This stretch of the Danube has been the location of human settlement since the Palaeolithic. It was the site of the Roman city of Aquincum, situated to the north of the inscribed property which comprises parts of two originally quite separate cities: Buda on the spur on the right bank and Pest on the plain on the left bank. Pest was the first medieval urban centre, devastated in 1241-2. A few years later the castle of Buda was built on a rocky spur on the right bank by King Bela IV. Thereafter, the city reflected the history of the Hungarian monarchy. After the end of the Turkish occupation, recovery did not really begin until the 18th century. In the 19th century, the city’s role as a capital was enhanced by the foundation of the Hungarian Academy, housed from 1862 in a neo-renaissance palace, and by the construction of the imposing neo-gothic Parliament building (1884–1904). W.T. Clark’s suspension bridge, finalised in 1849, symbolised the reunification of Buda and Pest, which did not actually come about until 1873. The symbol of the development of the city as a modern metropolis was the radial Andrássy Avenue, which was included in the property in 2002. From 1872, the Avenue radically transformed the urban structure of Pest, together with the construction of the European continent’s first underground railway beneath it in 1893-6.
As a centre for receiving and disseminating cultural influences, Budapest is an outstanding example of urban development in Central Europe, characterised by periods of devastation and revitalisation. Budapest has retained the separate structural characteristics of the former cities of Pest, Buda and Óbuda. One example thereof is the Buda Castle Quarter with its medieval and characteristically Baroque style, which are distinct from the extended and uniquely homogeneous architecture of Pest (with its historicising and art nouveau styles) which is characterised by outstanding public buildings and fitted into the ringed-radial city structure. All this is organized into a unity arising from the varied morphological characteristics of the landscape and the Danube, the two banks of which are linked by a number of bridges. The urban architectural ensemble of the Andrássy Avenue (‘The Avenue’) and its surroundings (Heroes’ Square, the City Park, historic inner city districts and public buildings) are high-quality architectural and artistic realisations of principles of urbanism reflecting tendencies, which became widespread in the second part of the 19th century. The scenic view of the banks of the Danube as part of the historic urban landscape is a unique example of the harmonious interaction between human society and a natural environment characterised by varied morphological conditions (Gellért Hill with the Citadel and the Buda Hills partly covered with forests, the broad Danube river with its islands and Pest’s flat terrain rising with a slight gradient).
Criterion (ii): Aquincum played an essential role in the diffusion of Roman architectural forms in Pannonia, then in Dacia. Buda Castle played an essential role in the diffusion of Gothic art in the Magyar region from the 14th century. In the reign of Matthias Corvinus, Buda was an artistic centre comparable, due to its influence, to that of Cracow. As a result of the unification of Pest, Buda and Óbuda in 1872-73, Budapest became once more a significant centre in the second part of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century due to the amount and quality of heritage built during those periods. It was a centre which absorbed, integrated and disseminated outstanding and progressive European influences of urbanism and of architecture as well as modern technological developments such as the Millennium Underground Railway, built under Andrássy Avenue, the first in Continental Europe, all of which was in line with its role as a metropolis.
Criterion (iv): Buda Castle is an architectural ensemble which, together with the nearby old district (the Buda Castle Quarter) illustrates two significant periods of history which were separated by an interval corresponding to the Turkish invasion. The Parliament is also an outstanding example of a great official building on a par with those of London, Munich, Vienna and Athens, exemplifying the eclectic architecture of the 19th century, whilst at the same time symbolising the political function of the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Andrássy Avenue (1872–1885) and the Millennium Underground Railway (1893 – 1896) are representative examples of the implementation of planning solutions associated with the latest technical facilities of the day to meet the requirements of an emerging modern society. Architecturally, the Avenue has great integrity in its eclectic, neo-renaissance buildings.