The Treasures of the Baroque Town of Vác

The Treasures of the Baroque Town of Vác

The-Treasures-of-the-Baroque-Town-of-Vác-2Vác is a little gem, a small baroque town just north of Budapest (half an hour by train). It is stunningly situated along the river Danube and has many historic houses, palaces and churches. In addition, Vácis home to two very special treasures: a unique collection of mummies from the 1700s and a collection of paintings by Gyula Hincz, the ‘Picasso of Hungary’. What is more: as Vác hasn’t yet been generally discovered by foreign tourists,strolling the town offers visitors an authentic feel for life in an old and elegant Hungarian town.

The tour starts at the main square, lined with colorful baroque houses and palaces, among them the town hall and the notable White Church. It was in a forgotten crypt of this church that the mummified bodies of some 150 citizens from the 18th century were found. It was a unique discovery and some of these mummies are now on display, together with the decorated coffins and the clothes in which they were buried, in an exhibition called Memento Mori.

The-Treasures-of-the-Baroque-Town-of-Vác-3Many of these mummies carry German names. The area around the main square was, for most of its history, mainly inhabited by Germans who made up the upper and middle classes of this trading town. They were later joined by a substantial Jewish community whose synagogue still stands. Most Hungarians originally lived a bit further, around the old castle and the bishop’s palace. Vác has been a Catholic diocese since the 11thvarious phases of its long history, Vác has been inhabited by substantial minorities of Slovaks, Greeks and Turks.

At the northern corner of the main square, close to the reconstructed Vienna Gate, is a small museum with another very special collection: more than 100 paintings from Gyula Hincz, a painter with huge fame in Hungary in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. His work was very much influenced by Pablo Picasso and other famous modernist painters whom he met and shortly worked with in Paris in the 1920s. According to some art critics, Hincz could have reached the same level of international fame, had he not decided to return to Hungary and stay there for the rest of his life, firmly drawing the iron curtain of the cold war between his artistic efforts and the recognition of Western art historians.

The-Treasures-of-the-Baroque-Town-of-Vác-4During our walk, you will pass the town prison, infamous for the fact that it housed many political prisoners during communist times. We will also see the triumphal arc built for Hapsburg empress Maria Theresa, then visit the local market and enjoy the wonderful view along the embankment. And Vác has some very nice restaurants and terraces, a special “chocolaterie” which sells extraordinary chocolate drinks, an exquisite pastry shop, and a wine museum with wine tasting for you to explore.

There is a fast train to Vác from the Nyugati Station in downtown Pest, which takes only 25 minutes. Of course, your guides will pick you up directly from the train station in Vác. Alternatively we can provide you driving directions if you come by car and, during spring and summer, you could even decide to treat yourself to cruise down the Danube to Vác, The boat deaprts from Budapest at 9.00 in the morning and docks in Vác around 11.00.

Andras Schweitzer Andras Schweitzer is senior lecturer at ELTE University, Budapest, focusing on contemporary political history. He holds a PhD in International Relations (2006, Corvinus University of Budapest). Besides his alma mater, he took courses on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studied contemporary Hungarian history at the Eszterházy Károly Főiskola (Eger) and East-Central European history at the Central European University (CEU). He had worked for 17 years for HVG, Hungary’s leading political-financial-cultural weekly magazine („The Economist of Hungary”) as journalist and section editor producing and editing feature and news stories, interviews, reportage among them some award-wining ones. He covered a wide array of topics in- and outside of Hungary at conferences from Boston through Copenhagen and Nové Zámky to Seoul. His most recent articles appeared in The Guardian, in Hungarian Spectrum, in Intersections – East European Journal of Society and Politics, in The Hungarian Quarterly. He is a vice-chairman of the Hungarian Europe Society.
ZoltanZoltán Csipke was born and raised in Los Angeles. After starting his PhD in History at the University of Liverpool in 2006, he moved to Budapest in 2007 for his research, where he has lived ever since. Zoltán’s research focused specifically on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and collective memory, with a wider interest in the Cold War. He formerly lectured at Eötvös Loránd University and the Balassi Institute, having also been a senior editor at the All Hungary Media Group, where he focused on Hungarian politics and Budapest nightlife. He can frequently be found wandering the streets of Budapest with his camera as he indulges in his hobby of cityscape photography or providing impromptu history lessons at a table with friends in one of the city’s cafés or ruin pubs.
RunaRuna Hellinga is a freelance journalist, writing for Dutch newspapers. She came to Hungary in 1989 when communism was just collapsing and the century’s most exciting political, economical and social changes were unfolding. From 1994, she spent a number of years in South Africa, covering the end of Apartheid in that country for the Dutch press. In 1998 she returned to Hungary as a freelancer, and has been living in the country ever since, first in Budapest and the last couple of years in the small Baroque town of Vác. In 2008 she wrote a book about Budapest, covering the city’s history and culture, but also the social and political developments from the times of the Romans until today. Together with her husband Henk Hirs (also a journalist) she organizes themed tours, covering subjects from Jugendstil architecture and the remnants of the Turkish occupation to the communist past. As a correspondent, she can also offer a lot of insight in recent Hungarian political and cultural developments. On request, she also organizes tours around special subjects like Hungarian literature or current social issues.
HenkHenk Hirs is a Dutch radio and newspaper journalist who first came to Hungary in the summer of 1989, when the country was in the midst of pulling down the Iron Curtain. He has been reporting on its many ups and downs ever since,getting to know the people, their turbulent history, their various cultures and their impossible language in the process. Between 2006 and 2010, he was editor in chief of Business Hungary, the monthly magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. After living in Budapest for many years, in 2008 he moved with his wife, Runa (also a distinguished journalist), to the lovely little Baroque town of Vác close to the Hungarian capital. Suddenly, he got to know “the other Hungary” of gracious suburban town life. He has published several books on the country, among them a tourist guide which he updates yearly. He is also the co-author of various Dutch-language blogs on current events and tourism developments.
CsabaCsaba Tibor Tóth Born and raised in Szeged, Csaba acquired a distinguished interest in the history of his country quite early on, finishing his BA studies in 2010 at the University of Szeged, with a double major in history and cultural anthropology. On the cultural anthropology track, he finished a thesis on the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish Folklore in the 1890’s, then he expanded on with this topic at Central European University, where he achieved a MA with Honors in 2011. In order to study Jewish history and culture in a broader context, Csaba went through a second Masters program at the University of Southampton, UK in 2012. He currently works at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Center in as a guide and educator, while regularly blogging in Hungarian about the country’s history and daily politics.


Insight Cities arranges this tour only for private groups with advance notice, at present. Thanks for emailing us at [email protected].

Private Walk (1-6 People) $295
Private Walk (7-10 People) $350


Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

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