Things to Do in Budapest - page 3
A branch of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Vasarely Museum (Vasarely Múzeum) can be found in a quiet neighborhood in the Obuda area of Budapest. Housed in an 18th-century building that was originally a storage facility for the Zichy Palace, the museum was founded in 1987 when artist Victor Varasely donated his art collection to the Museum of Fine Arts. Often considered the grandfather of the optic art movement, Vasarely was born in Hungary but spent much of his life in Paris, eventually becoming a naturalized French citizen.
The Vasarely Museum holds one of four permanent exhibitions of Vasarely’s works in France and Hungary. The collection includes around 400 original and reproduced works of art, ranging from early advertising graphics to a variety of op art and plastic pieces created in the 1960s and 1970s.
The museum also occasionally hosts temporary exhibitions, often in collaboration with the Open Structures Art Society and focused on a particular theme, the most recent being “Space as Space.”
Leading the charge for contemporary Hungarian photography, photographer Robert Capa famously captured the Spanish Civil War and World War II, as well as the wars in China and Vietnam, on film. He became known as one of the top war photographers of his time. Today, the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center aims to display and promote the best in documentary and modern photography from Hungary and around the world.
Housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau building, the museum is constantly bringing in new talent to showcase as well as exhibiting some of Capa’s best and rarest work. Famously he remarked “‘If your picture isnt good enough, you’re not close enough.” Temporary exhibitions rotate frequently, but are always showcasing the best in modern visual arts — often with the use of multimedia and LCD projection. The walls are lined with some of the most striking and significant imagery you’ll see coming from behind the lens today.
Located northeast of Budapest, the Baroque treasure that is Gödöllo Royal Palace (Gödölloi Királyi Kastély) originally belonged to the aristocratic Grassalkovich family, but by the 1890s it had been taken over by the Habsburg dynasty – who ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1526 to 1918 – as their favored summer retreat. Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife, Hungary’s much-loved Elisabeth of Bavaria, gave Gödöllo the mother of all makeovers and the palace soon became one of the most luxurious Baroque castles in the world.
Elisabeth was usually known as Sisi, a famed beauty who set about upgrading the interior of the palace to her taste; tragically she was assassinated in 1898 in Geneva and Gödöllo slowly sunk into disrepair. Following Soviet occupation of Hungary in the aftermath of World War II, the palace was requisitioned as a barracks and was slowly destroyed. It was not until well after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 that the palace was returned to its Habsburg heyday.
By 1996, Gödöllo’s ornate exterior was once more a striking white and pink, accessorized with arched windows and wrought-iron balconies. Its central wing is topped by a red-brick bell tower and the vast palace is again surrounded by formal gardens and Baroque stable blocks fashioned on the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Inside all is adorned with frescoes, gold and chandeliers; apartments are crammed with priceless antiques, statuary, weaponry and portraits of the Habsburg emperors; seasonal exhibitions focus on the centuries of their rule in central Europe.
The Kiscell Museum (Kiscelli Múzeum) presents an eclectic array of exhibitions from Budapest’s history, dating back to the early 1700s. The Baroque Sculpture Hall features sculptures from the Holy Trinity group erected outside the Matthias Church in Buda Castle in 1712. Another exhibition focuses on the press and newspapers in Budapest, with a substantial collection of printing machines, equipment and tools. It includes a printing machine known to have played a role in the Revolution of 1848, as well as the type collection of the old University Press dating back to the 18th century, book-binder’s presses from the 19th and early 20th centuries and nearly 200 printing places from the 17th to the mid-20th centuries.
The Public Places and Private Spaces, 1780-1940 exhibition presents a combination of art and everyday objects from three different periods: the period of unification of Pest, Buda and Obuda (1873-1896), the period from the millennium to 1918 and the period from 1918 to 1940. The Antiquity of the Capital exhibition invokes the old Municipal Museum, presenting displays of chests, paintings, clocks, cutlery, jugs and architectural plans as thy were set up at the turn of the century.
