The world has undergone immense changes since 1939, when the British Council first opened the doors of its inaugural reading room in Hungary. Since then, we’ve endured political regimes, adapted to the digital era, and have grown exponentially, impacting millions through language education, cultural exchange, and the provision of opportunities for education and social mobility.

The 20th century was marked by considerable political turbulence. Shortly after the opening of our first offices in 1939, the British Council quickly had to  leave the property in 1940 due to the outbreak of World War II, suspending its activities in Hungary in 1940.

Immediately after the war, the British Council was ready to aid European countries by supplying books, and also arranged academic exchanges and fellowships. In 1946 an office was re-established in Budapest at the British Legation at Harmincad utca.

“In the 1950s, the Harmincad street building remained under constant surveillance, akin to the embassy of a perceived "imperialist country". An urban legend suggests that state security discreetly placed a camera in the sign of the Patyolat (laundry) company’s letter “O” across from the building to monitor the embassy's guests. Despite the disguised police tailing those exiting the premises, the allure of the Embassy's performances and film screenings prompted many young people from the Pest side of the city to take the risk, and cultural life flourished.” - Imagine Budapest

In 1950, following the Hungarian government's refusal to acknowledge the British Council as a representative of the British Government, communication was suspended and we were expelled from the country.

The institution officially returned in 1963 as the Cultural Section of the British Embassy. We were allowed to re-enter Hungary under a cultural agreement renewable every three years, marking the official date of our establishment. The British Council in Hungary coexisted with the Embassy for decades, until the establishment of its independent headquarters in Benczúr street 26. in 1991.

Read on to discover the rest of our history.