Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement, was the direct ancestor of Budapest, becoming the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Magyars arrived in the territory in the 9th century. Their first settlement was pillaged by the Mongols in 1241-42. The re-established town became one of the centers of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, development of the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification. It also became the second capital of Austria-Hungary, a great power that dissolved in 1918. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, Operation Panzerfaust in 1944, the Battle of Budapest of 1945, and the Revolution of 1956.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, its extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in the world. Other highlights include a total of 80 geothermal springs, the world's largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building. The collections of the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts are also significant.The city ranked 3rd (out of 65 cities) on Mastercard's Emerging Markets Index (2008), and ranked as the most livable Central/Eastern European city on EIU's quality of life index (2009). It attracts over 20 million visitors a year. The headquarters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and the first foreign office of the CIPA will be in Budapest.
Buda Castle (Hungarian: Budai Vár, Turkish: Budin Kalesi) is the historical castle complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, Hungary, first completed in 1265. In the past, it was also called Royal Palace (Hungarian: Királyi-palota) and Royal Castle (Hungarian: Királyi Vár). Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, next to the old Castle District (Hun: Várnegyed), which is famous for its medieval, Baroque and 19th century houses and public buildings. It is linked to Adam Clark Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular. Buda Castle is part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, declared in 1987.Andrássy Avenue
Andrássy Avenue is an iconic boulevard in Budapest, Hungary, dating back to 1872. It links Elizabeth Square with the City Park. Lined with beautiful Neo-renaissance palaces and houses featuring fine facades, staircases and interiors, it was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2002. It is also the home of numerous shops, restaurants, and museums, as well as luxury boutiques including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Armani, D&G, Ermenegildo Zegna and others.
Millennium Underground Railway
The Metro 1 (Officially: Millennium Underground Railway or M1) is the oldest line of Budapest Metro. It is the third-oldest underground line in the world, it was built from 1894 to 1896. In 2002, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site].
This is one of the 4 metro lines in Budapest. The original purpose of the first metro line was to facilitate the transport to Budapest City Park, although the capital always opposed any surface transport on Andrássy Avenue – this has since become one of the most elegant roads of Budapest, part of the World Heritage. The National Assembly accepted the metro plan in 1870 and the German firm Siemens & Halske AG was commissioned for the construction starting in 1894. It took 2000 workers using up-to-date machinery less than two years to complete it. This section was built entirely from the surface (with the cut-and-cover method). Completed by the deadline, it was inaugurated on May 2 1896, the year of the millennium (the thousandth anniversary of the arrival of the Magyars), by emperor Franz Joseph. One of these original cars is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
The train ran along Andrássy Avenue, from Vörösmarty Square (the centre) to City Park, in a northeast-southwest direction, but its terminus was the Zoo (this has since been replaced). It had eleven stations, nine underground and two overground. The length of the line was 3.7 km at that time; trains started in every two minutes. It was able to carry as many as 35,000 people a day (today 103,000 people travel on it on a workday).
Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool
Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool, also called Gellért fürdő or Gellért Baths, are a bath complex in Budapest, Hungary, built between 1912 and 1918 in the (Secession) Art Nouveau style. They were damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt. References to healing waters in this location are found from as early as the 13th century. A hospital was located on this site during the Middle Ages. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, baths were also built on this particular site.
The Gellért Baths complex includes thermal baths, which are small pools containing water from Gellért hill's mineral hot springs. The water contains calcium, magnesium, hydrocarbonate, alkalis, chloride, sulfate, and fluoride. There are two different thermal baths, according to the signs on the walls of the baths, one is around 36°C and the other around 38°C. The thermal baths are decorated beautifully with mosaic tiles. The complex also includes saunas and plunge pools (segregated by gender), an open-air swimming pool which can create artificial waves every ten minutes and an effervescent swimming pool. A Finnish sauna with cold pool and children's pool is also enclosed within the complex. Masseuse services are available.
