Budapest, city, capital of Hungary, and seat of Pest megye (county). The city is the political, administrative, industrial, and commercial centre of Hungary. The site has been continuously settled since prehistoric times and is now the home of about one-fifth of the country’s population. Once called the “Queen of the Danube,” Budapest has long been the focal point of the nation and a lively cultural centre. The city straddles the Danube (Hungarian: Duna) River in the magnificent natural setting where the hills of western Hungary meet the plains stretching to the east and south. It consists of two parts, Buda and Pest, which are situated on opposite sides of the river and connected by a series of bridges.
Although the city’s roots date to Roman times and even earlier, modern Budapest is essentially an outgrowth of the 19th-century empire of Austria-Hungary, when Hungary was three times larger than the present country. Hungary’s reduction in size following World War I did not prevent Budapest from becoming, after Berlin, the second largest city in central Europe. One out of five Hungarians now lives in the capital, which, as the seat of government and the centre of Hungarian transport and industry, dominates all aspects of national life. Tens of thousands of commuters converge on Budapest daily, more than half the nation’s university students attend school in the city, and about half the country’s income from foreign tourism is earned there.The city, including the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.