House of Terror Museum of Dictatorships in Budapest, Hungary

House of Terror (Terror Háza) shows the history, practices & tactics of dictatorships in Hungary. Shocking pictures, interior design and audio-visual effects that actually evoke those awful times – you won’t be left untouched. Some of the travelers called the exhibition ‘ingenious’ ‘must-see’ ‘moving’ while few called it ‘badly orchestrated’ ‘distasteful’ and seemed to have lacked more distance and simplicity in the way the ruthlessness was conveyed and re-presented.

As it is a shocking and controversial theme, have a look at the video at the bottom to decide if it’s suitable for your kids or not. On a subjective note, I wouldn’t recommend it for small children.

The exhibition of the abuse by Nazis, the Hungarian Arrow-Cross Party as well as Soviets is placed in the former headquarters of the Hungarian secret police on beautiful Andrassy avenue. See the Museum icon in the middle of the map below (yellow M icon for museums)
Address: Andrássy út 60., 1062 Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-374-2600
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm
Prices: 1500 HUF, Student & retired 750 HUF, on Sundays free for students & under 18s.

See the House of Terror location in the middle of the Budapest Tourist Map below (yellow M icon for museums):


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Here are some of the disturbing visual effects of the exhibition (not for kids, please), where dead people are rolled by a machine (Gypsies, Jewish, etc.):

Some of the things that you can expect – based on a visitor’s review on TripAdvisor:

walking into a room where some strange trance music overlaid with extracts from Hitler’s speeches played as you watched some extremely distressing footage from when the Nazi and Soviet regimes were in power, it seemed the sort of music only suitable for a Neo-Nazi underground meeting.

there is a room with a dummy sitting at the head of an empty dining table dressed in full military uniform with a face projected on to it… it was creepy and totally unnecessary. Then the room where a black car which was used by the AVH is illuminated from behind black curtains and the lift which played the video clip of a man describing in detail the execution of one of the prisoners. And all this combined with hearing the laughter of people from the café downstairs…

If you are specifically interested in other communist historical traces in Budapest, check out the red flame map icons.

Budapest Bike Rentals: Where Can You Rent a Bicycle?

OK, so you want to rent a bike in Budapest? Make your bike rental decision informed. Riding a bike in Budapest is fun and not fun: conditions are not so much acceptable presently, although Budapest could potentially offer one of the greatest urban cycling experiences ever. Once the bike culture will be even more improved (more careful drivers, a lot more biking routes)… and cycling in Budapest will be in the top ten things to do in Budapest!

Attitude towards biking in Budapest has changed a lot in the past few years, the Critical Mass movement has grown stronger than ever, and luckily, more and more Budapest pubs and bars offer bike parking facilities, especially the so called ruin pubs. So enjoy it, but don’t expect to have conditions like in Amsterdam. Here’s a pic from Budapest Critical Mass :)

Good to know:

  • Geography: Budapest has two parts. Buda is hilly and Pest is totally flat, easy to bike. In some places there are quite good bike routes along the river Danube, mostly on the Buda side
  • Public transport with bike: you cannot travel on the metro= underground with bike. On trains you must buy a ticket for your bike (nominal fee, but a must).
  • Biking routes: bike routes are oftentimes shared with pedestrians, who are not used to speeding bikers, please be careful.
  • Cars vs. Bikes: car drivers don’t really like bikers (euphemism), and unfortunately won’t typically yield to bikers or pedestrians – again, be careful.
  • Bike thieves: unlike in the Netherlands, for instance, you should NOT leave your bike unlocked – it will disappear in a moment. Lock it safely, lock it well.

There are some bike rental places in Budapest (some ask for a deposit). The ones that are conveniently located are the following:

Bike Base

BikeBase bicycle rental offers a wide range of bikes, from MTBs to city cruisers, plus you can also rent customized biking tours in Budapest.