Gellért Baths also offer a range of medical services.
“In a city of superlative views, some of the most memorable can be had from the landmark Fisherman’s Bastion.”—Adrian Bridge, travel writer, Daily Telegraph. Neo-gothic and neo-Romanesque structure built at the turn of the 20th century; seven towers, walking paths, and unobstructed city views from the terrace. Located on the Buda side, behind Matthias Church on Castle Hill. Fee in summer.
One of the city’s oldest cafés, noted for its fine cakes and pastries. Can be crowded at times, particularly at weekends, but in the summer the spread of its tables reaching into the lively Vörösmarty Square eases the congestion, while providing a fine place for watching the world go by. V. Vörösmarty tér 7.
Dohány utca Synagogue
“A neo-Moorish extravaganza that embodies the confidence and prosperity of the Budapest Jewish community at the end of the 19th century.”—Adam LeBor, Budapest-based author and journalist. Europe’s largest synagogue has a fantastically rich and spectacular, basilica-like interior, with carved pulpits, massive organ, and glittering chandeliers, all fully restored. Fee. Tip: The entrance ticket also gives access to the Jewish Museum next door and the Holocaust memorial courtyard to the rear. VII. Dohány utca 2-8 (corner of Dohány utca and Wesselényi utca).
Hungarian National Gallery
“An outstanding treasure of old and modern Hungarian fine arts of the long ago and more recent past.”—Erzsébet Marton, senior editorial staff member, Múzeum Café. Main building of the former Royal Palace, Castle Hill; tel. +36 1 439 7325.
Several Soviet-era statues and monuments—Lenin, Marx, Engel—were moved here in the early 1990s after the fall of Hungary’s communist regime. Impressive and sometimes, as intended, overpowering works of art. XXII. Corner of Balatoni út and Szabadkai utca; tel. +36 1 427 7500; fee.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Budapest’s largest church houses the Szent Jobb (Holy Right Hand), the mummified hand of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. Organ concerts on Mondays, July-October. Tip: Take the lift to the cupola, from where can be had a grand bird’s-eye view of the Pest side of the city. V. Szent István tér.
One of Europe’s largest spas includes 15 pools for swimming, massaging, and soaking, including year-round, outdoor thermal pools. Neo-baroque building constructed in 1913 and recently renovated. Watch the locals play chess on a table floating in the steamy water. Állatkérti körút 11; tel. +36 1 363 3210.
The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest (Széchenyi-gyógyfürdő) is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Its water is supplied by two thermal springs, their temperature is 74°F/23°C and 77°F/25°C, respectively. The bath can be found in the City Park, and was built in 1913 in Neo-baroque style to the design of Győző Czigler. It is also a station of the yellow M1 (Millennium Underground) line of the Budapest Metro. The bath was named after István Széchenyi.Hungarian National Museum
“Great spirits gave it birth at the same time as the British Museum and the Louvre were established.”—Erzsébet Marton. Permanent exhibition about Hungary’s history with English descriptions. VIII. Múzeum körút 14-16; tel. +36 1 338 2122.
State Opera House
Top performances in one of the most sumptuous opera buildings in the world. Gustav Mahler was the director for three years from 1888. Prices still relatively low by international standards. VI. Andrássy út 22; tel. +36 1 331 2550.
Academy of Music
“Hungarian cultural heritage in a nutshell … pupils of founder Liszt were teachers of Bartók and Kodály, whose pupils now teach here.”—Judit Petrányi, freelance journalist. The Academy’s concert hall plays host to outstanding musicians from Hungary and around the world. VI. Liszt Ferenc tér 8; tel. +36 1 462 4600.
Palace of Arts
“Its superb acoustics make it one of the most sought after concert venues in the country.”— László Harkányi, editor, Fidelio music program guide. IX. Komor Marcell utca 1; tel. +36 1 555 3001.
