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World heritage sites
Danube panorama and Castle district
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has listed the view of the Danube embankments and the Buda Castle District - which is one of the most beautiful and romantic parts of the city of Budapest - as a World Heritage site on the 11th of December, 1987. The latter is an ancient town district, giving home to some of the most important historical monuments in Hungary. While nearly 800 years passed since it has been originally founded, its beauty still stands unparalelled, despite earthquakes, fires, sieges and world wars. The buildings themselves in Budapest bear tell-tale signs of recent and ancient history. Both the Pest and Buda embankments of the Danube streching from the Liberty Bridge all the way up to the Margaret Bridge, the area encompassed by the Chain Bridge and some of the buildings belonging to the Technical University, the Gellért Bath, the Gellért Hill with the Statue of Liberty and the Citadel, the Castle of Buda, the Baroque churches and Turkish baths of the so-called Water Town - these are all parts of the World Heritage today.
Budapest cultural avenue
An early form of the „Museum Mile" concept, popular in some U.S. cities, had been brought to life in Budapest when a massive, simultaneous construction boom has allowed architects and decision makers to concert their efforts between 1860 and 1910. In Budapest, the acronym is „Cultural Avenue" rather than Museum Mile, because the cultural attractions that belong to it aren't all located within the same street or quarter, but are along a vertical axis, comprising the Buda Castle District, Andrássy Avenue and the City Park.
1, The Buda Castle District and surroundings
The Castle District is where we begin our cultural tour. This hill on the Danube is Budapest's richest part in historical and cultural attractions. In the north-western part of the Castle District is the Museum of Hungarian Military History, whoöse collection numbers over 28,000 items from the 1490's to the present time. From here, it's a short walk to Táncsics utca, where the Museum of Music History has a permanent Béla Bartók Memorial Exhibition on display in a Neo-Baroque house. After this, let's go underground! Turning onto the medieval Úri utca, a brown flag marks the entrance to the Castle Labyrinth, which is a vast system of natural caves formed by geothermic activity, enhanced by man. Some of its wells produce red wine, so be careful when climbing steps afterwards. After returning to the surface in Úri utca, it's worth seeing the Museum of Telephony, which displays the history of Hungarian telecommunications from the beginning (1881).
2, The Pest side
Walking across the Chain Bridge, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace comes into view, giving home to a luxury hotel, bur it was built as the regional headquarters of the London-based Gresham Insurance Company. Completed in 1906, it is a wonderful example of Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture, built in perfect symmetry with the Chain Bridge. Let's walk along the Budapest Danube Corso (Dunakorzó), from where there is a beautiful view of the Castle Hill, and turn to the left at the impressive building of the Vigadó. At the end of Vigadó utca opens the vast Vörösmarty tér, the terminal of the Millennium Underground, bordered from the north by the huge and beautiful Gerbeaud-House, on the ground-floor of which we find the Café Gerbeaud, opened in 1858. With 350 seats and the best of Hungarian home-made pastry such as the Dobos-cake, Somló sponge cake and plum pie, it is likely to be your best bet. The newly renovated - and rebranded „Fashion Street" - Deák Ferenc utca links the most important traffic hub of Budapest, Deák tér, with the glamorous Vörösmarty tér. One of the numerous levels of this vast Metro hub hides the Millennium Underground Museum, opened in 1975; the site itself used to be a stop itself in the old Metro system. The entry fee is, stylishly, is always the price of a Metro single trip ticket. Between Deák tér and the beginning of Andrássy út is Erzsébet tér, which was designated to be the site of a new National Theatre of Hungary in the 90-s. The construction works have duly started, and the foundations of the building were laid down, but as a result of some nasty political battles and a change of government, the National Theatre ended up having been built elsewhere - in a somewhat remote part of the city, but next to the Danube in the south. There used to be a huge, ugly construction site in the ground where the quaint, modern park and cultural centre are today for years - locals simply called it The Hole, and there is a club called Gödör there today, the Hungarian translation of the word
3, The Pest side - City Park and environs
At the end of Andrássy út stands Budapest's biggest open square, Hősök tere (Heroes' Square), dominated by the Millennium Memorial. The column in the middle has a statue of Archangel Gabriel, underneath on the pedestal stand the seven Hungarian tribe leaders, who led the Hungarian nomads to today's Hungary in the year 896 AD. Behind it, in a semicircle stand 14 statues of Hungarian kings and other significant leaders of the nation. In front of the memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where every visiting foreign dignitary places a wreath in an official ceremony. The left side of the square is bordered by the Museum of Fine Arts (built in 1906), housing one of Europe's top collections. The gorgeous Neo-Classicist museum holds the largest foreign art collection of the country. The core of the collection is the Eszterházy family's art collection, bought by the state in the 1870-s. While there are a number of artefacts from Egypt, Rome, Italy and Greece, the Spanish art collection of the museum is the most significant - in fact, it's the second largest collection of Spanish art outside of Spain. The Italian exhibition offers a comprehensive exhibition of all the painting schools between the 12th and the 18th centuries. Famous works by Raffaello, El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Dürer, Leonardo and Manet are on permanent display. Across from the Museum of Fine Arts is the Art Hall, the biggest exhibition space in Hungary. The Classicist building has no permanent exhibitions on display; it regular temporary exhibitions feature mainly contemporary artists and artist groups.
