The first town on the territory of Budapest was built by Celts on the Buda side, on Gellért Hill before the birth of Christ. It was later occupied by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. The Roman settlement - Aquincum - became the main city of Pannonia province with about 20-30,000 inhabitants. The Romans constructed paved roads, amphitheatres, bastions and fortified strongholds here, the ruins of which now increase Óbuda district's reputation.
The Hungarians settling in the territory in the 9th-10th century established the seat of their prince near the crossing of the Danube.. The flat areas were populated first, including the large island that once stood where Pest City Centre stands today.
The Tatar invasion in the 13th century quickly proved that defence is difficult on a plain. King Béla IV therefore ordered the construction of reinforced stone walls around the towns and set his own royal palace on the top of the protecting hills of Buda.
The cultural role of Buda was particularly significant during reign of King Matthias. The Italian Renaissance had a great influence upon the city. The second Hungarian university was established in the city in 1395 (the first was founded in Pécs in 1367): and the first book was printed in Buda in 1473 under the title Budai krónika (The chronicle of Buda).
The town's development took a new direction in the 16th century. Formerly rich settlements of Western civilization were gradually turned into vivid oriental "towns" and later abandoned, while the Christian cross was replaced by a new symbol: the crescent of the East. The Turkish occupation lasted for more than 140 years and left only very few marks but much destruction. All the values created by the occupants are linked to water - Turkish thermal baths are the best example. That part of the country not occupied by the Turks became part of the Habsburg empire. When, at the end of the seventeenth century, Buda was liberated from the Turkish rule, it became a provincial centre.
The 18th century marked the slow awakening and recovery of the city. The nineteenth century was dominated by the Hungarian's struggle for independence and modernization. The national insurrection against the Habsburgs began in the Hungarian capital in 1848 and was defeated a little more than a year later.
1867 was the year of Reconciliation that brought about the birth of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This made Budapest the twin capital of a dual monarchy. It was this compromise which opened the second great phase of development in the history of Budapest, lasting until World War I.
In 1873 Buda and Pest were officially merged with the third part, Óbuda (Ancient Buda), thus creating the new metropolis of Budapest. The rapidly growing and flourishing city received new public offices, avenues, channels, public lighting, horse carriageways, a subway, green parks and bridges. By the turn of the century it was a genuine rival to Vienna. Dynamic Pest grew into the country's administrative, political, economic, trade and cultural hub.
The destruction of the Second World War could only be compared to the devastation wrought by the Turkish occupiers. After the war and until May 1990, when the first democratically elected government took power, the country was a victim of communist imperialism. With the dissolution of socialism the city has entered the post-industrial age with the leading role of blue-collar industry being replaced by services and a white-collar workforce. And now Budapest is again searching for its place among the major European metropolises. Budapest is once again becoming a Central European capital.