New Municipal Cemetery with Plot 301 memorial
More background info:
This huge cemetery, also often referred to as New Public Cemetery
, is the very largest in Budapest
and one of the biggest in all of Europe (cf. Ohlsdorf
). It’s over 500 acres (2 square kilometres) in area, and some 3 million burials have taken place here since it was opened in 1886.
It also has some war grave plots and national memorials, but the main reason it features here as a dark-tourism destination is Plot 301, where the martyrs of the failed 1956 Uprising were buried, in particular Imre Nagy who was Prime Minister at the time and a leading figure in the revolt.
Here’s the briefest of summaries of the events:
Nagy was actually a staunch communist
in his younger years, lived in the Soviet Union
in the 1930s and served the NKVD, the predecessor of the infamous KGB
. After WWII
he held various positions in the Hungarian Working People’s Party and was Minister of the Interior in 1945/46. In 1953 he became Prime Minister
for the first time, but was ousted in 1955 for his attempts at relaxing the worst elements of repression and hard-line Stalinism.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Hungarian Uprising in October 1956
he was, by popular demand, made Prime Minister again and took the lead in the revolution against Soviet domination and hard-line communism. His reform government not only dissolved the then secret police (i.e. Hungary’s own branch of the KGB
) but also withdrew Hungary unilaterally from the Warsaw Pact
This was the main trigger for the USSR
to launch its military invasion of Hungary
to violently crush the revolution
and reinstate a Soviet-friendly regime. On 4 November Nagy was forced out of office and took refuge in the Embassy of Yugoslavia
but was arrested on 22 November.
Initially taken to Romania
, Nagy was returned to Hungary
to face a secret “mock” trial
in which he was sentenced to death
. He was executed
and buried in the prison yard. A few years later, however, his and a number of bodies of other executed revolutionaries were exhumed and transferred to the New Municipal Cemetery’s furthest corner and secretly reburied in an unmarked grave
It took until June 1989
for Nagy to be rehabilitated
in the course of the crumbling of communist rule all over the Eastern Bloc
, in which Hungary
took a lead. As part of this rehabilitation, Nagy’s body was exhumed again – and it was found that he had been buried face down and with his hands tied with barbed wire – and on 16 June 1989 was given a reburial
, at the same spot, but now in a properly marked stone tomb
In subsequent years, and especially from 2006, the whole area of Plot 301 and surrounding plots, where other victims of the communist regime were buried, was reworked and turned into the large memorial site you can see today.
Every year on 23 October a large memorial ceremony is held here (on the anniversary date of the beginning of the Uprising in 1956).
The rest of the cemetery remains in use too, and several thousand of burials take place here every year. The busiest parts of the cemetery are those closer to the main gate far from Plot 301. In between there are areas that are semi-overgrown and in some places it looks like forest is reclaiming the land. This can make access to Plot 301 tricky, if you don’t know the correct route – see below
What there is to see:
Compared to the more centrally located Kerepesi Cemetery
, this much larger counterpart on the outskirts of Budapest
offers less in grandiose mausoleums and atmospheric sepulchral artwork
, though a few intriguing examples can be found here as well.
In addition there are several plots of war graves
, for both WW1
, with memorials for specific nations, such as Poland
But the main reason why dark tourists would make their way out here is to visit Plot 301
with Imre Nagy’s grave
) and the memorial complex around it.
It’s a bit of a pilgrimage
(unless you have a car and can simply drive up to the spot), requiring first a long tram ride and then a long walk all the way to the farthest corner of this enormous cemetery. And you have to know the route – it’s easy to take a wrong one and get lost. So DO read the directions below
I made the mistake of aiming for the straightest route
, going by the map of the cemetery, including Google Maps directions, but that took me to the end of a tarmacked road that continued as an unpaved track. It started out OK but after a while became increasingly overgrown; eventually the undergrowth
became so thick that it made the path virtually disappear, rendering it impassable
. So I was forced to retrace my steps and find a different route to eventually get to my destination (see below
!). This unintentional “detour” cost me perhaps up to an extra hour, but at least I didn’t get totally lost (which could have happened had I pushed on through the undergrowth).
But I did find the correct route in the end and walked all the way to Plot 301
. Most of the time I had the place to myself; only as I was about to head back did a couple of cars with other visitors turn up. There is a dedicated car park and even a separate parking area for buses – probably for when there are larger ceremonies going on here (see above
There is one single-storey building, but that was closed when I was there. Peeking in I could only see rows of chairs, so I presume this is some kind of memorial service hall.
On the eastern side of this building is a large open plaza, partly paved in stone with a small monument in the centre involving a black granite column that is said to be exactly 1956 millimetres tall (oh the symbolism!). When I was there, however, I couldn’t see the column for a heap of wreaths laid down at this spot.
At the far end of this area stands another small building that looks like a symbolic crematorium, but doesn’t seem to have any practical purpose. To the south are several graves dotted around a green lawn – this is Plot 300. To the north of this you get to the actual Plot 301 and can eventually find Imre Nagy’s grave.
