A Cultural Guide to Budapest
Of all the places I have visited in the past year, Budapest is the one I will be rushing back to first. Staying at the Kempinski hotel just to the east of the Danube River, I only managed to tick off a tiny portion of my to-do list, but still ended up visiting a whole host of museums and galleries. There probably isn't enough room on this blog to list all of the cultural activities Budapest has to offer, but I have provided a selection of the highlights from my most recent trip to give you a taste of what the "Paris of the East" has to offer.
Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum)
Located in Heroes' Square, this grand, eclectic-neoclassical building showcases a series of captivating works of historical importance through collections of Egyptian Art, classical antiques, paintings from old masters, sculpture, and the history of drawing, as well as a collection of modern art. Unfortunately my visit ended just before the museum's temporary exhibition highlighting the relationship between Cézanne and the past began, but it runs until February 2013, so you should catch it if you book soon.
photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/blacktiewhitenoise/1304020133/
House of Terror (Terror Háza)
Although obviously not the most uplifting holiday activity, for an appreciation of what Hungary went through in the 20th century, a trip to the House of Terror is a must. Housed in the former secret police headquarters of the Communist era, the museum objectively documents the effects of the country's Nazi and Communist periods, whilst also acting as a memorial for the victims. Permanent exhibitions show the nation's relationship to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, in addition to Hungarian fascist and communist organisations. Although many of the exhibitions are in Hungarian, English information sheets and audio guides are available.
photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/84554176@N00/4622549748/
Parliament Building (Országház)
Overlooking the Danube, this neo-gothic beauty was built to celebrate the coming together of the three cities as one Budapest in 1905. The Országház, or House of the People, is the largest building in Hungary, is open most days for guided tours, which are free for those from EU nations, and reminded me of the Palace of Westminster on my visit. Queues during the day can become very long, so I would recommend getting there at 8am to ensure you get a spot.
photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/stevepj2009/7942681662/
One of Budapest's two Michelin-starred restaurants, Onyx did not disappoint one bit on our visit. Although not cheap, we found the Onyx to be reasonable value for the quality of food provided. We opted for the Hungarian Evolution Menu, which showcased updated versions of traditional Hungarian cuisine using only the best domestic ingredients, including salmon from the Danube itself. The highlight was undeniably the meat course, using the Hungarian mangalitza pig. It paired a loin wild boar style meat with lentil foam and marmalade also made from the pig, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. There are plenty of places to eat traditional Hungarian food inexpensively in Budapest, but if you can stretch to it, I couldn't recommend a visit to Onyx highly enough.
Photo courtesy of Onyx Restaurant