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Princes, pharaohs and star chefs – our 25 highlights of 2021!

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  • Peterjon Cresswell

31/12/2021 11.29am

With a significant uptick in foreign visitors and a record summer for domestic tourism, 2021 can be seen in a positive light despite the fact that we’re still riding the metro in masks. It’s been another busy year for Budapest, major hotel, museum and restaurant openings following one after the other. A major international football finals took place here in June, the Euro Handball Championship are due here soon and a Sziget Festival is planned for 2022, three years after the last one. With plenty to look forward to, we take a quick look back with this highlights package of 2021.

Photo: Koronavirus.gov.hu/Facebook

Vaccines arrive

1/25

With Hungary locked down from November 2020, many were delighted to see vaccines on the horizon. In early January, we reported on the roll-out plan for all carrying a Hungarian TAJ health card. By April, Immunity Certificates were in place, required for entry at restaurants and cultural attractions. At the same time, foreigners here without TAJ cards could also register for vaccination and interlink with the EU Covid green card.

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

UK expats get hit by Brexit

2/25

January saw Brexit come into effect for UK citizens living across the EU, forcing all of them to go through some kind of registration process in order to be legal here or only be allowed short stays. Here in Hungary, the scheme was free and relatively straightforward – although not without its hiccups as the deadline of 31 December 2021 approached.

Photo: Csudai Sándor - We Love Budapest

Drone photography takes off

3/25

With no crowds gathering in town and less traffic around the Buda hills, drone photographers had a field day capturing stunning images. This series by Sándor Csudai around Hármashatár-hegy was one good example.

Photo: Csudai Sándor - We Love Budapest

Everyone takes to two wheels

4/25

Cycling has never been so popular in Budapest, encouraged by the restrictions of the pandemic and green-friendly measures by city mayor Gergely Karácsony. MOL Bubi communal bikes, meanwhile, also had an overhaul, with new, lighter models put into service.

Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Changing stations

5/25

With the new age of European rail upon us, both Budapest’s major stations of Keleti and Nyugati were earmarked for major overhauls, starting with this announcement in January.

Photo: Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest

Renovating Chain Bridge

6/25

After years of delay and debate, the renovation of Chain Bridge began at last – Budapest’s iconic crossing isn’t expected to reopen until 2023. Just before it was closed, photographer Tamás Drágon shot these last poignant images.

Photo: Hirling Bálint - We Love Budapest

Videos showcase each district

7/25

Our pioneering series of videos showcased each of the city’s main districts, highlighting the main sights and documenting daily life.

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Revamping the embankment

8/25

Making Budapest more cycle- and pedestrian-friendly is the main aim of the revamping of the Danube embankment in town, starting with the stretch between Parliament and Margaret Bridge. As in 2020, the embankment was closed off to motor vehicles during spring and summer weekends to become a public entertainment zone.

Photo: Várkapitányság Nonprofit Zrt.

Transforming Buda Castle

9/25

Haphazardly rebuilt after war-time devastation, Buda Castle is now being given the expert attention it deserves as part of the current Hauszmann Programme for its regeneration. Of the many features and attractions since reopened to the public, the most spectacular were St Stephen’s Hall, designed by Hauszmann himself, and the Főőrség Palace, designed by Miklós Ybl of Opera House fame.

Photo: Jász Annamária - We Love Budapest

Reviving the Margit Quarter

10/25

Following the successful example of Bartók Béla út, the Buda boulevard now lined with cafés and galleries, the shabby stretch of the Nagykörút on the Buda side of Margaret Bridge is next line for regeneration – as we reported in March. The first major opening, the képező gallery, took place in early autumn.

Photo: Facebook / Kegyes Vegyes

Package-free shops abound

11/25

One of many now operating around the capital, Kegyes Vegyes opened in distant District XVII, without the need for boxes or, God forbid, plastic.

Photo: Hirling Bálint - We Love Budapest

Terraces reopen!

