Budapest – with the majestic Danube in the middle. Buda, with its romantic atmosphere on one side, and Pest, a dynamic cultural center on the other. One would have to be sharp to find another city in the world with such beautiful natural settings, rich architectural and historical heritage, offering an unparalleled combination of culture, fine cuisine and thermal baths. The Buda side with its historical thermal baths and the Royal Palace, the Matthias Church and the zigzagging alleys encompassing the Castle District emanates a sense of tranquility. On the other hand, thanks to its rich museums, the Parliament, the Great Market Hall, St. Stephen’s Basilica (surrounded by pedestrian streets) and the inspiring atmosphere of the ‘Jewish quarter’, Pest offers a bustling, vibrant scene.
The Hungarian capital deserves to be called a city with a living history. As a spa city, Budapest is more than the sum of its bathing facilities, as it offers a unique blend of Roman, Turkish and European bathing cultures. Budapest is no longer limited to restaurants, outdoor terraces and coffee houses, but rather features a cuisine consisting of a blend of traditional Hungarian flavours and the latest dining trends. Budapest is also a peaceful meeting point of religions and cultures, a coexistence of the spiritual heritage of East and West. Budapest is a melting pot of wide-ranging subcultures making it worth a visit, as it’s a familiar and safe metropolis with a human face that also offers a wealth of novelties, experiences and surprises for open-minded visitors.
Inhabited since Roman times, later destroyed by Ottoman troops and Austrian cannon. It was in the Reform Era (1825-1848) that the city experienced its first development boom, when, among other buildings, the Hungarian National Museum and the Chain Bridge connecting the two shores of the Danube were constructed. It was in 1873 that the three cities finally united, leading to a pace of development which was virtually unmatched in Europe. The period before the First World War truly was a Belle Époque, a period of “happy peacetime”, as the Hungarians called it.
The city’s parks were built, along with the elegant Andrássy Avenue and the Opera House. In honour of the millennium of Hungary’s foundation, Europe’s second underground railway was built between Heroes’ Square and the Secessionist Museum of Applied Arts; new bridges were built after the Chain Bridge to connect the two banks of the river, while the Parliament Building was constructed at a tremendous expense and using an enormous labour force. According to foreign travellers of the day, it seemed at that time that everyone was living in the coffee houses. The city’s concert halls were packed every evening, the newly-built train stations were welcoming in the city’s new citizens, while the neighbouring cities were cranking out manufactured goods.
The 20th century did not hold much good in store for it, as many citizens died during World War 2 and in the course of the 1956 revolution. A great part of the original buildings were destroyed, but the city almost miraculously rose up again. It is true however that bullet holes, traces of many battles, can still be seen on the walls of some of Budapest’s buildings. One of Budapest’s main attractions is its truly unsurpassed architectural diversity: the houses in the Buda Castle area were mainly built in the Baroque period, while the streets of downtown Pest are marked by eclectic apartment buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, along with Secessionist and modern buildings. Meanwhile, traces of Budapest’s Roman past can be discovered throughout the city, as well as the legacies of the Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries and of Socialist Realist architecture of the 20th century. It is an exciting medley, just like the cultural activities that the city offers. Today, Budapest is a metropolis of approximately two million people, and is waiting to be discovered.
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Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. Its capital, Budapest, is bisected by the Danube River. Its cityscape is studded with architectural landmarks from Buda’s medieval Castle Hill and grand neoclassical buildings along Pest’s Andrássy Avenue to the 19th-century Chain Bridge.
Turkish and Roman influence on Hungarian culture includes the popularity of mineral spas, including at thermal Lake Hévíz.