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Városliget (City Park)
Városliget (City Park) Review
Heroes' Square is the gateway to a square kilometer (almost ½ square mi) of recreation, entertainment, beauty, and culture. A bridge behind the Millennial Monument leads across a boating basin that becomes an artificial ice-skating rink in winter; to the south of this lake stands a statue of George Washington, erected in 1906 with donations by Hungarian emigrants to the United States. You can soak or swim at the lovely, turn-of-the-20th-century Széchenyi Fürdő, jog along the park paths, or careen on Vidám Park's roller coaster.
There's also the Petőfi Csarnok, a leisure-time youth center and major concert hall on the site of an old industrial exhibition. The Gundel restaurant charms diners with its turn-of-the-20th-century ambience. Fair-weather weekends, when the children's attractions are teeming with youngsters and parents and the Széchenyi Fürdő is brimming with bathers, are the best times for people-watchers to visit the park; if you go on a weekday, the main sights are rarely crowded.
Beside the City Park's lake stands Vajdahunyad Vár (Vajdahunyad Castle), a fantastic medley of Hungary's historic and architectural past, starting with the Romanesque gateway of the cloister of Jak, in western Hungary. A Gothic castle whose Transylvanian turrets, Renaissance loggia, baroque portico, and Byzantine decorations are all guarded by a spooky modern (1903) bronze statue of the anonymous medieval "chronicler," who was the first recorder of Hungarian history. Designed for the millennial celebration in 1896, it was not completed until 1908.
Budapesti Állat-és Növénykert. The renovation of the once-depressing Budapesti Állat-és Növénykert began in the late 1990s and, believe it or not, is ongoing to this day. This won't get in your way of enjoying the place, and all the upgrades make things ever more pleasant for both the animals and their visitors. There are petting opportunities aplenty, and in the monkey house, endearing, seemingly clawless little simians climb all over you (beware of pickpockets). Don't miss the elephant pavilion, decorated with Zsolnay majolica and glazed ceramic animals. Note that the last tickets are sold one hour before closing, and animal houses don't open until an hour after the zoo gates. District XIV, Városliget, Állatkerti körút 6–12, City Park. 1/273–4901. www.zoobudapest.com. 2,100 HUF. Mar.–Apr. and Sept.–Oct., Mon.-Thurs. 9–5, Fri.-Sun. 9-5:30. May–Sept., Mon.–Thurs. 9–6:30, Fri.–Sun. 9–7; Nov.–Feb., daily 9–4.
Fővárosi Nagycirkusz. At the Fővárosi Nagycirkusz, colorful performances by local acrobats, clowns, and animal trainers, as well as by international artists, are staged in a small ring. Check the schedule, which is truly subject to change, and book tickets in advance. Beware of pickpockets out front by the timeworn snack-bar. District XIV, Városliget, Állatkerti körút 7. 1/343–8300 or 1/344–6008. www.maciva.hu. 2,400–3,100 HUF. Shows daily at 3 or 5, plus Sat. at 7 pm and Sun. at 11 am.
Mezőgazdasági Múzeum. This hodgepodge houses asurprisingly interesting museum with displays all related to agriculture. Twelve permanent exhibitions (and frequent temporary ones) cover animal husbandry, forestry, horticulture, viticulture, hunting, fishing, and more. There are regular arts and crafts activities for kids. District XIV, Városliget, Széchenyi Island. 1/363–1117. www.mmgm.hu. 1,000 HUF. Mar.–Oct., Tues.–Sun. 10–5; Nov.–Feb., Tues.–Fri. 10–4, weekends 10–5.
Vidám Park. Budapest's somewhat weary amusement park (the advertising is more glittery than the park itself) is next to the zoo and is crawling with happy children with their parents or grandparents in tow. In addition to the rides, there are game rooms and a scenic railway. In all, there are 35 different attractions, including Europe's longest wooden roller coaster and a beautifully restored merry-go-round dating from 1906. Next to the main park is a separate, smaller section for toddlers. Admission includes a wristband that lets you ride most of the attractions and use most of the facilities for the day. Kids under 140 cm (4.5 feet) tall get in for free. Note that hours are subject to change and, at times seemingly vary day by day. Also, there are daytime and nighttime tickets, which are only valid between specific hours. Check on all this before you come. District XIV, Városliget, Állatkerti körút 14–16. 1/363–8310. www.vidampark.hu. General admission: 4,700 HUF. Special rides: 500 HUF. Mar.–Apr. daily 10–6, weekends 10–8. May–Sept. daily 10–midnight, Oct.–Nov. weekends 11–6.
- Address: District XIV, Andrássy út, Városliget, Budapest
- Hours: Daily
- Metro M1: Városliget.
- Location: Around Andrássy út
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I visited: Budapest - Eger - Szentendre
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