After WW2 in 1949, Hungary was declared a people’s republic and was ruled by communism. The iron curtain fell in 1989 but when you tour Budapest, you will see that there are reminders of the Communist regime scattered throughout the city today.
The most noteworthy monument is to Imre Nagy. This statue of a man standing on a bridge looking over to the Parliament Buildings longing for freedom attracts crowds each day on walking tours to learn about the city's communist past. He led the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and was executed for Treason two years later. This monument symbolises the difficult road to freedom.
Feel Like a Local with HouseTrip
A lot has changed since the days of communism. Where once it would be unthinkable to even go into a persons house, you can now rent apartments with companies like HouseTrip and experience first hand how to live like a local.
We stayed in an apartment owned by a very cool gal name Roberta who looked like Audrey Hepburn. She rents out her funky apartment to people passing through. Located in the heart of city, close to the river, we were walking distance to all the major attractions. It's cool to stay in an apartment, because you have the chance to get to know the locals. We met Roberta at one of the ruin bars in town for a drink. Ruin Bars are a popular spot that came out of the fall of communism. These are trendy hipster pubs that are decorated with retro furniture and have a very cool vibe.
Budapest is in a major transition right now and an Interesting part of traveling there is that you can see a contrast between the communist era and the modern day society of today. Communism is very much a part of the conversation in Budapest. People that are the same age as Dave and I remember growing up during the regime. It has been slower to develop than other communist cities due to lack of funding, but this has allowed it to stave off the dreaded gentrification that is affecting so many cities today. It won't be long until the West invades though, even now you will find McDonalds and Starbucks. As a matter a fact, Budapest was actually the first city in the Eastern block to open a McDonalds. They had a more relaxed form of communism than other countries, giving it the nickname Goulash Communism. They enjoyed a certain freedom and amenities that weren't available to other countries in the Eastern Block.
Trabant Tour through Budapest
And finally, great way to gain a better understanding of Communism in Budapest is to join a communist tour. You can take a walking tour in the downtown centre or do as we did an try 3-hour driving Trabant tour through the streets of Budapest. Known as “the Paper Jaguar” the Trabant was popular during the communist era. Built in East Germany, it was cheap, it was compact, yet large enough to cram a family in with luggage and it was fast. It's two stroke engine makes this thing soundfl like a tank, but it's fun to drive around in and all the locals will give you a big smile and wave as you pass.
Read Next: 16 of the Best Things to do in Budapest
Our recommended choices for Apartment rentals in Budapest are:
- Near the River
- Central Circle
- The 7th District – Culture and Entertainment