Retro Budapest

Budapest is a city that lives and breathes history. Visitors have countless opportunities to take a trip back in time, frivolously or reverently, in museums as much as in cafés. than forty years of Communism left indelible marks on the face of Budapest. Some we couldn't remove fast enough, some we have come to embrace with a sense of nostalgia, and Memento Park is a bit of both at once. After the collapse of Communism in 1989-1990 all public art that was a painful reminder of the recent past had to be removed from the streets. These monumental statues are important reminders of dictatorship, and awe inspiring pieces of design and fantastic photo opportunities. 

The House of Terror is a place for more sombre reflection. The museum presents an exhaustive interactive exhibition of totalitarian regimes in Hungary, both the German and Russian occupations and serves as a memorial to the victims of terror. Public memorials include the Gulag Memorial on Honvéd Square, commemorating Hungarians who suffered and died in Russian forced labour camps. Meanwhile the Soviet Memorial on Szabadság Square erected in 1946 pays tribute to Russian soldiers who lost their lives liberating Hungary from Nazi occupation. Close by you will find the statue of Imre Nagy, appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Hungary in 1956 who was later executed. A less visible reminder to the Cold war era is a secret nuclear bunker – known as the Rákosi Bunker –below Szabadság and Kossuth Squares, which can be visited occasionally on special tours. There are regular tours organised to the 200 square meter WWII bunker at the legendary Csepel Factory by Budapest Scenes, unmissable for WWII enthusiasts. Cold War Park is an interactive open-air exhibition of classic weapons, machines and vehicles. Wind your way through the corridors of Sziklakórház, the former top-secret military hospital and nuclear bunker underneath Buda Castle. Another exciting underground tour is exploring the mostly abandoned network of tunnels in Kőbánya, a popular filming location. Once a stone quarry, it's partly used by the Dreher brewery to ferment and store beer. During WWII they assembled airplane motors down here and it functioned as an air raid shelter. Today it can be visited on guided tours organised by BudapestScenes.

There are plenty of opportunities to indulge in a bit of misty eyed nostalgia guilt free. For a once- in-a-lifetime experience Rent a Trabant to drive around town. This East German emblem of Communist product design is famously loud, slow and uncomfortable, and yet it occupies a special place in our hearts. The Children's Railway in the Buda hills was once staffed by Pioneers – the Communist equivalent of the Scouts – and it's still in operation today, still operated by children aged 10-14 under the supervision of adults. Visit any of Budapest's famous ruin pubs and you'll find every available surface covered in memorabilia from our grandparents' attic. And if you wish to get your hands on some vintage items, visit Ecseri Market, one of the biggest flea markets in Central Europe, or the flea market around Petőfi Csarnok on weekends. Some brands of the past managed not only to live on, but completely reinvent themselves, and they are more popular today than ever before, like Tisza Shoes or Csepel Bicycles.