Two final exhibitions showcase an 18th-century pharmacy and old trade signs, mostly from the 19th century.
Housed within the Dohány Street Synagogue complex—Europe’s largest functioning synagogue—this museum spotlights Jewish traditions and the plight of the Jewish people in Hungary. Among the items on show are menorah, centuries-old Jewish gravestones, hand-engraved Torah scrolls, and rare manuscripts.
Built in neo-Renaissance style, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is the work of Prussian architect Friedrich August Stüler and was completed in 1865, although the society was originally founded back in 1825 at the instigation of the Hungarian politician Count István Széchenyi. Its underlying purpose was to promote the Hungarian language alongside the sciences and arts, and the academy is found in a leafy square named after Széchenyi, who also donated the equivalent of a year’s income towards its building. It overlooks the River Danube and is close to the iconic Chain Bridge and there are panoramic views leading up to Buda’s Castle District. The Secessionist dream that is the Gresham Palace – which is now a grand hotel – is also located in Széchenyi István tér.
Statues adorning the three-tier façade of the Hungarian Academy represent the main branches of science and the opulent interior has suites of ornate rooms with frescoes by Károly Lotz; the academy also boasts Hungary’s most comprehensive scientific library. The third-floor art collection displays portraits and drawings from the collection of Count Széchenyi, but otherwise the building is not often open to the public.
Budapest is well known for its thermal baths and spas, and Lukács Thermal Bath (Szent Lukács Gyógyfürdo) is a favorite among locals. The underground geothermal hot spring waters were used by the St. John's Knights starting in the 12th century and by Turkish dignitaries and soldiers in the 16th century. The baths were rebuilt in the 1880s as a spa hotel and wellness center. Due to the rich minerals found in the water, the thermal waters are said to help heal a variety of ailments. There are different rooms and baths for different problems, such as back and spinal issues, respiratory ailments, arthritis, post-accident rehabilitation, and more.
Although the Lukács Thermal Bath is more modestly designed and less visited by tourists than the Szechenyi Bath or the Gellert Bath, it has become more popular with non-locals over the past few years due to the Saturday night bath parties. Lukács has five thermal pools at varying temperatures, indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, steam rooms, massage treatments, mud treatments, a plunge pool, therapeutic services and many other features.
In a city full of bath houses, the Rudas Thermal Baths (Rudas Gyógyfürdo) may be the most popular medieval bath in Budapest. Established as early as the 16th century at the foot of Gellert Hill, the Rudas Baths feature many elements of a traditional Turkish bath, including an octagonal pool and large dome that measures ten meters in diameter. In addition to six therapy pools and one swimming pool, the Baths offer massage services, foot care, body scrubs, a sauna and drinking cures from three different springs. The interior was completed renovated in 2006.
For fans of all things sweet, few confectionary thrills compare to tasting delicious, high-quality chocolate at Budapest’s Chocolate Museum (Csokoládé Múzeum). Satisfy your sweet tooth by dipping marzipan into a chocolate fountain, try making chocolate yourself, and learn about the chocolate-making process on a guided tour.
Following WWII, Budapest was firmly brought under Soviet occupation and only escaped the harsh embrace of Communism in 1989, when the Iron Curtain came down across Europe and democracy was (largely) restored.
Under Communism, scores of statues celebrating Marx, Lenin and Engels were erected as propaganda tools around Budapest. They were all uniformly monumental in scale, made out of concrete and downright ugly, and were soon joined by equally vast statues of Hungarian Communist leaders Béla Kun and Arpád Szakasits as well as gigantic allegorical monuments to Soviet heroism.
When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1989 and Hungary began to enjoy its first vestiges of independence, these monolithic reminders of years of suppression were torn down and carted off to Memento Park on the city’s south-west outskirts. Here they are displayed as a grim reminder of Communism and the Cold War along with an old Trabant and a half-destroyed statue of Lenin, which was desecrated in the 1956 rebellion.
