…where you can feel a queen/king for an hour
Our guests often ask me what they should absolutely do in Budapest, which are the ‘must-see’ sights and what would be rather a waste of their time and money. In these discussions have happened to arise several times the opera-topic; is it worth to go on a guided visit, or better to watch an evening play, or both programs should be included in a holiday? Being a local, the last time I was sightseeing in Budapest was when I was a little girl; so nowadays I see the Parliament only when I’ve something to do nearby, or I go to the opera house only for seeing a play. So how could I have promptly replied the question ‘guided visit or evening play’…? Since I wished to give a reliable advise, I decided to go on a guided visit myself; just as if I was a tourist – of course without opening my mouth in Hungarian.
The opera house can be visited only in the form of a guided tour, no free walking around is allowed (a true pity by the way!). The visits run every day at 3pm and 4 pm (small change in March, please check their website) and are offered in several languages (Russian and Japanese are available just on certain days); no signing up is needed, the tickets can be purchased directly before the visit itself. And no worries that tickets will be sold out, the tours doesn’t have a maximum number of visitors (or at least it’s not stated anywhere). The ticket costs 2990 huf (1990 huf for students), and for an additional 690 huf you can enjoy a short concert after the tour. The visit lasts 40-45 minutes – optionally prolonged with the approx. 5-minutes long singing performance, so count about an hour for the whole program.
The tour started with the visit of the breath-taking main hall where we got a short intro to the history and the background of the opera house, after which we headed to the bar area and to the separated wooden corridor attached to it (interesting stories shared here…), and finally our group was guided to the red room just behind the royal box. Once the tour finished, people who signed up also for the “concert” (comprised myself yuhee!) were led back to the main stairways where we could enjoy the wonderful voice of the singer, a very elegant middle-aged lady performing two aria songs for us. Our tour guide, Peter, was excellent – passionate, knowledgeable, funny and eager to share with us many interesting details and information about the opera’s past and present. For instance, I learned what is the trick on the painting of the main hall’s ceiling, where Empress Sisi was sitting and why, and I discovered many many other interesting things and heard exciting stories.
My personal comments:
+ I heard very interesting details about the opera’s past, its decoration and background.
+ Since no booking in advance is needed, it gives you flexibility.
+ The building’s atmosphere is really magical; it felt like being back to the 19th– 20th century, so once I got out on the street, I was nearly surprised to see taxis and not fiacres waiting for the royalties.
+ The little concert was a very nice added – and for such a few extra money!
+ The English tours are the most requested ones, so if you speak another language quite fairly, you better go on that tour to have a more personal and intimate experience (the Italian guide had only 3, the French had 5, and Spanish had 6 guests only).
+ If you’re looking for some nice music or ballet-themed gifts, make sure to check the shop, they have some really cut items – even foodie ones, like violin-shaped pasta.
+ Don’t miss the mosaics on the floor on the ground floor, they are absolutely beautiful!
+Make sure to take a look at the building in front of the opera, the former ballet institute, which is at least as magnificent as the opera itself.
– Since there is no maximum number of participants, you can end up with a bigger group, which somewhat takes away the magical feeling; my group counted 28 persons. In my opinion they should either offer more tours a day, or simply have more guides so people could be split to smaller parties.
– Our guide was great and spoke excellent English, but a bit fast. So I’m afraid, a non-native English speaker could have a hard time to catch every single detail. But in case you missed something, don’t hesitate to ask – also the guide encouraged us to do so!
I truly enjoyed the visit (was surprised when I realised the 40ish minutes passed already!) and the short concert afterwards as well, highly recommend the whole experience! And what is judgement about the “guided visit vs. opera performance” dilemma? If you have the time, both are really worth to do! 🙂