There’s also a monument with an inscribed bell and several plaques, in Hungarian only, and some list names (try and find Imre Nagy’s). There’s just one stele that has a short few lines in English (as well as Hungarian) that explain the significance of this site.
West of Plot 301 is Plot 298, where there are a few more graves but mostly rows of uniform wooden stelae – these are for yet more victims of mock trials who were executed by the post-1945 communist regime and after the 1956 Uprising.
It’s a sombre place. Really more a pilgrimage site than anything touristy. But on balance I found the effort to get here worth it in the end. But that may not apply to everybody.
After you’ve spent your time contemplating and paying your respects it’s time for the long walk back to the gate … unless you want to wander around the active parts of the cemetery in search of interesting sepulchral artwork a bit more. And you may also consider visiting the Jewish cemetery next door (see below
far out, ca. 7 miles (11 km) to the east of Budapest
city centre, between the 10th district and the international airport; address: Kozma utca No. 8.
Google Maps locators:
Access and costs: far out and can be a little tricky to find, but free
To get to the cemetery as such is easy, if a bit time-consuming, namely by tram (lines 28, 28A or 37) from Blaha Lujza tér (where there are connections to metro line 2 (red) as well) all the way to the terminus (Új köztemetö). Line 28 actually carries on one more stop to the Israelite Cemetery on Kozma utca, so take that if you want to see that as well (see below
To get to Plot 301 do NOT attempt to go what looks like the shorter, more direct route – see above! The maps of the cemetery do not indicate that parts of the far end of the cemetery are totally overgrown and impassible. Even Goole Maps will suggest walking routes you can’t actually take (also note that in the outer part of the cemetery mobile phone reception is patchy at best, so you couldn’t rely on a smartphone for navigation anyway).
What you have to do instead is stay on the main through road from behind the main gate that goes in a straight line (not counting a couple of roundabouts) from west to east to the far end. From there a smaller, still tarmacked road leads north to the memorial site. There’s even a (rather faded) sign that says “Parzella 301”. Follow that road to its end and then the access road to the memorial branches off to the right. The 1.5 miles (2.5 km) walk takes about half an hour each way.
The New Municipal Cemetery is open daily from between 7.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer (closing an hour or two earlier in spring and autumn). Admission is, naturally, free.
I spent about 20 minutes at the Plot 301 memorial site, but ca. two and a half hours in the cemetery in total (with all that extra walking – see above
); plus the tram ride from/to the centre of Budapest
takes almost 40 minutes each way too. So it’s really a half-day outing.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
Directly adjacent to the New Municipal Cemetery is one of Europe’s largest Jewish cemeteries, referred to here as Israelite Cemetery (“Izraelita temetö
” in Hungarian), but usually called Kozma Street Jewish cemetery
in English. This also includes a Holocaust
memorial and a large white synagogue by the gate.
For other sites see under Budapest
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
there’s nothing in the vicinity that I’d be aware of, so you have to get the tram all the way back to the centre of Budapest
The tram ride out here is mostly rather dull, except the bit when it passes the huge Dreher brewery. This is a ca. late 19th/early 20th century industrial complex of impressive size and architectural appeal. As for the industrially mass-produced beer that comes from here, that is far less appealing (at least to beer connoisseurs) …
For more interesting beers you’d have to go to another industrial complex further out of the centre that the tram line also goes past, namely at this address: 47 Maglódi út. The imposing but dilapidated red-brick industrial architecture here is less polished than the Dreher brewery but may appeal to urbexers. For beer drinkers it’s more important that this complex behind the brick front is home to no fewer than three craft breweries, including local top dog Mad Scientist (who have recently actually teamed up with the big player that is Dreher), who also operate a beer garden and bottle/can shop. So that will also be a place on my to-do list when I next go to Budapest
- New Public Cemetery 01 - atmospherically overgrown municipal cemetery
- New Public Cemetery 02 - fine sepulchral artwork
- New Public Cemetery 03 - soldier
- New Public Cemetery 04 - couple
- New Public Cemetery 05 - Polish war graves
- New Public Cemetery 06 - Turkish memorial
- New Public Cemetery 07 - wrong route to Plot 301
- New Public Cemetery 08 - correct route to plot 301
- New Public Cemetery 09 - memroal hall at Plot 301
- New Public Cemetery 10 - that fateful year
- New Public Cemetery 11 - lawn and what looks like a symbolic crematorium
- New Public Cemetery 12 - Plot 301
- New Public Cemetery 13 - bell
- New Public Cemetery 14 - Imre Nagy grave
- New Public Cemetery 15 - more graves in Plot 301
- New Public Cemetery 16 - names of victims
- New Public Cemetery 17 - spot Imre Nagy
- New Public Cemetery 18 - a bit of English
- New Public Cemetery 19 - cross
- New Public Cemetery 20 - more name panels
- New Public Cemetery 21 - individual panel
- New Public Cemetery 22 - wooden gate
- New Public Cemetery 23 - a field of wooden stelae at plot 298
- New Public Cemetery 24 - aesthetically withered flowers