Budapest is a unique, vibrant and historic destination that is popular with travelers from around the world. Even those who do not have the time to explore all of Hungary at least pop into Budapest for a day or three from neighboring Austria or Slovakia. Oh yes, Budapest is just that great 😉
Often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe, Budapest has a wealth of interesting sights to see and historical destinations to discover. If you only have a short time, consider checking out these Budapest tours to make the most of your Hungarian holiday — just be sure not to overlook these interesting and intriguing offbeat Budapest museums:
Zwack Unicum Museum
Unicum is an herbal liquor and one of the national drinks of Hungary. It also has a crazy interesting history behind it.
In 1790 Dr. József Zwack created unicum for Emperor Joseph II and then in 1840 the family founded the Zwack company, Hungary’s first liquor manufacturer. The recipe of over different forty herbs and spices has been a closely guarded family secret ever since.
After World War II the communist Hungarian Working People’s Party nationalized the Zwack company and the entire family fled to the United States except for one family member who stayed behind to give a fake unicum recipe to the new government. (No, this is not the plot of some Hollywood movie, this is just how integral unicum was — and still is — to Hungarian culture.)
After the collapse of communism the Zwack family returned to Hungary and repurchased their company from the government. In 1990 production of unicum using the original family recipe finally recommenced and for the first time in nearly 50 years Hungarians were able to once again enjoy their favorite national drink. To this day Zwack remains the one and only manufacturer of unicum.
Discover all this and more with a trip to the Zwack Unicum Museum, one of the most interesting and unique things to do in Budapest.
Budapest Pinball Museum
What started as one man’s love of pinball machines has grown into one of Budapest’s most famous museums, Flippermúzeum. It is also one of the funnest museums you will ever visit — and the only one that comes with a wristband (more on this below) 😉
Back in the 1970’s a young Balázs Pálfi first became captivated by the lights and sounds of the arcade. By 2013 this fascination had grown into an urge to share the joy of pinball with a new generation and he obtained a license to open a museum. A year later, in April of 2014, Flippermúzeum opened to the public. Ever since the Budapest Pinball Museum has been entertaining people of all ages.
Home to well over 100 machines from the vintage classics to the modern era, Flippermúzeum is essentially a 400m² arcade, not a museum. In addition to all the pinball machines there are even other types of arcade games to test your skill on, including classics like Pac-Man and Terminator 2. Visitors can easily spend several hours here releasing their inner child. Best part is the wristband. Because food and drink are not allowed over the machines, visitors can come and go as they like with the wristband. You can literally play until you’re hungry, leave for food and then return to the arcade games. Best museum ever!
Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum
Arany Sas Patikamúzeum
Alchemy is the science of turning ordinary objects into gold and it was all the rage from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Think of it as the popular science that all the cool chemists were embracing back then. Sure, it may have been a flawed science, but that does not make it any less fascinating. (Perhaps even more so.)
The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum is located in the Buda Castle district and it is home to a vast collection of unusual items, exhibits, information and books documenting the history of medicine dating back to the 1600’s. The building itself was built in the 15th century and was later home to an alchemist who opened the first pharmacy in Buda — it was named Golden Eagle (as you might have guessed). In some ways the interior resembles a witch’s lair with various herbs and odd “magical” ingredients like dried bat and Cannabis Indica stored in jars. All that’s missing is the eye of newt… 😉
Although small and overlooked, Golden Eagle is both interesting and entertaining — highly recommended for anyone who is curious about history, chemistry, alchemy, or medicine.
Hospital in the Rock
Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum
Beneath Buda Castle lies a vast cave network that has been used for various purposes ever since the Ottoman Empire. These natural caves were expanded with man-made tunnels in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and in preparation for World War II a combined hospital and nuclear bunker was built inside part of these caves. The “Hospital in the Rock” was vital in saving the lives of thousands of civilians and soldiers during the war, especially during the Siege of Budapest from 1944-45. In the decades after the war the hospital was continually maintained but only used sporadically.
Eventually modern technology rendered this top secret war bunker useless and in 2007 it began being renovated into a museum that first opened in 2008. A trip to the Hospital in the Rock is like a trip back in time to an era when the threat of nuclear annihilation was an ever-present threat. Given its location, visitors are not allowed to freely wander the caves and must be part of a group tour. (Tours depart every hour and yes, they are in English.)
House of Terror
Terror Háza Múzeum
Hungary has had a tumultuous history over the last century, half of which was dominated by fascist and communist regimes. It is this half of the 20th century that is chronicled at Terror Háza and it is not for the faint of heart. The House of Terror is the former headquarters of the secret police and tells an awful story of life in Hungary under Nazi, and then Communist, rule.