5 not-so-obvious but inspiring cultural centres Budapest

Bartók Memorial House

II. Csalán út 29.

+36 1 394 2100


Béla Bartók (1881-1945), the greatest Hungarian composer of all times, actually lived in this rented villa from 1932 to 1940, before he emigrated to the US. These days the villa houses an intimate concert hall (upstairs) and a museum, in the three rooms where the composer used to work. All the furniture is original; it was donated by one of Bartók’s sons.

Mai Manó House

VI. Nagymező utca 20.
+36 1 473 2666

This amazing eight-storey building, which was completed in 1894, is devoted entirely to photography. It was built and used by the phenomenally successful Manó Mai (1854-1917), a commercial portrait photographer. Since 1999 it houses a professional fine art photo gallery, exhibition spaces and a bookshop. Don’t miss the daylight studio on the second floor, which was restored in its original 19th-century splendour and boasts some wonderful frescoes that served as the background on Manó Mai’s photographs.

Cirko-Gejzir Art Cinema

V. Balassi Bálint utca 15–17.
+36 1 269 1915

A three-room cinema in a riverfront basement, with a tiny entrance and a very stylish foyer, where even the clock is a moving image on a flat screen. Films are always in the original language, with subtitles. Maintained by a foundation. Part of the Europa Cinemas network, subsidised by the European Union.

Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library

VIII. Szabó Ervin tér 1. +36 1 411 5000
Budapest has a great public library network. Since 1931 its central building is in a neo-baroque aristocratic palace from the late 1880s. In 2000 two new wings were added. There are about a dozen different reading rooms, the glitziest of which is the art history room. The cafe is in the former stables. Coffee still should be better.

BMC - Budapest Music Center

IX. Mátyás utca 8.

+36 1 216 7894


Opened in 2013, this place is a mecca for music lovers. It was built and is now directed by the jazz trombone playerturned- visionary-cultural-manager László Gőz. It houses half a dozen institutions: a concert hall, a jazz club, a music library, a recording studio, the Peter Eötvös Foundation, and even a small hotel for workshop participants. It’s a private institution, sustained with some public funding.

part of 50 places to indulge in culture

The 500 Hidden Secrets of Budapest