Museums and Galleries
Two of the biggest art museums of Budapest are situated on either side of the monumental Heroes' Square, the Museum of Fine Arts on the left and the Kunsthalle on the right. The Museum of Fine Arts houses outstanding permanent collections of Egyptian, Classical, 19th century art and Old Masters as well as presenting blockbuster exhibitions. The museum is closed for renovation from February 2015 until the end of 2017, but during this period a selection of highlights will be on show at the Hungarian National Gallery in the Buda Castle. The National Gallery houses the largest collection of Hungarian fine art with masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
The Kunsthalle on Heroes' Square is a neo-classical building, but inside it presents a very different picture: temporary exhibitions of the best of local and international contemporary art. The Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, the first established behind the Iron Curtain, has an internationally significant collection of modern and contemporary art from Hungary and abroad, and hosts large-scale temporary exhibitions and innovative programmes for children at the Palace of Arts. The Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center is a new gallery focusing on this visual medium, taking its name from the legendary Hungarian-born war photographer. There are hundreds of galleries dedicated to modern and contemporary art, and Art Market Budapest gives a comprehensive overview of the Central and Eastern European art scene every year. The Museum of Applied Arts – an Art Nouveau building worth a visit in itself – presents collections of design, furniture, ceramics, textiles and glassware.
The museum also has a rich collection of Islamic art from the 9th-19th century, with special focus of the art of the Ottoman Empire, which will soon be exhibited in a new Islamic wing. The exceptional collection of Furniture Art from Gothic to Biedermeier is on permanent display at the late-Baroque Nagytétényi Palace Museum.
To learn about Hungarian history, start at the Hungarian National Museum which holds the most comprehensive collection of historical artefacts from the Carpathian basin going back to Roman times, telling the story of the Magyar people from horse-riding nomads to a modern nation state. For more recent history, visit the House of Terror: once the headquarters of the secret police, the interactive exhibitions present an affecting picture of the Communist and Fascist regimes and the 1956 revolution. The powerful permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial Center, in a stunning modern building linked to a historical synagogue, is a moving reminder of some of the darkest times in the history of Hungary.
On 21 June, the shortest night of the year, more than 300 museums around the country keep their doors open until 2am during the Night of Museums, offering thousands of special programmes to hundreds of thousands of visitors for a truly unforgettable night of art in a fresh context. Most institutions organise regular cultural events, late-night openings, wine tastings and thematic guided tours to bring collections to life all year round.
Major institutions offer guided tours in English and discounts for students, children and seniors. Many museums can be visited free or at a discount with a one, two or three day Budapest Card.