Archive for the ‘Central Hungary’ Category

Budapest

Budapest

Budapest, the capital of the Hungarian Republic, is one of the most attractive cities in Europe to visit. Known as the ‚Queen of the Danube’, it is often compared to cities like Paris, Prague and Vienna.
The city you can see today is the result of many years of rich history. The area was inhabited as early as in the Paleolithic era. The Magyar tribes arrived here from the Urals in 896 and the Hungarian Kingdom was established in 1000. In 1247 Buda became the capital and permanent royal residence for Hungarians kings.The golden age of the city corresponds with the reign of King Mathias in the 15th century. He declared Pest an equal city to Buda. Further development was stopped by the Turks, who took the region in the 16th century and ruled for 150 years. Next centuries were marked by the rule of the Habsburg family. It was a period of intensive economic and architectural growth.

Budapest was officially founded in 1873 after the unification of the two twin cities: Buda, on the west bank of the Danube and Pest on the east. The Chain Bridge, connecting two parts, used to be considered as on of the world’s wonders.
As a result of the First World War, the monarchy fell and Hungary lost two thirds of its territory.
During the 20th century the country staggered from one terror regime to another. The capital witnessed several revolts, but free elections took place only in 1990.

The city is filled with marvelous architecture, from medieval to Baroque to Art Nouveau.
Most of the city tourist attractions are found on Castle Hill in Buda and in the central part of Pest.
In 1987 Budapest was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue, a tree-lined boulevard often compared to the Champs-Élysées. At the end of the Avenue lies Heroes’ Square, which is the main entrance to the City Park with its romantic Vajdahunyad castle. The main street accomodates also the House of Terror. Located in former headquarters of State Security Police, it recalls the Fascist and Communist regimes and acts as a memorial to those who were tortured or killed in the building.

Budapest boasts Continental Europe’s first underground railway, built in 1896 to celebrate country’s Millenium and the largest Parliament building in Europe. The impressive Saint Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in all Hungary.

The Margaret Island and Szechenyi Baths are Budapest’s best recreational spots.

Szentendre

szentendre

The picturesque town of Szentendre with its winding roads, narrow alleys, colourful houses and 24 museums, is one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in Hungary.

In medieval times, it was populated mostly by Serbians and Bulgarians. In the 18th century, after the Turks left, Szentendre gained a more Mediterranean townscape with Croatian, Slovak, German, Greek and Romanian newcomers. The city has retained a distinctive blend of cultures.  

Szentendre is famous for its seven churches – among them a bishopric of the Greek Orthodox Church and the world’s smallest synagogue. Besides the baroque buildings, the beautiful Serbian Orthodox churches and Cyrillic-inscribed monuments form the main attractions of the city. On the castle hill there is a medieval Roman Catholic church with the oldest sun clock in Hungary.

Szentendre is a town of artists and museums. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been home to an artists’ colony, where a great number of artists still live and work today. You can find small galleries on every street corner.

The Open Air Etnographic Museum, called Szentendre Skanzen, exhibits the folklore architecture and culture of the Carpathian basin. Among other museums there are: The Kovács Margit Museum displaying ceramic works, the Serbian Orthodox Museum, the Doll Museum. They are all worth paying a visit, but you definitely can’t miss the unique Szabó Marzipan Museum. It offers exhibition of figures made of marzipan, including many Disney characters, a 2 meter tall Michael Jackson, a Princess Diana, the 160 cm long Hungarian Parliament building and many more.

The town is filled with souvenir shops and stalls where artisans and ceramic artists sell their work.

Esztergom

esztergom

Esztergom is a charming town, located on the border with Slovakia. It is Hungary’s oldest town with a lot of historical importance. It used to be the capital of Hungary until the Mongol invasion in mid-13th century, when King Béla IV moved to Buda.

During centuries the city was the see of the Archbishop of Esztergom, traditionally the most powerful Christian personality in the Hungarian Kingdom. He was the leader of the ten bishoprics founded by Saint Stephen. The Archbishop had the exclusive right of coronation. He was also often in charge of important state functions and had the biggest incoming in taxes after the monarch.

Esztergom is still the seat of the primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. The enormous cathedral situated on the hill and dominating the city is the largest church in the country. It is a very symbolic place, since it was the nation’s first cathedral. According to tradition Saint Stephen, the first Hungarian king was born in Esztergom and crowned there. The building of the present neoclassical church began in 1822 on the site of the previous one, destroyed by the Turks.

Another historical attraction of Esztergom is the castle, which, during its time as a capital, used to be the seat of government and the residence of the royal family. It was built on a high hill by Prince Géza in 10th century. After the Mongols’ attacks, the castle and palace became the residence of the archbishop. In 16th century Esztergom was conquered by the Turks. They destroyed most of the buildings. Apart from the ruins of the castle of Esztergom, there is a castle museum and a big exposition of the old church bells. On the eastern end there is a small bastion and a big statue of the baptism of the first Hungarian king.

The former Bishop’s palace houses today the Christian Museum with Hungary’s largest collection of religious art. Founded as early as 1875, it offers amazing collections of paintings, sculptures, religious pieces and items of famous Hungarian and European artists.

The famous Maria Valeria Bridge links the city with Štúrovo in Slovakia.

Visegrád

visegrad

Visegrád means ‚High Fortress’. It is a village with fascinating history, situated on the right bank of the river Danube. It was first mentioned in Latin documents in 1009.

The first fortress, built by Romans and then used by Slavs and Magyars, was destroyed by the Mongols during their invasions in 1241-42. In 1250, King Bela IV constructed the hilltop Citadel, the Lower Castle and the Water Bastion on Danube bank. In 1320 King Charles Robert started the cnstruction of the Royal Palace, one of the finest in Hungary, although it was used as a primary residence only by one king.

It was here where the famous Royal Summit took place in 1335. An alliance against Habsburg Austria was formed then between the kings of Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, the Marquis of Moravia and the princes of Bavaria and Saxony.

Charles’ successors continued with the construction of the palace, even though the royal court had moved back to the Royal Palace of Buda.

The golden age of Visegrád came under the reign of King Matthias. Thanks to his Italian wife, the Royal Palace and Castle were renovated by Italian masters in Renaissance style.

During the Turkish occupation the town got almost completely devastated. The remains of the fortress were exploded under the command of Leopold I, Austrian Emperor in 1702. The excavation of ruins, conducted by the most famous archaeologists of that time, took place only in the 20th century. The restoration of historic monuments is still under progress.