May 02, 2016

Hungarian government building a bigger and better Budapest

Hungary's capital has entered its most profound period of transformation since its imperial zenith

Budapest has entered its most profound period of transformation since its imperial zenith, writes Stephen Heyman for

As part of the government’s efforts to regenerate large parts of Budapest, and Hungary, billions of forints have been pumped into renovation projects right across the country.

In his article, Heyman explores a city that is both proud of its rich heritage and enthralled by the possibilities ahead.

Budapest is shaping its future by reinventing its past, explains Heyman. The most enduring example of this is the ruin bar. In 2002, a group of young artists negotiated with representatives of Budapest’s Seventh District, the city’s historic Jewish quarter, to take over one of the city’s many heritage buildings that had fallen into disrepair.

They made a roof out of tarps, filled the space with objects—mismatched furniture, a discarded bathtub, an old East German Trabant —and sold cheap beer. Called Szimpla Kert, it gave rise to dozens of copycats, transforming the Seventh into Budapest’s most visited neighborhood.

However, the best way to understand Budapest is to buy a subway ticket. The oldest electrified metro line in continental Europe lies below the Hungarian capital, running parallel to one of the youngest.

The original trains were replaced in the 1970s with vaguely antiqued modern cars, but Line 1, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, remains fully functional, a nostalgic thread connecting many of the city’s most lavish imperial sights.

The ambition that rescued Line 4 from itself is also in evidence aboveground, where a controversial 700 million US dollar plan may soon reshape Budapest’s beloved City Park into a new cultural quarter.

If completed as planned, the project will add three museums by 2019, including a National Gallery designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA.

Heyman goes on to discuss how the Hungarian government are building a bigger, better Budapest in much more detail in his article posted online. Read more here.