Perhaps no other capital has played such a dominant role in the life of a nation as Budapest. About 1,7 million people or every sixth Hungarian lives in the capital. It is, from head to toe, a European city. Besides the citizens of many nations, more and more foreigners choose to make Budapest their home. During its long history it was destroyed innumerable times, and its citizens exterminated; yet it has always risen again, evolving and becoming ever bigger and more colorful. Each age has left behind its marks, each rejected and destroyed, but built also, so configuring today's exciting, in places opulent, in other places dingy city.
The Danube, Europe's highway, determines the life of Budapest dividing it into two and yet connecting both sides of the city's unfurling districts.
The Buda hills and the soft inclines of Óbuda on the left bank and the Pest plain on the right bank diversify the city. The islands embraced by the Danube - of which the centrally situated Margaret Island, which contains perhaps the most beautiful park of the city, further enrich this picture.
Not only the Danube, but also the hot springs that spout forth from under the city have had a significant role in the area's development. Though the region has been inhabited ever since the Stone Age, by the Celts coming and settling here the from west, but also by the Avar tribes arriving here from the east, the first city with a significant number of citizens was founded by the bath loving Romans. In the area of today's Óbuda, Aquincum was the capital of their occupied territory of East Pannonia. The Turks who occupied this territory for 150 years constructed numerous baths in the city. A few among them even today await bath lovers.
Budapest was created by the unification the three cities of Buda, Óbuda and Pest in the year 1873.
The royal castle and the castle district define the view of Buda. Most of the residential quarter was built in the 20th century. Buda has played an essential role in the life of the Hungarians since the Hungarian settlement in the 9th century. After the invasion of the Mongols in 1241 the first significant fortress was built here for the protection of the population. Since the middle ages it has been the seat of the kings. Turkish forces, sieges, wars, and finally the embittered battles of the last days of the 2nd World War haven't left much remaining of the former palaces, but even in their ruins they maintain their former glory.
After the withdrawal of the Romans, Óbuda slowly lost its importance. At the time of unification it was a city with industry and commerce, with family homes, but today it has almost completely changed. Not much is left of the charming little town; in its place we find today mostly vast pre-fab housing projects, built in the 1960's and '70's.
The view of Pest on the left bank is dominated by the dynamic economic and social marks of the development of large middle class housing units throughout the 19th century. Despite the wide radial and ring roads of systematic town planning and development, Pest, deals with the traffic demands of the recent threefold population boom only with difficulty.
The unification of the three independent cities was only made possible by building the bridges across the Danube. Before the completion of the chain bridge in the year 1849 only ferryboats and a temporary wooden bridge connected the two banks. At the end of World War 2 every one of the bridges was destroyed. Today seven bridges secure the connection between the two halves of the city. Three of them, Freedom Bridge, Margaret Bridge and Chain bridge, can still be admired in their original beauty.
Even today the building of the city, the redevelopment of the ruined and neglected edifices continues. The economic boom in the years after the recent political changes has given these labors a powerful boost. Our capital - growing into a true "world city" - renews and transforms itself from day to day, greeting those arriving with ever more to see. The past and the present live together in this exciting, bustling city; a mood equally amazing to visitors and those who live here
After long discussion the construction of Parliament began in 1885 according to plans by Imre Steindl. Completed in 1904 it is one of Europe's most splendid Parliament buildings, reflecting its designer's taste and the nation's demands for representation. At the same time it is one of the landmarks of the capital. The neo-Gothic palace is 268 m long and its dome is 96 m high. The outer walls are decorated with statues of Hungarian monarchs and military commanders.
This was the residence of Hungarian kings. The fortification system and palace, built in the 13th century following the Mongol invasion, was destroyed and rebuilt many times, and being renewed from time to time symbolizes the country itself. Built on medieval foundations, the Renaissance structures were destroyed by the Turks. Later, the Baroque Palace burned down, then its reconstructed buildings were damaged during the War of Independence (1848). In the late 19 th century Miklós Ybl oversaw the reconstruction and enlargement of the Palace, which was completed in the neo-Baroque style by Alajos Hauszmann.
This was the coronation church of Hungarian kings since King Matthias. The records of 1247 first mention this church as the main church of Buda Castle. The originally French building in early Gothic style has been consistently enlarged and rebuilt over the centuries. In 1526, when the Turks conquered Buda, the church was transformed into a mosque. After the reconquest of the city (1686) the church belonged to the Franciscans and later to the Jesuits. Between the years 1874 and 1896, Frigyes Schulek completely reconstructed the Church of Our Lady in the neo-Gothic style.
As part of the expansive plans for the reconstruction of Castle Hill in the late 19th century was that segment of the city-wall that stands behind Matthias Church.
Between 1901 and 1905 the existing parts of the fortress were connected by neo-Romanesque corridors, terraces and towers following designs by Frigyes Schulek. The Fishermen's Bastion has become one of the capital's landmarks, offering a panoramic view of Pest.
The Chain Bridge
In 1832, count István Széchenyi, "the greatest Hungarian" began to organize the construction of the bridge. While travelling in England, Széchenyi became personally acquainted with William Thierney Clark, who was commissioned to draft the plans for the bridge, and his namesake Adam Clark was asked to direct the construction , which was finished in 1849. The retreating German troops blew up the Chain Bridge in January 1945. This vital element of Budapest's cityscape was restored on the 100 th anniversary of its inauguration.
