Having endured the Ottoman invasion, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and occupation by both the Nazis and the Soviets, it's no surprise that Budapest has countless stories to tell.
Don't just take it from a guidebook, though there is a wide range of Budapest museums that will expand your understanding of Hungary's intricate past.
Regardless of what brought you to our magical city, no trip to Budapest is complete without adding a museum or two to your travel itinerary. Add it into your to-do’s on your self-guided walking tour from your vacation rental home in the Gellért Hill District.
From the solemn to the beautiful to the downright quirky, here's a roundup of our favorite museums in Budapest.
The House of Terror is at the top of our list if you want to learn about Hungary's not-too-distant history and its implications on Hungarian identity. Contrary to the name, this museum isn't full of monsters or ghosts in the typical sense, but rather the ghosts of Hungary's difficult past.
In the 20th Century, Hungary was occupied by invasive forces almost back-to-back. First, the Nazis during World War II, and then the Soviets, leading to the rise of Communism.
The building itself was the location of Hungary's secret police and was the site of tortures and executions. All at once a somber educational tool and a memorial to the victims of the fascist and Communist regimes, the House of Terror is a must-visit for those wanting to learn more about Hungary's harrowing history.
The Hungarian National Museum houses treasures of Hungarian and international cultures. Originally a library in 1802, a donation of minerals kickstarted the museum to become Budapest's biggest home for natural history artifacts and research. error
Deep dive into archaeological treasures from Roman and tribal Hungarian times or any of the museum’s temporary exhibitions.
Communism plays an inextricable role in Hungary's history, and this unique, open-air museum, Memento Park, sheds some light on its impact. After the fall of the communist era in 1989, the imposing statues were removed from the city and installed in what is now Memento Park.
Visitors can walk through the halls of history as each sculpture has a description on its purpose and previous location. If you want a side of fresh air and exercise with your historical excursion, Memento Park is the place for you.
The hills of Buda house many stories exploring the Hospital in the Rock will reveal some of the most harrowing stories of them all. The caves in the Buda hills have been repurposed for many uses over the years, perhaps never so impactful as when they were turned into a hospital.
The hospital functioned during World War II and then again during the siege of the Soviets in 1956 before being transformed into a nuclear bunker. Now it serves as a Budapest history museum.
All visits take place with a guided tour (English, German, and other languages available), and take you through the winding pathways cut into the stone. Wax figures are set up, reenacting the hospital's past through the decades. Learn what it was like for the brave nurses and doctors who tended to the wounded sometimes for days without sunlight. End the tour by looking at how the hospital was repurposed into a nuclear fallout shelter, which thankfully, was never required!
Locomotive lovers should run, not walk to this comprehensive Hungarian Railway Museum! Full of interactive exhibits and over one hundred locomotives, this museum is sure to delight any train enthusiast. Check their program to see when they put on demonstrations.
If you can't get enough of the trains, head up to the Buda hills and hop on the Children's Railway a vintage train run by...you guessed it...kids! Mostly. It's perfectly safe, we promise.
Located along the Danube river, Budapest's most iconic landmark, the House of Parliament, is also an educational site. Even though the Hungarian Parliament isn’t technically a museum, touring it will put you in one of the most influential seats of central european government, as well as showing you one of Hungary's most prized treasures: St. Stephen's Holy Crown (the same one you see on all currency and official seals).
Don't forget to look up while touring this Gothic Revival complex the ornately decorated Upper Chamber is a sight to see!
Europe's biggest synagogue is an important center of culture and remembrance serving as a Holocaust Memorial Center. Passerby can see the Garden of Remembrance, a mass grave for the Jews murdered in 1944-45, as well as the somberly stunning weeping willow tree a Holocaust memorial with victims' names written on the silver leaves.
We suggest booking tickets in advance to skip the long lines and ensure your entry. The entry ticket includes a guided tour as well as admission to the Jewish Museum.
Buda Castle looks stunning from any angle, but if you take the time to climb up to it (or take the 19th Century funicular), you can view the treasure trove of art inside. The Hungarian National Gallery houses the history of Hungarian art, from pre-Renaissance Gothic works to post World War II expressions.
If you tire of the extensive collection, then taking a break on the terrace will treat you to a view of Budapest's greatest work of art: its glittering skyline.
As you walk up the grand white staircase and through the towering pillars, you might think you were stepping foot in a Greek neoclassical temple rather than the Museum of Fine Arts. Feast your eyes on the permanent exhibitions of Hungarian and international art, as well as Egyptian and classical antiquities.
The traveling contemporary exhibits also cause quite a stir from time to time (the Hieronymus Bosch exhibit created a line all the way out to Heroes' Square). The building itself is a work of art, as it reopened in 2018, finally restored to its full glory after sustaining major damage during World War II.
Pálinka Museum may be Hungary's best-known export. This fruit brandy packs quite the punch, and there are so many classic flavors to try! While you can drink pálinka in any of Budapest's famous ruin bars, the pálinka museum gives you an inside look at how the spirit is made and how it makes up the Hungarian spirit!