The park is dominated by the 20-foot (six-m) statue of a wild-eyed liberation soldier, arms flung wide, hammer and sickle in his hand and gun slung around his neck; this once stood on the top of Gellért Hill and was seen as a symbol of Budapest’s repression.
More Things to Do in Budapest
From butterflies to carnivorous plants, the diversity of the natural world is on display at the . Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden (Fővárosi Állat- és Növénykert). Marvel at wildlife from around the globe at this popular destination that’s been operating for more than 150 years.
Known today as Széchenyi Square (Széchenyi István Tér), the former Roosevelt Square was originally named after U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was renamed in 2011 for the founder of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and developer of the adjacent Chain Bridge. The square is lined with notable buildings such as the art nouveau Gresham Palace, which is now home to the Four Seasons Hotel, one of the top hotels in Europe. It is worth stopping into the lobby to see the exquisite stained glass, mosaics and ironworks.
As you explore the small square, notice the Ministry of Justice building and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, as well as a statue of Hungarian minister Ferenc Deak, who was responsible for negotiating the Compromise of 1867, which resulted in the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Another statue on the west side of the square depicts Austrian and Hungarian children holding hands in peace.
Budapest's Museum of Fine Arts (Szépmuvészeti Múzeum) was founded in 1896 when the collections of several institutions were combined to be housed under one roof, namely the roof of the 1906 neo-classical building hosting the museum today.
On the ground floor, visitors will find exhibitions of classical antiquities and of 19th-century paintings and sculptures. The classical antiquities exhibition spans five halls and consists of more than 5,000 items. The collection of paintings includes works from German, Austrian, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, Italian and British masters. On the second floor, the sculpture exhibition consists of more than 100 European sculptures from the German late-Gothic, Italian Renaissance and Austrian Baroque periods, among others.
The museum also frequently hosts temporary exhibitions, including a large-scale exhibition of works from Rembrandt and other Dutch masters, a collection of lithographs from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and a display of prints and drawings from Italian Renaissance artist Raphael.
If you’ve ever wondered about the history of aviation, head over to Aeropark Budapest and explore the planes to your heart’s content. Known for its flight simulator and collection of vintage aircraft, the open-air museum demystifies the world of aviation, from the tarmac to the cockpit.
A fantastic, family-oriented introduction to the sights and landmarks of Hungary, Austria and Germany, Miniversum is part interactive game and part educational experience. Housed in an historic Budapest palace, this is a gigantic train set with a difference, where more than 600 historically accurate palaces, abbeys, castles and churches and houses form 14 villages with a backdrop of mountains, valleys, tunnels and viaducts all scaled down to 1:100 of their original size. Through this miniature world tiny people go about their daily business, cars travel the road and trains move constantly along railway tracks more than 0.8 miles (1.3 km) in length. The model took more than 30,000 hours to construct and covers 3,230 square feet (300 square meters); it is totally interactive so at a push of a button, visitors can affect the action in real time.
Interactive screens display original photos of the sights on the layout and activities for kids include modeling workshops for different levels of ability and weekend treasure hunts. Visitors can also watch the monitor wall in the control room, from where each train movement at Miniversum is operated.
Formulated more than 200 years ago as a medicinal beverage, Zwack Unicum remains one of Hungary’s favorite liqueurs, and holds a special place in the country’s history. Sample and learn all about the famed digestif at the Zwack Museum and Visitors’ Centre.
For an interactive, family-friendly activity, head to the Budapest Pinball Museum, one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in Europe. For the price of admission, play more than 130 machines, from 19th-century bagatelles and 1970s favorites to the latest and greatest.
Kecskemét is the eighth largest city in Hungary, located about 50 miles from Budapest in the center of the country. With a population of just over 100,000, it is known best for its museums, apricot brandy and secessionist and art nouveau architecture. While it makes a nice day trip from Budapest, it is also a good jumping off point for trips to nearby Kiskunsag National Park.
