Budapest City Park Walking Tour:
Location: City Park (Városliget)
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Museum and sight costs below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Start: Heroes’ Square (Hősök Tere M1 Metro Stop)
End: Heroes’ Square (Hősök Tere M1 Metro Stop)
Walking Distance: 2.3 Miles
Time Required: 90 Minutes for Walk (4 hours with sights)
Fun Scale: 9 out of 10
Overview Of City Park:
You can find a little bit of everything on a trip to City Park. Within a short stroll, you can find beautiful lakes, museums, a great thermal spa, a zoo, an amusement park, and the park’s highlight a giant castle. Original the entire park was just a huge meadow for oxen for about 500 years until Habsburg ruler Maria Theresa had a ton of trees planted to make it into a wooded getaway in the mid-1700s. In the early 1800s, Maria Theresa’s getaway was turned into a public park and is considered the oldest public park in the World.
Rest assured that pretty most of the sights you’ll see on this walking tour was built for the 1986 World Expo, but they still amaze today. Budapest had been picked for the World Expo as 1986 marked 1000 years since the Hungarians took over the Carpathian Basin.
Getting to City Park is easy since the M1 Orange Subway Line runs right through the park. The metro’s Hősök Tere stop brings you right to the entrance at Heroes’ Square.
City Park Walking Tour Sights:
1. Andrássy Avenue:
About Andrássy Avenue: While most people start their City Park experience at Heroes’ Square we highly suggest get off the metro two stops earlier (0.5 miles) and start with a stroll down Andrássy Avenue. The lush avenue was seriously widened and upgraded to connect old town Pest (1.5 miles South) with the City Park for the 1896 World Expo. The overhaul on Andrássy Avenue the street was meant to make it mirror the large boulevards Paris and they did a good enough job that many call it the Hungarian Champs-Elysee.
Today the Avenue is lined with beautiful Neo-Renaissance palaces and home with fine facades, exclusive shops, and atmospheric café houses. You can also find one of the best sounding Opera houses of Europe, the birthplace of the famous composer Franz Liszt, and the Budapest Soho.
2. Heroes’ Square (Hõsök Tere):
About Heroes’ Square: Lying at the end of Andrássy Avenue at the entrance to City Park, Heroes’ Square is dedicated, “To the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence”. The focal point of Heroes’ Square is the Millennium Memorial whose statues are a cradle of the Hungarian history. The outstanding column in the middle of the square is topped with Archangel Gabriel who holds the crown of Hungary’s first king Saint Steven in his right hand, and in his left hand the angel holds a two barred apostolic cross, a symbol awarded to Saint Steven by the Pope in recognition of his efforts to convert Hungary to Christianity.
Around the base of the column you will find statues representing the original seven chieftains of Hungary. Because the memorial was made while Hungary was under Austrian rule, the backside of the memorial originally had statues of five members of the Hapsburg dynasty. When the memorial was restored from damages incurred during WWII, the Hapsburg dynasty statues were replaced with its current figures. The entire memorial is surrounded by a semi-circle colonnade encompasses the most significant statues of Hungarian kings and heroes symmetrically organized on tall, stone columns.
3. Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum): Filled with art by Bellini, Raphael, Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Rembrandt, and many others, the Museum of Fine Arts has over 100,000 pieces spanning the globe and all parts of history. When the Museum opened in 1906 it had already been consolidate works of fine art from many other Hungarian museums for over a decade. Outside of growing from within, the Museum has continued to add new exhibits and pieces over the decades and now even holds the second largest Spanish art exhibition after Madrid. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm; Closed Mondays. Cost:1,800 HUF; half off for students and children. Guided Tours: They provide free guided tours in English on the Collection of Old Master Paintings which run Tuesday-Friday at 11am & 2pm; Saturdays at 11am. Museum Website: (HERE).
4. Robinson Restaurant: Sitting on a small island in Városligeti Lake, the Robinson Restaurant has benefited from it’s unmatched atmosphere since it opened in 1989. The terraces spill out into the water surrounded by weeping willows and is topped of with great food. Robinson is a huge hit not just with locals but also with celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Redford, David Copperfield and Larry Hagman to name but a few.
If the wait is too long you can find just as good of food directly across from Robinson at Gundel Restaurant(Gundel és Bagolyvár éttermek). Gundel is a little more famous and fancy as the owner basically put Budapest on the map with it’s fine food, we just happen to prefer the modern poshness of Robinson. Both restaurants are a little pricier than normal, but you truly get what you pay for here. Robinson Facebook: Here. Robinson Hours: Lunch Noon-4pm; Dinner 6-11pm. Gundel Hours: Restaurant Noon-Midnight; Bar 9-Midnight; Sunday Brunch 11:30am-3pm; Patisserie Shop 9am-7pm. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
5. Állatkert Zoo (étterem): Established in 1866, and known for its baby rhinos, Budapest’s Zoo offers perfect relaxing fun for the entire family and it is huge. The zoo is so huge that it takes up the entire Northwest corner of City Park and the entire middle on the North side.
