Arts and Culture in Budapest

Budapest’s culture scene reflects the city’s centuries-long history as a hub for thinkers, artists, writers, and musicians—after all, the city enjoys more than 40 theaters and upwards of 100 museums. It’s wonderful to wander through halls of luscious art or take in concerts at the Liszt Academy (the composer was a native). Even better is to simply gaze at the stunning architecture spanning eras and design elements that remain innovative whether they were made yesterday or centuries ago.

Budapest, Liszt Ferenc tér 8, 1061 Hungary
This university for music was established in 1875 by, you guessed it, renowned Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. The building is of course primarily a school—but its lively in-house concert series, including chamber music, student ensemble performances and classical works for larger orchestras in several halls and spaces—assures a lot of public interaction with this place’s wonderful classical music tradition. This gorgeous, recently refurbished Art Nouveau building is packed with lovely tapestries and gold-leaf decoration, making it as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the ears.
Budapest, Liliom u. 41, 1094 Hungary
This funky venue for experimental art of all kinds—theater, visual art, dance, performance, music, even circus arts—began as a transformer station, then later sat empty for 40 years until a group of artists began squatting there in the early 1990s. The city of Budapest bought and officially renovated the spaces, opening Trafó in 1998. The wildly varied program has been going strong ever since with event spaces, an exhibition room, and even a basement club for discourse and literary nights. Expect cutting-edge performances and an intellectual, offbeat crowd.
1 Komor Marcell utca
Ludwig museums crop up frequently throughout Europe—the Ludwigs were avid German art collectors who were also generous enough to make large donations and establish institutions in places like Cologne since the late 1980s—and Budapest is no exception. The collection of this particular Ludwig Museum, like the others, focuses on art made since the 1960s. Unlike the others, it has a decidedly Hungarian focus. Rotating exhibitions feature much avant-garde and often Eastern European art not easily or often seen elsewhere. The museum itself, which is situated inside the Müpa complex, is an airy, unadorned space to view the works.
30 Teréz körút
In an age of Hollywood blockbusters and cineplexes (even in Europe), true art-house cinemas are a dying breed; Művész on the Pest side of the city keeps the faith with a wide variety of international and vintage films shown on four screens. English films are shown with Hungarian subtitles. Alongside that are film festivals as well as a foyer with delicious old cozy sofas, magazines and books, fish tanks and wall sculptures, even arts and crafts to buy. On top of it all, the cinema houses a bustling retro cafe that attracts culture vultures beyond the usual cinephile audience.
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