Budapest is the capital and the largest city of Hungary, the largest in East-Central Europe and one of the largest cities in the European Union. It is the country’s principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre, sometimes described as the primate city of Hungary. In 2011, according to the census, Budapest had 1.74 million inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2.1 million due to suburbanization.
The history of Budapest began with Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement that became the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Hungarians 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 centres of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification. It also became the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a great power that dissolved in 1918, following World War I. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Republic of Councils of 1919, Operation Panzerfaust in 1944, the Battle of Budapest in 1945, and the Revolution of 1956.
The name “Budapest” is the composition of the city names “Buda” and “Pest”, since they were united (together with Óbuda) to become a single city in 1873. One of the first occurrences of the combined name “Buda-Pest” was in 1831 in the book “Világ” (“World” / “Light”), written by Count István Széchenyi.
The origins of the words “Buda” and “Pest” are obscure. According to chronicles from the Middle Ages the name “Buda” comes from the name of its founder, Bleda (Buda), the brother of the Hunnic ruler Attila. The theory that “Buda” was named after a person is also supported by modern scholars. An alternative explanation suggests that “Buda” derives from the Slavic word “вода, voda” (“water”), a translation of the Latin name “Aquincum”, which was the main Roman settlement in the region.
There are also several theories about the origin of the name “Pest”. One of the theories claims that the word “Pest” comes from the Roman times, since there was a fortress “Contra-Aquincum” in this region which was referred to as “Pession”.
Seven islands can be found on the Danube: Shipyard Island, Margaret Island, Csepel Island, Palotai-sziget (now a peninsula), Népsziget, Háros-sziget, and Molnár-sziget.
Notable islands include:
1) Margaret Island is a 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long island and 0.965 square kilometres (238 acres) in area. The island mostly consists of a park and is a popular recreational area for tourists and locals alike. The island lies between bridges Margaret Bridge (south) and Árpád Bridge (north). Dance clubs, swimming pools, an aqua park, athletic and fitness centres, bicycle and running tracks can be found around the Island. During the day the island is occupied by people doing sports, or just resting. In the summer (generally on the weekends) mostly young people go to the island at night to party on its terraces, or to recreate with a bottle of alcohol on a bench or on the grass (this form of entertainment is sometimes referred to as bench-partying).
2) Csepel Island is the largest island of the River Danube in Hungary. It is 48 km (30 mi) long; its width is 6–8 km (3.75–5 mi) and its area comprises 257 km2 (99 sq mi), whereas only the northern tip is inside the city limits.
3) Hajógyári-sziget is a man-made island located in the third district. This island hosts many activities such as: wake-boarding, jet-skiing during the day, and dance clubs during the night. This is the island where the famous Sziget Festival takes place, hosting hundreds of performances per year and now around 400,000 visitors in its last edition. Many building projects are taking place to make this island into one of the biggest entertainment centres of Europe. The plan is to build apartment buildings, hotels, casinos and a marina.
4) Luppa-sziget is the smallest island of Budapest and is located in the northern region of the city.