Known as a splendid venue for balls from the very beginning, the Vigado has also become a cultural center. Over the years, it has held concerts by famous musicians and hosted the first Hungarian exhibition organized by the Art Society of Pest.
The Vigadó has hosted performers such as Johann Strauss, Béla Bartók, Ferenc Liszt, Ferenc Erkel, Arthur Rubinstein and Richard Wagner, as well as Mascagni, Dvořak, Prokofiev and Debussy. Ernő Dohnányi gave his first solo concert here, while Béla Bartók made his debut at the Vigadó in 1905; Annie Fischer, in 1932. Richard Strauss even conducted several times at the venue.
Construction of the predecessor to the current Vigadó began in 1829; it was known as an exemplary work of classical architecture. On the main facade, next to the national crest, were portraits of famous Hungarians; the sculptures decorating the columns were made by Károly Alexy, while the murals were by Károly Lotz and Mór Than.
During World War II, the Vigadó was severely damaged. Finally, in 1954, it was declared a National Monument, after experts furiously sought to protect it as “the unique masterpiece of romantic architecture conceived in the revolutionary spirit of the struggle for freedom.” Finally, in the late 1950s, authorities allowed for the rebuilding of the cultural center.
The rebuilt Vigadó, still nowhere close to its original grandeur, opened its doors to visitors on March 15, 1980, but then closed in 2004.
According to the Hungarian Basic Law enacted in 2011, the Hungarian Academy of Arts was transformed into a public entity, and two years later it became the owner of Pesti Vigadó, which was already being completely renovated.
The Vigadó’s main staircase, foyer, and chamber hall finally regained their original splendor; a lecture and exhibition hall was also added, along with a rooftop terrace with a sweeping view of the Buda hills.