Introduction to Budapest
For visitors to Hungary’s capital, Budapest, it should come as no surprise that this scenic and evocative city was dubbed ‘Paris of the East’. Like the famed romantic French capital, Budapest is similarly endowed with the beautiful bridges, sweeping historic buildings and world-renowned sights that conjure a wistful longing and inspiration for lovers, poets and musicians. Look a little closer at these heritage monuments and you’ll see they bear the shrapnel marks and battle-hardened edge of a city that’s been under siege throughout its long history.
This is a city that suffered under 2 brutal regimes in the 20th century alone, during what’s known as the ‘double occupation’ of Nazi-led fascism and then the Soviet era. That’s not to mention earlier incarnations as a Roman fortress, conquests by invading Mongols, Turks and then an amalgamation with Austria under the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. In 1873, Buda, Pest and Óbuda were unified to create the city of Budapest. In 1989, Budapest emerged from the shadow of the former Soviet Union and joined the European Union in 2004.
To know Budapest’s chequered history is to understand this city of now 1.74 million (and 3.3 million in the metro area). The quality of life in Budapest is among the best in Eastern Europe as evidenced by the country’s fast-paced growth as an emerging market, and this once sad city is now buoyed by youthful optimism. It’s a city where ‘ruin pubs’ beautify abandoned buildings, young and old enjoy the traditional pastime of soaking in hot thermal springs and summer music festivals rock scenic city islands.
With such varied architectural beauty from Gothic to Art Nouveau, poignant history, evocative sights and a burgeoning culinary, creative and tourist hotspot, there’s never been a better time to visit this Eastern European gem before everyone else discovers it!