Budapest Spring Festival
March. A long-established annual cultural event involving top-class Hungarian and foreign artists. Takes place over several days in March, particularly in the second half of the month. The varied program includes ballet, music, opera, theater, and folk dance performances as well as special exhibitions.
Mid-August. Budapest’s version of Woodstock is central Europe’s largest pop/rock/world music festival. Staged on Óbudai Island.
Summer on the Chain Bridge
July-August. On summer weekends the Chain Bridge closes to traffic at each end of the bridge. Free, live music performances ranging from classical to jazz and ethnic, take place trhroughout the day.
Festival of Folk Arts
Mid-August. Displays and sales of folk art and crafts from different regions of Hungary. Held in the Castle District.
Jewish Summer Festival
Late August to early September. Concerts, films, book displays, food days, and exhibitions celebrating Budapest’s Jewish culture and community. Held in the city’s main synagogue and elsewhere.
Fonó Budai Zeneház
“The key venue for all folk musicians and dancers.”—László Harkányi. Mostly Hungarian, Gypsy, Balkan, and klezmer, with occasional Irish, Indian, and Cuban nights. XI. Sztregova utca 3; tel. +36 1 206 5300.
Trafó Kortárs Művészetek Háza
“The place in Budapest to see contemporary dance and avant-garde theater, local and from elsewhere. A place to dance, watch, and be seen.”—Alenka Dorrell, dance teacher, American International School of Budapest. IX. Liliom utca 41; tel. +36 1 456 2040.
Intimate jazz club, performing and visual arts venue, and a friendly tearoom in one. Comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. XII. Ráth György utca 4; tel. +36 1 214 0676.
AirportBudapest Ferihegy International Airport, which has 3 passenger terminals: Ferihegy 1, which tends to serve the many discount airlines now flying to and from Budapest, Ferihegy 2/A and Ferihegy 2/B. Terminal 3 is planned to be built. The airport is located to the east of the centre in the XVIII. district in Pestszentlőrinc.
Budapest is the most important Hungarian road terminus; all the major highways end there. Budapest is also a major railway terminus.
Ring road M0 around Budapest was recently completed and allows people to go around Budapest from East to West and from North to South, however there is no way from West to North - you must go around to the South.
Budapest public transport is provided by BKV, the company operates buses, trolleybuses, trams, suburban railway lines, the metro, a boat service, a cogwheel railway and a chairlift, called Libegő.
Budapest's tram network is extensive, and reliable despite poor track infrastructure and an ageing fleet. Routes 4 and 6 combined form the busiest traditional city tram line in the world, with the world's longest passenger trams (54-metre (177 ft) long Siemens Combino) running at 60 to 90 second intervals at peak time and 3–4 minutes off-peak and usually packed with people.
Day services operate from 4:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. each day. Night traffic (a reduced overnight service) has a reputation for being excellent.
There are three metro lines and a fourth is currently under construction. The Yellow line, built in 1896, is one of the oldest subway lines in the world, following London Underground and the Istanbul Metro that were built respectively in 1863 and 1875.
Beside metros, suburban rails, buses, trams and boats, there are a couple of less usual vehicles in Budapest:
- trolleybus on several lines in Pest
the Castle Hill Funicular between the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle
cyclecar for rent in Margaret Island
the Budapest Cog-wheel Railway
The latter three vehicles run among Buda hills.
Hungarian main-line railways are operated by MÁV. There are three main railway termini in Budapest, Keleti (eastern), Nyugati (westbound), and Déli (southbound), operating both domestic and international rail services. Budapest was one of the main stops of the Orient Express until 2001, when the service was cut back to Paris-Vienna. There is also a suburban railHÉV. service in and around Budapest, operated under the name
The river Danube flows through Budapest on its way to the Black Sea. The river is easily navigable and so Budapest has historically been a major commercial port (at Csepel). In the summer months a scheduled hydrofoil service operates up the Danube to Vienna.