One of the must-sees in Kecskemét is the Ornamental Palace, which is a prime example of Hungarian secessionist architecture. Completed in 1901, it is now home to the Kecskemét Gallery, which is worth a visit as much for the art as it is just to experience the impressive Decorative Hall inside. The city has more than a dozen other museums to occupy your time, including a photography museum, a toy workshop and museum, a museum of Calvinist ecclesiastical history, a Hungarian folk arts and crafts museum and a musical instrument museum.
Like many Eastern European cities, Budapest has a thriving flea market scene, where the colorful flotsam and jetsam of life passes by along with the chance to dig out that elusive bargain of the century. Among more than a dozen city markets, sprawling Ecseri (Ecseri Piac) is the grand-daddy of them all, a great mass of humanity flogging anything from cheap plastic pots to surprisingly pretty Bohemian glassware or old military uniforms, Communist memorabilia, ancient cameras and cut-price Russian icons. While some stalls are piled high with glittering trinkets and quality antique furniture, others are nothing more upturned cardboard boxes offering battered old books and tatty vintage clothes. Along with the jumble of goods on offer, vendors come from a blend of nationalities that could be Ukrainian, Romanian or Chinese as easily as Hungarian. Ecseri is open all week but really cranks up a gear at the weekend, Sunday being less crowded than Saturday. Get there at the crack of dawn to snap up any real finds; bargains do include handmade Hungarian lace, embroidery and pottery.
Budapest’s Museum of Applied Arts (Iparmuvészeti Múzeum), which features the country’s unique handicrafts and industrial design, is the third oldest of its kind in the world. Founded by the Hungarian Parliament in the 19th century, it has since collected both historic and contemporary applied art from around the globe. There’s also an extensive collection of works specifically from Hungarian artists.
Pieces on display have been acquired at World’s Fairs and by dealers, as well as accepted as gifts of the state. Of particular note is the museum’s Collections and Treasures permanent exhibit and the Esterházy Treasury: the gold, silverware, costumes, jewelry and weaponry collected by one of Hungary’s most wealthy aristocratic families.
The museum’s ceramic facade is impressive in itself, with its bright green roof and Art Nouveau architectural design. Its interior blends Islamic, Hindu, and Mogul designs and includes a stately library that’s also worth seeing.
Budapest’s famous thermal springs have created a landscape riddled with natural caves and tunnels. More than 200 caves have been identified beneath the Buda Hills and along the banks of the Danube River, but only three are open to the public. The Pálvölgyi cave system (Pálvölgyi Barlang), the largest of these, stretches for miles.
Built in the late 1800s, the Hungarian Heritage House (Budai Vigadó) was constructed with the intention of being both theater and library—a single building meant to meet the cultural needs and desires of local Hungarians. While the outside of this massive stately structure appears relatively unassuming, visitors agree that its impressive inside is worth exploring. Marble staircases, stone pillars and an incredible 301-seat theater give Budai Vigado a truly art nouveau flavor. The Hungarian State Folk Ensemble plays on this theater stage more than 100 times each year and travelers say catching a performance is a quintessential Budapest experience.
Also known as the Magyar Szecesszió Háza, the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau in Budapest is the only museum in Hungary dedicated to the Secession style of art. The house itself, called the House Bedo, was built at the turn of the twentieth century in a style that combines traditional Hungarian design with elements of Belgian Art Nouveau. Beyond the remarkable green façade, visitors will find a collection of family portraits, paintings, porcelain and period furniture, including more than 20 unique cabinets and an entire dining room set complete with a table, chairs, dish cupboard, glassware cupboard and porcelain display case. The two-story lobby features a large stained glass lamp and stained glass windows are prominent throughout the interior courtyard.
- Things to do in Bratislava
- Things to do in Schwechat
- Things to do in Vienna
- Things to do in Timisoara
- Things to do in Graz
- Things to do in Krakow
- Things to do in Zagreb
- Things to do in Belgrade
- Things to do in Cluj-Napoca
- Things to do in Linz
- Things to do in Ljubljana
- Things to do in Prague
- Things to do in Lower Austria
- Things to do in Western Romania
- Things to do in Upper Austria