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House of Terror Museum - Budapest - Hungary
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The 13 best museums in Budapest

Terror, pinball, fine art and more, you'll find it all in the very best museums in brilliant Budapest

Jennifer Walker
Written by
Jennifer Walker
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The best museums in Budapest cover plenty of ground. That seems like something said about every city, but just think about this for a moment; the Hungarian capital has a museum dedicated to terror and another to retro pinball. It doesn’t get more opposite ends of the scale than that. Throw in some art, history and literature, and culture vultures are in for a treat.

Budapest is a city on the move. The nightlife is as good as anything found across Europe, while the blossoming restaurant scene is luring foodies from across the globe. Learn about the history and culture of this marvellous place by checking out the best museums in the city.

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Best museums in Budapest

You’ll have no trouble finding this museum on Múzeum Körút (part of the Small Boulevard), which resembles a huge, ancient Greek temple. The Hungarian National Museum was once the epicentre of the 1848 revolution against the Habsburgs when rebels gathered on its steps. Today it’s the largest museum in the country, featuring an extensive collection of archaeological findings and relics from prehistory to the communist era. Unlike the Budapest History Museum, this museum goes beyond the capital to cover the entire history of Hungary and the Carpathian Basin.

Inside the royal palace of Buda Castle, the vast collection traces the country’s creative history from medieval triptychs through to post-1945 art and sculpture. One highlight is the interior of the palace dome, hung with elegant wire-like sculptures. In peak season (and when the weather’s nice), you can climb up to the viewing platform at the top. Be sure to check out Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka’s dream-like landscapes and Mihály Munkácsy’s realist masterworks.

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After being closed for renovation for a few years, the Museum of Fine Arts unbolted its doors overlooking Heroes’ Square with much fanfare. The Romanesque main hall – closed since a bomb damaged it during the Second World War – reopened to the public with a colourful cast of characters on its gold-fringed frescoed walls. This impressive fine art collection spreads over five floors, with treasures from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome to Baroque art. Highlights include a horse sculpture attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and paintings by El Greco, Titian and Raphael.

Set in the heart of City Park, this place is worth visiting for the location alone. Housed inside the grand Vajdahunyad Castle, a 19th-century construction based on a Transylvanian castle, the Museum of Agriculture takes up a palatial space with chandelier-lined halls and frescoed rooms. The collection is eclectic: think vintage farm equipment, taxidermy animals, and loads and loads of antlers.

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Unicum is a bitter digestive liquor you’ll find in every Hungarian bar and restaurant. A trip to the original factory in the IX District offers hints into the closely guarded family recipe, made with 40 herbs and spices – and much more. You’ll wander through the cellars and taste a shot straight from the barrel, and there’s also a display of – completely unconnected – the world’s largest miniature bottle collection.

This bookish museum, in the southern wing of Buda Castle, explores the history of Budapest from prehistory to the communist era. The collection includes Roman relics, Ottoman remains, medieval tapestries and gothic statues, but the thrilling stuff is found on the lowest level. Here you can explore the oldest rooms of Buda Castle, plus vaulted chambers and a 14th-century tower chapel.

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This poignant, modern exhibition space wraps around a beautiful 1920s synagogue in the IX District. It’s a rather difficult museum to stomach as it takes you through the history of the Holocaust in Hungary, including some graphic depictions of the concentration camps. The exhibition blends interactive displays, installations and personal artefacts, like glasses, pens and toys. At the end of the dimly lit chambers, you enter the breezy blue hall of the former synagogue.

Walk along Nagymező Utca just off Andrássy Avenue, and you’ll spot a gorgeous house clad with ceramics and frescoes. The building once belonged to Mai Manó, a 19th-century imperial and royal court photographer. Today it’s a museum dedicated to Hungarian photography. The highlight is Manó’s preserved former studio, but there’s an array of other brilliant exhibitions in this quirky museum.

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After something a little more light-hearted? Then delve into this curious basement in the Újlipót neighbourhood, where you’ll find Europe’s largest interactive museum dedicated to pinball machines. As you enter, some 130 vintage consoles flash ready to play (no need to bring any change – once you get your ticket, you can play on as many as you like). Some date back to the 1880s – not pinball machines, but bagatelles, their predecessors – and you can also examine a Humpty Dumpty game from the 1940s, one of the first with flipper bumpers.

The Ludwig Museum is a core component of the Millennium Quarter, a multi-building arts complex in a former industrial neighbourhood in Pest. It shares the same contemporary, cube-like building as the Palace of Arts, a state-of-the-art music hall. This contemporary museum contains an impressive pop art collection, including some Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and modern art from Central and Eastern Europe.

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The Kiscelli is tucked in a dramatic 18th-century former monastery in the Óbuda neighbourhood. These days it’s a museum housing a curious collection of artefacts that depict life in Budapest from the 18th century to the early 19th. Highlights include lush stained-glass, antique furniture and an array of beautiful vintage shop signs.

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Number 60 on Andrássy Avenue once inspired fear as the headquarters of the secret police. In 2002 it opened to the public as a museum to commemorate the victims of the fascist and communist regimes. The House of Terror stretches from the basement – where political prisoners were once interned – to the exhibitions on the second floor. You could spend hours here, whether playing around with the interactive installations or watching gripping first-person accounts from survivors.

 

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You can find Miksa Róths stained all over the place – from the windows of the Hungarian Parliament to Mexico City. This small museum, tucked in a house in the outer VII District close to Keleti Train Station, offers a fascinating glimpse into the glass artist’s life and work. Visitors could probably spend a good couple of hours in this place, packed as it is with some of his most beautiful stained-glass works.

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