Hungary Magazine

See the Skanzen, the open-air museum for Hungarian folk life and architecture

Budapest, Hungary – You’re a fan of Carpathian folk architecture but have no time to travel all around Hungary? Don’t despair, the Szentendre Skanzen has you covered.

To get there, you have to first take the suburban train from Budapest to Szentendre, a popular tourist destination among both Hungarians and visitors from abroad. If you want to make your journey extra special, you can also get on a river cruise, which takes approximately an hour and thirty minutes from the Hungarian capital.

Arriving to Szentendre

After arriving to Szentendre, take some time to explore the picturesque little city before heading to the Skanzen. The town is famous for its well-preserved 18th century Baroque townscape forming the historical inner-city.

Take a stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets, popular on social media for the colorful lamps and umbrellas hanging from strings. Walk into one of the city’s galleries. Szentedre has a tradition as a place popular among the Hungarian artists – an Artists’ Colony existed in the town in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Skanzen open-air musem was founded in 1961 as part of the Budapest Ethnographic Museum’s “Village Department.”

While walking through the city, you can spot many reminders of the influence left on the town’s history, especially by the Serbian but also by the Greek and Dalmatian population. Today, only a handful of mostly Serbian families still remain.

Besides the Slavic-sounding street names, you can easily spot the Blagovestenska Serbian-orthodox church located on the main square and the Belgrade Cathedral located not far away.

Once you are ready to head to the Skanzen, go back to the bus station and take a short bus ride to the museum.

Seeing the Skanzen

Inspired by the Skanzen established in Stockholm in 1981, the Hungarian open-air musem was founded in 1961 and was originally part of the Budapest Ethnographic Museum’s “Village Department.”

The founding aim of the museum, according to the website, “was to represent folk architecture, interior decoration, farming and way of life in the Hungarian language area from the 2nd half of the 18th century to the 1st half of the 20th century.”

The Skanzen rail is the longest ride in a museum anywhere in Europe.

It was established after years of preparation during which Hungarian ethnographers selected buildings from across the country that were re-located to the Skanzen one by one. The museum is made up from eight areas and each represents a different regional unit from Hungary.

One of the main attractions of the museum is its very own railway! The Skanzen rail connects all of the eight regional units and is 2,2 km long – the longest ride in a museum anywhere in Europe. Unfortunately, the train was not running at the time due to the pandemic.

The oldest and one of the most popular regional units in the museum is the Upper-Tisza region. The architecture exhibits heavy influence of Protestantism, which was spreading across the region especially in the 16th century.

One of the the most popular attractions to visit in this regional unit is a protestant church with the adjacent black bell tower, which can be also found in the logo of the Skanzen.

The highest point of The Great Pain is its majestic mill, which also serves as a useful navigating tool in the museum.

The Great Plain

Geographically situated between the Danube and Tisza rivers, the heart of the open-air museum is the so-called “Great Plain.” This area was traditionally a place for animal-breeding and wheat and maize harvesting.

Here, visitors can also see typical Hungarian animals, including Mangalica, a Hungarian breed of pig known for its curly coat of hair as well as the Hungarian Grey, an ancient breed of cattle indigenous to Hungary, which is famous for its traditional ash-grey color.

The Hungarian Grey is now mostly kept as a tourist attraction in the Hungarian national parks and not so much for farming purposes.

The Hungarian Grey is now mostly kept as a tourist attraction in the Hungarian national parks.

The highest point of The Great Pain is its majestic mill, which also serves as a useful navigating tool in the museum.

One of the other great features of the Skanzen is that the majority of the houses is furnished and decorated based on how the houses actually looked like. As you walk through the yards of the farmhouses, it is also good to be on a lookout for the little details like the pigeon houses.

And if you want to grab a snack or buy a souvenir before leaving, we definitely recommend getting some gingerbread. It was made on the spot and tasted absolutely delicious…

By Matej Voda 

Matej Voda writes about democratic backsliding, popular culture, and disinformation. He is based in Prague. Feel free to check out more of his articles right here! You can also find him on Twitter.