Since Budapest is an extremely interesting and colorful place, it must not come as a surprise that both Hungarian history and culture are diverse and intriguing. You’re not convinced yet? Then check out the countless museums which cover basically every single aspect of Hungarian life, no matter if past, present, or future.
If you go on a Budapest sightseeing tour because you want to dive deeper into the heart of Hungarian culture, you should definitely pay a visit to at least two museums – the more, the better! And don’t worry about the offer being to one-sided: In fact, the focus of these informative yet entertaining attractions range from art of all sorts to history, religion, science and even chocolate. To make your choice a bit easier, we have created a list of the 20 must-see museums in Budapest.
Hungarian National Museum
All show and no substance? Far from it! This stunning building does not only impress visitors with its neoclassicist design, but also with an extensive collection of artifacts, such as textiles, furniture, metal work, and weapons, stemming from all historical periods from the 11th century until the fall of Communism. Since the Hungarian National Museum was founded in 1802, the sheer amount of exhibition pieces is so huge that you can spend hours wandering around, exploring the Hungarian national identity.
Have Fun Tip: Don’t forget to take a look at the museum’s most valuable piece, the coronation mantle which was used to be worn by Hungarian monarchs during this royal ceremony!
Hungarian National Gallery
Located in the magnificent Royal Palace of Buda Castle, the Hungarian National Gallery is the largest publicly accessible collection depicting the rise and development of the fine arts in Hungary. Naturally, all works were exclusively created by Hungarian artists, including the well-known sculptor Miklós Borsos as well as the renowned painter Mihály Munkácsy. Apart from paintings and stonework, you will also come across Gothic altarpieces and wood sculptures, thus making the trip to this Budapest museum everything but dull!
Have Fun Tip: You don’t only want to scratch the surface but learn much more about the different exhibitions? Sign up for a tour led by one of the museum’s highly trained guides and held in Hungarian, English, French, Italian and Russian.
Museum of Fine Arts
What you see is what you get – enter the halls of this temple-like building and face a vast collection of international as well as Hungarian art, which is especially rich in Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan antiquities. Nevertheless, the Museum of Fine Arts also displays less ancient pieces, the most current ones dating back to the end of the 18th century.
Have Fun Tip: Once a month, the Museum of Fine Arts opens its door during evening hours and presents a special program in addition to the exhibitions. Don’t miss this opportunity and get yourself a ticket!
House of Terror
The House of Terror functions both as museum and memorial at the same time. With Hungary having been oppressed by two terror regimes, namely the Nazi dictatorship as well as the occupation by the Soviets, this place was brought into being in order to commemorate the victims and depict how life has been back then. Visitors even get the chance to enter the former coal cellars where prisoners were tortured in the most horrendous ways, often until their very end.
Have Fun Tip: Intensify the experience by grabbing one of the audio guides which are available in English, German, Spanish, Russian, French, and Italian.
Budapest Museum of History
The Budapest Museum of History is located in the Buda Castle and, consequently, also known as Castle Museum. Solely dedicated to the history of the Hungarian capital, it exhibits amongst others findings from archaeological excavations and building sites to shed light on how Budapest came into existence.
Have Fun Tip: Sneak a peek at the Gothic Hall which hasn’t been rebuilt and still looks the way it did when it belonged to an actual medieval castle.
Hospital in the Rock
A rather unusual museum in Budapest is the Hospital in the Rock. During the Second World War, an extensive emergency surgical centre and bunker was built into the cave system under the castle, whereby naturally existing tunnels were manually connected to the Hospital’s tunnel system. At the time of the Soviet Uprising, the hospital was used awhile as a prison before it was re-purposed into a nuclear bunker and equipped with anti-radiation kits, an air filtering system and an enormous water tank.
Have Fun Tip: English guided tours are offered on a daily basis, starting every hour from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Museum of Applied Arts
You’re fond of things that fulfill an actual purpose while being highly aesthetic? Then the Museum of Applied Arts is your place to be! Its aim is to collect, register and document works of applied art and display them as objects of great cultural value. The permanent exhibition shows pieces of various kinds, including metal work, glass, textiles and even furniture, thus teaching you to spot the extraordinary in everyday objects.
Have Fun Tip: Before you enter the building, make sure to pay special attention to its beautifully designed roof which consists of multicolored Zsolnay ceramic tiles.
Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives
While exploring Budapest, you have certainly come across the majestic Synagogue on Dohány Street. This building is not only a house of God, but also contains the Jewish Museum, the Heroes’ Synagogue, a memorial to all Jewish soldiers fallen during the First World War, the cemetery garden and the delicate memorial tree. The collection displayed in the museum gives a profound historical insight into the Jewish community while highlighting its changing self-image as well as social role
Have Fun Tip: Besides guided tours in various languages, the Jewish Museum also offers guided visits of its archives. There are special tours for children and adults.
Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Arts
Art lovers who prefer modern works to ancient pieces will feel at ease at the Ludwig Museum. Being equipped with the latest museum technology, this place exhibits contemporary art on three stories, showing modern international as well as Hungarian artworks. Thereby, a special focus is laid on interactivity, so that the visitors can experience art and its cultural values in an entertaining but still informative way.
Have Fun Tip: Since 2013, Ludwig Museum regularly hosts the Art & Wine Lover’s Club. On these evenings, Hungarian vinoculturalists present their excellent wines which can be enjoyed while marveling at contemporary art.
