From sombre stones to dance hall, from dance hall to cultural treasure chest
The splendid building of the Pesti Vigadó looks back on a century-old history: at the time of the victory over Turkish occupation in 1686, a sombre stone structure stood in its place: the fort defending the city. A dance hall called the Redoute was built here – “merely” 147 years later, in 1833 – by public demand of Pest residents. The building took its rightful place in history as one of the top achievements of Classicist architecture, and the very centre of the highest level of contemporary Hungarian culture!
However, the War of Independence of 1848-49 – one of the most defining events of Hungarian history – did not treat the building of the Redoute kindly, and Frigyes Feszl, one of the most illustrious masters of Hungarian architecture of the Romantic style, was subsequently commissioned to rebuild the palace. The newly rebuilt Pesti Vigadó then became a venue for diverse programs in the following decades: ice skating balls, costume balls, the Széchenyi Ball (named after “the Greatest Hungarian”) were all organized here, but the unification of the cities of Pest, Buda, and Óbuda – in other words, the birth of Budapest as we know it – also originated here.
The building was severely damaged during World War II, its former beauty reduced to tatters. However, this “second Vigadó” also hosted some excellent artists, until it was shut down in 2004. Finally, in 2014, after large-scale renovations, the Pesti Vigadó became one of Europe’s most important total art centres once more and has remained a splendid venue for cultural and social events ever since.