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Citadella: Walk around the “Bastille of Gellért Hill”

Citadella And the Elizabeth BridgeBudapestGreater Budapest

One of the special features of the Citadella is that the Statue of Liberty at its south-eastern bastion is visible from almost anywhere in Budapest. Together with its pedestal, the female figure, which rises 40 metres above Gellért Hill.

Citadella is a name of Italian origin meaning fortress, however, the edifice was not used just for protection in the past but also to instil fear in the people. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Walk around the “Bastille of Gellért Hill”

If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Citadella, you will have to travel back in time to the period of the Turkish occupation, which is when the Turks built a palisade castle on the site of the chapel at the top of Gellért Hill. In 1813, at the suggestion of Archduke Joseph, the palisade castle was replaced by a university observatory, the Uraniae, but during the siege of Buda Castle in 1849, the soldiers of the Hungarian Army placed siege cannons near the building. The story did not end well, as retaliation by the Austrian artillery led to the total destruction of the astronomical institution building. In the Bach era, the Vienna War Council ultimately decided that instead of Buda Castle, they would build a visible fortification system around Pest and Buda, the aim of which was not just to beat off outside enemies but to subdue the Hungarian population, which was greatly prone to revolution.

More, than a beautiful cityview

Construction of the fort started in 1850, based on the plans of the Austrian military engineer, Lieutenant General Emmanuel Zitta, under the leadership of Field Marshal Haynau. They designed a fort that was 220 metres long, 60 metres wide and four metres thick, with stone walls ranging from 12 to 16 metres high and 60 modern cannons placed behind its portholes. Four years later, the Austrian army, whose cannons threateningly overlooked the city of Pest on the other side, was already able to enter its dungeons. The other parts of the fortification system were never completed, with the “last protective bastion” built around the town of Komárom. In spite of this, the Citadella was a symbol of tyranny and absolutism in the eyes of Hungarians until 1899, since that was the year when the military withdrew from its walls. Later on, the building was used for military purposes yet one more time: during the Second World War, when a three-storey anti-aircraft bunker was established inside it. Warehouses and facilities to care for the wounded were set up in its dungeons. The inside of the fort is currently not open to the public, however, its permanent outdoor exhibitions and the fantastic view attract tourists to this day. The Citadella should be among the first things you visit as part of a long walk when you are in Hungary. Head up winding Szirtes út and from a distance, you will spot the hilly area around the Citadella, where you can stop for a rest on the grass.

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