In recent years, Budapest has become a firm favourite for travels of all generations. For young backpackers exploring Europe, the Hungarian capital offers quirky ruin bars and late-night parties in the famous thermal baths; for mature travellers, highlights include the rich political history embodied by Buda Castle and Parliament, as well as hearty Hungarian cuisine and fine-dining. One aspect which unites all visitors to the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ is the city’s artistic heritage, with traditional, modern and contemporary art on display in various museums and galleries throughout Budapest. Here’s our list of top Budapest art spots:
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria (Hungarian National Gallery)
At the top of Castle Hill looking out over the Danube river and the city is Buda Castle, which was home to the Hungarian monarchy for some 600 years; today, the castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been home to the Hungarian National Gallery since 1957. The journey to the top of Castle Hill alone is an activity not-to-be-missed, which can be reached either by a pleasant uphill walk or a ride on the funicular. The views from Castle Hill are breathtaking, and can be enjoyed alongside a spot of lunch or an afternoon drink from one of the cafes and restaurants in the area. The Hungarian National Gallery houses both Hungarian and international works of arts, from the Medieval period up to the modern day; this collection boasts 6,000 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, 11,000 drawings and 5,000 prints. One of the striking architectural features of the gallery is the Dome, which offers unparalleled views of the city from its terrace, whilst the interior of the Dome is highlighted with hanging sculptures. Until July, the gallery will host an exhibition on German artist Georg Baselitz, with paintings and sculptures from public and private collections.
Magyar Szecesszió Háza (House of Hungarian Art Nouveau)
During the early 20th century, Budapest was enamoured with the Art Nouveau style, which emerged from Britain and spread across Europe and the rest of the world. As a result, the city’s landscape is scattered with stunning Art Nouveau buildings, with some examples combining unique Hungarian architectural elements. Budapest’s love affair with this art movement is celebrated by the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, situated in the former home of the wealthy Bedő family. The house was built in 1903 by architect Vidor Emil, who was responsible for the first Art Nouveau style house in the city. Today, the house is owned by Tivadar Vad, who renovated the building to its former glory and opened his Art Nouveau collection to the public; the collection exhibits furniture, interiors, porcelain art and paintings from this period. After admiring the delights of Vad’s collection, have a bite to eat or a coffee break in the museum’s cafe, Secessio Cafe Delikat, which offers sandwiches, cakes and drinks in a charming Art Nouveau setting.
Mai Manó Ház (Mai Manó House of Photography)
In 1893, Imperial and Royal Court photographer, Mai Manó, embarked on the project of an eight-storey home and studio in the heart of Budapest. The building’s architecture and decor reflected Manó’s aesthetic interests, featuring an impressive neoclassical façade; meanwhile, the interior aided his photography, with a ‘Daylight Studio’ (‘Napfényműterem’) included on one floor, used to take photos with natural light. Since the late 1990s, the house has been used as centre for Hungarian photography, encouraging new photographers whilst preserving the photographic works of Hungarian artists from the 20th century. Past exhibitions have included emerging native photographers, such as Andi Schmied, alongside renowned war photographer, Robert Capa. The house is also home to the József Pécsi Library of Photography, which provides photographic resources for public use.
Szépművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Fine Arts)
On the edge of Heroes’ square – one of the most recognisable locations in Budapest – is the grand neoclassical building of the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum’s collection consists of an astounding 100,000 pieces, ranging from Classical Antiquities to Old Master paintings which have been gathered from the collections of Buda Castle, the noble Esterházy and Vichy families, and other collectors. Amongst these pieces is the collection of Egyptian art, which is the second largest collection of its kind in Central Europe. The permanent exhibition of Old Masters includes important works from across Europe, such as Raphael’s Esterhazy Madonna and Titian’s Portrait of Doge Marcantonio Trevisani. Moving into the 19th century, the Department of Art after 1800 is as rich in artistic masterpieces as the museum’s other collections. This section presents the work of Romanticist, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, such as Delacroix, Manet and Monet. The museum is currently undergoing extensive renovation, and will be reopened in 2018.
Iparművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Applied Arts)
Another example of Budapest’s Art Nouveau architecture, the Museum of Applied Arts is located in the striking design of Ödön Lechner – also known as the ‘Hungarian Gaudí’. Built between 1893 and 1896, the building also integrates elements of Islamic and Hindu architecture and features a vibrantly-coloured roof decorated with Zsolnay tiles. Within the opulent exterior is a collection of metalwork, furniture, textiles and glass, celebrating the craftsmanship of Hungary. Until June of this year, the museum is presenting an exhibition on the Modernist design of Hungarian-born architect and furniture designer, Marcel Breuer. Other permanent exhibitions from the Museum of Applied Arts are also situated in the baroque Nagytétény Castle and the György Ráth Museum, featuring further examples of Hungarian craft and skill.
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