In the interest of expediency, here are some excerpts from the Lonely Planet – Central Europe chapter on Hungary and Liechtenstein:
There’s no other Hungarian city like Budapest in terms of size and importance. Home to almost 20% of the national population, Hungary’s capital is the nation’s administrative, business and cultural centre; everything of importance starts or finishes here.
But it’s the beauty of Budapest – both natural and constructed – that makes it stand apart. Straddling a gentle curve in the Danube, the city is flanked by the Buda Hills on the west bank and the beginnings of the Great Plain to the east. Architecturally, it is a gem, with enough baroque, neoclassical, eclectic
and art nouveau elements to satisfy anyone.
Strictly speaking, the story of Budapest begins only in 1873 with the administrative union of three cities that had grown together: Buda, west of the Danube; Óbuda (Buda’s oldest neighbourhood) to the north; and Pest on the eastern side of the river. But the area had already been occupied for thousands of years.
The Romans built a settlement at Aquincum (Óbuda) during the first centuries of the Common Era. In the 1500s, the Turks arrived uninvited and stayed for almost 150 years. The Habsburg Austrians helped kick the invaders out, but then made themselves at home for 200 more years.
In the late 19th century, under the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the population of Budapest soared. Many notable buildings date from that boom period. The 20th century was less kind. Brutal fighting toward the end of WWII, with Hungary on the losing side, brought widespread destruction and new overlords, this time the Soviets.
The futile 1956 revolution left thousands dead and buildings that to this day remain pockmarked with bullet holes. Thankfully, those times feel long gone. With Hungary a member of the European Union, Budapest is once again a sophisticated capital of a proud nation with a distinctive heritage.