Behind Heroes' Square lies the ice-skating rink which is a lake in the summer with boats for rent, opened at the end of the 19th century, to the great delight of Budapest's inhabitants. Since 1996, the ice-skating rink gives home to speed-skating championships.
Budapest city park
Aquincum museum and ruin garden
There used to be a significant Roman city on the site of today’s Óbuda with two open-air theatres, so it is possible to see Roman ruins in Óbuda even in an ordinary underpass.
The first, Gothic style palace was built during the reign of Louis the Great, King Sigismund and King Matthias (from the middle of the 14th century until the end of the 15th). It became a royal residence of European rank, with its Gothic and Renaissance elements. Buda was occupied by the Turks in 1541, and it was only retaken during the Christian siege of Buda in 1686. The three-month siege has ruined both the Gothic castle and the residential part of today's Castle District. Following the expulsion of the Turks, the restoration of most buildings was completed in the then-fashionable Baroque style, using the existing remains of buildings. The construction of a much smaller Baroque palace was started in 1715, whose ground area was later extended. At the end of the 19th century, the place almost doubled in size, and a large back wing, today housing the Széchenyi National Library, was added. The architects, Miklós Ybl and Alajos Hauszmann have decorated the palace with Art Nouveau elements, in addition to the existing Baroque style. In WWII, the palace and the Castle District were the last refuge of the Germany Army, which fell under heavy siege from the invading Soviet Army. The palace was again damaged; reconstruction started in the 1950s. Leading architects of the age have announced that they wanted to return to the 18-th century Baroque form of the palace, and at the same time keep its 19th century dimensions. They constructed a Baroque façade that never existed before. This was because 20th century architects saw no value in eclectic style, although this is now considered to be the most valuable aspect of Budapest's buildings.
The biggest museum of agriculture in Europe can be found in the Castle of Vajdahunyad on the Széchenyi-island in Városliget, Budapest in outstanding building. Its designer Ignác Alpár merged different architectural styles, made use of different elements, details of well-known buildings of historical Hungary. Citizens of Budapest named this group of buildings "Vajdahunyad castle" on the basis of the part of palace to be seen from the lake. The building was erected originally for the Millennial Exhibition, and it has been used to host the museum of agriculture starting in 1897. Entering the main entrance we proceed through the marble arched court up to the first floor via marble staircase. You can cast a glance over the inside of the building while visiting the exhibitions. Beautifully painted walls, enormous crystal chandelliers, carved pillars, stained windows can also be seen.
The Gellért Hill is the capital’s popular excursion place. The Citadel can also be found here. It used to be a fortress, which was erected in 1854 by the Habsburg emperors after overcoming the Hungarian army in the revolution of 1848-49. A unique Budapest panorama, which is part of the world heritage, can be also enjoyed here. Other sights on the hill: the sculpture of the bishop St. Gellért (Gerard), the St. Gellért Cliff Church and the Liberty Statue.
The main façade of the Fisherman’s Bastion, running parallel to the Danube, is approximately 140 metres long. The seven stone towers with their pointed tops symbolise the leaders of the Hungarian tribes who conquered the country in 896. It was built in place of the old fortification walls in neo-Romanesque style between 1895 and 1902 on the plans of Frigyes Schulek, who was also in charge of the reconstruction of the Mathias Church. The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fishermen that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages.
The Parliament, built in Neo-Gothic style and located on the bank of the Danube, serves as the permanent seat of the National Assembly. The building complex, the biggest of its kind in Hungary, was erected between 1884 and 1904 on the plans of Imre Steindl. The building has 691 rooms, and it is 268 metres long and the dome 96 metres high. Since 2000, the Hungarian coronation symbols St. Stephen’s crown, the sceptre, the orb and the Renaissance sword have been on display in the Parliament.
