Communist Budapest: “The Happiest Barrack” in the Soviet Bloc

3-Hour Tour

Explore the 1956 Revolution and Hungary’s “Goulash Communism”

Bem József, Kossuth, & Liberty Squares, former People’s Stadium, House of Terror (exterior)

This 3-hour Communist Budapest tour with a local historian guide will lead you through the 1956 Revolution in which hundreds of thousands of Hungarians took to the streets to throw off a hardline Stalinist-inspired dictatorship. While the uprising was brutally crushed, it ultimately led to the more liberal, “goulash communism” of the 1960s-1980s. Explore the daily life of propaganda and suppression that Hungarians suffered behind the Iron Curtain and consider the legacies of the Cold War that continue to influence Hungarian politics today.

Starting at Bem József Square, we follow in the footsteps of the first mass demonstration of the 1956 uprising. The Square includes a coffeehouse that still has its original interior from the 1960s.

Traveling by subway to Kossuth Square in front of Parliament, we explore monuments from the 1956 revolution, before continuing to Liberty Square where we discuss aspects of the Cold War before the US Embassy, the monument to the Soviet Army, the statue of Ronald Reagan and an atomic shelter.

Another short subway ride takes us to a communist-era shopping center and the drab 1970s socialist housing that was revered at the time for modern conveniences.

Dropping by the former People’s Stadium (now Puskas Soccer Stadium), with classic socialist realist statues still standing, we can explore the heavy-handed propaganda favored by the regime.

Riding in Stalin’s trolley bus to Dozsa György Street, we take in the boulevard that was used for May Day parades.

We conclude outside the House of Terror, the imposing museum housed in the former headquarters of the communist secret services with a slab of the Berlin Wall in front. (Although the exhibit within is not included in the tour, this is the perfect endpoint for those interested in delving deeper into Hungary’s Cold War experience).

Tour Details
Price

Private tours – $240 USD (1-10 persons)
*your guide all to yourself

 

Small groups – $45 USD per person
*still intimate with 8 persons or less


Departure time

Private tours daily at 10 AM and 2 PM

Small groups: 

  • Tuesday 10 AM
  • Thursday 2 PM
  • Friday 2 PM
  • Saturday 10 AM

Meeting point

Private tours include a pick-up at your central hotel or flat

 

Small groups: Bambi Eszpresszó, Frankel Leó út 2/4, 1027 Budapest

Click here to see map

Availability

Year-round


Duration

3 hours


Group size

Private tours: 1-10 persons
Groups of over 10 should contact us at info@insightcities.com in order to get a special rate for their party.

 

Small groups: 2-8 persons


Participation requirements

As this is a walking tour, please contact us if you have any mobility issues or concerns


Not included

Metro/Tram fare: You will need to use public transport a few times since the distances between some key sites are too far to walk. If you do not have a multi-day visitor’s transit pass to Budapest already, we suggest that you purchase the day metro pass. If you cannot purchase it in advance, your guide will help you purchase it at the first metro station on the tour.


What to bring
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Cash or credit card for the metro ticket

About your guide

Read about our Budapest guides


Cancellation policy

For cancellations 72 hours prior to your scheduled tour, Insight Cities offers a full refund. We cannot refund cancellations within 72 hours of a scheduled tour as we need to pay our guide.

Overview of Your Tour

A guide leads a group around Budapest.

Communism in Hungary had two faces: Stalinism and Kadarism. Stalinism started in 1948 when Soviet dictator Jozef Stalin helped a hard­line communist party to take power in Hungary. After the uprising against Soviet dominance and communist dictatorship in 1956, which was violently crushed, the new Hungarian party leader János Kádár soon started introducing reforms. This Kadarism or “goulash communism” was a soft dictatorship in which Hungarians had certain liberties and were guaranteed a certain level of material well being, in exchange for silence and obedience on major issues. Hungary soon became known as, “The happiest barrack in the Soviet Bloc.”

Monuments Bem József Square, in Budapest.This Communist Budapest tour takes you along some of the crucial events in these strange decades of oppression but also progress, offering a rich glimpse of daily life during this era. We start at Bem József Square, where the first big demonstration of the 1956 uprising started. On the square is also a coffeehouse that has retained its original interior from the 1960s. From there, we go by subway to Kossuth Square in front of Parliament to see several monuments that bear witness to the political and armed conflicts that took place during the 1956 revolution.

It is just a minute walk to Liberty Square, where the Cold War is symbolized by four edifices in stone: the US embassy, a monument to the Soviet army, the statue of President Ronald Reagan, and the entrance to a secret atomic shelter. The subway then takes you to one of the 1970’s housing estates at the edge of the city center. These housing blocks may seem drab and grey today but at the time, young Hungarian families were overjoyed to be awarded an apartment here because the newer building had elevators and modern conveniences unknown to Budapest’s older constructions. You’ll also get a feel of what a communist-era shopping center looked like.

Monuments from the 1956 Communist revolution in Budapest.We then drop by at the former People’s Stadium (now Puskás Football Arena), one of the few places in town where there are some typically socialist realist statues of heroic workers, soldiers, and intellectuals pointing the way towards a bright future, still standing. A short ride in one of “Stalin’s trolleybuses” (yes, we’ll explain) brings you to Dozsa György Street, the broad boulevard that was used for May Day parades. We use iPads and old photos to show you the contrast between the city’s present topography and its former communist appearances. These visual aids help you to grasp the changes that have taken place since the collapse of communism in Hungary. For example, when we examine the monument now standing at the spot where demonstrators toppled the gigantic bronze statue of Stalin in October 1956.

Around the corner is, last but not least, the House of Terror. The House of Terror is a museum housed in the former headquarters of the fascist and Stalinist secret services. It commemorates the crimes of communism, especially during the Stalinist years. In front of the building is a slab of the Berlin Wall. A visit to the museum is not included in the walk, but it is certainly a worthwhile sequel for those interested in examining the daily experience of Hungarians under communism more deeply.

Small photographic portraits of people on the outside of a building.

See Our FAQs for More Information


See What Our Guests are Saying