Seven bridges weave together the two sides of the Danube River into Hungary’s refined capital city. Nicknamed the Pearl of the Danube, Budapest regularly ranks among the world’s most beautiful cities -- and it’s an easy claim to make, considering its magnificent medieval, baroque and Habsburg architecture, genteel boulevards, green spaces and the broad Danube itself. Popular attractions include Castle Hill -- the oldest part of the city and site of the monumental Buda Castle (Royal Palace), the Hungarian National Gallery and a variety of other museums -- and Margaret Island, a spacious park with outdoor spas, rose gardens and outdoor opera and ballet performances.
The Danube River runs through Hungary's Capital, splitting the city into two sectors. On the east bank is Pest and on the west bank is hilly Buda. Pest comprises almost two-thirds of the city's area, but the older Buda features an elevated 13th century castle and government buildings overlooking the Blue Danube.
What is now Budapest in north central Hungary originated as a trading center, was developed under the Romans, sacked by Goths and Huns and occuped by Turks for 150 years until the latter 17th century. Budapest enjoyed its hay-days from 1867-1918 as the Danube's premier port and twin capital (with Vienna) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That industrial and population boom was enhanced by a cultural atmosphere that saw, for instance, Bel Bart¢k and Gutav Mahler teaching at the Academy of Music.
Since World War I, Budapest has struggled through various identities -- from a large capital of relatively small Hungary, to Cold War Soviet satellite, to the center of the 1956 anti-Communist uprising. It is now a post-industrial European capital trying to catch up with the West.
Home to over two million people, Budapest boasts a thriving cultural scene in more ways than one. No stranger to change, fast food franchises now occupy most sides of Budapest's venerable Oktogon intersection. Yet, one can still enjoy old world elegance, strong coffee, and perhaps a chat with a local artist at the downtown Caf? M?v?sz.