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History of Budapest, Hungary

he land which was settled by the founding Hungarians had been inhabited territory since pre-historical times. According to findings the Carpathian basin was already home to early man half a million years ago. In the middle paleozoic era human settlements existed in the countryside around the middle area of the river Tisza. In the neolithic age the people of the Korösi culture had already begun cultivating the land using cut stone instruments. The findings from the copper and bronze ages bear witness to the fact that at that time people were already living in tribal communities in this region were familiar with the four-wheel wagon pulled by oxen they kept domesticated animals could weave and spin and made dishes out of clay.

In the early iron age Thracians moved from the river Tisza to the east and Illyrians moved from the Danube towards the west. The latter erected huge earthworks against the Scythians and later against the Celts arriving from the west. In the first centuries A.D. the Romans who had conquered the Celts took control of part of the country which stretches from the Danube to the west and it became a province of the Roman Empire named "Pannonia". The Roman leadership created a developed prosperous civilization for four centuries: today most of the cities of western Hungary can trace their origins back to their Roman predecessors. Sopron and Szombathely (Scarbantia or Savaria) developed into a significant settlement on the "Ivy Road" stretching from the Baltic to Italy. Pécs' predecessor was the Roman city Sopianae and the ancestor of today's Budapest Aquincum was a large city by the Danube with plumbing sewers steam baths fair halls and two amphitheaters. The city of Aquincum was built in the territory of what is now Óbuda (3rd district). Near it and also in the area of the Downtown Church - the former border of the Roman Empire - on the Pest side opposing forces were also built: Trans Aquincum or Contra Aquincum. The chief town which probably got its name from the Celts (ak ink = wide water) was the first predecessor of today's Budapest and according to findings had quite a developed life. In addition to finding residential houses and shops excavations brought to light the existence of water pipes and a sewage network paved roads public baths two amphitheaters and defensive works. These beautifully preserved remains constitute a quite significant sight of the capital city.

After the Romans the Huns eastern Goths Longobard and Avar conquerors then the Hungarians' princely tribe settled permanently here and made use of the remains of the Roman buildings. The military power of the empire created by the Huns forced Roman legions to withdraw in the beginning of the fourth century A.D.

Their settlement became truly significant after the destructive Mongol invasion of 1241-1242 when King Béla gradually moved the capital from Esztergom to the more favorably located and defendable Buda. Certain 13th century remains of the walls of the new royal capital on the castle hill turned up during the building of the Military History Museum and Organization courtyard. Since this time the Castle Hill and its surroundings bear the name Buda whose origin was from an ancient Hungarian personal name. The older settlement located to the north of Buda and developed above and around the Roman city came to have the name Óbuda. The settlement which developed on the Danube's left bank which was virtually destroyed at the time of the Mongol invasion and later rebuilt was named Pest - the name probably of Slav origin. It first appeared in written form in 1148 and its inhabitants were mostly merchants and handicraftsmen many of whom had come from foreign lands. Through their work and building the three settlements began to flourish especially under King Zsigmond who became the major patron of the cities. He built a splendid palace on the Castle Hill whose existing "Knight's Hall" we can still admire today.

Under King Matthias Buda became even richer in buildings as a result of the building spirit - not only of the king but also of the nobles and the growing citizenry. Pest was also encircled by city walls whose remains are still visible today in certain parts of the Small Boulevard (Kiskörút). After Matthias' death the country was weakened by feudal anarchy and by the suppression of the peasants' uprising led by Dózsa György.

