Theater Watch

The history of professional Hungarian theatricals dates back to the 1790s, but the first stone theaters, built especially for the purpose of showing plays, came much later, in the middle of the 19th century. With dozens of venues to choose from, there’s an abundance of the most diverse set of genres present in the Budapest theater scene, ranging from grand epics through touching comedies to small, claustrophobic monodramas. Let us take you through some of the Hungarian capital’s most esteemed playhouses!

National Theater Budapest

The main theater of Budapest was originally opened in 1837 facing the present-day building of Astoria Hotel. After a couple of movings it had found its final home in the Millennium Neighbourhood of southern Pest in 2002, with the opening of the grand, riverside building of the National Theater, designed by Mária Siklós as to resemble the shape and look of a ship, rocking on the waves of the Danube. As an hommage to the previous building of the National Theater, torn down in the 1960s during the construction works of the Blaha Lujza tér stop of metro line M2, a replica of the theater’s tympanum frontage has been placed into a pool of water, right in front of the main entrance. Behind the theater there’s also a hedge maze and Hungary’s only ziggurat, which gives you a great vantage point to the city. As the country’s most prestigious playhouse, the National Theater often houses foreign guest productions as well.

József Attila Theater

Named after one of the 20th century’s greatest Hungarian poets, the József Attila Theater is found near the Pest abutment of Árpád bridge. The building it’s housed in was originally built as a community center in the 1950s, but eventually it became an autonomous theater with its own theater company. Instead of being a niche-filler theater, Károly Nemcsák’s company aims to entertain people of all ages, with plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Shirley Valentine, and the Man of La Mancha.

Thália Theater

Located on Nagymező utca, or as locals call it, the Broadway of Pest, Thália Theater is one of a handful of long-standing theatres in the neighbourhood. First opened in 1913 under the name Jardin d’Hiver, it underwent several name changes since then: exactly 12 after its foundation! Thália is a popular host theater of other companies, but is also famous for its own impeccable company, including Piroska Molnár, Sándor Csányi, Csaba Pindroch and Judit Schell.

Radnóti Theater

Situated just a corner away from Thália, Radnóti Theater is named after Miklós Radnóti, a Hungarian Jewish poet who was shot to death in 1944: his long-coated statue has been standing in front of the building since 2009. The theater mixes classical traditions with modern elements, presenting plays of varied styles, from both Hungarian and foreign authors, each of their shows stressing the importance of social responsibility.

Bethlen téri Theater

Originally opened in 1929 as a dime cabaret and then functioning as a cinema until 1988, the Bethlen téri Theater operates in its current form since 2012. Its mission is to be a meeting point of various arts (from photography exhibitions and dance shows to film clubs and theatrical plays), genres, artists, and people from different walks of life. The theater regularly gives place to expat events, workshops, and fun programs for the whole family.

Örkény István Theater

Housed on the ground floor of downtown Budapest’s art deco marvel, the Madách building, Örkény István Theater is almost as famous for its terrific marketing campaigns as it is for its quality and novel repertoire. From unbearably sad to laugh-out-loud hilarious, you’ll find the whole spectrum of emotions presented on Örkény’s showlist. Operating as the chamber venue of Madách Theater between 1954 and 2004, the theater became independent and took up the name of Hungarian playwright István Örkény in 2004.