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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Budapest Travel Guide
Budapest Travel Guide and Budapest Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
Budapest is a city that is going places. Communism is well and truly history – the young are keen to adopt Western European values, while remaining in an obsessive relationship with Hungary’s fascinating past. The traditions and history of the Magyar people are still very important, as is the ubiquitous mobile phone.

The key to Budapest lies in its history, marked by alternate periods of great wealth and prosperity and some devastating eras of political and social upheaval. Repeated warfare was inevitable due to the strategic location of Budapest, spreading out on either side of the River Danube (Duna) in the heart of Europe, offering a defensive position and potential control of Central Europe’s main waterway.

The Magyars view their history not in black and white but in gold and silver. The first Golden Age coincided with the reign of Renaissance King Matyás (1458-90). The second Golden Age was symbolised by the 1896 Millennium celebration in Városliget (City Park) and the Silver Age was the 20th-century inter-war period, when the likes of Evelyn Waugh and the Prince of Wales frequented Budapest’s spas and casinos.

Balanced against the good times, however, there is the Turkish victory over the Hungarians in 1526, the Hapsburg rule that continued to deprive Hungary of its autonomy until 1867, the devastation caused by World War II and Russian control, only lifted in 1989. These significant events have turned the Hungarians into a flexible and resilient race, proud of their national heroes – Count István Széchenyi (1791-1860), responsible for the first bridge across the River Danube, and the poet Sándor Petofi, remembered for his revolutionary Nemzeti dal (National Song), read on the steps of the National Museum on 15 March 1848.

The modern Budapest was born during 1873, when Buda, Óbuda and Pest were officially joined. Today, the city is composed of 23 districts (kerületek), each designated on maps, street signs and addresses by Roman numerals. Buda and Pest still remain distinct, however, creating an interesting west bank-east bank contrast. Hilly Buda is situated in the west, with its narrow cobbled streets and mixture of medieval and neo-classical buildings almost totally reconstructed after World War II. Flat Pest lies to the east, with its wide boulevards and Art Deco styles. The city is a mixture of Turkish, Venetian, Empire and Art Nouveau in a mosaic of mismatching styles. Perhaps the Hilton Hotel combines the oddest example, with its 13th-century Gothic church, 17th-century façade and gleaming modern glass and concrete.

Budapest has a continental climate, with extreme differences in temperature between the winter and the summer months. Snowfall is frequent during winter and rain is fairly common all year round.

Two and a half million people live in this cosmopolitan city, making Budapest the political, intellectual, commercial and cultural capital of Hungary.

Hungary joined the EU in May 2004 and the streets of the capital are sure to get more crowded as Westerners discovers the charms of a city that not only boasts beautiful architecture but also offers visitors top attractions. The Hungarian Tourist Board is doing a lot to promote the country abroad, and Budapest is already proving increasingly popular as a business destination… it won’t be long until leisure travellers follow.