More background info:
This cemetery goes back to the mid-19th century, with the first burials taking place in 1849. Since then numerous greats of Hungarian politics, arts and science have been buried here. For non-Hungarians most of those names won’t mean much, except perhaps for Zsa Zsa Gabor of Hollywood fame, Ignaz Semmelweis (see Semmelweis Museum
) and maybe Ferenc Deák, if only because that name also features in the name of a square in the city centre that is also an important transport hub (featuring the only intersection of three metro lines in the city).
Burials ceased in the early 1950s, partly because the new communist
regime despised the worship of great names from bygone non-communist eras. To counter that further the regime had a memorial monument for the Labour Movement specially constructed in the south-western part of the cemetery in 1958 – less than two years after the crushing of the 1956 Uprising!
Since 2016 the cemetery has been managed by the National Heritage Institute, and under special circumstances new burials or ash scatterings are possible again (e.g. for Zsa Zsa Gabor, who had died in 2016 aged 99).
There is a fair amount of confusion regarding the name of the cemetery. It is now officially called Fiumei Road National Cemetery, though the National Heritage Institute website also refers to it as Rijeka Road graveyard. Informally, however, the old name Kerepesi remains in use.
What there is to see: This is a wonderful cemetery to just wander about in. In many parts it is quite park-like, with plenty of lawns and groves of trees in between the clusters of tombs and the big mausoleums. In the furthest south-eastern as well as the north-eastern corners the cemetery becomes more overgrown and almost forest-like.
Images probably can say more about the general atmosphere than words can – so take a look at the photo gallery below
Those who want to explore the cemetery systematically and locate specific graves, can apparently now scan a QR code by the entrance to access a portable guide on a smartphone. Traditional maps are also available (for free even) from a help-yourself box to the right of the entrance.
The most unmissable of the mausoleums is the gigantic one for Lajos Kossuth, the 19th century statesman who’s sometimes regarded as the “father of Hungarian democracy” (e.g. at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
). The square in front of the Hungarian Parliament is also named after him (see 1956 Memorial
The mausoleum for another 19th century Hungarian statesmen of great renown is that of Ferenc Deák, a smaller but very classic design, while Mihály Károlyi’s tomb is a rather modern affair with a rounded, marquee-like roof (he was president of the short-lived first independent republic of Hungary immediately after WW1
– cf. 1914-1922 exhibition
Another name that may be recognizable for international visitors is that of Ignaz Semmelweis, whose grand sarcophagus-like tomb still stands in the north-eastern part of the cemetery, even though his remains have meanwhile been transferred to the backyard of his birth house, which now houses the Semmelweis Museum
A short distance from this you can now find the grave of Hollywood actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was famously married nine times and lived to the grand old age of 99. After she died in 2016 she first received a modest wooden cross at her grave here (you still see this on photos on Google Maps), but this has meanwhile been replaced by a proper tomb. This features a red marble stone with a recreation of a star on the famous Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles
The rest of the names you encounter probably won’t mean anything to you. But that’s not so important. What matters more here is the appreciation of some sophisticated sepulchral art, some of which invite tongue-in-cheek reinterpretation (see photo gallery
) and some atmospherically overgrown and/or dilapidated tombs. Just keep your eyes open as you wander around. After my revisit in 2022 I’ve adapted and vastly expanded the photo gallery for this chapter – do take a look below
Two sections differ in nature from the rest of the cemetery: the Soviet WWII
section in the north-westernmost corner of the area, and the communist
-era Labour Movement memorial complex south of the main entrance. Here, some grand socialist-realist
bas-reliefs can be found.
You also encounter various references to the uprising of 1956 … and it’s not always clear whether the tombs with that year on are for victims of the Soviet crushing of the revolution or of victims on the other side – like those you can find next to the Soviet war graves.
On my most recent revisit I spotted a toppled wreath with a band in the Russian
flag’s colours, probably placed here for an anniversary (maybe May 9?). Why this was lying on its side I don’t know, but I can imagine that this may not have been an accident or the wind but possibly deliberate (in reaction to Putin’s war in Ukraine
There was also supposed to be a museum at this cemetery once, which I didn’t know about back in 2008; but this is now “temporarily closed”. Why, I cannot say.
A large exhibit, the huge black horse-drawn hearse, one of the largest ever made and used for state funerals before WWII, is now on display in a glass cage in the open air right next to the museum building close to the main entrance. This exhibit was set up only in 2017, after the hearse, called the “Apponyi Coach”, was moved here from the Transport Museum.