The Állatkert Zoo is also one of the most diverse zoos in the world with 700 animal species and 2000 different types of plants. The three best areas to check out are the elegant Palm House (Pálmaház) which is full of lizards, reptiles, & tropical plants; the Monkey House (Majomház) which as the name implies showcases monkeys; and the Elephant area which has a beautiful turquoise domed building right in the middle of it. Hours: 9am-5:30pm; Open til 6pm on the Weekends. Cost: Adult 2,500 HUF; Children & Students 1,800 HUF; Family 7,300 HUF. Zoo Map: To help you get a better idea on how large the zoo is, click here to check out their map. Zoo Website: (HERE).
6. The Great Circus (Nagy Cirkusz): As you reach the end of the huge zoo it’s hard to miss the green and blue big top of The Great Circus. The Great Circus has been open since 1891 and is housed in Europe’s only permanent circus building. It is a pretty traditional, but fun circus with clowns, jugglers, acrobats, daredevils and of course tons of animals. If you have kids or are in Budapest on a rainy day, the Great Circus is bound to be on your list of musts. Cost: 1,500-3,900 HUF; Please note that “Porond” means ring level and “Erkély” means balcony. Performances: Wednesday-Friday 3pm; Saturday 10:30am, 3pm, and 7pm; Sunday 10:30am and 3pm. Circus Website: (HERE).
7. Széchenyi Medicinal Baths (Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő): The Széchenyi Baths owe their existence to mining engineer Vilmos Zsigmondy, who found the thermal waters deep beneath City Park while boring large wells in the mid 1800’s. The first public baths opened here in the late 1800’s, but do to exposure during the 1896 World Expo they became too popular and quickly out grew the original bath house. By 1913 they decided to build the current beautiful Neo-Baroque style Szechenyi Baths which still serves as one of Europe’s greatest spa complexes.
The indoor area includes thermal baths, dry sauna, wet sauna and massage rooms. The huge open-air swimming pool with adjoining hot tub and Jacuzzi. The thermal spring water is a warm 75 degrees and you alternate between cooler pools for the full experience. In all there are 15 separate thermal pools which stay open year round and even on snowy winter days. They also have swimsuits for rent if you forgot yours. If you are adventurous you can purchase thermal water to drink by the bottle which is supposed to be healthy. Hours: Open all year round; Outdoor Pools 6am-10pm; Indoor Thermals 6am-7pm. Cost: Weekday 4,600; Weekend 4,800; 20 Minute Aroma Massage 3,150. Baths Website: (HERE).
8. Vidámpark Amusement Park: Whiles it’s no Six Flags, Vidámpark Amusement Park is larger than expected and can be great family fun. The two most popular rides are the Merry-Go-Round (Körhinta) built in 1906, and the longest wooden frame Roller Coaster (Hullámvasút) in Europe, which has been used continuously since 1922. Hours: Typically open from 10am-8pm; Closed October & November. Cost: Adult 4,900 HUF; Children & Seniors 3,300 HUF. Park Website: (HERE).
9. City Beer Tent (Városligeti Sörsátor): The circus tent style City Beer Tent is a decent place to get out of the sun to grab a beer and bite to eat during your trip to City Park. Most days of the week they have pretty good live music starting anywhere between 3:30-6pm which goes into the late evening hours. The types of music ranges but is typically cover bands of American classic rock and modern music. Tent Website:(HERE).
10. Vajdahunyadvár Castle: Despite its appearance as a Gothic castle from the middle ages, the romantic Vajdahunyadvár Castle wasn’t built until 1896 for the World Expo. Since the World Expo was also a celebration of 1000 years of Hungarians being in the Carpathian Basin, the Castle was built to include replicas of four of the most outstanding buildings in Hungary. These buildings were the Roman chapel of Ják, the Transylvanian Hunyad Castle (also called Corvin), the Renaissance palace of Visegrad, and the Baroque Palace of Gödöllő.
It is pretty rare to find a full Castle still standing in the middle of any major European city, so the location alone makes Vajdahunyadvár one of our favorite castles we have ever been to. In addition to an great location, Vajdahunyadvár Castle has amazing architecture to match which should put it square on your must see list while in Budapest. The main entrance of the Castle really sets the medieval tone with its huge Gothic towers, moat, and large entrance called Hidas Gate. You can easily enjoy at least 30 minutes finding different cool angles around both sides of the moat’s bridge to take unbelievable photos. The entrance to the Castle is especially beauty around both dawn and dusk, but even more so in the Winter after a dusting of snow. The large pond in front of Vajdahunyadvár serves as an ice rink in the Winter and a row boat pond in the Summer.
