City guide
The highlights of 2018 in Budapest
Photo : WLB

What a year! Stars from Hollywood and Michelin graced the city as Will Smith inspired a Chain-Bridge climbing craze and the world’s bravest pilots zoomed under the Danube’s bridges. With so many memorable moments, so much has happened in Budapest over the past year that it’s nearly impossible to count. One thing is for sure – this city never ceases to impress. But before 2018 goes out with a blast, see the highlights of the past 12 months below.

January February March April May June July August September October November December

January

On Body and Soul nominated for an Oscar

Out of nearly 100 entries, the American Film Academy selected On Body and Soul as a finalist for an Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. Although it did not win in the end, this peculiar love story still charmed audiences at the world’s major film festivals, winning several prestigious awards. On Body and Soul marks a milestone in Hungary’s recent film renaissance. Original article

 

Burns Night

25 January is Burns Night, an annual celebration of Scots poet Robert Burns. Although we all enjoy a bit of whisky, less is known about the customs and rituals of this event. To find out more, We Love Budapest met the most passionate Scottish patriot in town, UK Ambassador Iain Lindsay, to talk about tradition, haggis, whisky – and his love for Budapest. Original article

February

Photo: Bálint Hirling / WLB

Budapest gets new Tom Lantos Statue

A new statue honouring California congressman Tom Lantos was set up in District XIII. Before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly three decades, Tom Lantos was born and raised in Budapest. As a teenager, he bravely resisted Hungary’s fascist authorities during World War II, barely surviving the Holocaust while helping fellow Jews in hiding. Soon after, he emigrated to the USA and eventually pursued a widely admired political career. Original article

 

New record for Budapest: 10 million hotel stays in 2017

According to statistics released by the Budapest Festival and Tourist Center (BFTK), a record ten million hotel stays were recorded in the Hungarian capital over the course of 2017. It was the first time that this figure has broken the ten-million barrier. Original article

March

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

Onyx becomes the first Budapest restaurant to win two Michelin stars

Michelin awarded Onyx a second accolade from the esteemed gastronomy guide, making it the first restaurant in the Hungarian capital to gain a double-star rating. Original article

April

Luke Evans tours the set of The Alienist in Budapest

Netflix’s psychological thriller series is set amid the vast wealth, extreme poverty and technological innovation of New York in 1896. The Big Apple seen on-screen was carefully recreated down to the last eye-catching historical detail – in Budapest. In a video, one of the main characters, Luke Evans (John Moore), takes you behind the camera, showing his favourite places on the set of the show. Original article

 

Budapest pretty in pink

In mid-April the cherry trees blossom in Budapest, swathing the city in pink. While the whole city was in beautiful bloom, the sprawling 200-year-old ELTE Botanical Garden attracted crowds for pleasant picnics. Original article

 

We Love Budapest meets Jamie Oliver in Budapest

Star UK chef Jamie Oliver made a rare appearance in Budapest to present plans for his restaurants in the Hungarian capital. He apparently loved the city and enthused about it – before taking questions from the audience. Original article

 

The Children’s Railway turns 70

Chugging along past the most stunning spots in the Buda Hills, Budapest’s Children’s Railway is operated almost entirely by kids aged 10-14, while a little adult supervision keeps things on track. This special attraction is a living memento of the Communist era, as it was created in 1948 and originally operated by Soviet-organised Pioneer scouts. Its peculiar popularity helped the Children’s Railway survive the regime change to see in its 70th birthday in April. Original article

 

Gundel gets a new chef

A new epoch started at this globally revered gastronomic haven beside the City Park in April. A new chef and management undertook to spicing up the menu and design to set the place apart from Budapest’s booming fine-dining scene. We spoke to the new Gundel team to find out more about their plans. Original article

May

Budapest image video broadcast by CNN

As part of a new city branding initiative called “Spice of Europe” – a campaign run by the Hungarian Tourism Agency – a one-minute movie featuring the Hungarian capital was made and featured by CNN in Europe and North America, Condé Nast Traveler and by international airlines. Later in October, another video was created. Original article

June

Photo: László Mudra / WLB

World Cup music video filmed in Budapest

Featuring Will Smith, Ronaldinho, Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi, a music video for the official World Cup song was filmed in Budapest. The iconic K-Bridge of Sziget Festival, one-time wholesale market Nagyvásártelep and Óbuda’s Communist-era apartment buildings all appear in Live It Up. Original article

