Hungary’s National Museum contains relics from the nation’s history. It’s a must if you’re in Budapest and want to learn the basics about this country you’re in.
Kings, Ottoman occupiers, communist regimes and revolutions: even by European standards, Hungary has a rich history. This makes for a wealth of artefacts, documents, film and photography, the best selection of which are here in the National Museum.
To do justice to the Hungarians’ 1,000-year history, the displays are split over two floors. On the ground floor you’ll follow the early settlements in the Carpathian Basin, the large plain on which Hungary sits, through to the arrival of the Magyars, ancestors of modern Hungarians. Another sweeping timeline upstairs takes you from the Magyars to the present, via Hungary’s days as an Ottoman province, an Austrian sister, and later as a Soviet satellite. Things wrap up with the end of the Cold War, and an exploration of a modern, 21st-century country.
Getting into the museum can be slow going because of queues, but the displays themselves are as good as any you’ll find in a big national institution. Like most major public museums, the permanent exhibitions are free, but you’ll need tickets to get into the special, temporary ones.
The museum was founded in 1802 by Ferenc Széchényi, a Hungarian aristocrat, who donated his enormous private collection of prints, archaeological treasures, and much more. With so much happening between 1802 and now (as you’ll find out) the museum has had plenty of scope to expand. Now, in 2018, you can discover all this history in one place.
Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum
Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088 Budapest