BUDAPEST

Early Budapest

In the 1st century AD the Romans conquered parts of what is now Hungary. The history of Budapest begins with the Roman town of Aquincum, which was founded around 89 AD on the site of an old Celtic settlement, near Obuda. Aquincum became the capital of the province of lower Pannonia from 106 AD until the end of the 4th century. However in 409 the Huns captured the town. The region was then ruled by different people until the Magyars conquered the area in 896. Then in the late 12th century the towns of Buda and Pest started to form.

The region was devastated by the Mongol invasion of 1241. However, Buda and Pest soon recovered and in 1244, Pest was given a royal charter, however, in the late Middle Ages Buda became the capital of Hungary. In 1541 the Turks captured Buda and held it until 1686 when the Austrians captured it.

In 1689 Buda and Pest suffered a severe outbreak of the bubonic plague, and it returned in 1711. However, the late 18th century was a time of prosperity for both Buda and Pest.

Modern Budapest

During the 19th century Buda and Pest continued to grow and prosper. The Lutheran Church was built in 1808. In 1849, the Chain Bridge was constructed. Today, there are 7 bridges and 2 railway bridges in Budapest. All except for one, were destroyed during World War II. Later they were rebuilt and restored to their original style. The Great Synagogue was built in 1859 and the Great Market Hall opened in 1864.

In 1867 the Habsburg monarchy was transformed into the Austro Hungarian Empire, and Hungary was given a large degree of autonomy. In the booming economic development after the revolution and the creation of the dual monarchy, Buda and Pest were being developed into a European capital. Independent cities Pest, Buda and Obuda were merged into one city called Budapest in 1873. In 1896 the first metro line opened.

After World War I (1914 – 1918), the Austro Hungarian Empire collapsed and Hungary became an independent state. In the postwar period, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and under the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the Hungarian monarchy was restored. By the end of World War II, in 1945, Budapest was captured by the Russians who imposed a communist tyranny. In 1956, an anti-communist and anti-Soviet rebellion occurred. The revolt was brutally suppressed, and the then Hungarian Prime Minister was sentenced to death.

Major changes in the political life of Hungary came about at the end of 1989. There was greater freedom in organizing and political actioagreement on the withdrawal of the Soviet army was signed and the state changed its name to the Republic of Hungary. Communists lost power as Hungary became a member of NATO and the European Union.

Today Budapest is a thriving city with a population of 2 million people.The town has spread out on the banks of the Danube River, and is administratively divided into 23 districts, 16 of which are located on the Pest side, 6 in Buda and 1 on Csepel Island in Danube. Buda extends to the hills on the west bank of the Danube and Pest on the left bank of the river in the lowlands. In Buda, the 235 m high hill ,Gellért-hegy, rises from the river bank and offers a remarkable views over the whole city. 

BUDAPEST

Situated along the Danube River in Hungary. The heart of the Carpathian basin, Budapest is made up of the suburban Buda and the Dynamic Pest. While Buda offers Roman ruins, castles and caves, Pest is home to riverside promenades, cafes, antique stores and flea markets. The city is uniquely known to be rich in thermal water.

Budapest is one of the most photogenic cities in Europe. The dramatic skyline that Budapest is most famous for is peppered with 19th-century architectural wonders alongside the Danube River. Notable landmarks include the majestic riverside Parliament Building and a collection of stunning basilicas.

Once called the “Queen of the Danube,” Budapest has long been the focal point of the nation and a lively cultural centre. The city straddles the Danube (Hungarian: Duna) River in the magnificent natural setting where the hills of western Hungary meet the plains stretching to the east and south.

Hungary’s capital, is bisected by the River. Its 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. A funicular runs up Castle Hill to Buda’s Old Town, where the Budapest History Museum traces city life from Roman times onward. Trinity Square is home to 13th-century Matthias Church and the turrets of the Fishermen’s Bastion, which offer sweeping views.

1. Vaci Street

Famous shopping street with cafes and restaurants - behind the Budapest Marriott hotel. 

