The Buda Castle District
In 2002 the UNESCO World Heritage committee enhanced the capital's standing among the already existening eight World Heritage locations in Hungary (Hollókõ, Budapest, Pannonhalma, Hortobágy, Pécs, Tokaj, Aggtelek, Lake Fertõ). This means that now Andrássy Avenue and its historical environs join the Castle district and Danube embankment as holders of the prestigious World Heritage award, although it is true to say that local residents and visitors consider the award fully deserved, Budapest being - in their eyes - one of the most beautiful capitals in the world.
The Castle quarter represents the core of the ancient town and an area guarding some of the most important historical monuments in the country. And although in the 800 years since its foundation it has been hit by virtually every disaster imaginable - earthquake, fire, siege and world war - its beauty continues to shine through and its medieval monuments are a delight. On entering the quarter visitors generally get the impression they have travelled back in time to a completely different, calmer age, where the gateways of Baroque houses reveal Roman-age stones and finely carved sedilia from the age of chivalry. Underneath the feet lies a vast labyrinth of caves, which served as a military station for no less than 20, 000 German soldiers during the Second World War. One of the defining buildings of Budapest, the over 700-year-old Matthias Church, stands in Szentháromság (Holy Trinity) Square. Its Gothic tower and the backdrop of Fishermen's Bastion make this one of the most commonly photographed monuments. Over the course of centuries the church was the scene for many coronations, then it served as a Turkish mosque from 1541 before being re-consecrated. Inside, the earthly remains of King Béla III and his wife lie in a carved sarcophagus. The rich collection of ecclesiastical art attracts many visitors each year. Fishermen's Bastion was raised in neo-Romanesque style on the foundations of the medieval castle walls; it affords a superb viewpoint over the city. Right alongside, and happily alloying the old with the new, stand the luxury Hilton Hotel built over 25 years ago. The hotel courtyard encompasses the cloister of a medieval monastery, inside which are the remains of an ancient church; theatrical performances are held here each summer.
The former Royal Palace and its attendant buildings represent an organic, and yet at the same time a separate, part of the Castle quarter. The several historical sections, which were severely damaged during the Second World War, have over the intervening years found new functions. Most wings of the palace have been tumed into museums, and the National Széchényi Library is also here. Sándor Palace, once the residence of the prime minister, is now the office and residence of the president of the republic.