  • Bikes: from mountain bikes through city cruisers to children’s bikes, something to suit all ages and styles.
  • Extras: (included in the price) helmet, locks, tour tips, map, if outside Budapest: panniers, repair tool kit
  • Address: Podmaniczky utca 19, 1065 Budapest
  • Phone: 00-36-70-625-85-01 or 00-36-1-269-59-83
  • Opening hours: 9 am – 7 pm (earlier or later too, if arranged via phone)
  • Rental prices:

9 EUR (2 600 HUF) for 24h
16 EUR (4 600 HUF) for 48h
Special price for longterm rent. If you cannot pick up or return the bike to the shop, for a nominal fee, Bike Base will collect or deliver anywhere within Budapest city limits.

Budapest Bike

Besides renting bikes here, the guys at Budapest Bike also promise to take you to places you should not but might miss, to help with avoiding tourist traps while in Budapest, to point out where to go and what to see. You can also rent biking tours here for about 5000 HUF (dirt cheap in Budapest), or Pub Crawl bike tours (min 4 pubs, 4 hours) for 20 euros. Bikes can be rented for 3 or more days 2500HUF /day and you can hire tandem bikes too.

  • Bikes: Gepida Alboins (women’s & men’s)
  • Extras: (included in the price) helmet, chain, lock and limited insurance as stated in the rental contract.
  • Address: Wesselenyi u. 18. Budapest 1077
  • Phone: 00-36-30-944-5533
  • Rental Prices:

6 hours: 2000HUF
1 day: 3000HUF
2 day: 5000HUF
3 or more days 2500HUF/day

Budapest Tourist Map shows the different bike rental locations (check the green bicycle map icon)

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Bringo Hinto

BringoHinto rental offers bikes and bike carts or kids cars, etc. on Margitsziget (Margaret Island).

  • Bikes: mountain & city bikes, adult and kid bike carts
  • Address: Hajos Alfred setany 1., Budapest 1138
  • Phone: 00-36-329-2746

Free Riders bike rental, Budapest

Free Riders bicycle rental is close to Petofi Bridge, so you can take a ride to the Palace of Arts, to Rakoczi Bridge, etc. 

  • Bikes: not specified
  • Extras: helmet, lock, basket container, etc.
  • Address: Lonyay street 60. Budapest, District  IX. (close to Petofi Bridge on the Pest side)
  • Phone: 00-36-30 816 4192 or 00-36 30 816 4192
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 14.00-18.00, closed at weekends
  • Prices:

1-5 h 300 HUF/ hour
24 h 3,000 HUF
24+ h 2,000 HUF
Deposit is HUF 10,000

Some useful Cycling words in Hungarian:

  • bike: bringa (brin-gah), bico (bits-oh), bicaj (bi-tsoi)
  • bicycle: kerekpar (care-ache-phaar)
  • wheel: kerek (care-ache)
  • pump: pumpa (poom-pah)
  • lock: lakat (lock-ot)
  • berel (bay-rel)

Please help me to update the info. Thanks.

Current Public Holidays in Hungary

As you are coming to Budapest, it is good to know which days are the public holidays in Hungary. Most shops (even in shopping malls), banks, restaurants, etc. are closed and public transportation is less frequent (instead of 2-5 minutes you may have to wait 10-20 minutes for buses, trolleys, trams etc. – however, the metro/ underground is still very frequent coming every 5 minutes or so). Most of the public holidays are celebrated by outdoor events, public concerts and shows, contests, excursions, picnics, if weather allows, alongside official national celebrations.

Here’s the complete list of the Hungarian public holidays:

  • 1st January (New Year)
  • 15th March (commemorating the 1848/49 revolution and war of independence against the Austrian rule)
  • Easter Sunday and Monday
  • 1st May (Labour Day)
  • Whit Sunday and Monday
  • 20th August (threefold celebration: the celebration of Bread, the name day of Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, and the foundation of the Hungarian state). Budapest fireworks on August 20 national holiday.
  • 23rd October (anniversary of the 1956 revolution and war of independence)
  • 1st November (All Saints’ Day): most people go to the cemetery, and there’s a handful of Halloween parties (Halloween is relatively freshly imported – similarly to Valentine’s day).
  • 25-26th December (Christmas in Budapest) Watch out for Dec 24! Although December 24 is not an official public holiday, people go home at about 3-4 pm to celebrate Christmas Eve with their families, so most shops close, some restaurants are open. More about Christmas opening hours in Budapest here.

