Budapest is the country's political, commercial, cultural, industrial and transportation centre. Budapest has 1.8 million inhabitants and the commuter area is home to 3.3 million people. The city has an area of 525 square kilometres.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was united in 1873 from three towns: Buda, Pest and Óbuda. Buda is the hilly part, while Pest is completely flat and Buda and Pest are divided by the river Danube.
Budapest is also known as the Queen of the Danube or the City of Spas.
The extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in the world (the first one on the continent of Europe). Other highlights include a total of 80 geothermal springs, the world's largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building.
Budapest is rich in thermal water; there are a dozen thermal baths, served by more than a hundred natural thermal springs.
The most famous spas are the Gellért, the Széchenyi and the Rudas, which are not just for relaxation but also unique historical monuments and touristic attractions.
The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest bath in Europe. It was the first spa in Pest. The bath was built in 1913 in Neo-Baroque style, according to the plans of Győző Czigler. The temperature of the two thermal springs that supplies water is 74-77 °C/165-171°F.
There are three big islands in Budapest, the Óbuda Island, the Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) and the Csepel Island. The Óbuda Island is the venue of one of the largest summer festivals in Europe, the SZIGET Festival. The one week long festival is held annually in August since 1993. http://www.szigetfestival.com
Budapest's largest public park, Margaret Island is a popular recreational area, an ideal place for sports. The island received its name after Saint Margaret (1242-1270), the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary. Saint Margaret lived in the Dominican convent on the island. Since the 1988, cars cannot enter the island; only a single bus line and taxis are allowed to enter. On the northern end of the island a car park houses the cars of the visitors.
There is an excellent rubber-coated jogging track going around the island (5350 meters, marked by every 500 meters).
The most important places to visit
THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
(Open: Thu–Sun: 10.00-17.30)
The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest is one of the most significant museums of Europe. It received prominent ranking thanks to the collection of the exhibited masterpieces, diverse materials and to the historical continuity. The Museum of Fine Arts houses the relics of universal art from the ancient times to the present. Such world famous works can be seen here as Esterhazy Madonna from Raphael, the paintings of El Greco, Velázquez and Goya. Every Thursday the museum is open until 10 pm. awaiting its visitors with special programmes, guided tours and a Jazz Salon.
HUNGARIAN NATIONAL GALLERY
(Open: Thu-Sun: 10-18h)
The Hungarian National Gallery is the largest public collection documenting and presenting the rise and development of the fine arts in Hungary. It has operated as an independent institution since 1957. The HNG moved to its present location, the former Royal Palace of Buda, in 1975. Permanent exhibitions are Mediaeval and Renaissance lapidarium; Gothic wooden statues and tableaux; Late Gothic winged altars; Renaissance and Baroque art; The art of Mihály Munkácsy and László Paál; 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture.
HOUSE OF TERROR
(Open: Thu:-Fri: 10-18h, Sat:-Sun: 10-19.30h)
The "House of Terror" is now recorded as a museum, but in two shameful and tragic periods of the 20th century Hungarian history it was the house of terror in reality. In 1944 it was operated by the Hungarian Nazis; and between 1945 and 1956 by the ill-famed Communist terror organization ÁVO and its successor, ÁVH (State Security Authority). The museum commemmorates the victims of the dictatorship. The multimedia exhibition presents the two periods of Hungarian terror in chronological order in relation with the history of the house.
HUNGARIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
(Open: Thu:-Sun: 10-18h)
The collections of the first museum of the country contains world famous pieces of arts, among them the coronation mantle, one of the symbols of the Hungarian state. The permanent exhibition presents the periods of Hungarian history from the establishment of the state up to 1990. The new modern archaeological exhibition tells us the history of the people in the Carpathian basin from 400.000 BC till 804 AD. Guided tours in English, German, Italian and French are available.
THE ART GALLERY
(Open: 10-18h,12-20h on Thursday)
The exhibition hall on Heroes' Square was erected in 1896 for the millennium celebrations, and was designed by Albert Schikedanz. The Art Gallery (Műcsarnok in Hungarian) is a highly significant exhibition hall in Hungary for contemporary arts. The mission is to mediate, present and influence Hungarian and international trends and phenomena in the contemporary visual arts. At five to six major exhibitions annually they present renowned local and foreign contemporary artists.
Hősök tere (meaning "Heroes' Square" in Hungarian) is one of the major squares of Budapest, Hungary, rich with historic and political connotations. Its iconic statue complex, the Millennium Memorial, was completed in 1900, the same year the square was named "Heroes' Square". It lies at the end of Andrássy Avenue (with which it comprises part of an extensive World Heritage site), next to City Park.
