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2020 in pictures – a look back at the year in Budapest

This time last year, tourist numbers had just broken all records, and Budapest was looking forward a bumper 2020. Everything stopped in March, when quarantine culture and community initiatives showed the city at its best despite the shutdown. After terraces and attractions opened, tourists trickled back. By the autumn, another shutdown was upon us, this time with a curfew. After dark, the city's streets were empty but for dog walkers. In December, eco-friendly lights illuminated Budapest for Christmas, giving the city her old shine back. Here's how the year looked in 17 pictures.

Throughout the year, our star photographers captured Budapest as it had never been seen before, from contactless concerts in Ferencváros to cyclists reclaiming the Pest embankment. 2021 promises to be momentous – and our team will be on hand to record every major moment.

1. Bright beginnings

The first two months of 2020 passed by as normal. We reported on the long-term renovation of the Museum of Applied Arts, where strange and exciting discoveries were made, and we paid a visit to the new Banksy exhibition.

2. March surprise

The first wave of the coronavirus crisis hit Hungary halfway through March, when everyone suddenly started to put on masks, and stores and venues all closed their doors. ‘Stay home!’ became the message.

3. Empty city

Specialist photographer Péter Kálló flew a drone over Budapest to show surrealistic yet somehow beautiful scenes of eerily empty streets and squares in early April.

4. Staying safe together

A huge outpouring of communal goodwill had many aspects – one of which was the spontaneous public applause of health workers as they put themselves at risk to save others on a daily basis.

5. Spring

The curfew couldn’t stop the arrival of spring and nature unfolding. Our photographers ventured out into the blooming city and took these beautiful images.

6. Contactless concerts

The District IX council found a creative way to bring some joy to the residents of Ferencváros. Contactless concerts and other kinds of live shows could be enjoyed by locals from their windows and balconies. Quarantine theatre became a vital form of culture for many, with the TRIP boat leading the way.

7. Volunteers

Volunteers were essential during the first wave of the virus, too. Our photographers Sándor Csudai and Márton Koncz joined the charity volunteers in District IX as they delivered food to the most vulnerable members of the community.

8. Hidden gems

Meanwhile, the beauty of Budapest remained. Ducklings learned to swim in one of the city’s famous spas and historic façades, such as the majestic villas of Zugló, could be discovered from a safe distance.

9. Final exams

In May, pupils in Hungary’s secondary schools had to take their final exams in entirely different circumstances to the usual.  

10. Open riverbank

In mid-May, the lower embankment in Pest was closed to car traffic for the first time, which then became a regular occurrence every summer weekend. Bálint Hirling paid a visit to the location, capturing locals happily strolling, cycling and zipping around by all kinds of transport.  

11. The city awakes

We were there during the difficult moments, and we were there when the restrictions began to ease. Terraces slowly opened, and life returned to the city centre.

12. Autumn

After a couple of months of relative freedom, more storm clouds appeared in the sky in the autumn. Before the situation became more serious, we took these images of Budapest in her magnificent autumn finery.

13. Curfew

Then came the 8pm curfew, when Sándor Csudai created this atmospheric reportage about the city’s deserted streets.

14. City of dog walkers

Granted an exception to the curfew, dog walkers were allowed to walk their pets outdoors – we showed how the city now looked after dark.

15. Misty beauty

We also brought you the special beauty of the coming of winter, Krisztián Bódis capturing foggy scenes in November.

16. Empty theatres

Although theatres were also closed, this allowed Milán Medgyesi to snap their stunning interiors.

17. City lights

This was a December like no other, but the evening lights and Christmas decorations still shone. Gábor Szabó compiled a beautiful gallery of festive Budapest, still gorgeous after a year of heartbreak and solidarity.


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