Buda, Part 4, Gellert Hill

At the southern end of Buda  is Gellért Hill, with the opulent art nouveau Gellért Hotel in its lee. Built during the creative boom of the Dual Monarchy, the hotel and its luxurious Romanesque spa have always attracted the world’s richest and most famous, counting international royalty, movie stars and moguls among its guests.

The Geller Hotel, Budapest
The Geller Hotel, Budapest

Further round the hill, to the north is the Rudas Turkish bath house which dates back to the 15th century occupation The beautiful blue cupola which covers the steam room and hot pool is a landmark on the Gellert Hill embankment. In the Rudas’ shadow, where the hill begins to rise, sits the Rudas plain little sister the Rac Turkish bath.

While its lower reaches are given over to the flesh, Gellért Hill itself is mostly dedicated to the spirit. The Cliff Chapel sits in its foothills. On the summit is the Citadella or Citadel, built by the Habsburghs to mark the suppression of the 1848-19 revolution. In front of it stands the Liberation Monument, built by the Communist government to commemorate the liberation of Hungary from the Germans. Gaps in its decorations and statuary mark the places where communist symbols and effigies were torn away when the Iron Curtain fell.

The Liberation Monument’s crowning glory, the massive Statue of Liberty with its uplifted palm frond, is visible from almost anywhere in the city and has become a symbol of Budapest. Further down the hillside another monument marks the spot where, in 1046, Bishop Gellért, who gave his name to the hill, was trussed in a barrel driven through with spikes and thrown into the Danube by his Pagan enemies. Paths and stairways wind and zigzag up to the monuments and along Gellért Hill, providing breathtaking views up and down the Danube, over Buda and across to Pest, for those energetic enough to meet the challenges of the climb. For the rest, there are taxis and buses.