In the middle of Budapest and at the foot of high rise blocks there is a small cobblestoned square called Korona Square. The square gives home to a genuine treasure of Budapest that only few people know, though it would really deserve more attention.
The Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism is located in the so-called Krúdy Quarter in the very house where Gyula Krúdy, the famous Hungarian writer lived for the last three years of his life. Krúdy is well-known for having been a gourmet and finding great delight in delicious food, so it is just right that his home houses a museum that exhibits the history of trade, catering and tourism in Hungary as well as an exhibition on Krúdy’s life.
On entering the museum you immediately travel back in time. The permanent exhibitions present the history of hospitality at home and the history of trade of two centuries including measuring, fairs and markets. The charming atmosphere of old shops and shop windows gives you a first-hand experience of what it was like to do the shopping for our mothers or grandmothers. A Stühmer sweetshop, an ironmonger’s, a stationery shop and the world of department stores like the Great Parisian Store or Corvin are also on display.
Do you still remember the brands “Kajla”, “Százszorszép” or “Bambi”? In this museum you can see them again. You can recall sweet childhood memories about small corner shops where milk was on sale by the litre measured into glass bottles you brought along from home. You might also remember the smell of freshly ground coffee coming from the grinders that used to be part of every shop, big or small, providing countless hours of fun for children, who were, of course, extremely keen on helping their parents grind the coffee. The walls of the museum are covered with old advertisement boards some of which might be familiar from the not so distant past.
But it’s not only trade that the museum presents. There is an exhibition that shows the late 19th and early 20th century interiors of a middle class family home, a hotel, a coffee house, a restaurant and a confectionery. You can take a look at the world of clubs, orpheums and baths, you can learn where and how people spent their free time, what they liked to do and – of course – what they liked to eat. You can get to know the stories of the most famous Hungarian dishes and take their recipes home if you wish to try to prepare them at home.
Topay homage to the writer whose Óbuda home has become the place for the museum itself, there is a permanent Krúdy exhibition as well. It shows the rooms and hotels where Krúdy spent his life. A room is furnished as a restaurant reminding the visitor that the writer passionately loved restaurants and frequented them on a daily basis and they inspired many of his novels.
The museum nicely combines old and new. The exhibitions are interactive, some of the old objects can be touched, there are drawers to draw just to find amazing little objects inside, cutleries to put into the right order, old newspapers to read and quizzes to solve on touchscreens. Guided tours are available, most of them also in English.
The museum preserves the past but it serves the future, so it puts special emphasis on museum education – providing informative but at the same time very entertaining events and programmes. It caters for the needs of every age group: from kindergartners to grown-ups. The scale of workshops is so wide that it is very difficult to choose from them. The museum has a fully equipped modern kitchen with a dining room that can seat 70-80 people, so they offer programmes where visitors can not only learn about the history of ice cream or cakes, lollipop, chocolate, marzipan or granola bars but in the end they can also prepare them, which gives an unforgettable experience for both young and old. There is also a workshop about the places where the Paul Street boys might have shopped in the famous novel by Ferenc Molnár. The place is an ideal venue for organizing birthday parties. The theme of the parties is usually connected to the exhibitions to some extent and the parties include games, quizzes and treasure hunting, too.
Though the exhibitions close in the evening the museum building often stays open for the community. Its Kultea Theatre hosts various cultural events: concerts, theatre performances, book launches, film clubs, wine tasting, lectures and programmes for kids.
To quote Gyula Krúdy “What you have loved remains yours.” The Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism really does its best to make you love what they have on offer and give you a unique and exclusive experience. It’s definitely worth a visit.