The Gödöllö Palace is one of the most important, and largest monuments of Hungarian palace architecture. Its builder, Count Antal Grassalkovich I (1694–1771) was a typical figure of the regrouping Hungarian aristocracy of the 18th century. He was a Royal Septemvir, president of the Hungarian Chamber, and confidant of Empress Maria Theresa. (1740–1780). The construction of the castle began around 1733, under the direction of András Mayerhoffer (1690–1771) a famous Austrian builder, who worked in Zopf and Baroque style.
The palace has a double U shape, and is surrounded by an enormous park. The building underwent several enlargements and modifications during the 18th century – mainly when the Grassalkovich family prepared for the visit of Marie Theresa -, its present shape being established in the time of the third generation of the Grassalkovich family. By then the building had 8 wings, and – besides the residential part – it contained a church, a theatre, a riding hall, stables,, a hothouse, a greenhouse for flowers and an orangery.
The decision of the Hungarian parliament designated the castle as resting residence of the the all time of king of Hungary. This state lasted until 1918, thus Emperor Franz Joseph (1867–1916) and the royal family spent several months in Gödöllő every year. It was Queen Elisabeth (1837–1898) who specially loved staying in Gödöllő, where she was always warmly welcomed. She was able to converse fluently inHungarian. Following her tragic death, a memorial park adjoining the upper-garden was built.
Between the two world wars the palace served as the residence for Regent Miklós Horthy. No significant building took place during this period, apart from an air-raid shelter in the southern front garden. After 1945 Soviet officers and troops troops used the building, some of the beautifully decorated rooms were used for an old people’s home, and the park was divided into smaller plots of land. The protection of the palace as a historical monument started in 1981, when the National Board for Monuments launched its palace project. The most important tasks of preservation began in 1986 and were completed in the end of 1991.
In 2011 the palace gave home to Hungary’s EU presidency. The baroque theater uniquely in Europe still serve as active performance stage.