Budapest History

The Budapest you'll see today is the result of many years of rich history, with traces of inhabitation dating back as far as the second millennium BC. Hungarian tribes arrived at the end of the ninth century and the Hungarian Kingdom was established in 1000. The city as we know it today was formed through the joining of Buda, Pest and Old Buda, back in 1873. Follow the Budapest History time line below to see the many events leading up to the city's formation.

Pre-Magyar Times:
Archaeological finds indicate that the first settlement in the location of present-day Budapest was built by Celts. The Romans occupied this town in the first century BC.

1st century BC to 5th century AD – Western Hungary is part of the Roman Empire. Aquincum is founded and quickly becomes the largest town and one of the capitals of Pannonia.

5th century to 9th century – The Roman era ends in the 5th century and the age of Huns begins. Attila, King of the Huns, builds a city for himself here according to later chronicles. Following the Huns several tribes (Lombards, Avars and Slavs) pass through Hungary until the arrival of Magyars.

Arrival of the Magyars:
The Hungarian tribes arrived to the Carpathian Basin in 896. Árpád, leader of the Magyars, settled on Csepel sziget, an island in the southern part of Budapest.

Medieval Budapest:
1000 – St. Stephen is crowned; he becomes the first king of Hungary. Hungary converts to Christianity and becomes an independent kingdom.
1046 – Bishop Gellért dies at the hands of pagans on present-day Gellért Hill in the fight against Christianity.
12th century – The development of Buda and Pest starts thanks to the French, Walloon and German settlers who migrate here and work and trade along the banks of the Danube.
1241-42 – The Mongolian invasion destroys both cities.
1248 – King Béla IV builds the first royal castle on Castle Hill in Buda and city walls surround Pest.
14th century – The Angevin kings from France established Buda as a royal seat, building probably the largest Gothic palace.

Renaissance Budapest:
1458 – The noblemen of Hungary elect Matthias Corvinus as king. Under his reign, Buda becomes a main hub of European Renaissance. It is truly an age of prosperity. He dies in 1490, after capturing Vienna in 1485.

Turkish Budapest:
1541 – The beginning of the Turkish occupation. Multiple mosques and baths are built in Buda; churches (such as Matthias Church) are converted. The Turkish occupation lasted almost 150 years.  

Habsburg Influence:
1686 – Buda and Pest are re-conquered from the Turks with Habsburg leadership. The Habsburg rule begins. Both towns are destroyed completely in the battles.
1773 – Election of the first Mayor of Pest.
1777 – Maria Theresa of Austria moves the first University to Castle Hill.
1783 – Joseph II places the acting government to the city of Buda.
1825 – Pest becomes the cultural and economic centre of the country. The first National Theatre is built, along with the Hungarian National Museum and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Lánchíd).
1838 – The year of the biggest flood in recent memory. The entire Pest side is under water.
1848-49 – Revolution and War of Independence. Pest replaces Bratislava as the new capital of Hungary and it becomes the seat of the first prime minister, its government and the Parliament.
1849 – The Austrians occupy the city and the Habsburg army captures the two towns. Lajos Batthyány, the first Hungarian Prime Minister is executed on the present-day Szabadság tér.
1867 – The Austro-Hungarian Compromise, beginning of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, followed by unprecedented civic development, resulting in the style of present day Budapest.
1873 – The former cities Pest, Buda and Óbuda are united, and with that the Hungarian capital is established with the name of Budapest.
1896 – Year of the Millennium, celebrations are held all over the city. The Millennium Underground is inaugurated, and the Franz Josef Bridge (today's Liberty Bridge) is opened.
1910 – According to census the population of Budapest is 880,000
1918 – World War I ends the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the development of Budapest is slowed down by political upheavals.

Budapest in the 20th Century:
1918-19 – Revolution in Budapest and the 133 days of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. This was the first Communist government to be formed in Europe after the October Revolution in Russia.
1919-44 – Status quo was restored by a charismatic leader in the person of Admiral Horthy a self-appointed regent for the exiled King Karl IV. Hungary was a kingdom without a king.
1920 – The Trianon Treaty re-sized Hungary. Three-fifth of the country was assigned to surrounding successor states.
1924 – the Hungarian National Bank is founded.
1941 – Entry into World War II as an ally of Germany.
1944 – Budapest is occupied by the Germans. At the time of the occupation, there were around 200,000 Jews in the city. Fewer than half of them survived the following 11 months.
Dec. 1944 - Feb. 1945 – Soviet and Romanian troops besiege Budapest. The retreating Germans destroy all Danube bridges. The Buda castle falls. World War II took the lives of close to 200,000 Budapest residents and caused widespread damage to the buildings in the city.
1945-48 – Hungary is declared a republic, practicing a multi party parliamentary democracy.
1948 – A Soviet friendly Communist government takes over and Hungary is declared a People's Republic.
Oct. 1956 – The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 breaks out, ending in the invasion of a large Soviet force, killing civilians and damaging buildings in Budapest (traces of the gunfire can still be seen on the façades of several buildings).
1956-58 – Revenge and forceful restoration of Soviet power.
1960s – Conditions normalize; reforms create a so called 'Goulash Communism' in Hungary, a Communism with elements of free market and improved human rights. Wartime damages are largely repaired; the Elizabeth Bridge is finished in 1965.
1970-72 – Construction of the East-Western Subway line (M2) begins.
1982 – Construction of the North-Southern Subway line (M3) begins.
1987 – Buda Castle Hill and the banks of the Danube are added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
1989-1990 – The 'changes', transition to free elections and a democratic government. Hungary's changeover to a Western-style democracy was one of the smoothest among the former Soviet bloc.
1990 – According to census the city is home to 2,000,000 residents.

Present day Budapest:
2002 – Andrássy Avenue is added to the World Heritage Sites, along with the Millennium Underground Railway, Heroes' Square and City Park.
2002 – Inauguration of the new National Theatre.
2004 – Hungary joins the European Union.
2008 – According census, Budapest is home to 1,700,000 residents.
2010 – Inauguration of Budapest’s ‘Mainstreet’ (a Belváros Főutcája), a project that re-shapes a 1.7-km stretch of downtown Pest from Kálvin tér to Szabadság tér.
2011 – Margaret Bridge reopens after extensive renovations.
Present – Construction of the fourth subway line (M4) is underway.

Finally, if you like infographics, you can find out some quirky facts about Hungary, our language, history and more here: Let’s talk a bit about Hungary

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