2. Chain bridge:

The Chain bridge is easily Budapest’s most famous bridge that connects Buda and Pest. The Chain Bridge was built in 1849 with its official name István Széchenyi. If you’re sightseeing in Budapest, start your morning on one side and walk across the Chain Bridge to the other side. We highly suggest seeing the Chain Bridge at night. It makes for some great night photos.

3. Buda Castle & Castle Hill:

Take the Funicular or bus 16 to the top of the hill. The funicular first opened in 1870, is the second oldest funicular of its kind in the world. A system of weights and counterweights is used to help to raise the carriages up and down the hill. The funicular is the fastest way to get to the top of Castle Hill and is exceedingly popular because of its panoramic views out across the Danube.

4. Fishermans Bastion Bronze equestrian statue:

Although the Fisherman’s Bastion looks like a medieval monument, it was actually built in the early 20th century in a neo-Gothic style, specifically to act as a panoramic viewing platform across the Danube, Margaret Island and Pest. It is named after the Guild of Fishermen, which was responsible for defending that stretch of the city walls during the Middle Ages. The seven towers of the Bastion represent the seven Magyar tribes that helped to settle the Magyar people in the Carpathian Basin. Come at sunset to see a particularly beautiful view of the city.

5. Matthias Chruch - Church of Our lady,

Matthias Church is over 700 years old and one of the oldest buildings in Buda. This gothic style cathedral with a colorful tiled roof is one of the cities best sights. Inside the church is just as beautiful with high vaulted ceilings and ornated decorations throughout.

6. Hospital in the Rock WWII Bomb shelter & nuclear bunker cave complex:

This is the Hospital in the Rock, a once-secret subterranean complex that was first built as an emergency facility during World War II, before again welcoming the wounded amid Hungary’s 1956 Revolution, and then being converted into a clandestine nuclear bunker that stood waiting for the final countdown that never came throughout the remainder of the Cold War. 

7. Buda Castle 18th-century Palace:

The Buda Castle is at the top of Castle Hill, and the complex is home to the Buda Castle (formerly Royal Palace), National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum. The Castle was home to the Hungarian kings was completed back in 1265. The Buda Castle was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. The best way to explore the castle is on a guided tour, 2-hour Castle tours can be booked online. The grounds are open 24 hours a day but Buda Castle hours are the same as the museum Tuesday- Sunday 10 am-6 pm. 

8. Parliament Buildings:

The Hungarian Parliament Building, the worlds 3rd largest parliament building, which was designed and built in the Gothic Revival style, is one of the largest buildings in Hungary, and is home to hundreds of parliamentary offices. Although the impressive building looks fantastic from every angle, to see the whole building in its full glory, it is worth viewing it from the other side of the Danube. Tours of certain areas of the building are available daily, and run in different languages. You will need identification to get in, and your bag may be searched on entry.

9. St. Stephens Basilica Cathedral:

This basilica is one of the most important religious buildings in Hungary, and visitors to the reliquary can see the right hand of Stephen, first King of Hungary. As this is a holy site, visitors who plan on entering the church are asked to keep their knees and shoulders covered. Those with a head for heights can travel up to the base of the dome and look out over the city. On a clear day, this is a great vantage point from which to survey Budapest from the air.

10. Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial:

The “Shoes on the Danube Bank” is a memorial to honor those who were killed by the Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. There are 60 pairs of shoes placed on the ledge in memory of 3,500 people who were forced to take off their shoes and were literally shot the edge of the water where their bodies were swept down the river.

11. Danube Promenade:

The Danube Promenade stretches from the Elizabeth Bridge to the Chain Bridge, and is perfect for those who want a short, but interesting walk. Promenading along the Danube is a great way to see many of the most famous sights in the capital. Looking over towards to Buda side of the river, you will see the Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion. On the Promenade side of the river you can enjoy restaurants, cafes, Szechenyi Istvan Square and a range of different sculptures, including the Little Princess. 

