Budapest – A City on Two River Banks
Forbes described Hungary’s capital as one of the world’s most idyllic places to live in, and many agree that it also deserves a spot in the top ten most beautiful cities to visit. Budapest began its existence as a Celtic settlement, and later became the capital of Lower Pannonia during the Roman rule. It was only around the year 900 that the Hungarians reached this territory.
A Mongol invasion in the 13th century resulted in the destruction of the first Hungarian settlement, which determined King Béla VI to build reinforced walls around Buda and Pest, the two towns that would later become one city. He also ordered the construction of a large and sturdy royal palace for himself, set on the hills of Buda. The magnificent construction, called Buda Castle, is a main tourist attraction today and it is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city.
The 15th century was marked by the gradual occupation of the city by the Ottomans, who stayed there until 1686, and who were followed by the Habsburgs. During the Austro-Hungarian era, Budapest was the capital of a twin monarchy, and it enjoyed a significant phase of development. In 1849 Buda was connected to Pest by the first permanent bridge across the beautiful Danube River: the Chain Bridge. After this, the unification of the two cities was the natural thing to do, and it finally happened in 1873.
This decision was followed by prosperity and the erection at a dizzying pace of many majestic buildings and bridges. One of them was the amazing Hungarian Parliament Building, with 700 rooms, representing one of the oldest and largest legislative buildings in Europe. Another notable monument in the young metropolis was built in 1896 to mark one millennium of Hungarian presence in the area: the Hősök tere or Heroes’ Square.
As a tourist, you should also visit the three public baths that were built by the Turks and which are still in use today. If you like to go even further back in history, the ancient Roman remains of the Aquincum city await you. The Romans also built public baths in the city, taking full advantage of the many thermal water springs that still flow and attract visitors today. The 123 springs push out therapeutic waters with temperatures that range from 78 to 168°F.
Lovers of the Art Nouveau style will love the Danubius Hotel Gellért with its thermal water-based spa and pool. If you appreciate music, then a night at the neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera House is a must-do while you stay in Budapest. However, the main attraction of the city is probably the Fisherman’s Bastion with Moorish-style towers over a neo-Romanesque construction.
Before you leave the fabulous capital, don’t forget to enjoy a good cup of coffee in one of the many chic cafés that evoke the Austrian influence over the city. The best choice: New York Café, often referred to as the world’s most beautiful coffee house.
- If you are looking for plush accommodation, you should try Danubius Hotel Gellért, but there are also many other world-class options to choose from.
- Budapest is best if you visit it in spring and summer.
- When you look for souvenirs, don’t forget to buy some delicate china, beautiful silverware, a bottle of Tokay wine and a bottle of barack pálinka, which is a traditional apricot brandy.
- If you like to discover new foods, don’t hesitate to try the famous Hungarian Goulash!