In the middle of the 19th century the Library of ELTE was the 5th biggest library of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
The Central Café is one of the few traditional grand cafés of Budapest which once were so common in the city.
After the 1950’s, a university club (Eötvös Club) was operating here, which was a place of freedom and tolerance.
- This is the first university library of the country which has been operating continually since the year of the foundation.
The Library was founded by Miklós Oláh the Arcbishop of Esztergom in the 16th century and it became a public library by the time of the foundation of the first university of the Hungarian kingdom in the 18th.
The collection soon moved to Pest in the late 18th century and the current buliding was built in 1876.
In 1877 Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent back 35 codices to the Library which were probably stolen by Suleiman II Sultan in the middle of the 17th century.
In the middle of the 19th century the Library of ELTE was the 5th biggest library of the Empire after the one of Vienna, Prague, Pavia and Padua with it’s 94 636 books, now it is only 3rd biggest one… of the capital with more than 1,6 million books and other documents (codices, maps, warrants, etc.).
Nowadays the Library is specialized in History of Religion, Religious Studies, Philosophy, History of the Medieval Times and Psychology.
The colorful dome of the corner with three lion heads is beautiful.
They used to have four statues next to it as well but those were built from not the best material so they had to move all the four statues in 20 years.
On the facade of the Reáltanoda street we can find ten allegorical, symbolical figures of science: St. Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Herodotus, Hippocrates, Homer, Solon, Humboldt, Archimedes, Galilei, Newton, Machiavelli, Herodotus and John Winkelmann.
After a half a century long death-like phase in the Central reopened in 2000.
This grand cafe is one of the few traditional grand cafés of Budapest which once were so common in Budapest as a cold.
To be called a grand café the Central had to meet certain criteria’s like being on a corner thus being “L” shaped. Until the WWI only waiters could have been hired who had to wear black tie.
Unlike today once cafés were strictly smoking zones and ladies could not enter.
In its peak during the late 1800s and early 1900s this was a hub of intellectual & particularly literary life. Men of words were seated on a special gallery so that ordinary mortals could watch them as they worked, like so many speciments in a cerebral zoo.
Central was the second home for many journalists and editors who wrote “ A Hét”, “Nyugat” and “Új Hold” on the marvel tables. The most famous regulars were Mihaly Babits, Dezső Kosztolányi, Lőrinc Szabó, Ignotus, Frigyes Karinthy and Jeno Heltai. He was also the eyewitness of Central Cafés death when the National Paprika Growing Company moved in after WWII.
In 1953 the venue was renovated and a legendary place opened its gates, the Metro Club. 10 years later Metro Club was followed by a university canteen and club.
The successor of Metro Club was Eötvös Club a place of freedom and tolerance. This was the only university club where guys with long hair and blue jeans were also let in. Eötvös Club’s basement aka the “Barrel” was the concert hall where Omega and Metro (originally Zenit) and Zorán started its carrier.
Most importantly even if the second opening ceremony in 2000 was held in winter after the official ceremony the new owner insisted to go down to the river to throw the keys into the water like it had to be done a century ago.
Today besides Central Hadik, Gerbaud and New York can be labeled as a grand café.