Budapest – Light and Shadow


Light  & Shadow
Budapest – Light and Shadow The 1000 years of a capital
Map of the exhibition


The Castle Museum’s permanent exhibition “Budapest – Light and Shadow: The 1000 years of a capital” leads us through the flow of time, through the millennium that formed the Hungarian capital. In the course of history, Buda, Pest and Obuda have been either drenched in light or shivering in the dark, sometimes flourishingand sometimes withering.With the omnipresent Danube River as our guide, we follow the tale of Budapest from Roman antiquity and the Hungarian conquest all the way to the present day, through periods of war and peace, prosperity and decline, light and shade.

Visitors to the exhibition go on a journey of discovery, following the history of Budapest chronologically, beginning with Roman settlements of ancient timesand continuing with the rise of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, the Ottoman and the Habsburg occupations, the rise and fall of communism, and finally ending with the establishment of modern day Hungary. The evolution of Buda, Pest and Obuda from separate and sometimes rival townsinto the grand, united capital of the present day is displayed through artifacts and relics from the museum’s collection, illuminating key aspects of the history of the city from every epoch.The Danube River, visible from the windows of the Castle, is an organic part of the exhibition, as it has played a crucial role in the life of the city both as a dividing line and as a site and catalyst of unification.

Within the chronologically arranged exhibition, there are detours into thematically structured exhibition rooms. In these rooms, visitors get a glimpse into the everyday lives of denizens of Budapest throughout the ages and can explore topics such as the ethnic diversity of the city’s population, the residences of members of various social classes from the Middle Ages to the 20th century¸or the viticulture that flourished in Buda until the 19th century. There are also displays on the bathing culture of Budapest, where bathing costumes from various periods are on exhibit, as well as rooms dedicated to the characteristic crafts and tradesof medieval Buda, Pest and Obuda.

The exhibition is accompanied by English translations, and it includes interactive exhibits. Visitors can use touch screen displays to find information and historical photographs of buildings and sights throughout Budapest.Parts of the exhibit that are marked with a special sign invite visitors to touch and use items on display, such as the representation of a typical living room of ablock house built under socialism, where they can sit on the sofa and watch short films on the television. There are educational games in each of the thematic rooms that offer visitors a more nuanced understanding of the topic in question.

Light and Shadow is a new exhibition narrating the history of Budapest in a unique and fascinating way with a combination of innovative perspectives and fresh ideas.It is intended for anyone who is interested in the birth, evolution and present-day of the Hungarian capital. It is an exhibition for both locals and foreigners, both the young and the old alike.


Thank you for this text for Ioanna Karakatsani and Zsuzsanna Szegedy-Maszak!


  1. Ornate two-edged sword, second half of the 10th century
  2. Christ on the Throne relief, ca. 1100-1150
  3. Putto with skull, middle of the 18th century
  4. Showcase from the “Heart of the Kingdom” section
  5. Mural depicting a dancing couple and a court jester from Buda, early 15th century
  6. Polyphon music box, late 19th – early 20th century
  7. Lounge and room for corn removing in the Rudas Bath, photo by GyörgyKlösz (1844-1913), ca. 1895
  8. The coronation of King Francis in the Church of the former Franciscan Friary, Quirin Mark (1753-1811), 1792
  9. Scene from the 1838 flood, Johann Matthias Ranflt (1805-1854), 1838
  10. Medieval merchant shop reconstruction
  11. Jewish couple in the Budapest ghetto, photo by Yevgeny Khaldei, 1945
  12. Poster propagating the 3-years plan, Darvas S., 1947
  13. Model of the Stalin-statue razed by the masses in the 1956 revolution, Sándor Mikus (1903-1982), 1952
  14. RM-Csepel women’s bicycle, 1951




I. Ancient times, from the beginnings to the 4th Century AD

II. The Centuries of Destruction, 5th–10th Century

III. Medieval Urban Beginnings, 11th Century – 1241

IV. Mongol Invasion, 1241–1242

V. Heart of the Kingdom, 1242–1526

VI. From Medieval Town to Ottoman Fortress, 1526–1541

VII. Fortress City on the Frontier of the Ottoman Empire, 1541–1686

VIII. Recapture of Buda and Pest, 1686

IX. Becoming a Capital, 1686–1848

X. Devastating Flood on the Danube, 1838

XI. Hungarian Forces at the Gates, 1849

XII. A Modern Metropolis, 1849–1914

XIII. From an Austro-Hungarian Capital to a “Sinful City”, 1914–1920

XIV. Great Capital of a Small Country, 1920–1944

XV. Fortress Budapest, 1944–1945

XVI. The Communist Greater Budapest, 1945–1989

XVII. From the Stalin Monument to Corvin Lane, 1956

XVIII. A New Era Dawns. The End of Communism, 1989–1990


1. Ethnic Diversity – The Cemetery

2. Housing

3. Cultural Venues

4. Bathing Culture – Rudas Bath

5. The Vineyard – Rózsadomb

6. The Church – The Garrison Church in Buda Castle

7. Workshop and Factory

8. Fairs and Markets

9. Symbolic Occupation of Urban Space

10. The Outskirts of the City