12/25

In a repeat of scenes the previous June, café and restaurant terraces reopened across Budapest in April, after vaccination numbers cleared 3.5 million.

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Welcome, Wolfgang Puck!

13/25

Making Spago a culinary and social phenomenon in Beverly Hills, stellar Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck brought his pioneering cuisine to Budapest, by setting up Spago by Wolfgang Puck at the spectacular Matild Palace hotel, another stellar opening of the summer. Its panoramic cocktail bar, The Duchess, soon provided further reason for to visit.

Photo: Juhász Norbert - We Love Budapest

Rác Baths await unveiling

14/25

Lying vacant for many years despite a major renovation in place, the beautiful Rác Baths should soon open after the untangling of red tape over an ownership dispute, with 2022 earmarked for the grand unveiling.

Photo: Csudai Sándor - We Love Budapest

Dürer Kert moves to Buda

15/25

For years a mainstay of alternative music and DJ parties by City Park, the Dürer Kert moved across to reopen in Buda, at a burgeoning hub of culture and leisure around Lágymanyósi Bay. A public beach was later unveiled nearby.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Budapest hosts the Euros

16/25

We were there to film the crazy scenes as Hungarian football fans were able to follow their team at a major finals in Budapest. World Cup holders France and European champions Portugal were both in town to play Hungary at the Euro championships, held over from 2020. The award-winning Puskás Aréna was all a-frenzy as the Magyars went 1-0 up against France – not to mention the celebrations across the city.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

MONYO rocks the house

17/25

Budapest’s own beer Disneyland was unveiled by local craft brewers MONYO down in Kőbánya – a live music venue, outdoor bar and eatery in one. We were there to film on the opening night!

Photo: Bódis Krisztián / Budapest Images

Citadella cable car set for take off

18/25

Work will soon go ahead on a cable car linking the Rác Baths in the Tabán with Citadella atop Gellért Hill, a major city landmark and wedding-photo vantage point.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Pest gets a new culture centre

19/25

Tucked away off Baross utca where in-the-know underground bars once lurked in the early 1990s, the Turbina Cultural Centre opened in October with a gig by popular alt-rock band Fran Palermo, followed by an exhibition, aerobics and a market – and has pretty much stuck to the script ever since.

Photo: Speed Dating Budapest

Speed dating in Budapest

20/25

It had to happen – speed dating in English! Budapest residents Radmila Matković and Olja Radlović figured out that post-pandemic pining among expats was an itch that needed to be scratched, and so set up a series of successful speed-dating events.

Photo: Mudra László - We Love Budapest

The mummy awakes

21/25

The Museum of Fine Arts staged the big-hitting exhibition of the year, The Discovery of the Pharaoh’s Tomb, which focused on the both the tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep II from around 1400 BC, and its discovery by French archaeologist Victor Loret.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

Hotel Gellért closes – for now

22/25

Would the last one please turn off the lights? Her façade as elegant as ever, her interior long in need of renovation, the storied Hotel Gellért closed in December for a major overhaul under a change of ownership – but not before a series of special events and guided tours were laid on in her honour.

Photo: Recirquel/Csaba Mészáros

Recirquel revive winter show

23/25

One of the great Hungarian success stories of the last five years, cirque danse troupe Recirquel embarked on a huge tour of France – talk about coals to Newcastle! – and revived its family-friendly Christmas show, Kristály, performed at a special tent by the seasonal ice rink at Müpa. We spent an enlightening hour in the company of founder/director Bence Vági to find out what lay behind this pioneering cultural phenomenon.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Prince launches luxury perfume

24/25

Cometh the prince, cometh the perfume. Prince Paul-Anton Esterházy launched luxury perfume Estoras, inspired by a Sahara adventure taken by his grandfather and motivated by the desire to bolster the family’s good name in Hungary. We listened agog while the scion described the heritage of a unique aroma.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

25/25

As part of our Everyday Hungarian series, we revealed why the word for Christmas in Hungarian gets a mysterious extra t when locals wish each other Boldog karácsonyt!. Boldog új évet!

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