The architectural inspiration for Vajdahunyadvár comes from the Transylvanian castle built in the mid-1400’s called Hunyad Castle. The Castle, also called Corvin Castle sits in modern day Hunedoara, Romania and was the childhood home of King Matthias Corvinus. Corvinus rose to power becoming the King of Hungary, Duke of Austria, and King of Bohemia all at the same time in the late-1400’s. The Castle is also where Matthias Corvinus famously had Vlad III the Impaler (Dracula) imprisoned for over 10 years. Hunyad Castle has been kept up by a series of renovations and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Romania. Castle Website: (HERE).
11. Ják Abbey: The large Ják Abbey inside the Castle is one of our favorite spots to take photos from the detailed entryway to the tons of flowers in the Abbey’s courtyard. The gate of the entryway is built in seven tiered layers into the facade and is ringed by niches of statues depicting Christ and the 12 Apostles. This impressive design was made to resemble the Church of St George the Martyr located in Ják, Hungary. The Church of St George was originally a Benedictine Abbey church was built between 1214 and 1256 and now serves as a Catholic Church. More impressive than the age of Church of St George is the fact that it still houses 700 year old frescoes which decorate its walls.
12. Statue of Anonymus: In the square in front of the Agriculture Museum is a very mysterious statue showing a cloaked man, Anonymus, holding a pen. Anonymus was a 13th Century writer who chronicled the early history of the Hunnic-Magyar people. His face is hidden has to this day no one really know who he was as all of his works were written anonymously. His early works which have been lost covered the Hunnish-Hungarian cycle of legends, the history of the Magyar Conquests and the House of Árpád from which the modern day Hungary was settled.
Most of Anonymus’ early works have been lost, but his most famous most famous work called Deeds of the Hungarians (Gesta Hungarorum), still exists today. Although they don’t know who he was, they know that he wrote in Latin, was schooled in Paris, and served on the Hungarian Royal Court in the late 1100’s. Many historians feel that there are many gaps and embellishments in Anonymus’ historical record which spring from him being on the Royal Court and wanting to make skew history. There are actually a lot of parts from the stories that have been attested to through archaeological which gives it some historical credence. Either way, Anonymus’ manuscripts are a source of national pride as it tells the tales of the early Hungarian people. The other statue on the Castle grounds is of Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi who played Dracula in the famous 1931 film of the same title.
13. Museum of Hungarian Agriculture: The Museum of Hungarian Agriculture isn’t the most exciting museum inside but its exterior is nothing short of a spectacular. The exhibits are housed in rooms which feel like old beer halls or hunting lodges and include Hunting, Forestry, Fishing, and the history of Hungarian Agriculture from 896-1945.
The Museum was made to look like the Baroque Palace of Gödöllő which served as the Summer residence for the Elizabeth of Bavaria also known as Sissi. Being married to Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, Sissi became not only the Empresses of Austria but also the Queen of Hungary when the two countries joined as one empire in 1867. Sissi quickly come to beloved by the Hungarians for her individual sense of freedom and her immense beauty. Prior to the joining of the Austrian-Hungarian Empires, the royal family had spent most of their time in Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace, but wanted to make more of an effort to spend time in Hungary. Upon visiting the Palace of Gödöllő, which was an estate for Grassalkovich counts, Sissi decided to make it her official Summer Residence. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5 pm. Cost: Adults 1,100 HUF; Children and Seniors 550 HUF.
14. George Washington Monument & Graffiti House: A statue of George Washington may seem a little weird in Budapest, but many statues of world leaders are scattered throughout City Park including busts of both Winston Churchill and Ronald Regan. If you feel like a photo hunt, in the wooded area South of Vajdahunyadvár Castle you will find a run down shack covered in bright graffiti. The shack is actually quite odd and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the park but the colorful urban graffiti is really photogenic.
15. Petőfi Hall (Petõfi Csarnok): Petőfi Hall is a great place to catch some live music as they have an indoor & an open-air concert venue, club rooms, a restaurant, and a always fun Pesca Pub which doubles as a restaurant. The large band shell for the outdoor concerts is really hard to miss. On the top floor of Petőfi Hall is the Transportation Museum’s Aircraft Historical & Spacecraft Exhibition. The exhibitions covers the History of Flight from the first planes with metal frames all the way to the first Hungarian astronaut, Bertalan Farkas.
16. Pántlika Söröző Pub: Is a lovely, simple tiny bar under the trees with open air terrace. It was original built for an information pavilion at the end of 60’s when the biggest International Exhibition Center was placed here in the park. Now, only two buildings remained, Pecsa (concert hall – opposite to the bar) and Pántlika Bar. The shape of the bar looks like an UFO or an oyster reflects for that ages of socialist design. Pántlika makes probably the best beangulyas (Hungarian soup) in the town and is worth a visit! Pub Website:(HERE).
