That Budapest - one of the most beautiful cities in the world – has developed where it is, is not down to some historical accident. Take a look at Gellért Hill, right next to the River Danube as it flows majestically through the centre of the modern city. It was precisely the combination of the relative ease of crossing the River here and the natural protection the hill offered against invasion that decided the earliest settlers it was the ideal place to build a town. The Eravisci, a tribe of highly cultured Celts, had already settled at Gellért Hill in the third and fourth centuries B.C. They worked with iron, decorated their earthenware pots and even minted their own coins. Later, the Romans built a settlement at today’s Óbuda. They called it Aquincum and it was an important station along the limes which ran alongside the River Danube.
The capital city of Hungary, Budapest, was created out of the unification of the separate historic towns of Buda, Pest and Óbuda in 1873. Whilst the area had been inhabited from early times, it was from this date that the city’s expansion into a world capital really began. Budapest is bisected by the River Danube, with the city as much a natural geographical centre as it is the country’s transport hub. Covering an area of two hundred square miles and divided into 23 administrative districts, it is home today to a population of 1.8 million people.
Flowing north to south through the centre of the city is the mighty River Danube. Buda and Óbuda, comprising roughly a third of the total, are situated mainly in the hills to the west, with commercial Pest on the plains to the east. There are three islands – Óbuda Island, Margaret Island and Csepel Island – and nine bridges, two of which carry railway lines.
Budapest possesses a rich and fascinating history as well as a vibrant cultural heritage. Recognizing the unique value of its traditions it has managed to maintain its magic and charm, and is rightly known as the Queen of the Danube. It has also been called the City of Spas, as there are a dozen thermal baths complexes served by over a hundred natural thermal springs.