6 Amazing Museums in Budapest (Hungary)

Whether you like art or history, the museums in Budapest will not disappoint. From national galleries displaying the medieval history of the country to a museum dedicated to the horrors of fascism and communism, here are my top picks for the best museums to visit in Budapest.

Hungarian National Museum

hungarian-national-museum-exterior

Location: Múzeum krt. 14-16 | In the Palace District
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: mnm.hu/en

The Hungarian National Museum has a history that goes back over two hundred years, when in 1802, Count Ferenc Széchényi set up the notable National Széchényi Library.

One year later, the Count Széchényi’s wife would donate a mineral collection to the place, which would remove its status as a simple library and turn it into the Hungarian National Museum, a general history and natural history museum.

The current museum is a Neoclassical building, built between 1837–47 by the renowned architect Mihály Pollack, and is one of most beautiful museum buildings in Budapest.

hungarian-national-museum-interior

The Hungarian National Museum currently holds six permanent exhibitions, most notably: the History of Hungary, which is divided into two parts; Between East and West, which shows the variety of people who inhabited their land; and the Coronation Mantle, which displays the garments of Hungarian kings used during their coronation.

The whole place is full of interesting things to see and is indeed a national treasure. The image above shows the famous sepulcher of György Apafi, the governor of the Küküllő county. This was the work of Elias Nicolai, who in 1635 moved to Transylvania from Upper Hungary. It is a classic piece of Hungarian Renaissance stone-carving and one of my favorite pieces in the museum.

hungarian-national-gallery-exterior

Location: Inside Buda Castle
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: en.mng.hu/

It quickly becomes very clear to any visitor that the Royal Palace in the Buda Castle is one of the most magnificent royal residences in Europe. It dates back to the 14th century, to the reign of kings such as Matthias Corvinus. And what better place to host the Hungarian National Gallery than this magnificent palace?

When we talk about the Hungarian National Gallery, we are talking about the largest public collection documenting and presenting the evolution of arts in Hungary. Although it was earlier run as an independent institution, it moved in 1975 to the former building of the Royal Palace of Buda.

hungarian-national-gallery-interior

The Hungarian National Gallery currently holds six permanent exhibitions, most notably: Art in the 19th century, displaying pieces from the Age of Reforms to the Turn of the Century; Modern Times, about Hungarian Art Between 1896 and World War II​; and Shifts, showing Hungarian Art After 1945.

This museum is quite gigantic, so I would suggest you take a whole day for visiting the Buda Castle District and slowly take-in what all the museums here have to offer. Make sure to read all the commentary on the works of art you see, but feel free to direct yourself towards the sections of the museum that please you the most aesthetically or historically.

Budapest History Museum

budapest-history-museum-exterior

Location: Szent György tér 2 | Inside Buda Castle
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: varmuzeum.hu/

Unlike other museums in the city, which are dedicated to the broader history of Hungary and the Hungarian people, this museum specialized in the history of the city of Budapest. The museum itself is located inside the castle, and its exhibitions are displayed in the restored halls of the medieval palace, the former castle chapel, as well as the Gothic hall.

Here you will learn how the Roman provincial center known as Aquincum successfully developed. Then, you will discover how the seat of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom thrived, and how it all perished during the wars and sieges done by the Ottomans. And finally, you will experience how Pest, Buda, and Óbuda unified and Budapest became one of the fastest-growing metropolises in Central Europe in the 1920s.

budapest-history-museum-interior

The Budapest History Museum currently holds four permanent exhibitions: Buda, the Center of the Royal Dignity, telling the history of the medieval royal palace and its royal court; the Hungarian-Anjou Coated Silk Carpentry; Budapest, Light & Shadow, telling the thousand-year history of the capital going through its highs and lows; as well as the exhibition displaying the Gothic Sculptures from the Royal Palace in Buda.

Similarly to the Hungarian National Gallery, this place is huge and requires a bit of time. So make sure to take a whole day to visit the Buda Castle district in order to patiently and successfully take in all the info it has to offer.

