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Buda and Pest, the two lovers who were separated by the 'die schone blaue Donau' (the beautiful blue Danube). Dignified Buda, the inspiration of many an artist, is now primarily as a tourist attraction. Westerly Pest is the modern city's pulse. Buda and Pest together make up Hungary's capital city.

Buda, with its hill situation, castle and Citadel (among other things), offers a magnificent view over the Danube and the remainder of the city. On the other side of the Danube you have flat trendy Pest, with the lively friendly city centre. It's the area for full out enjoyment of restaurants, little cafes, terraces and hotels.

The communist era is fortunately now a thing of the past. The watch towers and snipers along the country's borders are no more, but many places in the city still evoke memories of that period. In spite of this, Western influences have made major inroads and as you wander through the city, you'll come across one McDonalds, Burger King or Pizza Hut after another.

Happily plenty of authentic Hungarian restaurants can still be found. You won't come across them in the main streets, but tucked away in small side streets. Enjoy Budapest's carless centre, where it's fun to stroll past all the beautiful buildings.

Must see sights include the Parliament Building, Heroes' Square, carfree Margaretha Island in the Danube, the Citadel, the Castle, the Matthew Church, the countless thermal baths, the museums and the bridges over the Danube.

One last important tip! Buda is for daytime, with masses of culture and old buildings. Pest, with its infinite little bars, cafes and clubs, is for the nights.

History

In 100 AD, the banks of the Danube were populated by the Romans, who established an army camp on the site of what's now the Obuda district. The Romans ruled here for three centuries. Following this different German and Slavic tribes, and later the Huns, settled in Hungary. The forefathers of modern Hungary are the Magyars, who are descended from an Asian ethnic group. They established themselves here at the end of the 9th century and remained until 1301. Hungary subsequently formed part of various European royal houses.

In the 15th century the city blossomed, thanks to a marriage with the Neapolitan Princess Beatrice. As a result of this marriage, the Hungarian Renaissance started to develop. Its development was hampered by the Turks. They had won a major victory in 1526 and many invasions followed. They were finally defeated in 1686 by the Christian Habsburgers. Traces of Turkish rule can still be seen in the magnificent bathhouses.

The unification of the three independent cities of Buda, Obuda and Pest in 1873 resulted in the city of Budapest. Austrian rule brought with it a period of calm and a period of economic, political and cultural well-being. The Habsburgers had the city renovated in the 18th and 19th centuries, and buildings like the Palace were rebuilt. From a large town, the city evolved into a leading European city.

The Habsburg administration ended after WWI. In 1945, after WWII, Budapest was occupied by Russian troops. The subsequent communist rule prompted many demonstrations, including the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. This mass uprising by the people resulted in the toppling of Stalin's statue in Heroes' Square. The uprising was quashed by Soviet troops. Free elections were not held until 1989 and a democratic republic ensued.

Various reforms were carried out in the city following these elections. The urban landscape was changed. These days Budapest is Central Europe's most important crossroads and one of the world's leading cities.