Budapest: The New Paris of the 20s?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been hearing places spoken about as “just like Paris of the 1920s.” When I first visited Prague in 1992, more than one person used that phrase to describe the city that was so recently free of Communist rule and seemed absolutely full of young artists, students, and musicians. Many of the new “Paris of the 1920s” locations are in Eastern Europe, and although Prague still tops the list of cities that get that moniker, Budapest is no stranger to that description, either. In fact, some take it a step further and say Budapest is like Prague – which is, in turn, like the Paris of the 20s – only they also say Budapest is much cheaper.

The highlights of Budapest are many, and there’s plenty to keep you entertained for several days almost regardless of what your interests are.

The city has an interesting history and is home to many historic monuments and buildings, but to have the centuries put into perspective for you it’s helpful to visit one of the city’s museums – including the Budapest National Museum, Holocaust Memorial Center, and House of Terror. Hungarian food may be terrifying to vegetarians, but as long as you’re a meat eater you’ll do just fine – indeed, you’ll eat like a king and may well take advantage of your vacation status to enjoy a few afternoon naps after gigantic lunches, too.

The “Paris of the 20s” reference is, however, almost always made when discussing a city’s arts scene, and Budapest is no slouch in that department, either. The city’s Museum of Fine Arts houses ancient art as well as masterpieces from the 13th to 18th centuries. The Kunsthalle, across from the Museum of Fine Arts, is a major contemporary arts museum in Hungary. Budapest’s Palace of Arts and National Theatre sit next to one another and together make up some of the city’s best performing arts venues.

Beyond the massive art museums and performance halls, however, there are small and independent contemporary art galleries and artist studios all over the city. Some of them aren’t regularly open to the public, and some of them are private studios, so if you’d like to see Budapest’s arts scene from an insider’s perspective it’s worth looking into guided tours that will grant you access. It’s also a good idea to check with the tourist information office when you get into the city to find out what arts events are going on while you’re visiting.

Whether today’s Budapest is actually anything like the Paris of the 20s or not is almost not important – it’s whether you enjoy visiting Budapest that really matters.

– by Jessica of BootsnAll

photos by IK’s World Trip, Jess & Peter, Square Head, Paul Mannix, Walt Hubis