After the lost battle of Mohács in the year 1526 the Turkish powers conquered a large portion of the country. The first Ottoman - Turk occupation of Buda was only temporary (1526 - 1529) and in 1530 Buda was unsuccessfully besieged by the armies of the Austrian Habsburg Emperor Habsburg Ferdinánd who asserted a right to and owned a part of the country. In 1541 the Turks permanently occupied the city by ruse and kept it under their power until 1686. The Turks settled down in the still existing buildings their only new buildings being public baths (certain parts of Rudas Rác Király and Császár baths can still be seen today). Buda became the capital of the new Turkish domain and outsiders moved in among its residents. The Habsburgs unsuccessfully besieged Buda's castle on several occasions and because of the sieges and neglecting to maintain them the three cities gradually died out. Especially great damage was caused by the final siege beginning in 1686 during which virtually the entire Christian world collaborated to repossess Buda Castle. The gunpowder stored under the royal palace blew up and destroyed not only the palace but also a section of the city. It was practically only ruins which the Hungarian and foreign troops could repossess.

The old citizenry had also greatly diminished so the Habsburgs brought many Germans to live in the three cities and their surrounding areas. The view of these cities' historical parts was decisively dominated by the Baroque-Rococo and Neoclassic-late Baroque and thereafter by the classical and romantic style in rebuilding and remodeling which was interrupted only for a relatively short time by the war of independence from the oppressive Habsburg rule led by II. Rákóczi Ferenc to regain the country's former liberty. This rapid development broke off for a time because of the fight for independence in 1848-1849.

The failure of the fight for independence and the oppression which followed it interrupted the new capitalistic economic development which was a result of the influx of Austrian capital the development of a manufacturing industry built on cheap labor and the great rebuilding of railways. Beyond our borders political and war circumstances paved the way by 1867 for the compromise between the nation and the Habsburgs. The political and economic stabilization which ensued brought about the unification of three historical cities' - Buda Óbuda and Pest - in 1873. The new city had the name Budapest.

The new era of construction - public and apartment buildings bridges and modern local transportation - had begun:

1830: Horse drawn omnibus
1866: Horse drawn tram
1870: Funicular
1874: The cog-wheel railway (the 3rd in the world)
1887: Tram
1896: Underground railway (the first on the continent)

The streets began to be paved - first with rocks and cobblestones then with asphalt.

After 1850 construction began on the new water sewer and later gas and electricity systems. The artistic literary and theatrical life also expanded and painting experienced its golden age. The high quality of musical artistry was marked by the works of Liszt Ferenc and Erkel Ferenc. The progress of the capital was interrupted by the trials and failures of the First World War in 1914-1918. After the entry into the second World War there were several peaceful demonstrations against the war - in 1941 by the eternal flame of Batthyányi and at the graves of Kossuth and of Táncsics then in 1942 at the Petofi statue. By 1944 much of the capital lay in ruins first by RAF bombings which followed the NAZI occupation then during the long siege Budapest became the scene of street fights as well. After the liberation on February 12 1945 scarcely a house was left intact and the city's pride its bridges were all blown up by the NAZIs.

The reconstruction restored and even outshone the old familiar look of the city with its building and investments. From a governmental standpoint another decisive change took place: on January 1 1950 the surrounding cities and other settlements were connected to Budapest and Greater Budapest came into existence with 22 districts (currently 23) in place of the old 10 later 14. The Metro system new colleges theaters museums and sport arenas were built. The combination of favorable natural characteristics and millennia of building created this Budapest which the world's travellers rightly consider one of the most beautiful capitals of the world. In 1987 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the Buda Castle Quarter Gellért Hill the Parliament and the Downtown Church together with the bridges connecting them to its world cultural heritage list because of their exceptional value and rare beauty as part of the city scene. The borders of the extended area that connects the significant parts of the capital belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage are the following:

- the banks of the Danube between Margaret and Petofi Bridges along with the entire Margaret Island - the squares opening onto the Danube in the north from Katona street to Petofi Bridge on the Danube bank from Gellért Hill to the Castle Hill along with the Water Town and further on the Danube bank along Fo street and Frankel Leo street to Komjádi street.

Budapest with its natural characteristics monuments developed system of hotels relatively favorable prices sports establishments health services and medicinal baths fondly welcomes tourists and business-people arriving here.



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