It is worth visiting here the Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery, the Vajdahunyad Castle, the Budapest Zoo and the famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
DEÁK FERENC SQUARE
The Deák Ferenc square (Deák Ferenc tér) is a major intersection and transport junction in Budapest. The three lines of the Budapest Metro each have a station under the square, creating the system's only transfer station. Deák Ferenc tér is a popular gathering for young people. Excellent bars and pubs are waiting for the guests and it is common for Deák Ferenc tér to be populated until the midnight hours.
ST. STEPHAN’S SQUARE & ST. STEPHAN’S BASILIC
St. Stephen's Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It is named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c 975–1038), whose right hand is housed in the reliquary. It was the sixth largest church building in Hungary before 1920. Today, it is the third largest church building in present-day Hungary.
The St. Stephan's Square offers a wide selection of excellent restaurants, bars and pubs. It is worth taking a long walk in the cosy narrow streets around the square.
Lajos Kossuth Square is situated on the bank of the Danube. Its most notable landmark is the Hungarian Parliament Building.
Similar to the Palace of Westminster, the Parliament Building is in the Gothic Revival style; it has a symmetrical facade and a central dome. Also from inside the parliament is symmetrical and thus has two absolutely identical parliament halls out of which one is used for the politics, the other one is used for guided tours. The main façade faces the River Danube, but the official main entrance is from the square in front of the building. Inside and outside, there are altogether 242 sculptures on the walls. When entering the Parliament, visitors can walk up great ornamental stairs, see frescoes on the ceiling and pass by the bust of the creator, Imre Steindl, in a wall niche. Other statues include those of Árpád, Stephen I and John Hunyadi.
One of the famous parts of the building is the hexadecagonal (sixteen-sided) central hall, with huge chambers adjoining it: the Lower House (today the National Assembly meets here) and the Upper House (until 1945). The Holy Crown of Hungary, which is also depicted in the coat of arms of Hungary, has been displayed in the central hall since 2000.
Szabadság Square (Szabadság tér) has one of the loveliest parks in downtown Budapest. The square is surrounded by some beautiful and significant buildings, including the U.S. Embassy. Opposite the Embassy is the former Stock Exchange, home to the Hungarian Public Television (MTV) for decades. The building was recently sold, MTV moved to a new location, and according to plans it will be converted to a shopping/residential complex. The Hungarian National Bank, the central bank of Hungary (founded in 1924), is also located here.
Szabadság Square, a calm green spot in the middle of the city, is also a favorite with kids, as there are two playgrounds and a fountain on the side of the park.
Dísz square is the central square of the Buda Castle District. The most important places to visit can easily be reached from here: the Buda Castle, Sándor Palace (the home of the hungarian president), the Castle Theathre and the Fishermen's Bastion.
The Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, first completed in 1265.
Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District (Várnegyed), famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and 19th-century houses, churches, and public buildings. It is linked to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular.
The castle is part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, declared in 1987.
Named after a favorite patriotic Hungarian poet, Mihály Vörösmarty Square is centrally located and easy to reach from most areas of Budapest, making it an ideal location for shopping or just strolling.
Vörösmarty Square is one of the busiest places in the downtown section of Budapest. This area is a hubbub of activity, boasting stores, airline offices, antique shops, and several other retailing establishments, one of the most popular being the long-established Luxus Department Store. It is also the start of the city's most famous shopping street, Váci Utca.
Another always-busy attractions on the square is the Gerbeaud House, a wonderful old-fashioned pastry shop owned by a Swiss family whose yummy delights have thrilled patrons for years. The cafe's traditions go all the way back to 1858. It's ornately decorated with marble tables and beautiful wall coverings and is large enough to hold about 300 customers at a time. Be sure to stop here for coffee and pastries!
On another side of the square, you'll find the Vigado or concert hall, built in 1859-64, based on the designs of Frigyes Feszl (1821-1884) and thought to be an excellent example of Hungarian Romantic architecture. The hall has played host to many of the world's most famous musical artists for more than a century.
A new building, housing a garage, shops and restaurants, offices, and luxury apartments recently opened on the square as well.
Andrássy Avenue is an iconic boulevard in Budapest, Hungary, dating back to 1872. It links Erzsébet Square with the Városliget. Lined with spectacular Neo-renaissance mansions and townhouses featuring fine facades and interiors, it was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2002. It is also one of Budapest's main shopping streets, with fine cafes, restaurants, theatres, and luxury boutiques.
Váci utca (Váci street) is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares and perhaps the most famous street of central Budapest. It features a large number of restaurants and shops catering primarily to the tourist market.
Among the retaliers located here are: Zara, H&M, Mango, ESPRIT, Douglas AG, Swarovski, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Nike. The street opens to Vörösmarty Square.