City guide

Budapest’s Hidden-Gem Museums: Hungarian Electrotechnical Museum

Photo : László Balkányi / WLB

Bright blue beams of light and buzzing noises welcome visitors to Budapest’s Electrotechnical Museum, where walking around can be an electrifying experience. Many will have passed the museum without noticing it, set back from chaotic Kazinczy Street lined with lively pubs and bars. Perhaps the next time you do – look out for the grand entrance and massive black doors – you might venture inside. Not only are there all kinds of bizarre lamps, coils and transformers but frequent demonstrations by strange scientists in white coats, worth the modest entrance fee alone.

Stepping inside, commercial neon signs from years past adorn the open courtyard, while a U-shaped Bauhaus building towers around them. On Night of the Museums in June, these classic vintage displays are illuminated, bringing them back to life for one night only, before they lie dormant until the following year.

 

For half a century, this was the place that supplied downtown Pest with direct current. The museum itself is found in the former transformer tower. “This museum fills a niche,” explains László Szűcs, one of the Physics teachers who volunteer here out of love for the subject. “Schools in Hungary do not really have enough equipment and children normally only use books in Physics lessons. Here, we can put everything you learned about at school into practice, through truly spectacular experiments.”

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

Exhibits are arranged into several rooms, telling of bygone times when even an electric doorbell was luxury. Some objects are really quite impressive, shaped in substantial mahogany-brass structures. A reconstruction even explains the operating principle of the Iron Curtain.

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

Perhaps of interest to American visitors is the fact that even Edison visited the museum. “This photo (below) was taken of Edison in the garden of the museum,” says László. “Back then, he was traveling around in Europe as a newly-wed and was going to finish in Vienna. However, news quickly spread to the other part of the Monarchy, too, and a pioneer electrical engineer in Hungary, István Fodor (left), immediately took the train to Vienna and invited Edison personally. Seeing that he admired the work of Fodor and Tivadar Puskás, inventor of the telephone exchange, he could not refuse.”

Photo: Hungarian Electrotechnical Museum

From Tesla coils to arc-lamps, here you find several century-old tools that still work perfectly. This is not only a few fun facts about Physics, either but the story of Budapest’s development as a modern-day urban capital, featuring street lighting, telephony, transport and any number of household appliances whose use may have long gone. A certain amount of English documentation helps guide the foreign visitor.

Museum of Electrical Engineering
  • 1075 Budapest, Kazinczy utca 21.