The Esterházy dynasty rose from the lesser nobility at the end of the 16th century through Nicolas Esterházy, who was a very talented lord, and his descendants increased the wealth of the dynasty. Since the 17th century they were among the great landowner magnates of the Kingdom of Hungary. During the time it was part of the Habsburg Monarchy and later Austria-Hungary. During the history of the Habsburg empire, the Esterházys were consistently loyal to the Habsburg rulers.
At one point, the family owned an estate of more than one million acres. Nicolas visited the palace of Versailles twice in his lifetime and he felt rich enough to build his own “Hungarian Versailles” and started the construction of the Esterházy palace in 1762. In only four years, the famous U-shaped palace with 126 rooms was erected.
Hungary’s biggest and most magnificent palace holds a concert hall, a ceremonial hall, a private chapel, a library and its own patisserie.
The office room – also called Chinese room – is decorated with a 250 year old Chinese 12-piece-board-set that cost as much gold as 1-200 cows.
In time of Prince Nicolas, the palace might have been the most important cultural centre of the country. Famous Austrian composer, Joseph Haydn lived and worked for 24 years here and some of his most famous works had their world premier in the concert hall, among them the “Farewell symphony”.
For occasions when the concert hall proved to be too small, an Opera-house stood at the back of the palace in the garden. The prince and his guests sat in boxes and galleries while opera lovers of other classes occupied about 400 seats downstairs. Of course, it was all free of charge. Every month a new opera was produced and presented in the Opera-house which was specially constructed for Joseph Haydn. The Opera unfortunately was destroyed by fire in the 19th century.
Haydins opera was also performed in the Puppet-theatre where the master’s operas were performed with marionettes. This building stood opposite of the Opera-house.
The park belonging to the estate was about 700 acres, with a French park like Versailles, full of statues, fountains and flowers, and behind the garden, a hunting forest.
Unfortunately, not much of the original furnishing are present in the palace, as the estate was used as a hospital during World War II, but the beautiful rococo decorations, frescos and marble carvings, as well as the stunning rose-garden makes a visit to the Eszterházy palace well worth it.
When you are done discovering the estate, don’t forget to have a slice of the famous Eszterházy cake in the restaurant on the other side of the road!