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45km (28 miles) NW of Budapest

Halfway between Szentendre and Esztergom, Visegrád (pronounced Vee-sheh-grod) is a sparsely populated, sleepy riverside village, which makes its history all the more fascinating and hard to believe. The Romans built a fort here, which was still standing when Slovak settlers gave the town its present name in the 9th or 10th century. It means "High Castle." After the Mongol invasion (1241-42), construction began on both the present ruined hilltop citadel and the former riverside palace. Eventually, Visegrád boasted one of the finest royal palaces ever built in Hungary. Only one king, Charles Robert (1307-42), actually used it as his primary residence, but monarchs from Béla IV in the 13th century through Matthias Corvinus in the late 15th century spent time in Visegrád and contributed to its development. Corvinus expanded the palace into a great Renaissance center known throughout Europe.