Budapest – a quick history
Hungary’s capital and largest city, Budapest is a lively and cultural centre with some beautiful architecture – much of the city is now a World Heritage Site. First settled by the Celts, the area which is now Budapest was used by the Romans to build Aquincum. This fortified military base went on to become the main city of Lower Pannonia in Roman times, with houses, amphitheatres and heated baths. Following the defeat of the Holy Roman Empire by Bulgarians in 829, Pannonia became part of Bulgaria, with frontier fortresses built at Buda and Pest on either side of the Danube.
Buda, with its easier-to-defend hilltop position, went on to become the capital of the recently-formed kingdom of Hungary in 1361 but was later occupied by the Turks, while Pest, along with the western part of Hungary, came under Habsburg rule as part of Austria/Hungary. The two cities were finally joined, together with ancient Obuda, to form Budapest in 1873 and became the capital of Hungary.
Buda and Pest retain very different characteristics and styles. Buda is more laid back and now mainly residential, while Pest has become the livelier, commercial centre, home to Parliament and the main business district. Several bridges across the Danube now link the two cities, as well as an underground metro connection.
For more information on the history of Hungary (from a Hungarian perspective), the Hungarian National museum on Muzeum Korut has an extensive and interesting exhibition on the subject, with maps and artefacts. The book “A History of Hungary” by Laszlo Kontler is also worth reading. We felt that the author spent a couple of chapters getting into his stride, but after that the book becomes easier to digest and is a comprehensive history of the country from very early times to the modern day.