advertisement

Budapest, being the capital, is the largest city in Hungary with 1.7 million people within the city proper. However, if the greater Budapest metropolitan area is included, this figure climbs to 3.27 million inhabitants. The metropolis is separated into 23 districts, 6 in Buda, 16 in Pest, and one consisting of Csepel Island making it seem like an immense city at first glance, but the majority of districts are residential and not of interest to most travelers.

Budapest from Three to One -- Budapest officially became one city with the unification of Buda, Pest, and Obuda on November 17, 1873. One contributing factor was the building of the Széchenyi lánchíd, commonly known as the Chain Bridge. This was the first connecting bridge over the Danube in Budapest. It was named for Count Széchenyi who was a major financial supporter of the project. The story goes that Széchenyi was on the Pest side of the river when he received word that his father was on his deathbed. Due to a major storm, Széchenyi was unable to get a boat to traverse the river for a week, thus missing seeing his father one last time before he died. He vowed this would never occur again. Not only did the bridge have practical implications, but it also aided the cultural and economic advancements of the people.

Interestingly, William Tierney Clark, the engineer who designed the Marlow Bridge across the river Thames in Marlow, England designed this bridge as well. Both bridges are similar in design. Construction of the bridge was supervised by a Scottish engineer, Adam Clark, though they were not related. On the Buda side of the bridge is a turnabout named Clark Adam tér. The bridge officially opened in 1849. Its center span of 202m (660 ft) was the largest in the world at that time.

On the ends of the bridge are sculptures of lions, added in 1852, producing a humorous folk legend. When a group of schoolchildren were brought to view the lions and the bridge, the sculptor who was in attendance bragged about the lifelike details of his lions. One child pointed out that the lions did not have tongues. The sculptor was upset over this missing detail; he jumped to his death into the Danube. Of course, this is only a legend as the sculptor lived well into old age.

Budapest is also home to the oldest metro line in continental Europe, the second oldest in the world after London. It has the second-largest Parliament building in Europe, again being beaten only by Westminster in London. The Dohány Synagogue is the second-largest working synagogue in the world after Temple Emanu-El in New York City. Budapest has the world's largest cave system of thermal water with 80 geothermal springs running below it. Széchenyi Thermal is the largest medicinal bath complex in Europe.

Modern-day Budapest is difficult to encapsulate; there are daily changes with international designer stores opening on Andrássy út to the continued construction of Metro four, the newest metro line in the city. The construction has caused public transportation to be rerouted forever on a temporary basis. Margaret Island is a little more difficult to access these days. The Margit Bridge is under reconstruction that will last for the next 2 years, causing the trams to bypass the stop completely.

Did You Know. . . ?

  • A network consisting of 10km (6 1/4 miles) of tunnels, built in the Middle Ages for military purposes, lies underneath Buda's Castle District.
  •  

  • Budapest did not become a unified city until 1873, when Pest, Buda, and Óbuda merged. A bridge crossing the Danube prompted this momentous decision.
  •  

  • Budapest is the site of the first underground metro line in continental Europe, which you can still ride today (the Yellow line). It was built for, you guessed it, the millennium celebration. So where was the very first metro built? London. The third was in Boston.
  •  

  • The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, stationed in Budapest, saved thousands of Jews from Nazi deportation by issuing fake passports and setting up safe houses, only to disappear himself into the Soviet gulag after the city's liberation. He was never heard from again. Petitions sent to the Soviet government requesting the opening of their secret records regarding Wallenberg's fate have fallen on deaf ears.
  •  

  • The retreating Nazis blew up all of Budapest's bridges in the final days of World War II. They have all been reconstructed since then as close to their original designs as possible.
  •  

  • The Red Army liberated Pest from Nazi occupation on January 18, 1945, but did not manage to liberate Buda until February 13.
  •  

  • The longest "basket handle" bridge was opened in Dunaújváros, Hungary, in 2007. Being 308m (1,010 ft) long, beating the previous record holder, Osaka, Japan by 60m (197 ft).
  •  

  • On St. Stephen's feast day and national holiday, Sunday, August 20, 2006, a major storm came from nowhere, destroyed trees and cars, and caused five deaths. On Sunday, August 19, 2007, another major storm whipped up the city, but a worse storm came through on Monday, August 20, 2007.
  •  

  • If you ride either the 4 or 6 trams from beginning to end in either direction, you will have ridden the longest tram route in the world in the longest contiguous tram in the world.
  •  

  • Matches that were safe and non-poisonous were invented in 1836 by Hungarian János Irinyi.
  •  

  • The oversized "noodles" used in many Hungarian recipes are thought to date back to the 9th century, when fighters needed to cook a quick meal.
  • Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.