 

Hungary’s biggest sports star speaks about the Red Bull Air Race

The world’s most dazzling sports series, the Red Bull Air Race, was held in Budapest, with the best pilots displaying feats of skill and bravery directly over the Danube. Just before the event, We Love Budapest interviewed the man who created the race, a living aerobatic flying legend, the first to fly upside down under the Chain Bridge, World, European and countless times National Champion and Combined World Cup Winner, Péter Besenyei, Hungary’s biggest sports star. Original article

July

Photo: Sándor Csudai / WLB

Bomb found in the Danube

A 100-kilo Soviet-made aerial explosive – assumed to be harrowing heritage from World War II – was found in the Danube in central Budapest. While experts worked on bringing the bomb to the surface and diffusing it, locals were kept on their toes and downtown traffic came to a standstill. A We Love Budapest photographer captured the dramatic scenes. Original article

 

Budapest Pride

On 7 July, a grand parade kicked off the Budapest Pride Festival, a month-long extravaganza that celebrates LGBTQ culture and aims to generate more general support and understanding. The Pride March is organised annually every summer in the heart of Budapest. Original article

 

Frida Kahlo exhibition

In July, the Hungarian National Gallery brought the astonishing artwork of Frida Kahlo to Budapest for the first time. Long queues became a daily feature in the Castle District, so keen was everyone to see this rare exhibition. Although the Kahlo circus has since left town, read our article about Mexico’s revered cultural icon. Original article

 

Will Smith has fun in Budapest – and starts a climbing craze on Chain Bridge

Among the visitors to the Frida Kahlo exhibition was Will Smith, who spent part of his summer having far too much fun in Budapest while shooting his latest fantasy film, Gemini Man. He shared a video of his family dancing on Father’s Day, recorded scenes for the World Cup song, enjoyed behind-the-scenes antics at the Opera House and even climbed the Chain Bridge for a daring dance on top of it as part of the In My Feelings Challenge. Unwittingly, though, he started a huge and highly dangerous craze in the city.

 

Grand Prix driver mans a tram in Budapest

While in Budapest for the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix, German Formula 1 driver Nico Hülkenberg took the wheel of a century-old streetcar cruising along the Danube Promenade. It was all caught on camera – find the video in our original article.

August

 

Liberty Bridge picnics… and a wedding!

The city’s historic central span, Liberty Bridge, was once again turned into a car-free public hangout, attracting a buoyant weekend crowd in late July and early August. Our photographer managed to capture some of the most memorable scenes, including a couple tying the knot above the Danube. Were you there? Original article

 

Yo-Yo-Yozsefváros!

While The Spy Who Dumped Me was being filmed in Budapest in the summer, its award-winning star Kate McKinnon learned the words to a 1990s’ Hungarian rap hit by Animal Cannibals as she was being driven to the set every morning. By way of showing her appreciation to her Hungarian hosts and helpers, McKinnon pulled off a near flawless rendition of the song when she appeared on The Tonight Show on NBC, hosted by fellow Saturday Night Live veteran Jimmy Fallon. Original article

 

Sziget Festival

Undoubtedly the biggest party of the summer in Budapest was the Sziget Festival. In 2018, Sziget put together with one of the best line-ups in its 25-year history, with headliners such as the Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Rey, Mumford and Sons, Dua Lipa, Clean Bandit – creating so many memorable concerts, moments and events that we won’t even attempt to make a list. See the aftermovie at the end of this article.

September

Photo: László Mudra / WLB

Dîner en Blanc goes down a storm

This year in Budapest, the super secret invitation-only chic picnic Dîner en Blanc was held in the Buda Castle garden. But not long after the fancy crowd of fur, lace and finery arrived, dinner went down the drain as an – uninvited – thunderstorm washed everything away with it. Since there’s no rainbow without rain, the congregation duly found shelter in the National Gallery inside the Castle. See the best photos in our original article.

 

Beautiful Gellért Baths turns 100

September 24, 1918 saw the opening of Buda’s Art Nouveau landmark, the Gellért Hotel. Serving as a military base in its early days after World War I, this palatial riverfront building has accommodated the likes of former US president Richard Nixon, the last Shah of Iran and the Dalai Lama. Meanwhile, its splendid baths decorated with turquoise Zsolnay tiles are second to none. When the Gellért celebrated its centenary, we drew up its pictorial history.

