In 2017, Hungary is the host country for the FINA World Championships – a biennial aquatic sports tournament held during July 14-30 – with swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, and water-polo contests happening at various venues in Budapest and in Balatonfüred. The locations in the Magyar metropolis are the new Danube Arena and the Alfréd Hajós Complex on Margaret Island, as well as at temporary pools installed near Batthyány Square by the Danube and atop Városliget Lake in City Park, all set amid beautiful backdrops of diverse Budapest landmarks.
One of the most enthralling sports competitions of this year’s FINA World Championships – the high diving contest – will be held in a temporary pool set up by the Danube shore of Batthyány Square (named after Hungary's first prime minister, Lajos Batthyány), across the river from one of Budapest’s most picturesque buildings, the Parliament. This will be the only Buda-side FINA venue, set up by a square that is notable for its abundance of historical buildings, like the Szent Ferenc Sebei Church, the Szent-Anna Church, and the Market Hall, as well as the picturesque panorama that it provides over the Danube and the Pest side. Here spectators will gape in amazement during one of the most adrenaline-filled attractions of the FINA World Championships, as the high diving competition features men executing death-defying jumps from a 27-meter-high platform, while women plunge into the pool from a 20-meter-high platform, performing flips, twists, turns, and other maneuvers during their free-falling feats.
How to get there: Take metro 2 to the “Batthyány tér” station
Address: Budapest 1011, Batthyány Square
Competition dates: High Diving – July 28-30 More details
Located on the riverfront near the Pest side of Árpád Bridge, the newly built Danube Arena will be the main venue and the crown jewel of the championship, housing two Olympic-sized pools with a capacity for 15,000 spectators. This state-of-the-art water-sports complex is made up of two units: a permanent building able to accommodate 6,000 people, and a temporary grandstand, from which fans will enjoy watching the FINA 2017 diving and swimming competitions. The main building was designed to beautify Budapest even after the competition, with a facade that emulates flowing waves. It is important to highlight that the execution of this edifice is characterized by sustainability and environmental consciousness, as the majority of the material used for the temporary part of the building will later be re-used elsewhere in the city. It is a primarily goal that this swimming complex would satisfy the needs of Hungary’s swimming, water polo, synchronized swimming, and high diving associations. Furthermore, after the competition, the swimming pool will be opened to the public, awaiting everyone to make a splash amid a special environment.
How to get there: Take metro 3 to the “Forgách utca” station, located within a 8-10 minute-walk from the main entrance. Buses 15 and 115 stop outside the main entrance
Address: Budapest 1135, Népfürdő Street 36.
Competitions held here: Diving – July 14-22, Swimming – July 23-30 More details
Alfréd Hajós National Pool Complex
Named after Hungary’s first Olympic champion, swimmer Alfréd Hajós – who also designed this building during his esteemed career as an architect – this important edifice was erected in 1930. During FINA 2017, this is the venue for action-packed water polo matches, but this pool complex has long been an essential part of Budapest’s aquatic-sports scene, as several generations of legendary swimmers trained here before big international competitions, among whom nine became Olympic champions, while three won gold medals at FINA Championships in previous years. Over the years this special swimming pool was renovated and expanded several times; before the European Championship in 2006, a 50-meter-long pool was added to it, bearing the name of legendary coach Tamás Széchy. Several successful swimmers, water polo players, and sportsmen have plunged into the pools of this swimming complex during the several significant championships held here in the past, hence, cheering or swimming here is a truly historic experience. Upon entering, marble boards depict the names of Hungarian Olympic and World Champions, and hopefully this already long and impressive list will be further expanded after this year’s championship.
How to get there: Take tram 4-6 until the “Margitsziget” stop in the middle of Margaret Bridge, walk onto the island, and the swimming complex if found on the left side of the island within about a 10-minute stroll
Address: Budapest 1138, Margaret Island
Competitions held here: Water Polo – July 16-29 More details
Városliget Café & Bar
The FINA 2017 synchronized swimming competitions will be held in close proximity to an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site – Heroes’ Square – within temporary pools set up amid the lovely Városliget Lake. This serene setting, surrounded by soothing greenery and the fairy-tale Vajdahunyad Castle, is a truly special venue. During winters since 1830, the lake has been used by children, happy families, friends, and lovers as an ice rink, which also provided the venue for prestigious winter sport contests in the past, including the European Championship for skating in 2012. This time however, the action happens on water instead of ice, awaiting the best synchronized swimmers of the world for a special splash of impressive twists, turns, and other graceful maneuvers that must be executed in water without touching the bottom of the pool.
How to get there: Take metro 1 to either the “Hősök tere” or “Széchényi fürdő” stop; the lake is within walking distance from both of them
Address: Budapest 1146, City Park
Competitions held here: Synchronized Swimming – July 14-22 More details
Lake Balaton: Balatonfüred
As a well-tested venue of water sports, Hungary’s Lake Balaton – the biggest lake in Central Europe – is a paradise for open water swimmers. The course will be set up by the Tagore Promenade, providing a perfect view to the competition, as well as the Tihany Peninsula and the Tihany Monastery. Balatonfüred, the oldest resort city around the lake, is found on the deeper northern shore, suitable for swimming and sailing. The most characteristic attractions of this city are the the harbor, the swans of the Tagore Promenade, and the wonderful view to Tihany. An emblematic edifice in this city is the Heart Hospital, where among many others, Nobel Prize-winner Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore regained his health, and fell in love with this wonderful city, which expressed its gratitude by naming its most picturesque promenade after him. The promenade from where spectators can enjoy the competition was thoroughly renovated, and is lined with towering trees providing soothing shade. See this article for more information about how to get to Lake Balaton from Budapest.
Competitions held here: Open Water Swimming – July 15-21 For more details, visit welovebalaton.com, or the FINA official website.
This article is sponsored by the Bp2017 Nonprofit Kft.