12. Gellert Bath:

One of the grandest spas in the city is the Gellert Bath and Spa centre, which includes an open-air pool (which turns into a wave pool), an effervescent swimming pool, a Finnish sauna, and a range of other saunas and plunge pools. Massages and other spa treatments are also available at an extra fee. The complex was originally built between 1912 and 1918 in an Art Nouveau style, but it sustained serious damage during World War II. The whole spa was extensively renovated in 2008 to bring the baths back to their former glory. The baths are open all week for mixed bathing.

13. Citadella Fortress:

The Citadel, which sits atop Gellert Hill, was constructed by the Hapsburgs following the failed Hungarian War of Independence. It was thought that its prime strategic position would make it easy to control both Buda and Pest, should any future uprisings occur. Troops were stationed at the Citadel until 1897. Soviet forces once again used the fortress to control the city during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and tanks which were situated there fired down on the city.

14. Heroes' Monument:

Heroes’ Square which marks the end of Andrássy Avenue is home to an iconic monument which features depictions of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, who are believed to have led the Hungarian people from central Asia to the Carpathian basin. Atop the central pillar is the Archangel Gabriel, who is holding the Hungarian crown. At either side of the central column are two matching colonnades, which depict a variety of other historical Hungarian figures. The impressive buildings at either side of the square are art galleries. Take care when crossing to the statue, because traffic around the monument can be erratic. 

15. Ruin Bars:

My favourite - if you are looking for something more contemporary in Budapest, without a doubt, it is the ruin bars. They resemble makeshift bars inside dilapidated pre-war buildings furnished with furniture assembled from clearance sales and exuding an inexplicably cool atmosphere. They have taken Budapest by storm. Szimpla Kert is Budapest's iconic ruin bar.  

16. UNESCO World Heritage Metro line:

Embark on a timeless journey along the line of Continental Europe’s very first underground, running under many of Budapest’s most imposing monuments to play a vital part in the city’s history and present-day life. The fabled yellow Metro 1 cars glide and screech from downtown Vörösmarty Square through low-ceilinged tunnels beneath the length of grand Andrássy Avenue – stopping at classically decorated stations with white-tiled walls and steel support beams lined with metal rivets – before concluding just past City Park.

UNESCO World Heritage Site — was built in 1894.

17. The Great Market Hall:

The Great Market Hall in central Budapest is Budapest’s most famous marketplace. Whilst many locals still use the market hall as a place to buy their groceries, the market is incredibly popular with the tourists too. Locally grown fruits and veg, and locally sourced meats are found on the lower floors, and souvenirs including lace, chess sets and leather goods are available in the upper floors. As well as individual ingredients, it is possible to pick up homemade local delicacies like goulash and langos from the food stall upstairs. Food include fruit, vegetables, salami, sausages, bon bons, paprika and goose liver pate, etc.

18. Liberty Statue:

The Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill is one of the few prominent Communist statues which remained after the transition to democracy, in part because of its iconic location overlooking the city. The statue was first erected in 1947 to commemorate the Soviet troops who lost their lives liberating the country, however the engraving was later changed so that it commemorated “all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”. The panoramic views from underneath the statue are unparalleled, and help to make the walk to the top of the hill well worth it.

 

Fishermans Bastion bronze equestrian statue

Buda castle and Buda Hill

Ruin Bar

Fishermans Bastion

Budapest Marriott Hotel

(Situated on the river with the best views of the river and the castle)

1. Walk the city on foot.

2. Use the Subway.

The yellow line is a UNESCO World Heritage line.

3. Catch the Tram.

Line 2 is also a UNESCO World Heritage line.

Tickets are HUF 350 pp (Forint)

4. On way Danube River Cruise Tour.

Menza Hungarian Restaurant:

Rated exeptional. Must make a reservation. Try their famous goulash soup and beef stew with noodles.

Langos:

Yeast based dough deep fried in oil topped with sour cream & cheese.

Palinka:

Traditional Hungarian fruit brandy - different fruits & flavours.

The Memorial to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (bullet holes)