The name of the city comes from its two principal districts, Buda and Peszt, located on each side of the river Danube. Buda is one of the historic centers of the Hungarian state and the Medieval royal site. But it originated as early as the 1st Century BC on the site of a Roman garrison town called Aquincum, the remains of which can still be seen today in Budapest as well as north of it, along the road to a charming suburb called Szentendre.
The golden age of Buda began in the 13th Century when the Hungarian kings chose it for their site. The city continued to grow until 1526, when the Turksinvaded the country and started their 160-year long rule. It was only under the Hapsburgs in the 19th Century that Buda and soon after it Peszt could flourish again. Also under the Habsburgs, both cities finally became one, the symbol of that unification being the Chain Bridge, built in 1842. In the late 1800s, Budapest became the Austro-Hungarian Empire's most important city after Vienna, and even rivaled Paris and London in the race to be Europe's cultural capital.
World War II brought massive destruction to the city, when Germans fiercely opposed the advancing Soviet Army from the Citadel on the top of Gellert Hill. Aside from delaying the Soviets on their way to Western Europe, the siege of Budapest left the city largely in ruins. It was rebuilt in detail only in the 1960s, and some of the monuments were not renovated until the mid-1970s. The Soviet Army was to take action in Budapest once again in 1956, when it crushed the democratic revolution and the first major anti-Soviet move in the entire Communist bloc.
Despite being united for more than a hundred years now, the division between the Buda side and the Peszt side is still a major reference point. Starting on the more historic Buda side, there is Castle Hill with its two distinct parts, Old Town and the Royal Palace. It sits on a centrally-located hill that stretches on for a mile and is about 180 feet high. Traveling up it, whether on foot or by car, gives an excellent view of Budapest.
Today, this Central European metropolis of more than 2 million people (25 percent of Hungary's total population) contains all that is interesting for a tourist, including great historic monuments that witnessed nearly a millennium of the city's turbulent history, a wide selection of entertainment venues, and the possibility of a quiet afternoon in a cafe or out in one of the city's splendid parks.