Here’s a challenge, my Budapest-loving friend! Pick up your phone, go on Instagram, and search for “Fisherman’s Bastion”. See if you can do it without falling in love.
With its seemingly-medieval turrets, fairy tale staircases and balconies, Fisherman’s Bastion is becoming the most famous square in Budapest – even above glorious public spaces such as Heroes Square. Go there on any day, at any time, and you’ll see Instagram influencers liberally draped over the masonry. But Fisherman’s Bastion is far too beautiful, and too interesting just to use as a backdrop; as with everywhere else in Budapest, that would be doing it a disservice. What’s the history of this place? And what other awesome locations can you find in the area?
Well, I’m here to help! I’m going to let you know the essentials, like opening hours and entrance fees, but also give you all the history and context that you need!
If you want to see the rest of Budapest too (and why wouldn’t you?), check out my guide to three days in Budapest here!
Fisherman’s Bastion opening hours
Okay, let’s be real here. Most people want to know what time Fisherman’s Bastion opens so that they can score as good a photo as possible of the place. Did you take the challenge at the start of this article, and look at all those beautifully curated photos on Instagram? If you did, you’re probably expecting Fisherman’s Bastion to look rosy and quiet, somewhere ideal for you to do your best Instagram poses.
Actually, it’s kinda going to look more like this:
Photography tip: if you want to get a really beautiful shot with a minimum of other people, you’re either going to need some epic Photoshop skills, or to get there early.
The good news is that Fisherman’s Bastion is not fenced off in any way – it’s on one side of a public square – so you can pretty much just rock up there whenever you fancy! You purely have two limitations: how early you can drag yourself out of bed, and whether you want to see the upper terrace.
If getting up at the crack of dawn is a-ok with you, then congratulations! You’re going to be able to visit at the quietest, and also most scenic time. The soft-colored stone of the bastion really lends itself to capturing a rosy dawn, and a minimum of other people in sight means that you’ve got the best chance of getting a great shot. The upper terraces are also free to visit ‘out of hours’.
If you’re not an early riser but you want to pose on the scenic upper terrace, then you will have to abide by the opening times. These are pretty generous, being 9am to 11pm, but you’re going to have to buy a ticket. Which leads us on to…
How much is the entrance fee?
Unlike most entry fees for places of interest, you’ve got some options here! We like flexibility; wheee!
If you want to see Fisherman’s Bastion for free, simply turn up outside the hours of 9am to 11pm, and both the lower and upper terraces will be completely free of charge. Alternatively, if you’re not too bothered about visiting the upper terraces (though do consider it: there’s some truly lovely views), you can come along at any time of day, and see it with zero cost.
If you arrive between 9am and 11pm and want to visit the upper terraces, a ticket for the bastion alone will cost you 1000 forint (roughly 3.4 USD) for an adult ticket. You’ll see a roped-off staircase at the end of the bastion near the ticket office: simply show your ticket to the member of staff, and they’ll allow you access. You can take in the gorgeous views, and have the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing that you’ve just contributed to the upkeep of one of Budapest’s most visited sites. Ahhh, sweet karma!
However! There’s another option, and it’s my favorite one. For 2000 forint you can buy a ticket which gives you access to both the upper terraces of Fisherman’s Bastion, and also the neighboring Matthias Church. I’m going to cover the church further down this article, but trust me on this one – it’s well worth buying this ticket!
How to get to Fisherman’s Bastion
Again, this is an area where you’ve got options, depending on whether you want to go to Fisherman’s Bastion directly, or whether you fancy a slow amble, taking in all of the area’s sights. Dayum, Budapest; you’re too good to us!
Visiting the bastion directly
If you’re going straight to Fisherman’s Bastion, especially if you want to get that elusive photo at dawn, jump on Budapest’s excellent Metro system. You want to head for Batthyány ter station, disembark, and then zigzag upwards though the streets (I recommend a map app like Rome2rio or maps.me for navigation).
Visiting Buda Castle
If you want to take the scenic route, how about checking out Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion at the same time? This is a really great option, as the two structures go hand in hand – Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and the castle itself are all part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Castle Hill; don’t skip straight to Fisherman’s Bastion, and miss out on seeing something equally beautiful!
Buda Castle has a fascinating history which is well worth seeking out, but bear in mind that nothing that you’ll see is as old as it looks. The castle has had something of an unfortunate history, especially if your definition of “unfortunate” includes “being blown up multiple times”. Yup, Buda Castle has had a rough time of it, and been under siege and captured by pretty much every invading force ever (most notably the Communists, who were fighting the Nazis. Rather than fight on Castle Hill, they simply captured the neighboring, and taller, Gellert Hill, and pounded the crap out of the castle with artillery). But that doesn’t mean that the castle is any less beautiful: it’s been expertly restored, and looking as gorgeous as it ever did. And if it’s good enough for Katy Perry, it’s good enough for us, right?
You can get to Buda Castle by taking the number 16 bus, by taking the funicular up Castle Hill (which will cost 1200 forint for a one-way journey), or by walking up one of the paths snaking through beautifully landscaped gardens. However, if you’re feeling both cheap and lazy (as I frequently do), how about taking the escalator? Walk along Ybl Miklós tér, and you’ll see the completely free escalator under a covered walkway. You’ll skip the steps, and have a pleasant walk up to the castle itself!