Some History

During communism in Hungary (up until 1989 when the democratic transition took place), the list of the public holidays was slightly different – most notably October 23rd was not celebrated (1956 was called ‘anti-revolution’), while March 21, April 4 and November 7 were. April 4 was the most powerful and most colorful reddest holiday. April 4 1945 was the day when the Soviet soldiers defeated the Nazi troops, and also the very same day that – retrospectively – meant the beginning of totalitarianism for most Hungarians. The day is not exactly the last day of World War II for Hungarians, and most people simply said that ‘the Russians came in in 1945’ which referred to the two-edged move later on (liberation and occupation). But not in 1945 necessarily as many people in 1945 assumed that the Soviet soldiers (who stayed in Hungary until 1991), would go home after the peace pact (1947). Not so.
Also, people were celebrating differently: many of them were forced to celebrate of course. Forced to put on a broad smile and believe the lies that Hungarian economy was thriving, Hungarian factories were outdoing any western factories, Hungarian pigs were always giving the highest number of piglets possible, etc. etc. Even if people were forced with direct physical contact, they were under the constant mental pressure of potentially being spied on through the effective spying system, where you had to watch your neighbour and your friends (!) – all potential spies for the communist government. You did not have to hold an important position to be monitored. But descendants of former Hungarian aristocracy, religious people, writers, poets, artists were especially under control. Maybe your friends were just spies in order to survive or protect their families, if they were threatened by communists (and oftentimes they were). But maybe they believed in the system or were simply brutally unscrupulous survivors.

Due to the general mandatory celebrating spirit, the vast majority of Hungarians was staying with the officially celebrating crowds. All schools – without exception – even kindergartens were happily celebrating the end of WW2 and the beginning of soviet Hungary: Soviet inspired poems, songs were performed, red balloons, little red flags and Hungarian flags made of paper and wooden stick were waved by the smallest children and the biggest adults. Kids were marching in scout-like groups (senior high school kids, so called pioneers were wearing red-scarves, junior high school kids, so called ‘little drummers’ were wearing blue scarves to their blue and white uniforms), and the TV showed the best moments of the parades. Everyone smiling, happy, full of soviet power and energy to transform the world into – prosperity?

I must add though that as a kid (aged 3-12) I was pretty much enjoying the parades, the big choirs, the competitions, the whole event – and had no clue what was behind these false happy celebrations, why adults were whispering strange things, why they are laughing at political humorist Géza Hofi, why some of the teenagers and young people burnt their red scarves as a sign of rebel, etc.. So I am from a generation that got relatively the best & most humorous part of communism, the weakening tail of it, and then suddenly grew up in a young chaotic democratic Hungary from 1989.

Here’s a slideshow of Hungarian pioneers with the most typical upbeat pioneer song entitled Mint a mókus fenn a fán. It was The Greatest Hit, so to say, with an easy lyrics: Like the squirrel on the tree, Pioneers are so happy, they do not stop singing for a moment. If they strike a camp somewhere, they will start to sing as well, and they don’t stop singing for a moment, etc. etc.

These days? No, you won’t see huge masses of hundreds of thousands of people. Many people either stay at home and watch TV, or tend to the garden, go to the parks and the free concerts taking place, climb hills and relax with friends, drink a beer or two, or three, etc. But at this moment as I am writing these lines, I feel that it may not be true for the next couple of years – at least taking into account some recent Hungarian political events and the reactions of several interest groups.

Warning

October 23 (commemorating 1956) is particularly touchy – marked by the conflicts between the two major parties (Hungarian Socialists and the Young Democrats – the former party thought of by several Hungarians as the legacy of the communist era, while the latter party thought of by several critics as overtly nationalistic.). So if you should be staying in Budapest during October 23, I suggest avoiding the major scenes of national celebration (there is no blood shedding, or major physical dangers, but you may be pushed around with the crowd, or just feel uncomfortable to see quarrelling and shouting people).

source (in Hungarian) for the fictitious April 4 1945 date from Domonkos Szőke historian on Nol.hu