Behind the Arena Plaza shopping mall, spanning all the way to Örs Vezér tér is a very unobtrusive and unvisited side of Budapest. This area holds the horse racing track, a place that used to be a central piece of Hungarian culture, and still has a lot of tales to tell about the Hungarian psyche, the culture we share and would like to share with those who visit our capital. It is enormous, spanning three metro stops, and has a feeling to it that brings to mind the old days of Budapest.
Not just nostalgia
Although horse racing tracks in general, and this track in particular is kept alive by nostalgia and the need to experience old things, this place is not only fuelled by nostalgia. The horse races are still a place where the spirit of capitalism shows its truest form; fortunes are made and lost, hysteria ensues, and the excitement of a bold venture grips the hearts of those who bet on their favourite horse. Many people come here just for the experience that is similar to that of a football game, to cheer and hope that their favourite wins, even if there are no bets involved.
There are also new events to try and draw in people who do not want to have anything to do with horse racing or with gambling of any kind. They sometimes hold dances, all night events and the place then transforms into a giant semi-outdoor disco of sorts.
The track is truly enormous, even for a horse race track, spanning a whopping 2000 metre sand track, with a 1300 metre grass turf and a slightly smaller 1900 metre track as well. The place has 3500 standing places, 73 televisions that allow the gamblers to monitor their horse exactly, as well as a restaurant. The place was built in 1925, and was the most modern horse racing track of its day until the early 2000s. Some very important tournaments first started out here, and the history of this place really is amazing, and can be viewed in English at the track itself. Beer and wine are good and cheap, making this one of the best places to spend an afternoon getting to know the city.