City guide

Budapest’s Liberty Bridge may once again be a summer picnic spot

Photo : Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
Budapest’s Liberty Bridge may once again be a summer picnic spot

Couples sipping wine under the velvet sky, kids playing hopscotch between tram tracks, friends sharing impromptu picnics, and amateur musicians playing acoustic tunes – last summer, these were all regular scenes on downtown Budapest’s Liberty Bridge while it was closed to traffic for three months due to nearby construction work. During this time, this central span was flooded with cool crowds, filled with fun, and quickly became one of the most popular summer hangouts of 2016. Now a new movement aims to make Liberty Bridge a car-free recreation zone once again this summer.

Due to the reconstruction of tram tracks near the Buda side’s Szent Gellért Square, Liberty Bridge was closed to cars for almost three months between June and August last summer, and it soon turned into the favorite hangout of city dwellers. Yoga troupes, local bands, street performers, and groups of friends all gathered here for spontaneous summertime picnics, but unfortunately the fun came to an end in August, when the bridge was reopened for regular traffic. However, a group of enthusiastic young Budapest residents, Valyo (an acronym for “Város és Folyó Egyesület” which means “City and River Association”), has recently launched a campaign that aims to repeat these sweet summer scenes by closing the bridge to traffic during weekends throughout summer 2017.

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
Liberty Bridge
  • 1093 Budapest, Szabadság híd

First of all, Valyo created an online survey inviting everyone to share their experiences, thoughts, and memories in connection with last year’s bridge picnics, and then launched a contest welcoming everyone to design a campaign poster for this initiative. The best three works will soon flood the streets of Budapest in order to further popularize this idea – see the jury’s selection of posters here.
“We have been involved with the renovation of public spaces since 2011. We explore and enhance those areas around the Danube River that city dwellers can benefit from. The most important criterion for a cool community space is usability without the necessity of consumption, a place where we don’t have to buy expensive drinks to hang out. Last year we were happy to see that the impromptu users of the bridge felt at home here, organized programs, and in the meantime took care of the bridge. The most impressive and touching scene for us (besides the momentum of the crowd) was the spontaneously created selective garbage collection points at the bridgeheads,” said Miklós Tömör, the head of Valyo.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
Budapest Mayor István Tarlós expressed willingness to consider closing the Liberty Bridge to traffic on summer weekends between June 1 and August 20th, except during the time of the FINA World Championship that will be held in Budapest during July 14-30. However, even though we would love to see the Liberty Bridge conquered by vigorous crowds once again on sweet summer weekends, due to the upcoming renovation of the Chain Bridge currently planned to occur between June 1, 2017 and the end of 2019, it is unlikely that two significant city-center bridges could be closed at the same time without causing considerable traffic congestion. Nevertheless, we would surely be happy if in this game of bridge, Valyo will win a hand.