Faster, higher, stronger – see how Budapest played sport back in the day


  • Zsanett Fürdős

09/06/2021 9.54am

With summer now upon us and major tournaments on our TV screens, Budapest’s many parks and public spaces are awash with people playing sport and doing exercise. These days, you’ll find outdoor gyms and courts everywhere, but this wasn’t always the case – locals often had to make do with what they found. Starting from the late 1800s when organised sport first came to Hungary, we delve into the photo archive to see how Hungarians played tennis, rowed on the Danube and skied on Normafa in the pre-TV era.

Tennis players at the Széll Kálmán tér courts, 1905

Photo: Fortepan / Saly Noémi

Széll Kálmán tér tennis courts, 1930s

Photo: Fortepan / Kurutz Márton

BME University Athletics & Football Club, Lágymányos

Photo: Fortepan / Lőrincze Judit

Rowing was a gentlemen's sport in the late 1800s

Photo: Fortepan / Latin

Skiing at Normafa

Photo: Fortepan / Ebner

Photo: Fortepan / Kriss Géza

Young and old took to the Danube

Photo: Fortepan / MHSZ

Tennis, rowing, skiing, skating and sailing have long been popular in Hungary, particularly among the bourgeoisie a century or more ago. The snow-covered slopes of Normafa, the ice rink in City Park and the waters of the Danube have attracted generations of skiers, skaters and rowers.

Photo: Fortepan / MHSZ

Swimming race at Margaret Island

Photo: Fortepan

Scouts' sports centre on Margaret Island, now an athletics stadium

Photo: Fortepan / Kereki Sándor

Police team playing in Budapest

Photo: Fortepan / Magyar Rendőr

In the early 1920s and 1930s, around Római-part, Margaret Island and Óbuda Island, kayakers, canoeists and rowers all took to the water. If rowing wasn’t your thing, there was always swimming, athletics, football and cycling.

Javelin champion Mária Rohonczy at Csepel

Photo: Fortepan / Kovács Márton Ernő

Photo: Fortepan / Kovács Márton Ernő

Football near the Danube embankment

Photo: Fortepan / Kereki Sándor

Photo: Fortepan / Keveházi János

Football with actor Károly Eperjes (white hat), Krisztina körút

Photo: Fortepan / Urbán Tamás

Football on the roof, Attila út

Photo: Fortepan / Kovács Márton Ernő

Photo: Fortepan / Kovács Márton Ernő

The grassy spaces between housing estates, vacant plots and empty streets have always provided fertile ground for team games and outdoor activity.

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