A building can be so much more than just bricks and mortar.
In Budapest, 60 Andrassy Boulevard is just known as the House of Terror. For more than a decade it represented the cruel heart of those who would stop at nothing to rule this land.
In 1944, in the dying days of the Second World War, the Hungarian Nazi Party took control of Budapest and made this building its headquarters.
Known as the ‘Arrow Cross’, the local Nazi branch did not last long. In fact, it was only in power for a matter of months, but that was long enough to spread its evil.
In the time they operated from this building, the Nazis tortured and killed hundreds of people in the cellar beneath the street.
From the plush offices on the first and second floors, orders were given to shoot Jews and throw their bodies into the river.
Teenage boys were recruited from here for an army that never had any hope of winning and many were sent to their deaths.
That was just the beginning for the House of Terror in Budapest, though, and the horror that was to come next would drown out the screams from the cellar.
These four walls would be (figuratively) painted in the blood of the Hungarian people as the Soviets took control.
It’s these times that the exhibitions at the House of Terror focus on – what happened, why it happened, and how it affected everything in Budapest.
What is Budapest’s House of Terror?
The House of Terror is a museum in Budapest that tells the stories of the fascist and communist regimes that controlled Hungary in the 20th century. The museum is set within the building that was used by the Arrow Cross Party and the secret police, known as the AVH.
Is it worth visiting the House of Terror?
The House of Terror is definitely worth visiting when you are in Budapest. Many of the city’s sights these days celebrate the vibrant capital that it has become – beer gardens, baths, street art. But it’s important to also understand the modern history of Budapest, and honour the victims of its cruel regimes.
How long do you need for the House of Terror?
The permanent exhibition at the House of Terror is spread across four levels. You are free to explore at your own pace, so a visit can take as long or short as you like. I would suggest you need about 90 minutes to visit the house of Terror.
Much of it may be confronting, but it’s an important part of the city’s history, which is why visiting the House of Terror is one of the best things to do in Budapest when you’re here.
If you are really interesting in learning more about this period, I would suggest booking this tour of the House of Terror with an expert guide, who can share a lot more detail about the history. Check availability here:
The history of Budapest’s House of Terror
Just a few months after the Arrow Cross took power, Budapest was occupied by the Soviet Union. Although enemies of each other, they both shared a malevolent obsession with the control of the populace.
The Nazis may have been expelled but that was no relief for the people.
60 Andrassy Boulevard became the headquarters for the State Security Authority, run by Soviet puppets. From here they ruled with an iron fist to supress rebellion and enforce submission.
The security authority was known as the AVH and it was feared across Budapest.
It recruited informers to spy on friends, family and colleagues. Nobody could feel safe with the watchful and vengeful tentacles of the AVH spreading out from this building.
The security officers killed without hesitation. They forced confessions or executed without trial. Thousands were killed – many of them right here. You see, under the AVH, the cellar and its torture chambers had been extended.
The authority took over almost the entire block and joined together the basements of all the buildings it controlled. Beneath the ground was an elaborate maze of prison, torture and execution.
The AVH moved out of 60 Andrassy Boulevard in 1956 but the Soviets continued their control for many decades. The last Soviet troops didn’t leave the city – and the country – until 1991, shortly before the collapse of the USSR.
For many citizens of Budapest, this time is still fresh in their memory and it is a deep scar across their history.
The House of Terror as a museum
The building was opened as a museum in 2002 after a year-long renovation effort. Over several floors, it tells an extremely comprehensive story of the Nazi and Communist rule. I think it’s one of the most important things to do in Budapest.
The excellent displays are not just informative but atmospheric and a lot of work has gone into making it a visual and emotional experience – not simply an educational one.
As a foreign tourist, you are presented with a detailed overview of life in Budapest during those hard years and how the building played such an important role.
The ground floor is a dramatic introduction to the museum. While this is not technically exhibition space, there are still some important things here – two marble memorial slabs and a large tank, designed to remind visitors that this is no usual building.
From the ground level, the visit begins on the second floor, where there are eight exhibition halls covering the chronology of the decades after Hungary lost its independence with the Nazi occupation in 1944. As well as delving into the details of the Soviet era, the exhibitions also cover the resistance.
After this, you’ll go to the first floor, where you’ll walk through rooms that talk about the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians, the activities of the secret police and the propaganda of the time, as well as the treatment of the churches. You’ll also see the torture chamber, the only room in the building preserved in its original form.
Beneath the main floors of the House of Terror building, the cellars remain and a visit to the museum ends with a slow elevator ride down into the bowels of the building to see where so much horror was inflicted directly onto Hungarian victims.
Leaving the building, you can see how the designer of the museum has created a black frame protruding from the top of the roof as a reminder of the horrors inflicted indirectly onto Hungarian victims.
A building can be so much more than just bricks and mortar. As well as being a museum, now 60 Andrassy Boulevard is also a sculpture in the shape of a building, a monument to all those who suffered.
Visiting the House of Terror
I think it’s worth visiting the House of Terror when you’re in Budapest, especially if you are interested in getting a broader understanding of the city, through its history and culture.
The House of Terror can get quite busy, so it’s better to try to arrive around opening time or go later in the afternoon.
While the museum only offers tours for groups of at least 10 people, you can take this guided tour of the House of Terror with a local expert, which will give you a much deeper understanding of the site.
Where is the House of Terror?
The official address of the House of Terror is Andrássy út 60, Budapest 1062. You can see it on a map here.
How do you get to the House of Terror?
Using public transport, the easiest way to get to the House of Terror is to use the Metro Line 1 to Vörösmarty utca station.
You can also take tram number 4 or 6 to the Oktogon stop.
What time is the House of Terror open?
The House of Terror is open from 10:00 – 18:00 from Tuesday – Sunday.
It is closed on Mondays.
How much does it cost to visit the House of Terror?
The cost for an adult admission ticket is 4000 HUF (US$9.65) and a concession ticket is 2000 HUF (US$4.80).
For more information, you can visit the museum’s official website here.
Beyond the House of Terror, there are lots of other sights in Budapest that offer insights into the communist era and the modern history of the city. To explore some of them, I would recommend this excellent guided tour.
There are some other great options to explore the history and culture of Budapest here:
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