Quirky Parks and Museums
Memento Park is one of Budapest's best known unusual attractions, an outdoor museum where many monumental artefacts of Communism have been preserved. You can learn the dry facts about a regime, but you will never really get the sense of what it must have been like living in an oppressive state until you experience a six-meter tall statue of a Russian soldier staring down at you.
As well as over forty giant statues that provide amazing photo opportunities, Memento Park offers exhibitions and experiences like getting into a Trabant, the rather poky archtypal East German car of the sixties and seventies. For a more serene experience, visit Kerepesi Cemetery, an extensive park dotted with mausolea and artistic gravestones, where many of the nation's great statesmen, artists and heroes have been laid to rest. Delve into the rural past at the Ethnographic Museum opposite the parliament building, where a vast collection of objects and photographs evoke the all-but-disappeared peasant life from every part of historical Hungary. The Skanzen at Szentendre brings this rural past to life – the open-air ethnographic museum introduces regions of Hungary through a collection of show villages, including farm houses, churches and agricultural buildings. They also organise events, especially around holidays where traditions are re-enacted and visitors can try their hands at old crafts and sample traditional dishes. Travel further back in time at Aquincum, where remains of a Roman settlement have been excavated and a museum helps puts them into historical context.
The transport museum in the City Park will be of particular interest to families with younger children. The former, in City Park, is one of the oldest transportation museums in Europe and has a comprehensive collection of planes, trains and automobiles, as well as trams, ships and motorcycles. The Railway Museum has a great collection of locomotives exhibited in a park, and best of all, children of all ages are allowed to climb on board and ‘drive' the train. The Museum of Military History in Buda Castle packed with weaponry, uniforms and militaria, walks visitors through Hungarian military history from the Turkish conquest through the 1848-49 revolution up to the 20th century Hungarian Royal Army. The interactive exhibits at the Natural History Museum and the Electrical Engineering Museum will inspire scientific wonder and curiosity. The Hospital in the Rock was as an emergency hospital during the 1944-45 siege of Budapest set up in the cave system under the Buda hill complete with a nuclear bunker, and this fascinating piece of medical and military history can be discovered on guided tours. Museums never get more ‘hands on' than the extraordinary Invisible Exhibition, where blind and partially sighted guides take groups through specially furnished rooms in complete darkness. Experience everyday situations like grocery shopping without being able to rely on vision and you are guaranteed to see the world with new eyes after an hour spent in pitch black.