Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is a vibrant city with a storied past, a dedicated to arts and culture and a resilient spirit that reflects in it’s remarkable architecture, lengthy history and renewed vigor and quality of life. When planning your next trip to this intriguing city, be sure to consult this article filled with Budapest facts that will aid you in seeing everything this powerhouse of a city has to offer. Budapest should be on your European bucket list.
Sharing a border with Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, Hungary is a landlocked country in central Europe with a population of over 9 million, almost 2 million of which reside in the capital city of Budapest, making it the most populous city of Hungary. Situated on each side of the Danube River, the hills of western Hungary transition into the sprawling plains to the east and south, giving this capital city a unique and varied topography.
One interesting Budapest fact is that this city was originally three different cities! Prior to unification by Habsburg rule during the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1873, the cities of Buda, Pest and Óbuda. It was during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that Budapest was declared a co-capital alongside Vienna, Austria, resulting in the rich culture and love of music that Vienna is also well known for.
The first known settlement in the area of modern-day Budapest was built by the Celts prior to 1 AD and later settled by Romans. The Roman settlement was a fortified military camp, but during their time in the area, the Romans also constructed roads, theaters, bathhouses and manors with heated floors courtesy of the vast underground hot springs that run under the city of Budapest. The settlement later became known as the Roman city Aquincum for this reason, deriving from the latin prefix ‘aqui’ which roughly translates as having to do with water, another interesting Budapest fact that not many people know. This Roman city is one of the best preserved of all the Roman settlements in Hungary. The site has been turned into a large open-air museum, where visitors can wander through the ruins and visit the museum sections indoors to view artifacts and preserved paintings dating back to the original Roman settlement.
After unifying with Austria during the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1873, Budapest became an important global city and hub of trade. One of the most surprising of the Budapest facts is that this city remains to this day the center of most travel in Europe, since all roads and railways in Europe lead to this city due to its central location! The Austro-Hungarian Empire lasted until 1918, when it collapsed shortly after World War I.
Due to its central location and vast history, Budapest has over 4.4 million international visitors every year! As a cultural hub and historic destination, Budapest is home to well over 100 museums, galleries, and exhibition spaces. This is in addition to the large amount of theaters and concert venues. There are over 40 in the city in addition to the older opera houses and outdoor venues, another Budapest fact to consider when planning your trip here.
Budapest is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A fun Budapest fact to consider when traveling here is that a number of them can be seen from the popular Danube River cruises and tours, including the Danube Vista as well as the Old Castle District. Another popular world heritage site located in Budapest is the Trinity Square, which is home to the over 700 year old Mathias Church. Similar in age to the Royal Palace, these locations have been the site of many coronation ceremonies, dating back to before the occupation by the Turkish Empire, when the church was whitewashed and turned into a mosque. Another popular and protected site within the city of Budapest is Andrássy Avenue. This tree-lined avenue was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 and is today home to many designer stores including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, gaining this street the nickname the “Champs-Élysées of Budapest”.
In addition to the museums, galleries and theaters that draw visitors from around the world, Budapest is also home to one of the largest music festivals in the world! Every August, a week-long musical celebration is held on the Shipyard Island, also known as Hajógyári sziget in Hungarian, from which it derives its name; the Sziget Festival. One of the Budapest facts to keep in mind when planning to visit this festival is the overwhelming crowds. Over 400,000 people from every corner of the planet descend on this city to enjoy the festival!
One Budapest fact that will help with this congestion and traffic is that their public transport system is one of the best, and oldest, in all of Europe. In fact, the oldest underground railway system in all of mainland Europe calls Budapest home! The Millennium Line, so called for its creation on the millennium of Hungary’s Conquest, was built in 1896 as a way to quickly ferry people from the City Center to the festival grounds at City Park. Budapest has a large amount of municipal parks that cater to the residents of this city, including playgrounds for children and seasonal activities such as swimming, boating, skating and hiking. In addition to the parks, other green space can be found in the form of forests, streams and lakes that are set aside as natural areas and preserved by the complex park system and the Budapest City Gardening Ltd. The largest of the parks is City Park, which includes the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden which were established in 1866. At the entrance to City Park stands Heroes’ Square, a popular destination for tourists visiting Budapest. One interesting Budapest Fact is that this Square contains dozens of statues commemorating the accomplishments of many notable historic figures for the city of Budapest and the country of Hungary, including statues that display the original founders of Hungary from around 800 AD!
Not all parks commemorate a positive period in Hungary’s history. One of the more sobering Budapest facts is that they were under Communist rule as part of the Soviet Union from 1949 till 1989. Szoborpark, or Memento Park, is a large open-air museum and garden space filled with all of the statues and plaques that were torn down around Budapest after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Visitors can walk through the space and marvel at statues of Lenin, Marx, Engels and many other Hungarian Communist leaders before entering the indoor museum commemorating the Communist period and its fall.
Despite this dark period, remnants of which still remain in the architecture and parks, Budapest still holds true to its roots as an international trade hub and the center of Europe. In fact, one of the most surprising of Budapest facts shared in this article is the fact that Budapest is the northernmost holy place of the Islamic religion, a small chapel mosque that was built between the years 1543 and 1548 during the Turkish and Ottoman Empire. Not only was this a place of pilgrimage for Muslims, but also people of Jewish faith. Another surprising fact is that this city was a destination for mass Jewish immigration, so much so that it earned the nickname “Judapest” and remains to this day the home of the largest synagogue in all of Europe and the second largest synagogue in the world. Covering over 21,000 square feet, the Dohány Street Synagogue can accommodate up to 3,000 worshipers at a time and remains a target of pilgrimages from around the world.
In addition to all of the above, by far the most popular of all destinations in Budapest are the thermal hot springs that fill the city. One of the most astounding of all the Budapest facts is that this city has more hot springs that any other capital city in the entire world! Over 123 known thermal springs exist, which accounts for the dozens of medicinal baths that pepper the city. The culture of bathing and thermal springs as a medicinal treatment dates back to the Roman times and was later influenced by the Turks. Tourists and locals alike delight in this bathing culture, relaxing and soaking in the thermal waters that are infused with minerals and remain a toasty 170 degrees fahrenheit year round. Another interesting Budapest fact is that the largest spa complex in all of Europe can be found in Budapest. An astounding 1.6 million gallons of hot water flows through the Széchényi Thermal Bath every single day!
Budapest is a robust and vibrant city, with ancient origins and a storied past. These Budapest facts should help you when planning your visit to this city, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. With a history dating back so far and such a tumultuous journey to become the modern-day metropolis it is now, there are still so many discoveries to be had. The best thing to do is go there and discover the many other exciting Budapest facts for yourself!
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