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Budapest if the capital of Hungary and is the joining of 3 cities, Buda, Pest and Obuda (the latter being the first to lose its own identity). The Danube River runs through the middle of it, with Buda being on the west bank and Pest being on the east bank. They are totally different, as Buda is elevated and amongst the hills, while Pest is situated on a large flat plain.
The city has an interesting history dating back to Celtic Tribes who settling in the region. The Romans took over their settlement in Aquincum and made it ‘the capital’ of the Lower Pannonia Region. The original Hungarians first settled in the region in the 9th Century but were invaded by the Mongol Hounds, who ruled for over two years. The Ottoman Empire then ruled the whole region for over 150 years, turning many from Christianity to follow the Muslim faith. Eventually with the help of an army made up of a variety of nationalities, the Turks were forced out of the city and it became a part of the Habsburg Empire. Hungary wanted its independence, so a National Insurrection was started and the Habsburgs were defeated. This started the Austrian-Hungarian Reconciliation period, which brought great wealth to the city as it now had two powerful Monarchy’s working together. This lasted until WW1 & 2, when the German and then The Russian Army’s invaded, leaving Communism instilled into region.
In October 1956 the Communist Government tried to destroy Buda Castle, as it was a symbol of past regimes. When a peaceful demonstration was halted with bloodshed, The Hungarian Revolution had started!! With the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ at the start of the 1990’s, Hungary and especially Budapest had found its own independent voice.
Not a political or military event, but an important one for Budapest, was the building of the Chain Bridge in 1849. Buda & Pest were permanently joined for the first time, as previously people had used boats in the summer and walked across when it iced over in the winter! The Budapest section of the Danube River now has 7 bridges with the unique Margaret Island in the middle.
This Island was named after a ‘young fated princess’ who had to live her short life in a nunnery, as her father had made a promise to God that if the Ottomans left Budapest he would give his daughter to him.
One of the most eye catching features of Budapest is its architecture and building, which some say are the most magnificent in Europe. There are many sights to see and visit, but the following appear to be the most popular;
Buda Castle and Royal Palace is the main cultural and touristic hub of the city, with many historical features and artefacts. The Fisherman’s Bastion is a seven spired portion of the old walls of the castle that were defended by the Guild of Fishermen in the Middle Ages. The Parliament Building, which is one of the worlds biggest and is the home of the Hungarian Grown and Coronation Regalia. Matthias Church, is one of the most famous church’s in Hungary and still has ecclesiastical functions too. The Citadel was built by the Hapsburgs as a former fortification on top of Gellert Hill. It is now a museum and restaurants, but most importantly is has the Statue Of Liberty, which depicts a 40 metre women holding a palm branch, as a symbol of peace. Heroes Square, with its 2 Colonnades, 7 statues and 14 figures is a stunning location and is the gateway to the City Park too. The City Park itself is 302 acres and contains; botanical gardens, amusement park, circus, swimming pool, Vajdahunyad Castle, museums and much more. The Chain Bridge, the most famous of all the bridges, plus it’s historical significance and Lion Statues. Margaret Island, has Parks, Japanese Garden, Sports Complex, Water Tower, Open Air Theatre etc. The Hungarian State Opera House, which was built 130 years ago and is the jewel in the crown of Andrassy Avenue, it has evening performances and daytime tours of its magnificent halls. The Ruins of Aquincum and Museum, which were the early Roman settlement in Budapest. The Great Synagogue in Dohany Street is the largest in Europe and seats over 3000 people.
Don’t just visit the main tourist attraction of the city, explore the lesser known districts and you will discover fascinating locations and more? An interesting show of military training is the ‘Changing of the Guard’ outside the Royal Palace at 12 and 3 pm daily, so it is worth timing a visit there to coincide with it.
The Buda Hills that can be seen form the Buda Castle & Palace District hide many activities; caving, walking, hiking, cycling and even skiing in the winter.
The famous River Danube is important for not only the many tourist trips, bridges and spectacular views, but commercial transport too. Budapest is renowned for not only this piece of water, but the natural thermal springs, spa’s and baths in the city. There are a large variety of venues where you can indulge in a number of treatments, have a swim or just relax. Again, there are many well-known venues for this, but with a few inquiries you can find night spa’s, hot hubs in bars and hotels with their own free ones.
Exploring the city is easy as most parts can be reached with a lengthy walk or by use of the transport system which is very efficient, safe and cheap. One Euro on a tram, will get you from one side of the city to the other and the same cost for the underground Metro service too. The routes are not only sign posted at the ‘stations’ and on the trams and trains too, but there is a verbal system on both! Taxis can also be trusted, unlike several other capital cities around the world, especially at the Airport. Most travellers are wary when entering a new country, but in Budapest, the Taxi Service is superb. Customer Service staff can escort a traveller to a Taxi Kiosk, the destination is calculated and a price given before being shown to a cab.
Getting around easy is important as there are so many bars, restaurants and clubs to choice from. Coffee bars have always been important in the Hungarian way of life, as it is where all the writers would meet, talk, drink, smoke and put pen to paper. In fact, most could not afford paper and used to use the serviettes and then take that to a printer to get published.
An example of finding something different is the Ruin Pubs (Romkocsma as they are known), which are abandoned buildings used as bars and for events, music and movies etc. They have a great atmosphere and are something different that the normal purpose built venues.
Corvin Negyed is in the south of the city centre and is an emerging ‘art district’ of Budapest. It has a tram station and is on the Metro line too. It has Raday and Tompa Streets, which are two of the most cosmopolitan and best eating venues in the city. There is also the Museum Of Applied Arts, Palace of Arts & Convention Centre, House of Contemporary Arts, Budapest Musical Centre, Holocaust Memorial Centre and The Whale (Balna) which is a plaza with bars, cafes, conference centre and art/gifts shops. It also has Corvin Cinema (Mozi) and Corvin Plaza, which is a 4 storey shopping centre, with every type of retail therapy needed. If it’s all just too much, get a relaxing treatment or some products at Gerovital Store next to the shopping centre at the junction of Praater and Kisfalvdi Streets.
Budapest is a major tourist destination, but it is also a busy working capital city too. It manages to combine both, without either getting in each other’s way; in fact they complement each other. This city has amazing worldwide known tourist attractions and it gets millions of tourists, but in the districts and side streets you will discover another city – ‘Find Your Budapest’.