Budapest is the largest city and capital of Hungary. It lies on the River Danube, in the northern part of the country, near the border with Slovakia. About 1,708,000 people live in Budapest. The city consists of two main districts—Buda (on the west bank of the Danube) and Pest (on the right bank).
In about 10 bc the Romans established a settlement called Aquincum on the present site of Buda. The Pest district developed around another Roman town. Both cities were destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241. In 1247 King Béla IV of Hungary brought many people from Germany and other countries to live in the Pest district and established the city of Buda. Buda became the capital of Hungary in 1361, while Pest became a leading commercial centre.
Both Buda and Pest continued to grow during the 18th and 19th centuries and in 1873 they were united into the modern city of Budapest. After World War I, Budapest became the capital of independent Hungary. During World War II, after a 50-day siege, the city was occupied by the Soviet army on February 13, 1945. Budapest suffered serious damage during the siege. All the bridges were destroyed and about a quarter of the city’s buildings were left in ruins.
BUDA AND PEST
The communities of Buda and Pest are linked by six bridges over the River Danube, including one of the largest suspension bridges in Europe, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Buda stands on a series of hills, the most famous of which is Castle Hill. Castle Hill is the site of the Royal Palace and Matthias Church. A palace was first built on the site in the 13th century, but was later destroyed and has since been rebuilt many times over the centuries. The Royal Palace buildings now house the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Matthias Church has a Gothic spire and multi-coloured tiled roof. The nation’s kings were crowned there. Also in Buda are the ruins of the Roman city of Aquincum. Many traces of the ancient civilization can still be seen, including the remains of a large amphitheatre, villas decorated with mosaics and the stone pillars of the aqueduct. Nearby are more than 120 hot springs, which have been developed into several spa resorts that are popular with tourists as well as local people.
Pest stands on a plain on the east bank of the Danube. Many attractive buildings, tree-lined avenues and wide squares are found there. Pest is the site of the Houses of Parliament (opened in 1896), the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Justice, the Custom House, the Opera House and the National Museum. In Pest’s Jewish Quarter is the Budapest Central Synagogue—the largest synagogue in Europe, with enough seats for 3,000 worshippers. The main manufacturing districts and the docks are also located in Pest.
As well as an extensive network of bus, train and tram routes, Budapest has a fast, modern underground railway (metro) system. The oldest part of the metro network was built in the 1890s—it was the first underground railway to be built in continental Europe. There is an international airport to the south-east of the city. The Danube is important for transporting commercial goods on barges and pleasure boats take tourists to and from many of the famous landmarks that can be seen from the river.