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Buda Castle Funicular closed for renovation

Buda Castle Funicular closed for renovation

Inaugurated in 1870 (second to Lyon’s), it was destroyed in World War Two and reopened in 1986

With tourist flows receding for the autumn, Budapest can start much-needed repairs of some important facilities. Now it is the turn of the iconic Buda Castle Funicular, whose tracks and carriages will undergo renovation until 30 November 2021.

The steep-slope railway, operated by Budapest Transport privately held corporation (BKV), links the Adam Clark Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge with the Buda Castle. Offering a panoramic view of the Danube and being part of Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is among the most popular attractions of the Hungarian capital.

150 years of history

Last year the Buda Castle Funicular celebrated its 150th anniversary. Initially called Buda Hill Railway, it was inaugurated in 1870 as the second such means of transport in the world after the pioneering one in Lyon.

Behind the construction was Count Ödön Széchenyi, who, following the fusion of Buda and Pest, wanted to see an easier access to the ministries, offices and the theatre in Buda Castle. The design plans were made by Ödön Jaruszek and then modified by Henrik Wolfahrt who later took over the construction.

The tracks were laid down along a 30-degree slope with a 50-metre elevation, and the entire length of the railway was 95 metres. The pair of steam-powered cars, consisting of three tiered cabins and capable of carrying eight passengers each, was manufactured in Vienna. The carriages were joined together with two wire ropes and were moving like a pendulum, one upwards, the other downwards, with an „emergency brake” ensuring their safety.

The Buda Hill Railway became instantly popular as a means of public transport. It was used by many dignitaries, including Emperor Franz Joseph and his family, the Brazilian emperor, and a multitude of Hungarian politicians and ministers.

Destroyed and restored  

During the siege of Budapest in World War II, the funicular was badly damaged by a bomb, and its remains stood uglifying Castle Hill for more than 40 years. Finally, in 1986, it was reconstructed on its original location, retaining its old appearance, but receiving electric-powered carriages.

Few of the tourists who use the unique attraction know that the carriages are named Margit and Gellért, after the Hungarian princess turned nun and the medieval martyr monk.

Another little-known fact, courtesy of Visit Budapest: originally the carriages moved faster but were slowed down, as passengers asked for more time to enjoy the splendid views.

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