The history of the past two thousand years has proved that Budapest is a city of continuous renewal and renaissance. The German, Avar and Slavic tribes building on the ruins of Roman Aquincum, the Hungarians founding cities in the 10th century, Germans settling here after the Mongol invasion in 1241-1242, French and Italian people coming to the royal court, and Serbs as well as Bosnians coming here during the 150-year Turkish occupation, all prove that during its history the city was open and a recipient to new cultures. As Saint Steven, the first King of the Hungarians wrote in the Admonitions to his son in 1027: “because a one language and one custom country is weak and fallible.”
Pest, Buda and Óbuda was united in 1873 as Budapest. The city experienced its golden ages during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the end of the 19th century it became a rich, vibrant and modern European metropolis. The 50-year long continuous growth of the country and the city ended with World War I. As a conclusion of the final peace agreement of the war Hungary lost two thirds of its territory which resulted in a serious economic and social crisis. In World War II, in 1944-45 Budapest suffered from a long siege costing many lives; that was followed by more than four decades of Soviet occupation.
After the fall of Communism the renascent Budapest redefined itself as a natural, cultural and economic centre of Central Europe. This was demonstrated by such important developments as the two new Danube bridges of Budapest, the Millennium Park built on the place of the terminated Ganz factory, the Millennium City Quarter with the new National Theatre and the Palace of Arts, and the architecturally outstanding stations of the new Metro line no. 4 to be opened in 2014, as well as the continuous rehabilitation of the historical building stock that had deteriorated during the years of Communism and representing outstanding value on a European scale.
The aim of the development of the City Park is to create a cooperating system of institutions strengthening each other that contributes to the diverse and extensive access to cultural assets, as well as to the varied ways of spending leisure time. Parallel with this the use value of the City Park should be increased, the green area and transport system should be renewed and the biological activity of the green areas should be improved.
The long-term objective of the new project and the related developments is to turn the City Park into a family theme park of unique complexity and quality and into an attractive international tourist destination in Europe. The setting of this objective is justified because there is no other urban tissue in Europe with such a diversified, complex institutional network of 100-150 old buildings and of the planned new developments, like the Zoo, the Széchenyi Bath, the Grand Circus, the Ice Skating Rink, the existing museums and the newly established Museum Quarter.
The international examples show that museums grouped into one quarter can attract much more visitors than if they stand alone. And if these museums will find a location close to other institutions and thus make possible the spending of leisure time at a higher quality level, the attraction of the institutions could be multiplied and an internationally significant and recognized brand name could be created that will be attractive for the tourists. The Liget Budapest project will create a cultural-recreational urban space that could attract one million more visitors to the country every year. Primarily the number of those coming to Budapest for a 3-4 days city tour (city break) may increase.
Budapest is the museum centre of the country. Almost all the museums of a national scope can be found here. Among them number one is the Hungarian National Museum founded in 1802. Almost every specialized institution has branched off from this museum, for example the Museum of Applied Arts in 1872, the Museum of Fine Arts in 1896, and the Hungarian Natural History Museum in 1933. In some cases these latter museums were further divided: the Hungarian National Gallery separated from the Museum of Fine Arts in 1957, although the two museums were organizationally reunited in 2012.
In regard to the artistic life of Budapest, the Museum of Fine Arts is the leading and most visited museum in the city, the exhibitions of which have been enjoying significant interest from Hungary and from abroad for many years. For example, the Van Gogh exhibition open between 1 December, 2006 and 1 April, 2007 attracted nearly half a million visitors, thus it was the 15th most visited exhibition in the world in that year and at the same time the most visited museum exhibition ever in Hungary.
The privately managed or privately founded, but publicly owned institutions compose an organic part of the museum network of Budapest. The Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives and the Ecclesiological art collection of the Matthias Church of Buda that are popular mainly due to the buildings where they are housed, or the Kogart Art collection in one of the villas on Andrássy Road leading to the City Park, and also the House of Terror established in 2002 in memory of the victims of the 20th century dictatorships belong to this category.