Visitors can learn about the evolution of pálinka production over the centuries and even get the chance to have some virtual fun: there's a digital device that lets you "make" pálinka yourself.
You can't visit Hungary without trying one of its iconic liqueurs, Zwack Unicum Museum. And where better to try it than straight from the source? You'll be able to tour the distillery and taste the bitter liqueur that has over 40 herbal ingredients. Who knows maybe you'll even spy the Zwack family’s secret ingredient!
Peszgő, Hungary's version of champagne, is delightful. And none is more famous than the Törley Museum. Tour the cellars (make sure to bring a sweater!) and learn about Hungary's beloved sparkling wine.
Afterward, visit the museum shop and take home some of your own. Located south of the city, you can visit the factory where peszgő is made, and of course, try it for yourself!
Did you know that there are ancient Roman ruins in Budapest? The Aquincum Museum may as well be a time machine. Centuries ago, the ancient Roman empire stretched even as far as Hungary and there are archaeological remains to prove it.
Located north of the city center in Óbuda, the interactive Aquincum museum provides layers of experience as you can not only stroll through the remains of houses, shops, and forums but you can see them come to life as well.
Throughout the year, Aquincum hosts reenactments that align with the ancient Roman calendar, from market days to feasts. One of the most memorable events takes place on Samhain (now Halloween), where you can get your fortune told, go on a moonlit tour of ruins, and even participate in a pagan fire-jumping ceremony to welcome in the new season.
Learning really can be all fun and games! This is commonly rated as one of the most quirky and unexpected museums in Budapest the Pinball Museum is a must-go for any arcade lovers!
Experience the evolution of gaming from the 20th century onward as you play your way through approximately 150 machines. No need to bring a pocketful of coins the pinball machines are set for unlimited rounds, so you can play to your heart's delight.
Even though the museum is named after pinball, you can also find other vintage games from the 30s and 40s. Spend a few hours among the hypnotizing, flashing lights and see if you can get a new high score!
With perfect lighting, whimsical exhibits, and vibrant backdrops, this Budapest Museum of Sweets and Selfies will let you take the perfect shot. Here you'll learn more about your angles than about any kind of history. Make your way through gleeful exhibits like a sprinkle pool, a giant slide, a neon room, and more.
This Budapest museum is perfect for all ages. If snapping the perfect photo takes up too much energy, stop over in their cafe afterward for a colorful milkshake or lemonade. The Sweets and Selfies Museum has two locations in the city, each with completely different exhibits. If you have time, stop by both!
Pro tip the museum is incredibly popular, so get there early so that you can avoid waiting in lines for the perfect photo op.
While not exactly a museum, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden is a gorgeous setting to learn a little something new and to see the animals, of course!
Did you know that it's one of the oldest zoos in the world? Dating back to the 19th century, some of the structures reflect the opulence of the time and can be just as distracting as the animals.
The zoo is located within City Park, so you can add on a visit to Heroes Square or Vajdahunyad Castle while you're there! Also in City Park is the Museum of Fine Arts, so if you plan to see one, it’d be easy to see both.
Budapest is a city that's bursting with stories. See history up close and personal with a Budapest walking tour, led by a knowledgeable guide.
Communism is a significant and far-reaching chapter in Hungarian history, and the marks of it can still be seen in the country today. During the Communism walking tour, you'll learn firsthand accounts of life before and after the Iron Curtain, as well as other interesting facts. You'll learn about how Communism still influences the cityscape and even the Hungarian mentality, all while seeing relics around the city.
History doesn't have to be ancient to be impactful! In fact, Budapest's street artists are adding to the canvas of the city every year. During the street art walking tour, see some of Budapest's most impressive murals and learn about the motivation, artists, and themes behind them. This is a great tour for all who are interested in alternative or contemporary culture. After the tour, continue your discussion of Budapest's vibrant street art at a cafe with your complimentary cup of coffee.
One of the most historically-laden areas of modern Budapest is the Jewish Quarter. Even though it's evolved into Budapest's party district over recent years, the Jewish community is still quite active, and the historical significance is undeniable. Did you know that Hungary has the second largest synagogue in the world? During this tour you'll take a close look at Jewish history in Hungary, spanning from when the settlement of Hungarian tribes in 896, to the lead-up to World War II and the Holocaust, to contemporary Jewish history in Hungary. Walk through this UNESCO World Heritage site and deep dive into Budapest's history.
Chances are, if you're visiting Budapest, you'll make your way to the Castle District eventually (Buda Castle and the Fisherman's Bastion are at the top of the list of touristic sights). Why not learn something while you're there? Walk up Castle Hill with your guide and learn about the stunning building while taking in breathtaking, panoramic views of the city.
Whether you're a history buff or just looking for something to do on a rainy day, look no further than this roundup of the best museums in Budapest and dive into the history of Hungary. Happy learning!