 

World Press Photo Exhibition

Every autumn, the World Press Photo travelling exhibition shines a light on what a strange world we live in. The exhibition displays the best photojournalism portraying the milestones of the previous year. Original article

 

Cast of You Rang, M’Lord? meet fans in Budapest

BBC sitcom You Rang, M’Lord is a hugely popular in Hungary, so much so that its followers hit upon the idea of inviting the stars over here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the series. What started as a small gathering and an appeal for three million forints (€9,300) to cover costs, grew to attract more than 1,000 visitors and over seven million forints (€21,700). Stars and fans spent a lovely afternoon together – one that made James Twelvetrees all emotional – and the two million forints left over were given to children in need. Before the event, We Love Budapest spoke to actor Jeffrey Holland and one of the organisers – read the whole story here.

October

Photo: Sándor Csudai / WLB

Paul Street Boys painted on a London wall

The Paul Street Boys is one of the most popular Hungarian novels of all time. Ever since its publication in 1907, it has been translated into many languages and has become an essential children’s book worldwide. For the occasion of the 104th birthday of its writer, Ferenc Molnár, the book’s three main characters were immortalised on Old Gloucester Street in Holborn, central London. Original article

 

Extremely low water levels in the Danube

Thanks to persistently high temperatures and lack of rain, the Danube saw extremely low water levels over several days in October, unveiling car wrecks, rare relics and the apparent remnants of the explosion that destroyed Margaret Bridge in 1944. Still above the lowest-ever record of 51 centimetres in 2003, reduced water heights in the city prompted people to venture towards the middle of the river, stepping on the rocks that appeared on the surface, making the waders appear as if they were walking on water. See the best photos here.

November

Sting and Shaggy give a free concert

What seems like 2018’s unlikeliest duo, the potent pair of Sting and Mr Boombastic, were responsible for the year’s best-selling reggae album and one of its most successful tours. Although it rained heavily that night, the two Grammy-winning musicians, Sting and Shaggy, still gave a memorable free show on Heroes’ Square to promote their collaborative release, 44/786. Original article

 

Budapest unveils a new Sisi statue

Madách tér in District VII, named Erzsébetváros (‘Elizabeth Town’) after the wife of Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef, welcomed a new bronze sculpture depicting Elizabeth (aka Sisi), beloved queen of the Hungarians. Original article

 

Budapest turns 145

Once three separate towns, Buda, Pest and Óbuda, united as a single city on 17 November 1873. Its history defined by war-torn tragedy and prosperous urban development, modern-day Budapest now attracts millions of visitors each year. See our favourite photos of the city here.

 

Ellie Goulding makes music video in Budapest

In the clip for the new hit song Close to Me, the Brit-award winner swanned around Buda Castle, the Várkert Bazaar and the Gellért Baths. The film closes with sunset over Citadella. Original article

 

St Andrew’s Day with UK ambassador Iain Lindsay and Hibs goalkeeper Ádám Bogdán

This November, St Andrew’s Day and a good cause brought together the UK ambassador to Hungary, Iain Lindsay, and the Hungarian goalkeeper of Hibernian FC, Ádám Bogdán. We Love Budapest sat down with them at His Excellency’s remarkable residence. Then, for the first time, the Chain Bridge was lit up in blue-and-white to honour Scotland on St Andrew’s Day.

December

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi / WLB

Basilica Advent Fair voted second most beautiful in Europe

Based on votes from hundreds of travellers, European Best Destinations declared the Advent Fair by the Basilica as second most beautiful in Europe. With lovely light shows projected on the Basilica’s façade, a towering Christmas tree, mulled wine and endless gastro delights, this Christmas market is really quite special indeed. More details

 

Santa Claus comes to town – Budapest celebrates Mikulás

The feast day of Saint Nicholas is 6 December. In certain Central European countries, including Hungary, this is the traditional time when Santa Claus (Mikulás to Hungarians) comes to town with his two helpers, a good angel, and the mean and dreaded, hairy and horned creature called krampusz. Many events took place around town, with Joulupukki, the real Santa Claus, even flying in for a few days. Learn more about Mikulás here.

 

Christmas tram on the right track

Every year in Budapest, a sparkling streetcar on the number 2 line – frequently cited as the world’s most panoramic route – dresses up in blue and white lights to make travelling merrier. The Christmastime carriage carries passengers on most Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays in December and early January. See the full schedule here