Hungary has a rich artistic heritage, and Budapest reflects this in its diverse creative landscape. Artist and co-founder of Budapest Art Factory Márta Kucsora offers her take on the Hungarian capital’s art scene.
Vibrant, bohemian and eclectic, Budapest is a city of art. Home to world-class museums, colourful street art and independent galleries, it’s hard to visit the Hungarian capital without experiencing its lively arts scene – even if it’s only accidentally, by stumbling across the eye-catching murals of the Jewish Quarter.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Larger institutions such as the Hungarian National Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Kunsthalle and the Museum of Applied Arts take visitors on a journey through the history of Hungarian art, showcasing pieces by renowned artists such as Mihály Munkácsy and Károly Markó. But explore a little further and you’ll find independent galleries, non-profit arts festivals and contemporary studio spaces ensuring Budapest’s art scene remains right on the cutting edge.
Márta Kucsora is an artist and co-founder of Budapest Art Factory, an independent art studio in the city’s 13th district. Born in 1979 in the Hungarian city of Szeged, Kucsora became interested in art at a young age. A year at Montclair State University in the USA followed her studies at the University of Fine Arts in Budapest, before she returned home to Hungary to set up Budapest Art Factory (BAF) with fellow artists Dóra Juhász and Sándor Szász. Located in a former industrial building, BAF is a contemporary visual-arts centre that hosts a year-round programme of exhibitions, panel discussions and studio visits. The aim is to provide a link between Hungarian and international arts professionals and, as well as showcasing local talent, there’s also an international guest artist programme. “We invite both emerging and established artists for a one- to two-month residency, culminating in a one-man show,” explains Kucsora.
This focus on contemporary art fits perfectly into Budapest’s lively arts scene, which Kucsora describes as “quite colourful, and very progressive”, adding that “it always reflects on current worldwide movements”. She lists fellow University of Fine Arts graduate Erik Mátrai as her favourite contemporary artist: “I find his installations not only visually stimulating, but very thoughtful and mind-opening.”
Budapest Art Factory is one of a host of contemporary art spaces in the city. Away from the mainstream, such as the Kunsthalle museum located on Heroes’ Square, Art Quarter Budapest and Trafo House feature highly on Kucsora’s list of recommendations. Both these spaces showcase contemporary art by Hungarian and international artists.
She also sees the current arts scene as very gallery-oriented, with artists outside this sphere struggling to gain visibility, but adds, “There are some great non-profit initiatives, such as the OFF-Biennale, organised by independent young curator Hajnalka Somogyi – the next one is happening in the spring of 2020.”
A grassroots initiative, OFF-Biennale is an international contemporary arts event that takes place in (sometimes unexpected) locations across Budapest, such as private apartments, industrial spaces and empty shops. The event separates itself completely from the state (no state funding is sought and the locations are completely independent), instead choosing to focus on the link between art, social change and democracy. Visitors to Budapest during the OFF-Biennale are encouraged to head off on an artistic adventure across the city, discovering works by local and international artists along the way.
When asked what makes Hungarian art so uniquely Hungarian, Kucsora responds that the country’s location has certainly had an impact. “Because of the very central European location, we always had a difficult political situation, we are on the border of East and West, the margin of different cultures and religions… These factors definitely have a significant impact on contemporary art.”
One only has to take a look back at the last century in Hungary’s turbulent political history to see that while creativity and a love for art have always been present in the city, the ability to practise them freely has not. “The [Communist] era enforced Socialist Realism in the visual arts,” explains Kucsora. “Anything else had to happen underground.” She references the Iparterv movement, an early manifestation of the Neo-Avant-Garde in Hungary that culminated in two exhibitions, Iparterv I in 1968 and Iparterv II in 1969. Both went against the artistic status quo enforced by the Communist regime of the time, and were on show for just a few days as a result.
Among the most notable Hungarian artists, Kucsora lists modern abstract artists Simon Hantaï and Judit Reigl, both of whom were practising art during the Cold War in France, away from the shadow of the Iron Curtain. Then there’s László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946), whom Kucsora sees as “the most influential Hungarian artist of his time; he was indeed a multimedia artist and had a strong experimental intention in many of his works, including films”. Their work appears in museums and galleries both internationally and within Budapest, and it’s always worth keeping an eye out for exhibitions featuring their art.
Beyond museums and galleries, there is also an abundance of street art to enjoy, much of which can be found in the bohemian Jewish Quarter. This previously run-down district with a harrowing past has been brought back to life in recent years, and today is home to much of the city’s vibrant nightlife – including its quirky and eclectic ruin bars, almost works of art in themselves. Throughout the area, previously blank, grey walls are now adorned with colourful murals, many created by the Neopaint Works group or as part of Színes Város, a street-art festival held annually between 2014 and 2017.
Indeed, often all it takes is a quick look up to see that in Budapest, art really is all around. This is a city of architectural wonders and, more specifically, a living gallery of the Hungarian Art Nouveau of the early 1900s. Architect Ödön Lechner was a key figure of this movement; also known as the Hungarian Gaudí, which should give some indication as to his legacy, Lechner was the man behind buildings such as the Museum of Applied Arts and the Postal Savings Bank, both of which are decorated with Hungarian-produced Zsolnay terracotta tiles, and can be admired from street level.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.