Hungary has a strong folk tradition, which includes kalocsai (a colourful type of embroidery), decorative paintings, wood or bone carvings, leather goods, lace and pottery. Black pottery, made from black clay, and the fine Herend and Zsolnay porcelain are exported around the world. Hungarian embroidery and folk paintings use traditional symbols such as the bird, which stands for freedom. Women are represented by tulips and men by carnations.

Magyar folk songs and dances are usually accompanied by lutes, zithers and a type of bagpipe, as well as by Hungarian instruments such as the cimbalom and the tórogato. The national dance of Hungary is the csardas. Men and women perform it in a group. It is often danced at weddings and festivals and other special occasions.

Roma music is called ciganyzene. It is deeply emotional, whether sad or joyous. Years ago, Gypsies used to play at village feasts, weddings, fairs and all events that required music. Nowadays they play mostly in bands in hotels. Gypsy music uses the violin and the cimbalom, an instrument similar to a dulcimer, with 20 to 35 strings, played with small wooden hammers. The famous Gypsy band, Kalyi Jag, which means "Black Fire," has recorded CDs.

Hungary has produced many brilliant musicians and composers. Ferenc (Franz) Liszt (1811-86) was one of the most talented pianists of his time. His Hungarian rhapsodies, a free-flowing style of music, turned the rhapsody into a serious art form. The composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945) used Hungarian folk tunes in his compositions. Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967), like Bartők, used Hungarian folk music in his compositions and developed a new approach to music education. Both Eugene Ormandy and George Szell were born in Budapest and achieved fame in the United States as orchestra conductors.

 Did you know?
In 1823 Ferenc Kólcsey wrote a poem that is now Hungary's national anthem. In 1844 Ferenc Erkel composed music for it. Even during the communist regime, the Hungarian national anthem, "O my God, the Magyar bless," was sung unchanged.

Hungarian novels are often complex and challenging, and few of Hungary's writers are well-known outside the country. Péter Esterházy (The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn Down the Danube) and György Konrád (A Feast in the Garden), are two contemporary writers whose work is available in English. Ferenc Molnár is one of Hungary's most highly regarded playwrights. In 1993, Tibor Fischer, a Hungarian by birth, was nominated for Great Britain's Booker Prize for his book Under the Frog. Stephan Vizinczey, a Hungarian-Canadian, wrote In Praise of Older Women.