Museum and Library of Hungarian Agriculture
Located in Budapest’s idyllic City Park is Vajdahunyad, a castle modeled after the eponymous Transylvanian original for the Hungarian millennial exhibition in 1896. Originally made of cardboard, it proved itself so popular among visitors that it was made a permanent fixture out of stone. Since 1908, the fake castle houses the Agricultural Museum which displays a collection of objects portraying the history of Hungarian agriculture and focusing on hunting, forestry, fishing as well as the domestication of animals.
Have Fun Tip: Don’t miss out on the Hall of Hunting! This exhibition showcases diverse hunting memorabilia, including hundreds of antlers mounted on the walls.
Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center
If your interest in photography goes beyond the obligatory snapshots taken on a sightseeing tour of Budapest, the Capa Múzeum should be on top of your bucket list. Although to a large degree centered around its namesake, the famous Hungarian-American photographer Robert Capa, the overall focus of this museum is the exhibition of international as well as national contemporary photography. To make the visit even more appealing, special events such as lectures, film screenings and performances, are organized on a regular basis.
Have Fun Tip: Buy a ticket for one exhibition and get a discount of 50% on the ticket for a second one!
CsoPa – Palace of Wonders
For those who are young at heart and/or travelling with kids, the CsoPa Science Center is worth being recommended. Founded more than 20 years ago, this interactive scientific playing area is the perfect location to spend an entire day: Over 250 tools and games demonstrating physical phenomena, fascinating lectures and demonstrations as well as three cinema ride movies and many other attractions will definitely keep you busy!
Have Fun Tip: Want to surprise your significant other with a date to remember? Order the Perfect Date Package and spend a couple of pleasant hours together!
Art is always more than meets the eye. This is especially the case with the artworks by the famous Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely, since he is widely known as being the “father” of op art, a style of visual art that uses optical illusions. At Vasarely Museum, you can peer at more than 400 pieces by Vasarely, originals as well as reproductions. Besides, there are also seasonal exhibitions of works by contemporary artists.
Have Fun Tip: If you want to be part of the action, don’t miss out on the VR-based education tool which lets you establish the closest possible connection with the artworks!
Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum
Attention, classical music lovers: If want to add to your knowledge of Franz Liszt and even check out how the famous composer used to live, the Liszt Ferenc Museum is your place to go to. The museum itself is a reconstruction of the flat on the first floor of the old Academy of Music in Budapest, where Liszt resided from 1881 until 1886. Naturally, the exhibits include his original instruments and books, furniture as well as personal memorabilia.
Have Fun Tip: The Liszt Ferenc Museum arranges Saturday matinee concerts in the concert hall close to the museum itself for its visitors.
Róth Miksa Memorial House
Sure thing , the R´th Miksa House is one of the most colourful Budapest museums due to its focus: mosaics. Miksa Róth was the most influential Hungarian stain glass artist and mosaicist, making these art forms two of the most prominent ones in Hungarian culture. Interestingly, the building itself had been inhabited by the Róth family until it was confiscated by the government in 1945. Today, a number of his works are showcased there, including dozens of magnificent stained-glass windows.
Have Fun Tip: Just ask the staff for additional information, they’re extremely knowledgeable and like to share, also in English!
Mai Manó Museum
Another Budapest museum focusing on photography is the Mai Manó Museum, dedicated to and once inhabited by the Hungarian Imperial and Royal Court Photographer. The museum’s special highlight is the daylight studio where Mai took his photographs. To this day, it remains the most elegant location in Budapest for studio-photography with sunlight.
Have Fun Tip: The mezzanine of the Mai Manó Museum houses a bookshop with a tiny photo gallery. Both of them can be visited for free!
Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts
Not all Budapest museums deal exclusively with European art. Artworks from all over Asia can be gazed at in the Hopp Ferenc Museum of Asiatic Arts. Founded in 1919, this museum hosts around 30.000 artifacts from China, Japan, India, Korea, Nepal, Tibet, South East Asia, Mongolia and the Near East, many of which had been collected by the world traveling art collector and optician, Ferenc Hopp himself.
Have Fun Tip: Craving more valuable information? Sign up for a guided tour through the permanent and temporary exhibitions, either in English or Hungarian!
Hungarian Natural History Museum
Want to explore the natural history of Hungary and the Carpathians without leaving Budapest itself? Then head over to the Hungarian Natural History Museum! With extensive collections from the areas of geology, zoology, botany, anthropology and paleontology comprising of more than ten million specimens, it is by far one of the largest of its kind. This exhibition has the power to entertain children and adults equally!
Have Fun Tip: Among the most notable objects are definitely the naturally preserved mummies found in the town of Vác, Hungary, so make sure to have a look at them!
Kunsthalle – The Hall of Arts
Right on Heroes’ Square, the Hall of Arts can be found. This Budapest museum of contemporary arts does not possess an own collection to put on display permanently. Instead, it exclusively shows temporary exhibitions focusing on the most significant trends in present-day national as well as international fine art. In doing so, the Hall of Arts is open to all kinds of visual culture, strictly operating according to the principle of aestheticism.
Have Fun Tip: Finish your trip to the museum with a piece of Hungarian cake or a cup of coffee at the Műcsarnok Café while overlooking Heroes’ Square.
Szamos Chocolate Museum
Satisfy your sweet tooth by exploring the world of chocolate at Szamos Chocolate Museum! Szamos is one of the oldest Hungarian chocolate manufactories in family hands, thus setting great value on tradition and quality. Drop by, have a piece of chocolate cake in the Szamos café on the ground floor, discover the history of chocolate-making in the magnificently designed museum rooms and buy some confectionaries afterwards – you won’t be disappointed.
Have Fun Tip: Book a guided tour experience in the museum during which you get to hear additional information, taste several delicious, home-made sweets and even create your own chocolate bar!