Kerepesi Cemetery has been likened to the more famous Père Lachaise
. In the sense that there are graves of famous people (at least famous from a Hungarian perspective) and plenty of intriguing sepulchral artwork to discover, there is indeed a similarity. But in terms of atmosphere, I found the two rather different. Kerepesi is on flat ground, whereas Père Lachaise is a bit hillier. Its graves are more densely packed, too, with few open spaces in between, whereas Kerepesi has plenty of those. Père Lachaise also lacks the communist/Soviet elements. Moreover, Kerepesi is far less touristy than Père Lachaise. Both are equally well worth visiting, don’t get me wrong, just not for identical reasons or with the same effects.
just to the east of Budapest
’s city centre, south of Keleti train station.
Access and costs: not tricky to get to; free
Details: To get to the cemetery you can take the metro, line 2 (red) to Keleti train station and walk from there, first heading south on Festetics György utca, and continue on Fiumei utca to get to the entrance. Tram lines 2M and 24 get you quite close to the entrance too.
Admission is free.
Opening times: from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in May, June, July; only to 7 p.m. in April and August, to 6 p.m. in September, to 5:30 p.m. in March, to 5 p.m. in October, and from November to February only between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Time required: depending on how thoroughly you want to explore, somewhere between one hour and half a day.
Combinations with other dark destinations: directly adjacent to the east of Kerepesi Cemetery is the Jewish cemetery on Salgótarján Street. But it’s quite dilapidated and hence access is restricted and only possible under supervision and by prior arrangement.
Much further away is the New Municipal Cemetery
on the eastern outskirts of Budapest, but this is worth the long pilgrimage for Plot 301, the place where many of the victims of the crushing of the 1956 Uprising and those executed by the communist regime are buried. This is now a national memorial site.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see under Budapest
- Kerepesi 01 - grand cemetery
- Kerepesi 02 - park-like
- Kerepesi 03 - unusual sepulchral stonemasonry
- Kerepesi 04 - the force of religion
- Kerepesi 05 - Kossuth Lajos mausoleum
- Kerepesi 06 - Deak mausoleum
- Kerepesi 07 - golden dome ceiling
- Kerepesi 08 - another golden dome ceiling
- Kerepesi 09 - dark angel
- Kerepesi 10 - green angel
- Kerepesi 11 - off into the dark
- Kerepesi 12 - dust to dust
- Kerepesi 13 - hammered
- Kerepesi 14 - ghostly
- Kerepesi 15 - guarded by a lion
- Kerepesi 16 - roar
- Kerepesi 17 - stonemasonry pigeons
- Kerepesi 18 - art nouveau
- Kerepesi 19 - captured by nature
- Kerepesi 20 - nature cut back
- Kerepesi 21 - communist-era monument complex
- Kerepesi 23 - workers and peasants
- Kerepesi 24 - fighting
- Kerepesi 25 - revolution
- Kerepesi 26 - Soviet war graves
- Kerepesi 27 - the years of the Soviet liberation of Hungray
- Kerepesi 28 - when the Soviets came back
- Kerepesi 29 - semi-veiled Soviet star
- Kerepesi 30 - toppled Russian wreath
- Kerepesi 31 - bullet holes
- Kerepesi 32 - headlesss angel with a bullet hole
- Kerepesi 33 - almost legless, single-handed and headless
- Kerepesi 34 - what has that dog just eaten
- Kerepesi 35 - flying high
- Kerepesi 36 - laying low
- Kerepesi 37 - Mihaly Karolyi tomb
- Kerepesi 38 - Ignaz Semmelweis
- Kerepesi 39 - Zsa Zsa Gabor
- Kerepesi 40 - the world is your oyster
- Kerepesi 41 - in troubled waters
- Kerepesi 42 - the violin is a bloody hard instrument to learn
- Kerepesi 43 - it is a heartache
- Kerepesi 44 - wandering spirit
- Kerepesi 45 - apparently a very exciting book
- Kerepesi 46 - domestic violence, perhaps
- Kerepesi 47 - colourful
- Kerepesi 48 - beautifully overgrown
- Kerepesi 49 - forested part in the back
- Kerepesi 50 - very dilapidated mausoleum
- Kerepesi 51 - peace is a heavy burden
- Kerepesi 52 - WW1 monument
- Kerepesi 53 - symbol of the 1956 uprising
- Kerepesi 54 - grand old horse-drawn hearse
- Kerepesi 55 - detail