On the Pest side of Budapest, away from the castle district (Buda), you can find the City Park of 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 due to the more prominent attractions along the Danube.
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, the first and most iconic landmark you’ll come across is the Hero’s Square or Hosok tere. It is one of the major squares of Budapest and is noted for it’s statues that feature the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars (though originally featured prominent members of Hapsburgs). It also contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Rising from the center is the Millennium Monument, which was completed in 1900.
Immediately surrounding the square, you can find the Museum of Fine Arts on the left and the Mucsarnok (palace of art) on the right. And if you follow 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, as of our visiting, it was broken due to vandalism and was no longer working.
Ice Skating Rink
Proceeding into the park, you will find the ice skating rink immediately to your right before crossing the bridge.
In the winter, the pond in the park is drained and then set up to be a large, “natural” ice skating rink. The facilities provide for a large, open place to go skating. The opening times of the skating rink are subject to change due to weather, but you can expect it to be open starting around November 23rd most years. Admission is HUF 1000 (~$3.70) on Monday and Tuesday, HUF 1500 (~$5.50) on Wednesday and Thursday, and HUF 2000 (~$7.40) on Weekends. There are also rentals if you don’t have your own skates for about HUF 1500 (~$5.50) each for two hours. While a little expensive for our tastes at the time, it still isn’t a bad price and it was an experience that we really wanted from Budapest.
Skating the rink at night in particular was quite nice as it was right underneath the Vajdahunyad Castle. There were three distinct areas to skate as well: 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 those people who were good enough skaters to play various games. We really enjoyed watching the more skilled skaters, though we didn’t care for the music that was playing as it was American Rap and Pop and didn’t go well with the vibe of the area. It took away from the atmosphere in my mind (it would have been better to be holiday music). It is still important to be careful here though, as there are always the 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. But, what may not be commonly known is that it is a recent build – constructed in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary.
It features copies of various castles from throughout the Hungarian Empire, including the Hunyad Castle which is in modern day Transylvania. The designs also incorporate the architectural styles of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. While 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 and also offers tours of the interior castle, which is closed off to the general public.
The park is quite large and can offer several days worth of exploration. Ultimately, we limited ourselves and only saw what we mentioned above and spent a day at the Szechenyi Baths – but that is deserving of it’s own post entirely. But 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 it has since closed, and 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, with activities ranging from dining, to skate parks, to outdoor concerts.
While in Budapest, make sure to give the park the attention it deserves.