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Exploring Hungary’s Socialist Past at the Budapest Retro Museum

by Paola Bertoni
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The Budapest Retro Interactive Museum, also known as Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum, is an unforgettable experience that will take you on a journey through time. This incredible museum will transport you straight to the Socialist era of Hungary, triggering waves of nostalgia and laughter. Through this time capsule, you’ll have the chance to gain a deeper understanding of Hungarian history and culture. In this blog post, you’ll discover why this museum is an absolute must-visit in Budapest.

About Communist Hungary: what you need to know

Hungary’s history is rich and varied, with influences from various cultures and empires. One of the most significant periods in Hungary’s recent past was the socialist era. The Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party ruled the Country under the influence of the Soviet Union.

Get ready to make the most of your Budapest trip with the Budapest Card to enjoy free public transportation throughout the city, enter for free at several of the city’s very best museums, relax at the famous Lukács Thermal Bath, and enjoy exclusive discounts to some of the most popular tourist attractions and tours.
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After the 1944 Moscow Conference, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin agreed that Hungary would be included in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war. The Hungarian People’s Republic, called Magyar Népköztársaság in Hungarian, lasted from 1949 until the country transitioned to democracy in 1989.

When you visit the Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum, you can step back in time and experience this fascinating period. Propaganda posters, vintage decorations, and memorabilia cover the museum’s walls, making you feel like a time capsule. You can learn about school and kids activities in Hungary during communism, see red Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party flags, and listen to the most famous socialist songs, such as The Internationale.

Today, Budapest is a modern city with a Central European charm. Still, for those who are nostalgic or curious, the Soviet period is still something worth remembering. The museum is a colourful and entertaining way to explore a past that no longer exists.

Statue of Lenin next to a typical Hungarian concrete block of flats at Budapest Retro Museum
Statue of Lenin next to a typical Hungarian concrete block of flats at Budapest Retro Museum

Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum’s Highlights

The Budapest Retro Interactive Museum showcases the era of socialism in Hungary. As a retro playground, the museum is full of things to open, push, touch, and try, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the country’s recent past.

Here, Hungary’s Soviet past has become entertainment. From the objects from Hungarian cosmonauts’ memorabilia to typical household items and furniture, distinct themes and special items guide visitors through time.

Overall, the Budapest Retro Élményközpont museum provides a unique and entertaining way to experience the country’s socialist past and provides a glimpse into a world that has long since disappeared. Below are some themes that particularly impressed my son and I during our visit.

Living in Soviet Hungary

The Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum’s exhibit offers a glimpse into Hungary’s past. The exhibit is really designed to provide a sense of what life was like in Hungary during the 1970s and 1980s.

You can explore Hungarian life by opening windows and doors of the notorious Hungarian concrete blocks of flats. Additionally, you can observe a typical apartment from the socialist era in actual size, complete with outdated furniture, old appliances, and vintage decorations.

Hungarian vintage apartment at Budapest Retro Museum
Hungarian vintage apartment at Budapest Retro Museum

Hungarian cosmonauts

At the Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum, you can view spacesuits, space-used objects, memorabilia, and more that belonged to Bertalan Farkas and Béla Magyari. It is truly amazing how the museum transports you back to the conquest of space but on the other side of the Iron Curtain!

Bertalan Farkas is a celebrated legend in Hungary. He remains the only Hungarian cosmonaut, as the Soviets called astronauts, to have travelled to space. Béla Magyari was his backup cosmonaut, and he trained with Bertalan Farkas at the Interkosmos program in the USSR.

Police car simulator

One of the Budapest Retro Interactive Museum’s highlights is the police retro car with a simulator, which allows you to drive a real rendőrség car! Children of all ages can play at driving a police car in a driveway of a residential area with flat blocks. Fun is guaranteed, but you’ll also notice how uncomfortable the vehicles of the time were.

Paola Bertoni's son drives a vintage Hungarian police car at Budapest Retro Museum
My son drives a vintage Hungarian police car at Budapest Retro Museum

Hungary’s Relationship with its Soviet Era

In contemporary Budapest, all signs of its controversial past have been erased. However, the question remains: what is the relationship between Hungarians and their Soviet era? During this time, Hungary was one of the Soviet Union’s satellite states, and political oppression, economic difficulties, and limited personal freedoms characterized their socialist regime.

Hungarians born in the late 1980s, during regime change, may have experienced just a few aspects of life under communism. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Hungary’s socialist past, with many people seeking to reconnect with their history—or at least some aesthetic part of it, like objects and brands from their early lives, which you can see in the museum’s exhibit.

The Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum is more of a place for entertainment than education, but it still takes visitors, both Hungarians and foreigners, back to the 1970s or 1980s. Apart from the information found online about the growing interest in the past, I would like to know what Hungarians think about this museum.

Practical information to visit the Budapest Retro Museum

The Budapest Retro Interactive Museum requires at least 1-1.5 hours to visit. However, there is no time limit, so you can stay longer. Tickets can be bought at the museum or online. The museum is particularly crowded in high season. I prefer to get tickets in advance to ensure entry, especially if I travel during bank holidays.

Budapest Retro Interactive Museum with kids

The Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum is very entertaining and exciting. While telling an exact historical aspect of Hungary, the museum is definitely suitable for children who will enjoy experiencing the interactive exhibition.

Admission is free for children up to 6, so it is worth visiting the museum even with young children. They’ll have much fun despite knowing nothing about the Hungarian Soviet past.

How to get to Budapest Retro Museum

The Budapest Retro Élményközpont is in the heart of the city, just a few steps away from the iconic Ferris wheel in Elizabeth Square, Erzsébet tér in Hungarian.

Budapest Retro Élményközpont
Budapest, Október 6. u. 4, 1051

Where to stay in Budapest

Budapest offers a wide range of beautiful hotels to choose from. Hampton By Hilton Budapest City Centre (here my review) is located in the heart of Budapest, just 600 metres from St. Stephen’s Basilica. They offer a delicious breakfast and have a restaurant and a bar on-site. For those looking for a hotel with unique and stunning decor, Stories Boutique Hotel is a 4-star property situated 500 meters away from the Hungarian State Opera. They have a restaurant on-site that serves à la carte, a continental or vegetarian breakfast. If you prefer an aparthotel, Zoya Luxury Residence is an excellent option with units with a coffee machine, a dishwasher, a microwave and parking space.

The Budapest Retro Élményközpont Museum is a unique and entertaining way to explore Hungary’s socialist past. From the police retro car with a simulator to the typical socialist-era apartment, the museum offers a range of experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in this fascinating period in Hungary’s history. Feel free to share your thoughts about the Budapest Retro Interactive Museum in the comments.

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