17. Museum of Transportation (Közlekedési Múzeum): The Museum of Transportation is truly a must for any railway or general history lovers. Among other exhibits, the Museum has a unique collection of locomotives and wagons on a 1:5 scale and full sized wagons from the early 1900’s. Our favorite part of the Museum houses a great exhibit on the history of road traffic going from horse drawn vehicles all the way to more modern cars. Another exhibit of note is the History of Sailing going from prehistoric ages to modern times. If you need to catch a bite to eat make sure to get a snack at the beautiful cafe Vagon büfé before leaving the Museum. Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10am-4pm; Saturday & Sunday 10am-5pm; Closed Mondays. Cost: 1,400 HUF; Children and Seniors are 700 HUF. Museum Website: (HERE).
18. Millennium Szalon (Olof Palme Ház): The Millennium Szalon is a popular pub located in the Old Palm House which was originally built back in 1885. If you’ve felt like you’ve been on a beer and pub tour throughout the stops in City Park the historic setting of the Millennium Szalon is a nice way to wrap it all together. Nearby is the Winter Sledding Hill which is one of the top spots in winter for Budapest’s locals. Mostly free of trees, this hill turns into a winter wonderland for people of all ages anytime it snows. It’s a very popular spot even during the Summer months, as it is one of the best spots in town to have a picnic or catch some sun.
19. Monument of the 1956 Revolution: As you emerge onto Parade Square you will first see a small stone spiral monument filled with flowers that serves as a marker for where Regnum Marianum Church once stood. The Church was tore down in the early 1950’s to build a huge Stalin statue which stood at the sight of today’s 1956 Revolution Monument nearby.
During the 1956 Revolution, tens of thousands of Hungarians took park in an uprising to get rid of pro-Soviet elements in the country’s communist leadership. The movement quickly gained momentum, but after the protesters tore down a large Stalin statue the Soviets destroyed parts of Budapest with their tanks to stop the uprising. A small scale civil war broke out and support from around the world grew for the Hungarian revolutionaries. Many celebrities such as Elvis spoke out for them and Time Magazine even made their Man of the Year for 1956 the Hungarian Freedom Fighter. In the end the pro-Soviet elements won leaving 25,000 protesters dead and forcing 250,000 Hungarians to flee to Austria. The Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy had supported the revolutionaries desire to get rid of the Soviet influence and was soon secretly tried for treason, executed and thrown in an unmarked grave. It quickly became illegal to even say Nagy’s name for the rest of Communist rule as he was considered a Martyr for freedom. Nagy’s body was quickly reburied and the 1956 Revolution Monument was built over the same ground the protestors had tore down the Stalin statue 33 year before.
The Monument itself is a very interest modern take on the events of 1956. It is in the shaped of a wedge with sparse wooden pillars coming out of the forest joining tighter and tighter into a steel blade plowing up the cement. It is meant to symbolize the Hungarian protestors coming together in 1956 showing them force is greater then the sum of their parts when they come together as one. Just past the 1956 Monument you will come to a very largest stone wheel called the Time Wheel, which happens to be the largest hour glass in the world. It weighs 60 tons and it takes an entire year to empty top to bottom. They have it timed out really cool so the last few grains slip through every year at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
20. Museum of Contemporary Art (Műcsarnok): The Museum of Contemporary Art, often called the Palace of Art for the grand building is sits in, is on the Southside of Heroes’ Square where we were at the beginning of the walking tour. We like to do one of the museums at the beginning and one at the end to split them up and reduce museum fatigue. The huge Palace-like hall that houses the Museum was built for the 1896 World Expo and has a roof that allows more natural light than you can imagine. The Museum houses fabulous modern exhibitions year round and with the most unique one being located outside in the Summer in the nearby City Ice Rink’s pond. Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday-Sunday 10am-6pm; Thursday Noon-8pm; Closed Mondays. Cost: 1,800 HUF; half off for students, children, and seniors. Museum Website: (HERE).
21. City Ice Rink & Lake (Városligeti Műjégpálya): Europe’s largest ice rink has been delighting locals and tourists in the Budapest winters since 1926. The outdoor rink is an extremely popular place to both skate and play hockey with the large castle as a backdrop. In the summers the rink alternates between a large pond you can paddle boat on and a dry expo area where festivals and concerts are held. Water flow in the summer is controlled by two separate dams. The coolest annual event in the Summer is called Art On The Lakewhich runs from late May through early September. During the exhibits huge sculptures are built coming right out of the lake and you can row up to and among them. Hours: Monday-Thursday 9am-8pm; Friday 9am-1pm & 4-8pm; Sat & Sun 10am-2pm. Cost: Weekdays 1,200 HUF; Weekends 1,400 HUF. Rink Website: (HERE).