There are several museums in Budapest that are worth visiting and the Hungarian National Museum located near the Inner City district is certainly one of them. With three floors of exhibits, the museum focuses on the history of Hungary, which includes many different interesting periods of time. For many reasons, Hungarians are both proud of their history as well as embarrassed by certain aspects of it as well. The building, with its murals and decorative dome, is as impressive as the exhibits that it houses.
We visited the museum on a rainy afternoon, making it a perfect way to get out of the rain while enjoying a trip through time as we walked through each of the floors. Hungary has a rich history and was one of the most powerful and influential countries in all of Europe for many centuries. The museum embraces that history with many displays of the royal families, battles, invasions, and more. There are a variety of paintings, statues, as well as historical garments and furniture located throughout the Hungarian National Museum.
We talked to several local Hungarians during our time in Budapest and their commentary regarding the history of the 20th century were all pretty much the same. It was a time of poor choices and a period of decline and occupation until the late 1900’s when the country regained its independence. The museum does not shy away from that part of its history, but instead has displays depicting each phase of that era. It starts Hungary’s involvement in WWI, which resulted in the country being divided into small Nation-States that left Hungary itself a much smaller country than its previous size. Then in WWII, Hungary once again sides with Germany in attempt to regain its former glory, only to end up being occupied by Germany towards the end of the war. Even the liberation of Hungary by the Soviet Union turned into another occupation and a dark period in the country’s history.
Eventually the country regained its independence and is now once again a proud country, albeit still much smaller than it was during the previous centuries. The Hungarian National Museum is definitely quite interesting and worth at least a couple of hours to see.
We love finding interesting street art in cities around the world, and Budapest was certainly no different. We find it interesting that there are often sites now where you can find maps of all of the street art in a city, which is great for people that enjoy seeing all of the variations of street art that a city has to offer. Much of the street art in Budapest is located in the Old Jewish Quarter where trendy restaurants and shops are now really popular. We didn’t use a map during our trip, so the art we found, we found somewhat randomly. As with most street art, it was colorful and sometimes whimsical. Here are a few of our favorites.
Ruin Pubs are bars that have been opened up in dilapidated buildings that were partially destroyed during WWII. They are usually decorated with random furniture and decorations that have been gathered from anywhere that they can find them. The decorations are colorful, whimsical, and don’t follow any particular themes other than uniqueness. Because of their popularity, they can be quite busy, noisy, and sometimes a little rowdy. We went late afternoon to early evening and stayed away from the late night crowds.
The original Ruin Pubs opened in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, which is now a center of wonderful restaurants and shops, as well as the pubs. Although some of the pubs serve food, the beer, wine, and mixed drinks are the real focus of the Ruin Pubs. We went to the original Ruin Pub called Szimpla Kert, often just referred to as Szimpla, which definitely lived up to the reputation. It was quirky, fun, and a little noisy, especially as more and more people came to the pub. To be fair, it isn’t the cleanest of environments, but you don’t go to a Ruin Pub expecting an elegant experience, you should expect it to be a little on the rough side.
Today there are over a dozen Ruin Pubs in Budapest and there are several companies that will take you on a guided pub crawl. Obviously, you don’t need a guide to do a Ruin Pub Crawl as you can find plenty of maps online that will show where each of the more popular pubs are. Even if you’re not into bars and drinking, visiting a Ruin Bar to see the eclectic decorations and experience the unique atmosphere is at least worth a visit. Many of the Ruin Pubs don’t open until at least 5:00 pm, so be sure to check on the hours of the pub you’re planning on visiting before heading there.