Hungarian National Gallery
The Hungarian National Gallery, was established in 1957 as the national art museum. It is located in Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary. The collection, which can be found in the A, B, C and D buildings of Buda Castle, includes nearly a hundred thousand artefacts dating from the early mediaeval times until the present day. The Hungarian National Gallery is the largest collection of Hungarian arts with one hundred thousand artefacts, from the settlement of the Magyars until the present day.
The church is officially called The Church of Our Lady, and served as a coronation church from the 16th century on. Its vast ecclesiastical collection and treasury is open for visitors. During the centuries, the church underwent several major transformations, the first of which was the addendum of the Mary-gate (Mária-kapu), and in 1470, the 60-metre south side tower, with the King’s raven ensign, was erected. During the Turkish occupation, the church was turned into a mosque and its walls were whitewashed; in the 17th century, it was again rebuilt in Baroque style. Today's Mathias Church is the result of a major renovation between 1895 and 1903, by star architect of the age Frigyes Schulek. The frescoes are the works of famous Hungarian artists such as Károly Lotz, Bertalan Székely and Mihály Zichy.
Health & wellness
Budapest health spas
Budapest holds the title "City of Spas" since the year 1934, as it has more thermal and medicinal water springs than any other capital city in the world. There are 118 springs in Budapest, providing over 70 million liters of thermal water a day. The temperature of the waters is between 21 and 78 Celsius. Budapest's thermal waters were enjoyed by the Romans as early as the 2nd century, but it was only during the Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 16th century that the bath culture really started flourishing. Today, there are 15 public thermal baths in Budapest, not counting the private thermal spas established in some luxury hotels, such as the Ramada Plaza, Thermal Hotel Margitsziget and the Corinthia Royal, which have their own spas. The spa at the Hotel Gellért is a public bath. Some of the baths arrange special programs. The Rudas Bath, built in the 1500-s, gives home to regular night parties on Friday and Saturday nights, with great music and special light effects. These are very popular with young people from all over the world. Others, such as the Palatinus Bath on Margaret Island, have special pools for children with special effects (whirlpool, wave-pool, water-chutes). Some baths are built in parks, with green areas where one may relax and sunbathe and do sports, or just read a book (such as the Csillaghegyi Bath).
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. It's also the first thermal bath of Pest. It owes its existence to Vilmos Zsigmondy, a mining engineer. on his initiative, successful deep borings had been performed in the City Park, where later, in 1881 already an "Artesian bath" was in operation. However, this temporary type of bath was meeting the demands of the age less and less, so the Széchenyi Thermal Bath was built in 1913 on the basis of plans composed by Gyozo Czigler. The Bath was expanded in 1927 with a public bathing department for gentlemen and ladies and a beach site. In the middle of the 1960s, further transformations took place, including the creation of a group thermal section in bathing suits as well as a daytime outpatient hospital (complex physiotherapy department).
We find records about the "miraculous" springs spurting up on the territory of the Bath from as early a date as the 15th century. These springs were later favoured by the Turks as well, as they were larger and hotter than the Buda baths of the period. In the 17th century, the site was named Sárosfürdő (Mud bath) because of the fine spring silt that was pushed up together with the spring water and settled at the bottom of the pools. The Gellért Thermal Bath and Hotel, known world-wide and highly favoured by foreigners, built in a secession style, opened its gates in 1918 and was expanded in 1927 by the wave-bath and in 1934 by the effervescent bath. In the course of the modernisation accomplished in our days, the sitting-pool in the swimming complex, the outdoor sitting pool and the children's pool were renovated; they were equipped with a state-of-the art water filtering and circulation device. At present, nearly all healing facilities may be used in the Gellért Thermal Bath. The Bath includes a department offering complex thermal bath acilities (daytime/outpatient hospital), it also has an inhalatorium.
The centerpiece of the bath today, the Turkish bath, was built during the 16th century in the period of the Turkish occupation. Below the 10 m diameter dome, sustained by 8 pillars, there is an octagonal pool. The thermal bath has been visited from 1936 on exclusively by men. The swimming pool, operating as a therapeutic swimming facility and with a sauna, was built in 1896. In its drinking hall, the water of the springs Hungária, Attila and Juventus can be consumed for the purposes of a drinking cure. In the bath, there is a daytime outpatient hospital operating with a complex physiotherapy department.
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