On the Pest side of Budapest, away from the castle district (Buda), you can find the City Park Budapest – or Varosliget Napozoret. This large park contains many iconic and beautiful locations worth visiting in Budapest that may be over looked by some visitors on a shorter stay.
We visited this area several times during our stay in Budapest, each time with the park transitioning more and more from fall to winter.
When approaching along Andrassy road, also home to the House of Terror, the first and most iconic landmark you’ll come to is Hero’s Square or Hosok tere. It is a major square in Budapest and is noted for it’s statues that feature the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. It also contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Rising from the center is the Millennium Monument, which was completed in 1900.
Surrounding the square, you will find the Museum of Fine Arts on the left and the Mucsarnok (palace of art) on the right. Following the paths off to the right, you will find the Timewheel – a giant “hourglass” that is a cool stop if you happen to be nearby. Unfortunately, during our visit, it was broken due to vandalism.
Proceeding into City Park Budapest, you find the ice skating rink immediately to your right before crossing the bridge.
In the winter, the pond in the park is drained and set up to be a large, “natural” skating rink. The facilities provide a large, open place to skate. Opening times of the skating rink are subject to change due to weather, but expect it to open starting around November 23rd most years. Admission is HUF 1000 (~$3.70) on Mondays and Tuesdays, HUF 1500 (~$5.50) on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and HUF 2000 (~$7.40) on Weekends. There are rentals if you don’t have skates for HUF 1500 (~$5.50) for two hours. While a little expensive for our tastes, it still is a good price and was an experience that we really wanted from Budapest.
Skating the rink at night was nice as it was right underneath the Vajdahunyad Castle. There were three distinct areas to skate: a common circuit rink where you go in a flow with everyone else; a “practice” rink where people were doing ice dancing and acrobatics; and a game area for skaters good enough to play various games. We really enjoyed watching the more skilled skaters.
We didn’t care for the music playing – American Rap and Pop. It didn’t go well with the holiday vibe and took away from the atmosphere. In my mind it would have been better to be holiday music. It is still important to be careful though as there are always random slips that can occur. A wild child managed to take out Briana towards the end of our night.
And speaking of Vajdahunyad Castle – it is a beautiful example of Hungarian castle work. What is not commonly known is it is a recent build. It was constructed in 1896 as for the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary.
It features copies of various castles from throughout the Hungarian Empire, including the Hunyad Castle of modern day Transylvania. The designs incorporate architectural styles of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Originally constructed of cardboard and wood, it was so popular that is was rebuilt from stone and brick only a few years later.
Today it is home to the largest agricultural museum in Europe offering tours of the interior.
City Park Budapest is quite large and offers several days worth of exploration. We limited ourselves and only saw what we mentioned above and spent a day at the Szechenyi Baths. Being amongst the most famous of the Budapest baths, it certainly deserves a visit.
You can also visit the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden which is in the northern corner of the park. There used to be an amusement park next to it as well, but has since closed. It is only “open” to the adventurous few willing to jump a fence.
The rest of the park offers plenty for kids, families, couples, and solo travelers to explore. Activities range from dining, to skate parks, and outdoor concerts.
While in Budapest, make sure to give the park the attention it deserves.