The Heroes' Square
The spectacular ensemble of statues erected to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar Conquest is situated at the end of Budapest's most beautiful avenue (Andrássy Street). The monument was designed by Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herczog. Many of the statues representing Hungarian Monarchs and Princes of Transylvania were made by György Zala. At the center of the Monument there is a column surrounded by seven figures - leaders of the seven Hungarian tribes.
The Opera House
The construction of the Opera, completed in 1884, was executed according to plans by Miklós Ybl. An ornate interior and exterior in the neo-Renaissance style serves the needs of the metropolis. Fine art works from leading Hungarian artists decorate the building. The technical equipment was supplied by the Austrian Asphaleia Company. The Opera House was renewed on the occasion of the 100 th anniversary of its opening.
St. Stephen's Basilica
Though Budapest's biggest cathedral is not a basilica in the architectural sense tradition and the authority bestowed by the Pope have earned it this denotation. Its construction was begun in the neo-Classic style but later modified by Miklós Ibl according to architectural models from the Italian Renaissance. Dedicated in 1905, with a dome 96 m high Basilica holds up to 8500 persons. St. Stephen's statue of Carrara marble by Alajos Stróbl stands in the Sanctuary.
The Synagogue in Dohány Street
The Synagogue of Pest is one of the most beautiful and largest in Europe. The Austrian Ludwig Förster was commissioned to design the building which was erected between 1854 and 1859, and displays Romantic and Morisco motifs. The three flat-celling halls of the Synagogue are of equal height. The celling and women's gallery are supported by cast-iron columns, testifying for the structure's advanced technical level. Heroes' Chapel was raised behind the Synagogue in 1931, and the Jewish Museum in 1932.
Construction of the quay at the Pest end of the Chain Bridge began in the 1860s, when sandy and shoaly sections of the quay were embanked. Eclectic-style hotels were erected here not much later. With the new promenade (Korzó) the former neo-Classical city-scape was changed. Together with most of the hotels the Korzó was destroyed in 1944-45. The only surviving hotel was the Bristol, which in 1969 was replaced by the Hotel Marriott. To the north the Intercontinental Hotel was raised in the early 1980s.
The Hungarian National Museum
The Museum was built in 1847 according to plans by Mihály Pollack. Treasures of Hungarian history, including the coronation insignia are displayed here. The staircase of the Museum is adorned by the frescoes of famous Hungarian painters. In the garden, besides the statues of eminent representatives of Hungarian culture, are ancient relics, such as the column from the Forum Romanum. The museum is also one of the symbols of the War of Independence of 1848-49.
Széchenyi and Gellért Bathes
The largest thermal bath of Budapest. The neo-baroque baths were built in 1913. Its thermal springs were discovered in 1879 - they are the deepest and warmest thermal wells in Budapest. It is a vast complex of indoor and outdoor pools, the premier medicinal bath of Pest, situated in the middle of the City Park.
The best-known and most prestigious thermal bath and swimming-pool of Budapest with its famous sparkling bath, open-air pool with artificial wawes and full medical services. It was built in 1918, near Gellért Hill and the Szabadság Bridge. The Art-Nouveau main hall is topped by a vaulted glass roof. The gallery surrounding the pool is supported by monumental Roman-style columns. The spa is decorated with a wealth of original Art-Nouveau furnishings, artistic mosaics, sculptures, and stained glass windows.
The Museum of Fine Arts
To the left of the Millenary Monument stands the Museum of Fine Arts by architect Albert Schickedanz. The neo-Classical building was raised in 1906 and is one of the last great structures in the Hungarian Historic style. The Museum was founded with donations of collections, foremost from the Eszterházy family. The Museum later enlarged its collection with further acquisitions. Most notably, the "Old Picture Gallery" holds masterpieces by Spanish painters like Murillo, El Greco and Goya. It contains also a special Egyptian exhibit.
The Zoo, established and opened in 1866, was enlarged in 1912, when many new animal-houses were built, which today are still the Zoo's most significant pieces of architecture. The main entrance and the elephant-house, richly decorated with ceramics, were made by Kornél Neuschloss. Károly Kós, the outstanding writer and architect who was one of the most important representatives of Hungarian Art Nouveau, also designed some pavilions here. The hippopotamus "Dynasty" living in a thermal pond, is known throughout the world.
It is a white-stoned fortress from the 19 th century on the top of Gellért Hill, crowned by the 14 m tall Liberation Monument, a striking statue of a woman holding a palm leaf of victory. The fortress was built in 1851 by the Austrians as a symbol of their power over the Hungarians after the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence. The Monument was raised by the Russians in 1947. You can enjoy from here a wonderful panorama of the whole city.
This two-and-a-half kilometer long island, one of the popular resting-places in Budapest, got its name after Princess Margaret who lived here in a convent in the 13 th century. The island was inhabited from the 12 th century. Dominicans and Franciscans established monasteries here. From the late 18 th century it became a summer resort for aristocrats and later for the upper middle-class. Medicinal thermal baths and fine restaurants attract thousands of tourists each year.