Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it serves as the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation center and is considered an important hub in Central Europe. In 2008, Budapest had 1,702,297 inhabitants, down from a mid-1980s peak of 2.1 million. The Budapest Commuter Area (or Greater Budapest) is home to 3,271,110 people. The city covers an area of 202.7 square miles within the city limits. Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with a unification on 17 November 1873 of right-bank Buda and Óbuda with left-bank Pest.
Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement, was the direct ancestor of Budapest, becoming the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Magyars arrived in the territory in the 9th century. Their first settlement was pillaged by the Mongols in 1241-42. The re-established town became one of the centers of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, development of the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became an alpha world city after the 1873 unification. It also became the second capital of Austria-Hungary, a great power that dissolved in 1918. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, Operation Panzerfaust in 1944, the Battle of Budapest of 1945, and the Revolution of 1956.
Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, its extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in Europe. Other highlights include a total of 80 geothermal springs, the world's largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building. The collections of the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts are also significant.
The city ranked 3rd (out of 65 cities) on Mastercard's Emerging Markets Index in 2008, and ranked as the most livable Central/Eastern European city on EIU's quality of life index in 2009. It attracts over 20 million visitors a year. The headquarters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and the first foreign office of the CIPA will be in Budapest.
The first settlement on the territory of Budapest was Ak-Ink (English: Abundant Water) built by Celts before 1 AD. It was later occupied by the Romans. The Roman settlement - Aquincum - became the main city of Lower Pannonia in 106 AD. The Romans constructed roads, amphitheaters, baths and houses with heated floors in this fortified military camp.
The Hungarians led by Árpád settled in the territory at the end of the 9th century, and a century later officially founded the Kingdom of Hungary. Research places the probable residence of the Árpáds an early place of central power near what became Budapest. The Tatar invasion in the 13th century quickly proved that defence is difficult on a plain. King Béla IV of Hungary therefore ordered the construction of reinforced stone walls around the towns and set his own royal palace on the top of the protecting hills of Buda. In 1361 it became the capital of Hungary.
The cultural role of Buda was particularly significant during the reign of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. The Italian Renaissance had a great influence on the city. His library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collection of historical chronicles and philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century, and second only in size to the Vatican Library. After the foundation of the first Hungarian university in Pécs in 1367 the second one was established in Óbuda in 1395. The first Hungarian book was printed in Buda in 1473.
The Turkish occupation lasted for more than 140 years. The Turks constructed some fine bathing facilities here. The unoccupied western part of the country became part of the Habsburg Empire as Royal Hungary.
In 1686, two years after the unsuccessful siege of Buda, a renewed campaign was started to enter the Hungarian capital. This time, the Holy League's army was twice as large, containing over 74,000 men, including German, Croat, Dutch, Hungarian, English, Spanish, Czech, Italian, French, Burgundian, Danish and Swedish soldiers, along with other Europeans as volunteers, artilleryman, and officers, the Christian forces reconquered Buda, and in the next few years, all of the former Hungarian lands, except areas near Temesvár, were taken from the Turks. In the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz these territorial changes were officially recognized, and in 1718 the entire Kingdom of Hungary was removed from Ottoman rule. The city was destroyed during the battle. Hungary was then incorporated into the Habsburg Empire.
The nineteenth century was dominated by the Hungarians' struggle for independence and modernization. The national insurrection against the Habsburgs began in the Hungarian capital in 1848 and was defeated a little more than a year later.
1867 was the year of Reconciliation that brought about the birth of Austria-Hungary. This made Budapest the twin capital of a dual monarchy. It was this compromise which opened the second great phase of development in the history of Budapest, lasting until World War I. In 1873 Buda and Pest were officially merged with the third part, Óbuda (Ancient Buda), thus creating the new metropolis of Budapest. The dynamic Pest grew into the country's administrative, political, economic, trade and cultural hub.
World War I brought the Golden Age to an end. In 1918 Austria-Hungary lost the war and collapsed; Hungary declared itself an independent republic. In 1920 the Treaty of Trianon finalized the country's partition, as a result, Hungary lost over two-thirds of its territory, about two-thirds of its inhabitants under the treaty including 3.3 million out of 10 million ethnic Hungarians.
In 1944, towards the end of World War II, Budapest was partly destroyed by British and American air raids. From 24 December 1944 to 13 February 1945, the city was besieged during the Battle of Budapest. Budapest suffered major damage caused by the attacking Soviet troops and the defending German and Hungarian troops. All bridges were destroyed by the Germans. More than 38,000 civilians lost their lives during the conflict.
Between 20% and 40% of Greater Budapest's 250,000 Jewish inhabitants died through Nazi and Arrow Cross Party genocide during 1944 and early 1945. Despite this, modern day Budapest has the highest number of Jewish citizens per capita of any European city.
In 1949, Hungary was declared a communist People's Republic. The new Communist government considered the buildings like the Buda Castle symbols of the former regime, and during the 1950s the palace was gutted and all the interiors were destroyed.
In 1956, peaceful demonstrations in Budapest led to the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution. The Stalinist dictatorship collapsed after mass demonstrations began on 23 October, but Soviet tanks entered Budapest to crush the revolt. Fighting continued until early November, leaving more than 3000 dead.
From the 1960s to the late 1980s Hungary was often satirically referred to as "the happiest barrack" within the Eastern bloc, and much of the wartime damage to the city was finally repaired. Work on Erzsébet Bridge, the last to be rebuilt, was finished in 1965. In the early 1970s, Budapest Metro's East-West M2 line was first opened, followed by the M3 line in 1982. In 1987, Buda Castle and the banks of the Danube were included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Andrassy Avenue (including the Millennium Underground Railway) was added to the UNESCO list in 2002. In the 1980s the city's population reached 2.1 million. In recent times a significant decrease in habitants occurred mainly due to a massive movement to the neighbouring agglomeration in Pest county. In the last decades of the 20th century the political changes of 1989-90 concealed changes in civil society and along the streets of Budapest. The monuments of the dictatorship were taken down from public places, into Memento Park.