Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue
Budapest, Including The Banks Of The Danube, The Buda Castle Quarter And Andrássy Avenue
Cultural Hungary Europe And North America Budapest

Within the unified perspective of an immense urban panorama the Danube is the dividing line between two cities, which were quite separate originally: Buda on the spur on the right bank, and Pest in the plain on the left bank. Human occupation of both sites is extremely ancient as it can be traced back to the Palaeolithic period;Celtic populations also established themselves here, attracted by the abundance of thermal springs. But the historic importance of the city is certainly prior to the medieval period, when the two urban developments received their present names. It dates back to the foundation of Aquincum by the Romans, the capital of Lower Pannonia, one of the border provinces of the Empire in the 2nd century AD.

Aquincum played an essential role in the diffusion of Roman architectural forms in Pannonia, then in Dacia. Remains of Aquincum and of the camp Contra Aquincum have been revealed by archaeological excavations on both sides of the river and can be seen today, together with a few arches of the aqueduct which supplied the Roman colony, but the present city did not develop on the ruins of the ancient city.

After the Hungarian invasion in the 9th century, Pest became the first medieval urban centre, only to be devastated by the Mongol raids of 1241-42. A few years later the castle of Buda was built on a rocky spur on the right bank by Bela IV and the inhabitants of Pest found shelter within its fortified outer walls. The castle is an architectural ensemble illustrating two significant periods of history separated by an interval corresponding to the Turkish invasion. Buda Castle played an essential role in the diffusion of Gothic art in the Magyar region from the 14th century.

The history of Buda became closely identified with that of the Hungarian monarchy and followed their changing fortunes. There was a brilliant period, corresponding with the Angevin dynasty, from the reign of Charles-Robert (1308-42) to that of Sigismund of Luxembourg (1382-1432). After the end of Hungarian independence, a second golden age coincided with the reign of Matthias Corvinus (1458-90), the humanist king who not only founded the university, the library and the royal printing office, but also attracted Italian architects, sculptors and painters, making Buda one of the main centres of Renaissance art in Europe.

After the city was ransacked by the Turks in 1526 and its final fall in 1541, the two original cities were rebuilt and led a semi-lethargic existence until 1686. Recovery did not really begin again until the 18th century, when the Empress Maria Theresa and the Emperor Joseph II took an interest in the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary: the city was then influenced by late Baroque architecture, soon to be supplanted by the more sober lines of discreet neoclassicism. In the 19th century, the city's role as capital became enhanced by the foundation of the Hungarian Academy (1830), after 1862 housed in a neo-Renaissance palace, and especially by the construction of the imposing neo-Gothic Parliament building (1884-1904). The parliament is an outstanding example of a great official building on a par with those of London, Munich, Vienna and Athens. It exemplifies the eclectic architecture of the 19th century, while symbolizing the political function of the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Since 1849, W. T. Clark's suspension bridge has symbolized the reunification of Buda and Pest (which did not become official until 1873).

With the Union of Pest and Buda in 1873, Budapest truly became the nation's capital, developing at a faster rhythm than earlier. The symbol of this development is the radial Andràssy Avenue. There had been no attempts at organized urban development since the Middle Ages, and the Hungarian capital needed to make up for this lack in a single great leap in terms of public services, transportation, and city planning. The route of the avenue cut straight through an unregulated suburban area, thereby radically transforming its urban structure. The Siemens and Halske companies built the first underground railway on the European continent there in 1893-96. This also led to the construction of a memorial on Heroes' Square (1894- 1906), the development and extension of the landscape garden, the development of the Szechenyi Baths as an establishment for spa culture, and the Vajdahunyad Castle that displayed the different periods of Hungarian architecture.