Once you’ve finished looking around the castle – you definitely need to see the courtyard and fountain, at the very least – you can reach Fisherman’s Bastion by walking along the main path, and down the rather cute street with its souvenir shops.
By the way, if you’re looking for some awesome Budapest souvenirs, check out my guide!
Fisherman’s Bastion history
Take some time to read through the history of Fisherman’s Bastion – and indeed the history of Budapest itself – because seeing these beautiful places isn’t half as good as seeing them and knowing the context. Think of it this way: you’ve probably got items in your house which have huge emotional significance to you… but a visitor wouldn’t have a clue what it is, until you explained it to them. It’s the history and context which makes a place special, and if you don’t know it, you’re just seeing its shadow.
Fisherman’s Bastion is an unusual one in terms of history, because the structure itself isn’t terribly old, but it commemorates events which stretch back centuries! But the first thing that you need to remember is that even though the bastion looks like a fairytale palace from ye olde medieval times… it’s really not. It was actually only built in 1902, making it a mere baby in comparison to most European landmarks. If you’re planning on photographing it for Instagram, or any other purpose where you’re going to be writing a caption, don’t make the mistake of calling it historic. Because, no.
However, that doesn’t preclude appreciation of the style which the bastion has been constructed in! It’s very Gothic Revival, which is a style that lends itself well to landmarks – ornate, ornamental, and harking back to the intricate designs of the medieval age. Budapest is very fond of Gothic Revival, especially around Castle Hill, and Fisherman’s Bastion is great example of it!
Significance of the design
So, if Fisherman’s Bastion isn’t historic, why is it even there? Did some visionary think to themselves “I foresee a popular community for sharing photography, on magical glowing telephones, and I need to design something for people to sit on and look dreamy!”? Mm, not so much. Instead, it was a way of celebrating Budapest’s past, and two groups of people in particular.
The first group of people were the seven original Magyar tribes, who wandered all the way from the Ural Mountains in Russia, before they found a rather nice plain by the Danube and though “this looks awesome; let’s stop here”. That’s why Fisherman’s Bastion has seven towers; one for each of the tribes, and you can look out on to a completely different view than the one they would’ve had. But you can still see the natural features which made it an attractive area to settle in, such as the river and the defensible hills.
The second group of people celebrated by Fisherman’s Bastion is, funnily enough, the local Fisherman’s Guild. In medieval times, Buda Castle went through a hell of a lot of sieges, and local guilds were assigned to protect it. The part of the castle complex where Fisherman’s Bastion now stands is the area assigned to the city’s fishermen, who presumably gave invaders a good slap with a wet haddock.
If you have a close look at Fisherman’s Bastion, you’ll be able to see that the stones aren’t very old. Some of them are even more recent than the rest: the bastion was damaged in the Second World War, and had to be restored. But that doesn’t take anything away from its significance and meaning to the area, and learning just a little of its history can be very rewarding!
Visiting Matthias Church
As you approach Fisherman’s Bastion, it’s quite possible that you won’t even see it. As beautiful as the bastion is, there’s something right on its doorstep which is even more jaw-dropping, and that’s the Matthias Church.
If you bought the ticket which includes entry to both Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church, congratulations! You’re going to see two of Budapest’s most beautiful sites! The church certainly grabs your attention when you’re outside, thanks to its gorgeous ceramic tiled roof, but it’s inside the building where it shines. Remember to bring a jacket or scarf, because you’ll need to cover up a little in order to enter.
Like Fisherman’s Bastion, the inside decoration of Matthias Church isn’t quite as old as it looks (the building itself was built in the 14th century). Various wars caused damage to the building, and it was converted into a mosque by the Turks in 1541. After their expulsion, and after more damage in the Second World War, it was renovated in the 1970s to look as it would have done in its medieval heyday. It’s an absolutely stunning sight: it may not be the most authentic decoration in the world in terms of age, but it takes your breath away nonetheless. Every single surface is covered in decoration, and you really can imagine it being used by medieval kings.
If nothing else, check out the heraldry, including the flags hanging from the rafters. The church is named after Matthias Corvinus, who had a raven as his symbol, and you’ll see an appropriate amount of black feathered friends plastered all over the inner walls. Don’t be tempted to see only Fisherman’s Bastion, and skip Matthias Church. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever set foot in, and that’s saying something!
I hope that this has been a good, informative read – whether you’re looking for opening times and entrance fees, or simply looking for the story behind the structure! Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below, or claim even more sweet karma by sharing this article! You can do that by pressing the handy buttons below, or by pinning the below images to Pinterest. I particularly recommend Pinterest, so that you can have the information bookmarked for when you need it! Convenient or what?
Psst! This article probably contains affiliate links. These incur zero extra cost to you if you choose to buy the products linked, but they help out this blog by earning some pennies which go towards the running of the site. Any extra cash is spent on wet haddocks, and a determination to protect Buda Castle at all costs!