian War of Independence (against Austrian Habsburg rule) in 1848-1849. built by Hungarian forced labourers, it was finished in 1854. In June 1854 Austrian troops settled in the citadel.

After the compromise with the Habsburgs in 1867 the Hungarians demanded the destruction of the Citadella, but the garrison didn’t leave until 1897, when the main gate was symbolically destroyed. It was not until late 1899 when the city took possession of the Citadella. A few months later, in 1900, the walls were demolished.

In the 1960′s following much debate the decision was made to turn it into a tourist centre. A wonderful view over the city opens up from the terraces and the walls of the Citadella, offering photographers some unforgettable views of the Budapest, the Danube, the 8 bridges connecting Buda with Pest and all the landmarks within the city.

The Liberty Statue (Szabadság Szobor)

The Liberty Statue (Szabadság Szobor)

The Liberty Statue (Szabadság Szobor) was first erected in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. Its location upon Gellért Hill makes it a prominent feature of Budapest‘s cityscape.

The existing 14 meter tall bronze statue stands atop a 26 meter pedestal and holds a palm leaf. Several smaller statues are also present around the base, but the original monument consisted of several more that have since been removed from the site and relocated to Statue Park. The monument was designed by Zsigmond Kisfaludi Stróbl.

At the time of the monument’s construction, the repulsion of Nazi forces by the Soviets was considered a liberation, leading to the original inscription upon the memorial, which can be translated thus ‘Erected by the grateful Hungarian Nation in memory of the liberating Russian heroes.’

Public sentiment toward the Soviets decreased to the point of revolution in 1956, leading some to damage portions of the monument. After the 1989 transition to a democratic government the inscription was modified to read, in translation, ‘To the memory of all of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and success of Hungary.

Around the Citadella you will also find a cafe, a restaurant and souvenir stalls appealing to tourists who stroll up to take get some breathtaking photos of Budapest from the “Budapest Eye“, as they refer to it.

Aerial view of the Citadella on Gellért Hill

Aerial view of the Citadella on Gellért Hill

To get to the Citadella take the bus number 27, to the Búsuló Juhász stop, from Móricz Zsigmond körtér; it is also accessible on foot along the footpaths of Gellért Hill.

For more information on what you can see and what you will find atop the Citadella check out the website.

If you have any questions to ask or experiences of the Citadella to share please use the comment section below.

Destination guide Dan.


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