Gellért Hill is a 235-m high dolomite rock, topped by the fortress of Citadel and the statue of Liberty, rising above the Danube in Buda, one of the favorite excursion spots of the city. Actually, the dolomite hill is the easternmost bastion of the hills of Transdanubia to the west.
Gellért Hill has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1987.
The cave on the Gellért Hill was inhabited before the area was settled.
Thermal waters attracted more and more visitors and later the hill created a natural point of defense.
Today the numerous unique sights make Gellert Hill a great way to spend a few hours outdoors.
I would suggest hiking up in the afternoon because the best part is watching the sun go down and the city lighting up.
From the top you can get majestic views not just of the Danube and the promenade of Pest, but also the humming city, the various boats moving up and down the Danube, the magnificent Parliament building.
So move your body by hiking up the hill to enjoy the wonderful scenery.
You can get up there many ways.
The climb to the top is tough, especially if you are not used to physcial activity. If you don’t feel yourself fit enough, the easiest way is to take bus no. 27 from Villányi Avenue (the bus station is only a few meters away from Móricz Zsigmond Circus). Get off at Búsuló Juhász (8 stops).
From here you still have to walk upward the slopes, but it is not as tiresome as climbing up the whole hill.
If you choose this method, you will miss some of the scenery, but it is still a good option as the most panoramic view is accessible this way, too.
If you choose hiking up the hill, it will only take about 20 minutes and gives you more sights and photo opportunities.
Start at Szent Gellért Square. At the bottom of the hill stands the Art-Nouveau Gellért hotel and baths.
You can’t miss the beginning of the route. Just follow the green sign (a triange) upwards.
Sights of Gellért Hill
At the very first crossroad turn to the right, to get to Cave Church (Sziklatamplom).
In front of the main gate of the church stands the statue of saint Ivan who lived in the cave and healed the sick with thermal waters.
In the 1920’s Pauline order of Monks to decided to renovate the St. Ivan’s Cave into a Chapel.
In 1934 they also built themselves a Monastery facing the Danube River.
The first tower you see is the private entrance for the Monks and the larger building with multiple towers is the Monastery itself.
In 1951 the Communist Government arrested all of the Monks and charge them with treason for not conforming. The Monk leader was killed and the others were sent to labor camps for 10 years.
The Government also sealed the entrance to the Cave Church with an 8 foot thick wall of concrete.
When the Communist Government fell in 1989, the concrete wall was torn down and the Chapel was opened again to the Monks and the public again. Today the Cave Church and Monastery is home to 10 Monks and you can see lots of this Soviet concrete wall framing the gated entrance.
After visiting the church just go back to the crossroad and start to walk upwards. Soon you will see stairs on your right. If you would like to get the best views, then use these stairs, because if you continue walking straight, the hike is easier but has no sights.
If you are climbing with kids, have a rest at the playground on your left. It has very cool, long slides.
After having a great time on the playground (or skipping it all together if you are adults adulting), your goal is to climb upwards on the edge of the hill so just search for routes (hello green triangles!) that lead to the edges, typically to the right. It is not a hard task, believe me. 🙂 You will find the path easily.
There are places where you can rest a bit, take pictures, sit on a bench and there are also sections where you have to climb a lot of stairs.
Just take your time and enjoy the view.
With the view below becoming even more dramatic, you slowly reach a destination visible from all over the city: the Citadel.
There was a Planetarium standing here until its destruction during the 1848-1849 War of Independence, when Hungarians tried to kick the Habsburgs out of the country.
The Citadel itself was built in 1854, not to defend people, but to demonstrate the control over them by the Habsburgs ruthless commander Julius Jacob von Haynau (the “Austrian Butcher”) in the immediate aftermath of the failed Hungarian uprising. He is better known in Hungary for hanging 13 rebel generals in Arad – an event still marked by the Hungarian custom of not clinking beer glasses.
The fortress was built by forced labour and its cannons were positioned that could hit both Pest and Buda to silence any future uprising.
In 1867 the Austria and Hungary the conciliation formed a joint Empire. Hungarians quickly tore large holes in the walls to symbolize it was no longer being used for military purposes.
During the WWII, the Citadell provided shelter for the Germans, so the walls took many shots and the marks are still visible today.
Today visitors can enjoy the breath-taking view of Budapest from the base of the Citadel. This is the best place to observe the differences between Pest and Buda.
Statue of Liberty
The statue was erected in memory of the victory of the Soviet forces after WWII came to an end.
The sculpture is 14 meters high tall and together with its base, towers 40 meters above the city.
The figure of the woman holding a palm leaf is a symbol of freedom.
Originally the Monument was surrounded by a bunch of Soviet themed statues including a 10 foot tall Soviet solider with flag and a 20 foot tall Soviet solider holding machine guns.
After 1989, when the Communism fell, these statues – along with most of the other Soviet statues in Budapest – were finally removed and moved to Monument Park.
It was debated whether the statue – a symbol of foreign occupation – should be removed, too. But the peaceful female figure were allowed to stay, but its inscription changed from praising the Soviets to:
“To the memory of all of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and success of Hungary.”
It soon became one of the best known monuments in Budapest.
The best spot to take photos of the city is this one:
Please be aware that you might be confronted by men trying to make you play shell game here. It is a well-know fact and very unfortunate. I don’t know where are these men coming from, but the worst is that they are not chased regularly by the police. I’m sorry.
Read my post about what you should avoid in Budapest, too.
After visiting these sights, you can have a leisurely walking downstairs or you can try to find Philosopher’s Garden, and the statue of Prince Pest and Princess Buda. They stand at a small, rather unknown spot, overlooking the city and the Castle. If you have time, I definitely recommend visiting this lookout.
Supermarket and Coffee
Saint Gellért Monument
There is one more statue that worth mentioning, the Saint Gellért Monument. It is a multilevel monument with an artificial waterfall and the state of Bishop Gellért, holding a cross in his hands while boldly looking over Budapest.
He came to Hungary from Italy around 1000. His aim was to connect Hungarians to Christianity, but he was the teacher of King St. Stephen’s son. He has later rolled down the hill in a barrel to his death by tribesmen resisted the conversion to Christianity. He became the first Christian martyr of Hungary and the hill is named after him.
Today you can walk along all three levels of the monument gaining better and better views of the city below.
Facing east and Pest, the Monument is also one of the best places to take photos of the wakening city in the morning lights.
How to get to the Gellért Hill?
Public transportation to the foot of the hill:
From Ferenciek Square, take bus line 7 and take off at Gellért Square.
You can reach Gellért Square also by metro line 4, bus 133E, tram 19, 41, 47, 48, 49, 56, 56A) or even by boat (D12, D13).
On foot: just cross Erzsebet bridge or Szabadság (Liberty) bridge and follow the green route.
Gellért Hill’s steep climb from the side of the Gellért Hotel is through a series of steps and paths, but they are also zig-zag up from the Gellért Statue on the other side of the hill.
We always choose to climb up from Gellért Square.
Our favorites routes on Google Maps.
If you wouldn’t like to climb up or you are unable to, just take bus 27 from Móricz Zsigmond körtér (8 stops until Búsuló Juhász) from here the walk is much easier and takes only a few minutes (600m).
See the route of the bus on Google Maps
Get off at Búsuló Juhász stop and walk a couple of minutes on this route.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or write a comment! 😊
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