Panoptikum Labyrinth

panoptikum-labyrinth-exterior

Location: Úri u. 9 | Under the Castle Hill
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 19:00
Website: labirintus.eu/

Before becoming a museum in Budapest, the Panoptikum Labyrinth started as a natural cave system, half a million years ago. In the 13th century, its isolated components began to be connected by the inhabitants of surrounding villages.

It has been used ever since the Middle Ages for a variety of purposes: as a shelter, a patio, or a prison. By coming here, you will participate in underground time travel with the destinations ranging from the palaces of Sigismund of Luxemburg and Mathias I, going through mystical monuments from the time of the Turkish occupation of Hungary.

budapest-panoptikum-labyrinth

This is by far one of my favorite things to see in the Buda Castle district. Although the place is now a tourist attraction, keep in mind that it is still an actual labyrinth. That means that although you will not get lost and starve to death, you might actually lose a couple of hours inside if you do not pay attention! But do not worry, it is really amusing, especially the places which are completely deprived of light. Make sure to bring a lot of friends for extra fun.

One of the things that led me to visit this place for the first time was the fact that it held the famous Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) as a prisoner. The story says that the Hungarian king marched against the Wallachians to free Dracula from Turkish captivity, but for some unknown reason, when he reached Transylvania, the king who had previously married one of his family members oof to Dracula, dragged him off to Buda and punished him with ten years of imprisonment. I think nowadays we know why.

Hospital in the Rock

hospital-in-the-rock-exterior

Location: Lovas út 4/c | Inside the Castle District
Opening: Mon-Fri 12:00 – 18:00, Sat 10:00 – 19:00, Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: sziklakorhaz.eu/en/

As we already know, the Buda Castle hill hides a series of natural caves underneath it. Due to the threat of world war, Dr. Károly Szendy, the mayor of Budapest, ordered the construction of an emergency hospital and reinforced bomb shelter under Buda Castle, with the construction beginning in 1939 and finishing in 1944. Thus, the Hospital in the Rock was born.

This hospital/shelter is now a fascinating museum that tells a lot about the tragic story of Budapest over the last century. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside. But in return, you can get an original souvenir from this place: the actual gas masks stored within the hospital/shelter over time.

hospital-in-the-rock-interior

Your visit will be divided into two parts: first, a small film will give you historical context as to why the Hospital in the Rock exists, followed by a long guided tour across the whole complex. Keep in mind that the guided tour is mandatory as the place is huge and full of details you can very easily miss if not presented by a guide.

The guided tour is segmented by time period, addressing specific rooms and tools which were essential during the developments within these specific events. It covers the Second World War, the 1856 Revolution, the Cold War, and to finalize a presentation on the dangers of the nuclear threat.

House of Terror

terror-museum-exterior

Location: Andrássy út 60 | Near Hunyadi Square
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: terrorhaza.hu/en/

The House of Terror museum functions both as a museum and a memorial. After going through the two faces of totalitarian terror (fascism and communism), the Hungarian people decided to erect this monument to the memory of the victims of terror, as well as to present the horrible living conditions during the periods in which terror reigned supreme.

The building itself has a horrendous history: it was used both by the Arrow Cross Party (fascists) and the ÁVH (communist secret police). So be prepared, as what you will see inside here is not for the weak-hearted. The museum has a very heavy atmosphere (probably caused both by the aesthetic of the place combined with the ominous music which permeates the whole museum).

terror-museum-interior

Photography inside this Budapest museum is not allowed under any circumstance. And to be honest with you, this is one of the few places in which I honestly did not feel the need to take any pictures, both out of interest and respect.

Different from many other museums, the exhibitions begin on the second floor, chronologically starting with the fascist regime of the Arrow Cross Party. Going one floor down to the first floor, you will experience the terror caused by the communist secret police known as ÁVH. On the ground floor, you will see a massive T-55 tank inside the building, with photos of the victims of terror as background. After that, you will then reach the basement, where all the torture and interrogations happened.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like