Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter (1987) and Andrássy avenue (2002)
There are those who fall in love with the city at first sight and those who only warm to it after a longer relationship, but everyone agrees that it is one of the most beautifully situated towns in the world. The great river Danube cuts the city in two and separates the hills and valleys of the western, Buda side from the flat, Pest side in the east.
The green of Margit Island is a fresh splash of colour in the river, blue in the spring sunshine. There are caves, curative thermal springs and nature preservation areas, all in a bustling city of 2 million. Among the city's monuments you'll find a Roman amphitheatre, a Turkish bath, and buildings in the special Hungarian version of art nouveau.
The World Heritage Site consists of the area on the Buda side between the University of Technology buildings and the Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), including the Gellért spa baths, the Freedom Statue and the Citadel on Gellért Hill, and the buildings of the Buda Castle. On the Pest side the area includes the Parliament building, István Széchenyi Square at the Pest end of the Lánchíd, together with the Hungarian Academy of Science and the Gresham palace. The four bridges over the Danube in this area are also a part of the World Heritage Site.
The settlement of Buda is as old as the Conquest itself (896), but it only started to develop in the 13th century when Béla IV built a castle on the hill for protection against the Mongol attacks. The court moved to Buda in 1347, and at this time the castle was enlarged into a palace in the Gothic style of the time. During the reign of king Matthias it became a dazzling Renaissance royal residence. The town was freed from one and a half centuries of Turkish rule in 1686. The three months of siege caused significant damage to both the castle and the town itself. Based upon the medieval ruins, the rebuilding started in the baroque style.
Budapest was born in 1873 with the unification of Buda, Óbuda and Pest, for which a new, representative royal palace was built. However, the building and the Castle Quarter suffered serious damage during the Second World War. With the clearing up of the wreckage, archaeological digs were begun, and the excavations and restoration of medieval ruins are still going on today. The majority of the buildings in the Castle are historical monuments; the gateways have Gothic seat niches and the carved stone of the rebuilt façades is reminiscent of the Middle Ages.
Today the Buda Castle Palace is the country's most important cultural centre. Here you can find the Budapest History Museum, including some medieval castle sections, the Hungarian National Gallery, the Ludwig Museum and the Széchenyi National Library.
In the centre of the Castle Quarter you can see one of Budapest's best-known buildings, the Church of our Lady or, as it is popularly known, the Matthias Church. It's been a venue for famous events, as several Hungarian kings were crowned here and king Matthias was married here. The first church was built at about the same time as the castle itself, but Matthias enlarged it and added an 80-metre tower. The Turks transformed the church into a mosque, after which followed its rebuilding in baroque style. It gained its present form at the end of the 19th century. The greatest artists of the age worked on the restoration. After this, the Fisherman's Bastion was built in the Neo-Romanesque style upon the medieval castle walls.
Opposite, on the Pest side, stands one of the world's most beautiful parliament buildings. With its length of 268 metres and 96-metre-high dome, it's an imposing sight above the waves of the Danube. Visitors may tour the building in groups, which is worth doing not only for the beautiful interiors, golden decoration, famous frescos and statues, but to see the 1000-year-old crown of the first Hungarian king, Saint Stephen.
The first stone bridge built here over the Danube, the Lánchíd, has become a symbol of the city.
Naturally, Budapest has many more sights to offer, but for those who wish to see a little more of the country, here are a few suggestions.
After the unification of the two cities of Buda and Pest an unprecedented development started in Budapest, the new capital city. This development also coincided with the preparations aiming at the celebration of the 1000 years' anniversary of the Conquest of the Carpathian Basin by the Hungarians. Andrássy Road was built during this period, on the basis of uniform architectural concepts. Three and four-storey residential buildings in eclectic, neo-renaissance style were built along the section of the road starting from the present City Centre. The middle section is wider; the road is divided into three parts which are separated by two promenades, each lined with a double row of trees. The two lanes on the far right and left were originally paved by wooden blocks; members of the privileged classes used them for horse riding. Residential buildings with front gardens and detached villas surrounded by parks make up the third section of the road. The Opera, the Ballet Institute, the old Academy of Music and the corner buildings decorated with graffito in Kodály Circus are the most remarkable buildings along the road. The statues in the semi-circular colonnade in Heroes' Square depict the most prominent kings and rulers of the Hungarian history. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Exhibition Hall are facing each other on the two sides of the Square. The first underground line on the continent runs under Andrássy Road .
Attractions & recommended Excursions:
Budapest - a Royal Spa City: Member of the Royal Spas of Europe or visit www.royalspas.com
From Budapest tourists can reach most of the country in one- or two-day excursions. Staying with the closer destinations, we recommend the Danube Bend. Small towns rich in historical and cultural monuments, interesting museums, picturesque landscapes, hills just inviting you to climb them - north of Budapest both sides of the Danube offer many things to see.
Gödöllő's baroque royal castle was Queen Elisabeth's, Sissi's, favourite residence.
Ráckeve's most significant monument besides the Savoyard castle is the Gothic church. Painted in the style of Byzantine iconography, it is Hungary's only medieval Serbian church.
Visitors arriving in the heat of the summer can refresh themselves at lake Velence. It can be reached in less than half an hour on the M7 motorway.