Budapest History Facts and Timeline
Hungary's capital Budapest is one of central Europe's oldest and most riveting cities, with a pedigree that runs from a Celtic village through the Romans and into the Mongols, Ottomans and beyond.
Situated on a bend in the Danube River, the history of Budapest has always been one of occupation and exploitation of its natural riches, due to its strategic location at the crossroads of the Orient and Western Europe.
The origins of the Hungarians lie buried deep within a murky antiquity involving multiple migrations from the Ural Mountains that began as far back as 4000 BC. Nomadic tribes of Magyars arrived in the Carpathian Basin during the middle of the 9th century AD. At first, they acted as mercenaries for local armies, but over time settled their own tribes where Budapest now stands.
In the beginning, Buda and Pest were just two extremely small and very insignificant villages. However, the Magyars were feared across Europe for their skills with the bow and their inclination to pillage rival villages. They raided deep into Spain
, southern Italy
and northern Germany
before finally being stopped by King Otto I of Germany in the year of 955 AD.
Hungary is Born
The Magyars and their raiding ways hit a wall against the Byzantine Empire, forcing them to choose between the Holy Roman Empire in the west or Byzantium in the south for protection. Stephen I was the first to approach the Holy Roman emperor Otto II, who sent his pope and a crown. He became Stephen I, the Christian King, at the end of 1000 AD, thus creating the nation of Hungary
and beginning a new chapter in the history of Budapest.
Buda and Pest
The next three centuries would see Budapest suffer through constant conflict as pretenders to the Hungarian throne vied for power. Several European dynasties fought over the throne, with the town of Buda serving as the seat of power. Charles Robert of the French Anjou nobility succeeded winning the crown in 1307, and went on to build the Visegrad Castle north of Buda.
Facing Tartar invasions, King Bela IV moved his castle to the top of the fortified hill in Buda, and in 1361 Buda was named as the Hungarian capital. Pest was also developing during this period as a town of independent wealthy citizens. It was fully autonomous by 1406 and enjoyed its own legislative royal charter.
A City Desired by All
During the 1400s and 1500s, Buda was transformed into a European cultural centre. Hungarian universities were founded in neighbouring Pecs in the late 1360s and Obuda roughly three decades later, the latter of which now forms a historical district of the city (Old Buda). The first book printed in Hungary was created in Buda in 1473, but this cultural light only served to attract invaders like the Ottomans, who plundered Buda in 1526 and occupied the city for the next 150 years.
The Ottoman reign introduced Muslim religion to Buda, contributing many of the lovely Turkish baths that still grace the capital today. In 1686, the Holy League of Christians led an army containing soldiers from every Christian nation in Europe against the Turks. By 1718, all traces of Ottoman rule were removed from Hungary. However, the long battle took its toll on the history of Budapest, destroying much of the city. After that, Buda and Hungary became part of the Habsburg Empire.
The 19th century was a time of struggle for Buda as it attempted to disconnect itself from the Habsburgs. A national uprising sparked in Buda in 1848 ended roughly one year later. The Reconciliation in 1867 brought two monarchies together from Austria and Hungary. This move opened the next great phase in the history of Budapest, which was officially renamed and integrated in 1873 as the metropolis of Budapest. Several golden decades of prosperity subsequently followed.
World Wars, Communism and Freedom
When Austria-Hungary lost WWI in 1918, Hungary declared its independence. This was a rough period for the city, since it was heavily damaged in WWII by Allied bombings and the siege of the Battle of Budapest in 1944.
In 1949, Hungary became a communist regime, but Budapest led the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 in rebellion. As Hungary struggled to find its new identity over the next few decades, Budapest thrived as a hub of culture. In 1987, the banks of the Danube and Buda Castle earned UNESCO protection, followed by Andrassy Avenue in 2002.