(First published on http://welovebudapest.com/budapest.and.hungary/discover.art.deco.treasures.at.the.kelenfold.
power.plant 6 October 2014)
The Kelenföld Power Plant is in Buda, nearby the Kopaszi Dam. It supplies 60% of Budapest’s heating and hot water, and 4% of Hungary's energy supply. While parts of the site are crumbling – especially those areas that have been sold off and lie dormant – inside the facility has been upgraded with modern machinery and technology.
A liquid fuel-oil reserve is also kept on-site as a backup that can last eight days in case supplies are shut off from gas pipes coming from Russia through Ukraine. It’s good to know that there are also pipes leading from the oil refinery at Százhalombatta, if their use is needed.
100 years of electrifying history
Built in 1914, this power plant is an extraordinary mix of old and new. Back in the early 1900s, it was the first boiler house and electricity-supply building in Budapest. It was also Europe’s first electricity exchange. To commemorate its centenary, the power plant established a museum that can be visited on guided tours, offered in either Hungarian or English; since April, more than 3,500 people participated in these tours. Everything is explained simply and with passion, from the building's history to explanations of how tens of thousands of apartments in Budapest get their hot water and heating.
The building itself is an incredible example of thoughtful industrial design from the prewar era, and the Kelenföld Power Plant is protected as an “industrial heritage” building. The Art Deco control room, with its massive glass ceiling, is one of the more recognisable features. Unfortunately, this room has been sold off and, beginning in November, tours of this area will be limited to special arrangements.
Decorating corridors throughout the rest of the plant, we found tiles from Hungary's world-famous Zsolnay porcelain manufactory. Indicating the care that was taken in the building's design, the original tiled floors were intricately designed to show the maximum weight that the floor could carry. It's fascinating to take a step back in time and see the buttons and switches used throughout the 1900s to control power and thermal supplies to parts of Budapest.
It's rare for a power plant that doubles as such an iconic building to open to the public. A spot on one of the free Hungarian-language tours must be booked in advance when new tour dates become available. While guides can often translate these tours in English, private tours with an English-speaking engineer can also be organised by request for individuals or groups; call +36 1 577 8700 for details.
To visit the Kelenföld Power Plant by public transportation, take the 133 or 233 bus from Astoria towards Buda, and disembark at the “Kelenföldi Eromu” stop.