As you’d expect from a city that’s really two cities in one, there are so many different facets of Budapest. A rich Jewish history. Neo-Renaissance architecture. Cutting-edge classical composers. So whatever experience you’re hoping for during your stay, you’ll find plenty of cultural things to do in Budapest.
1) Holocaust Memorial Centre
Budapest was an important Jewish centre before the Second World War and this museum tells the harrowing story of anti-Semitism and the path towards the Holocaust in Hungary. The exhibits range from maps to personal effects and interactive displays. A wall outside the centre movingly displays the names of Hungarian victims of the Holocaust.
2) Hungarian National Gallery
You might not be able to name many Hungarian artists, but there’s a fine tradition of the visual arts in the country stretching back 500 years and more. The Gallery houses everything from Gothic altarpieces through to neo-Impressionist work of the late 19th century.
3) Hungarian National Museum
This is Hungary’s largest museum, and it’s packed full of historical, archaeological and ethnic artefacts showcasing the culture and development of the people of the Carpathian Basin. You’ll find temporary exhibitions held here, and the museum is open every day from 10am to 6pm.
4) Memento Park
With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, most post-Communist states tore down their statues of totalitarian dictators. But not Hungary. Here they collected them all up and displayed them in Memento Park, 10km (6.2 miles) southwest of the city centre. It’s a fun, slightly surreal place to visit, and the gift shop offers some truly bizarre mementoes too.
5) Medieval Jewish Chapel
This intimate synagogue was built at the end of the 14th century and you can still see the original stone framed windows and Hebrew inscriptions on the walls. You can visit the chapel as part of a tour of the Jewish quarter of Budapest.
6) St. Stephen’s Basilica
The largest church in Budapest, St. Stephen’s can hold up to 8,500 people. It was built in the late 19th century and is a fascinating mix of neo-classical and neo-Renaissance styles. The dome is an impressive 96 metres (314 feet) high. Look out for the mummified right hand of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary, in the chapel to the left of the main altar.
7) Hungarian State Opera House
This huge building looks like a vast wedding cake and apparently has some of the best acoustics in Europe. So if you fancy going to a concert while you’re in Budapest, it’s well worth a visit. Perhaps you’ll hear something by local composers Kodaly, Liszt or Bartok.
8) Margaret Island Open Air Stage
If you’re visiting Budapest in the summer months, make sure to visit Margaret Island. The open air stage here plays host to concerts every year as part of the Summer Festival, and there’s seating for around 3,000 people. It’s a lovely setting and there’s always a wide variety of music on offer.
9) Pesti Vigado
If you’re strolling along the Pest you’re bound to notice this opulent building. Classical concerts are often held here, but the Vigado is also home to the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble. The group is made up of dancers, Gypsy musicians and a folk band, so if you’d like to see some truly authentic Hungarian entertainment it’s well worth a visit.
10) Bela Bartok Memorial House
The composer Bartok is one of Budapest’s most famous sons, and he lived in this house from 1932 to 1940. You’ll find artefacts of his life and career here, including a half-smoked cigarette. And the house also often hosts performances of his chamber works.