Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is one of the largest cities of Eastern Europe. Built on the banks of the River Danube in the northern part of the country, Budapest is an important artistic, cultural, and scientific center. The city is divided into two parts on opposite sides of the Danube: Buda and Pest. Hilly Buda lies on the western bank and the flat plain of Pest on the eastern bank. They were once separate towns and were only merged in 1873.
Budapest is just as much the natural geographical center of Hungary as it is its transport hub. It covers an area of 525 square kilometers (200 square miles) divided into 23 administrative districts and is home to a population of almost two million people. The remains of fortresses and other buildings from Roman times, still operating Turkish baths, baroque and gothic buildings and rich Art Nouveau architectural heritage all give Budapest that exquisite historical atmosphere that attracts tourists from all over the world to discover it. With approximately 100 thermal springs, 12 medicinal baths and almost 72.000 cubic meters (19 million gallons) of thermal water spouting to the surface daily, Budapest is also one of the largest spas in Europe. Despite the spectacular development Budapest has been going through in these last two decades the city still preserves its old charm and magic and the disarming harmony of various architectural styles, the splendid structures, the baths, the cafes, the food and culture and a kayak tour on the Danube all blend into an unforgettable experience for visitors in our hometown.
IN THE PAST
Once named the “Queen of the Danube,” Budapest has long been the focal point of the nation and a lively cultural centre. There is evidence of human settlement on the western bank of the Danube from as early as 2000 BC. One of the first organized settlements on the site, though, was the Roman military camp and civilian town of Aquincum that was established at the end of the 1st century AD at this easy crossing place on the Danube. The Huns invaded in the 5th century AD sweeping out the Romans at the same time but could not stay for long as with the death of Attila they split up and German tribes started to pass through.
The first Hungarians arrived in 896 and settled in the area where our tour terminates. The leader of this first tribe became the first king of Hungary and under his dynasty the country became a christian state about two hundred years later. The development of Buda and Pest along the riverbanks did not really start until the 12th century but the building was almost entirely in vain as the Mongols devastated both towns in 1241. With the rebuilding came three centuries of prosperity while the castle and palaces were erected on Castle Hill. Hungary’s bloody defeat by the invading the Turks meant that Buda and Pest were in Turkish hands between 1541 and 1686 but the city changed very little during this time.
After the Turks the Habsburg dynasty took control and this period is remembered as the age of intensive economic and architectural growth. Following the Agreement of Compromise that was signed in 1867 by both parties of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the twin cities of Buda and Pest officially merged. The next one and a half century brought the extensive remodeling of Pest, an exploding population growth and a never-before-seen financial well-being in Budapest. Unfortunately the first World War extinguished this sparkling energy of abundance and after World War II the city laid in ruins due to the German occupation and the Soviet takeover. Budapest suffered further damage in 1956, when Soviet forces entered it to put down an uprising against the Communist government.
In the late 1980s Budapest became the center of the reform movement that swept through Eastern Europe and led to the fall of the Communist government so a new era of rejuvenation could begin.