Why visit: Renaissance palace, medieval tower, history, Danube Bend
Things to Do and See in Visegrád
Another small town north of Budapest is Visegrád, famous for the remains of the Renaissance summer residence of King Matthias. Visegrád rose to international fame in the 14th century when King Charles I hosted a two-month conference here with the Bohemian king and the Polish king, thereby securing peace and alliance between the three kingdoms. King Matthias reconstructed the Gothic palace in which the meeting took place in Renaissance style in the 15th century. This was the first time ever that Renaissance appeared in Europe outside Italy. The Royal Palace is definitely a must-see, as is the Solomon Tower, a medieval residential tower. If you feel like hiking, the surrounding Visegrád Hills offer gorgeous views.
Royal Palace of Visegrád
King Charles I built the first royal palace in Visegrád in the 14th century. This palace was the official residence of the kings of Hungary until the beginning of the 15th century. After that, it was used as a summer residence. In the second half of the 15th century, King Matthias had the palace complex reconstructed using the Italian Renaissance style. After the Turkish occupation, the palace fell into ruins, and by the 18th century it was completely covered by earth. Its excavation began only in the 20th century and it still continues. It already brought to light the remnants of the Medieval Palace's most stunning Gothic and Renaissance elements. The museum is adjacent to the excavation site.
Solomon Tower (Salamon Torony)
Named after an 11th century Hungarian king, this hexagonal residential tower dates back to the 13th century. The tower is part of the Lower Castle, and today it houses exhibitions of Gothic and Renaissance finds excavated in the town. It's worth climbing to the top, as the view is beautiful.
The Citadel (Fellegvár)
Directly above Solomon Tower, on the hill, stands the Citadel. Also called Upper Castle, this was part of the fortification system built in the 13th century by King Béla IV, following the Mongol invasion.
Getting to Visegrád from Budapest: Visegrád is about 25 miles north of Budapest, located on the west bank of the Danube. One of the options is to take the hydrofoil. Boats leave from Vigadó tér (Pest) and from Batthyány tér (Buda), and the ride takes about an hour. Trains run from Budapest's Nyugati Station. Buses leave from the Árpád híd bus terminal. If driving, Visegrád is about an hour's drive from Budapest and Route 11 is the quickest way to get there.
The best time to visit is during the Royal Palace Festival, held every year on the second weekend of July, celebrating the golden age of Visegrád. Participants are dressed in medieval-style costumes, and knights' tournaments are performed. Visegrád looks like a Royal town in its full glory – it's a great reason to visit. Festivities include dance and music, various kids programs and, while this is not a gastro fair, there is lots of food and wine. More details are available at the festival's website.