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Budapest

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Budapest is Hungary's capital, most populous city and main financial, corporate, commercial and cultural centre. It is the ninth largest city in the European Union and has been classified as an alpha global city by the Globalisation and World Cities Study Group & Network (GaWC). Budapest was founded on 17 November 1873 with the merger of the cities of Buda and Óbuda, on the right bank of the Danube, with Pest, on the left bank. Its inhabitants are called Budapestinians.

 

Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. There are several world heritage sites to be found in the city, including the panorama of the Danube River, the second longest in Europe, Buda Castle, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground, the second oldest in the world after London. Budapest also has the largest thermal water system in the world.

 

Budapest is also an important financial centre in Central Europe. The city came third in the Emerging Markets Index developed by MasterCard, out of a list of 65 cities. It was ranked as the best urban area in Central and Eastern Europe for quality of life, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is also ranked as one of Europe's idyllic places by Forbes magazine and the ninth most beautiful city in the world by UCityGuides.

10 Places to visit in Budapest

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1.  Hungarian Parliament

The Hungarian Parliament House (Országház) is one of the most photogenic government buildings in the world. Situated on the banks of the Danube River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mainly neo-Gothic structure offers 691 rooms, some of which are open to the public, including the Domed Hall, where St Stephen's Crown is on display.

2. Danuble River

Running through the heart of Budapest, the Danube River is the Hungarian capital's lifeline as well as its geographical centre, separating the hilly Buda district on the west bank from bustling Pest on the east bank. The impressive waterfront is also part of Budapest's UNESCO World Heritage treasures, which are home to landmarks such as the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Freedom Bridge, Buda Castle Hill, Matthias Church, the Hungarian Parliament Building and Margaret Island.

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3. Buda Castle

Perched atop a hill overlooking the banks of the River Danube, Buda Castle (Budai Vár), or Buda Royal Palace, is one of Budapest's most photographed landmarks. The magnificent palace dates back to the 13th century, but has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout history, most recently in neo-baroque style.

4. Széchenyi Thermal Baths

 

One of the largest and most famous thermal baths in Europe, Budapest's Széchenyi thermal baths (Széchenyi Gyógyfürdo) are one of Hungary's most visited attractions. Soaking in the mineral-rich baths, with amazing blue pools against the backdrop of a grand neo-Baroque palace, is a quintessential Budapest experience. It's also luxurious, especially when coupled with a trip to the spa, which offers everything from saunas and mud rooms to rejuvenating massages and spa therapies.

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5. Basilica Of Saint Stephen

 

With everything from holy relics to frescoes, the neoclassical St Stephen's Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) is a must-see for first-time visitors to Budapest. Marvel at the architecture, the clock towers, the stained glass windows - and the preserved hand of St Stephen, Hungary's first king.

6.  Matthias Church

Matthias Church (Matays-templom) is a must-see tourist attraction in Budapest's Castle Hill neighbourhood. This Roman Catholic church features neo-Gothic architecture and intricate details, from ornate tiled roofs and carved gargoyles to frescoes and stained glass windows. Visit Matthias Church as part of an excursion to the Buda Castle complex.

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7. Chain Bridge

Budapest's Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lanchid) was the first - and is still the most famous - crossing of the Danube, connecting the baroque Buda on the west bank of the river with the wide boulevards of Pest in the east. Opened in 1849, the bridge is 375 metres long and 16 metres wide; it is made of stone slabs and suspended in place by two massive iron chains. Originally a toll bridge, it was designed by English engineer Alan Clark, who also worked on Hammersmith Bridge across the River Thames in London. The stone lions guarding both ends of the Chain Bridge were sculpted by János Marschalkó and added in 1852.

8. Heroes' square

At the entrance to Budapest's City Park, Heroes' Square (Hősök Tere) features an impressive semicircular set of columns and statues and a cenotaph honouring the fallen of the 1956 uprising. On either side of the square are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Exhibition Hall, which now displays contemporary art.

At the top of the semicircle is a statue of the Angel Gabriel conferring the Hungarian Crown on St Stephen. Further down is a sturdy band of chieftains on horses with horn bridles - this is Árpád and other leaders of an early Magyar civilisation. Other statues represent various leaders and statesmen, as well as abstract values such as war and peace.

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9. Fishermen's Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion, or Halaszbastya, is one of Budapest's most picturesque viewpoints. Situated at the top of Castle Hill, the neo-Romanesque terrace was built between 1895 and 1902 to commemorate ancient Hungary. Although today's structure is decorative, it stands on fortified walls that were used to defend the city throughout its history.

10. Central Market Hall

Budapest's largest covered market is a hub of activity, with hundreds of stalls spread over three floors. Housed in an impressive 19th century building, it's a place where local chefs buy fresh produce, tourists haggle over traditional handicrafts and the upstairs food court serves delicious Hungarian cuisine.

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