The Music Venues of Budapest, Hungary

Franz Liszt Academy Stage Budapest Hungary

The stage at the Franz Liszt Academy

I picked my words carefully when I jotted down our passions last month: “Classical Music Venues.” Pat loves the music. I love the pomp and pageantry of the evening; well heeled patrons, halls with an empire panache. I’ll stay for the concert, but the music is never the best part.

The inside doors to the Franz Liszt Academy Budapest Hungary

The doors to the Franz Liszt Academy Performance Hall

Budapest offers a smorgasbord of music venues – varied in size, function, architecture and age. We sampled four very different performances across three locations this month. Our experiences ranged from a classical trio through a full orchestra – with and without choral accompaniment – and, of course, the opera.

Details inside the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest Hungary

Every inch of the Franz Liszt Academy is impeccably adorned

In order to prepare himself, and to psych me up, Pat listens to the pieces from our next performance during the days leading up to the event. Then, he dangles teasers to bolster my flailing enthusiasm. Recently, and in a too funny to be insulting way, he tossed out, “Julie, I think you will really like The Barber of Seville. You’ll recognize the overture from Bugs Bunny.” (He left out that after seven delightful Bugs Bunnian minutes, I would need to sit through two and a half hours of opera.)

Franz Liszt Statue in Franz Liszt Ter Budapest, HungaryzSf

Franz Liszt Statue in the square which bears his name

First up, the Franz Liszt Academy which reopened in October after a two year renovation. The school, situated on the edge of Franz Liszt Square, is Art Nouveau at its finest; a place where Gatsby might host a party – women smoking cigarettes dangling from ebony holders seated beneath potted palms, the men sneaking off to swap stock tips over a brandy.

Every light and stained glass window, each door jam and curlicue is pitch perfect. Wander the school before the show and imagine a young Eugene Ormandy, George Solti and Fritz Reiner scrambling through the halls, sword fighting with their batons as Bela Bartok looks on.

The stairs inside the Budapest Opera House

The marble entry steps of the Budapest Opera House

Around the corner is the Budapest Opera House, one of the finest examples of empire opulence in Hungary and one of the most ornate opera houses in Europe. The gold adorned carvings, rose and gold marble, and painted ceilings harken to a world of diamond studded tiaras, horse drawn carriages and Franz Joseph striding in with his entourage as the conductor queues the opening chords.

During intermission, we stepped out onto the balcony, sipped a glass of wine and overlooked the iconic Andrassy Ut – one of the great European boulevards and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Exterior photo of the Budapest Opera House

The Budapest Opera House

Lastly, we attended a symphony in the Bela Bartok Hall within the Palace of the Arts; a behemoth of glass and steel overlooking the Danube in the southern reaches of the city. Renowned for its acoustics and home to the Budapest Festival Orchestra, one of the top 10 rated orchestras in the world, this is a venue for pure music lovers. The wooden cubed hall floats within the multi purpose building. Students line the highest level, standing by the rails at incredible discounts – young maestros with well deserved privileges.

The Bela Bartok Hall inside the Palace of the Arts Budapest Hungary

The Bela Bartok Hall inside the Palace of the Arts

The conductor, Ivan Fischer, led the orchestra through two unfinished symphonies from Schubert and Bruckner. As we headed home, I told Pat, “Thank goodness they never finish those symphonies. The evening was a perfect length just the way it was.”

Classical music maven or tolerator, music defines this region. At least one night of music should be on every vacation agenda.

Friends recommend that I  partner more with my husband, Pat.  To all of you who suggested this, this blog post is for you…

Categories: Insiders Budapest

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3 replies


  1. So, what do you do all day? « The World In Between

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