Budapest, the pearl of the Danube, is rich in historical sites such as Buda Castle , Heroes’ Square etc. and last but not least, the Fisherman’s Bastion. It is located near Matthias Church in the Castle District in Buda.
It is primarily well-known for the wonderful panoramic views it provides of the city. It is regarded as a must-see building by foreign tourists visiting the Hungarian capital. Many do not understand how it could be so decorative rather than defensive as other bastions?
To find it out, let’s check some details about the background and purpose of Halászbástya.
History of Fisherman’s Bastion
The Castle Hill served as lodging and fortification at the time of the kings of Árpád dynasty. As a result of urban development, King Béla IV urged to construct more buildings here. Despite his intentions, the Castle District had become dominant in the era of King Matthias. Fisherman Bastion was erected between 1895 and 1902 as a historical monument for the millennial Hungary. The architectural style of the Bastion is Neo-Romanesque which was typical in the early medieval times. Furthermore, it possesses seven towers, each one symbolizing one of the seven Magyar tribes that came and settled down in Hungary in 895. Besides you can find the Statue of St. Stephen, the first Hungarian king who founded the Hungarian state.
It was made by Alajos Stróbl, a sculptor, who started in 1898 and completed in 1903.
The purpose of the T-shaped Fisherman Bastion arrangement was to embrace the church and highlight its beauty; moreover, to make a connection between the Castle hilltop with the former Fishtown aka Watertown on the Danube side. It functioned as a communal panorama terrace to recall the old times of fights. While walking up the wide stairs to the Bastion a magnificent sight appears in front of our eyes, both on the attractions of the Castle Hill and the sights of the Pest side. There are other historical statues on the stairway from the bottom to the top: the Statue of John Hunyadi, which is a Neo-Gothic limestone foundation, the statue of St George Piercing the Dragon and the soldiers of the 10th century guarding the gate.
Frigyes Schulek, the famous architect, designed the Fisherman’s Bastion (he restored and redesigned the Matthias Church too). After getting seriously damaged during World War II the building was restored by the son of the architect, János Schulek. The total construction cost was 1,165,000 USD. Later on, around the 1990s the medieval underground of St Michael Chapel was also revealed by the Castle District Municipality. Therefore, tourists could descend into the beautiful Chapel too.
Nowadays you can enjoy the breath-taking views of the Danube, one of Budapest’s World Heritage Sites, along with the Parliament the Chain Bridge and the Fisherman Bastion. You can come here for a romantic getaway on the top turrets, or take a selfie on its balcony free of charge or hide in the arcades from snowfall or rain, or just simply sit on its benches and rake over the ashes of the past. An interesting factor: the building was featured as a Pit Stop on the sixth season of the American TV show The Amazing Race.
And of course, you would definitely ask where the name came from. Well, there are a few theories. The most likely explanation behind it is that fishermen used to live below the walls of the Fisherman’s Bastion in Watertown (Viziváros) who also protected the walls during wars.
In sum, no matter how long you are staying in Budapest, devote some time to visit this fascinating building in the Buda Castle District. I am sure after a short guided tour you can even learn its original name, Halászbástya (hol-larse-baash-tia).