Opened in 1866, the Budapest Zoo is one of the oldest in the world.
With its architecture and about 3500 animals and 1500 plants in there, visiting the Zoo is a memorable experience for young and old.
You should start to pay attention to the details even before entering its huge gate.
Even the fence surrounding the Zoo is a true piece of art, with its grille elements of polar bear, lion, deer, fine line-drawings of birds on metal plates.
While you are standing in the queue have a look at the entrance building and its guarding elephants, the dome of the gate tower is decorated with Zsolnay tiles.
Twelve polar bears watch those who try to approach the Zoo.
As you are roaming inside the Zoo, do not forget to have a look at the buildings, they making the overall picture of the Zoo complete.
Actually, the protected historic environment is one of the specialities of the Zoo. It evokes the atmosphere of the first decades of the 20th century.
Anywhere you stroll, you’ll bump into remarkable buildings, from huge animal houses to the smallest pavilions.
The buildings were built in Romantic style, and their general characteristic resembled the Hungarian bath buildings and other pavilion-like buildings of the era.
Originally there were 11 larger and several smaller buildings in the Zoo and the Monkey House was the biggest and the most expensive.
After the Municipality of Budapest took over the Zoo in 1907, the Zoo and its garden were reconstructed completely and most of the buildings were pulled down.
The reconstructed Zoo opened its doors to the general public in the spring of 1912.
Unfortunatelly, almost every building was damaged during the Second World War.
New buildings and animal houses had to be built.
You have to look carefully to find these gems, there are more than a hundred of these (even the drinking fountains worth a close look).
One of our favorites.
Yeah, it looks like a mosque. From a fairy-tale. 🙂
Have a close look at its indoor and outdoor ornamentation: stained glass windows, colorful tiles and murals.
It also has eosin-glazed Zsolnay ceramic figures.
The Great Rock
It is man-made, and stands there from 1912. It is visible not only from the City Park but when the sky is clear, even from the Citadel.
It is 34 meters high and when it was built, it was the highest of all artificial structures in Budapest.
Since 2012 “Magic Mountain” opened in its inside. Today it is the largest natural science centre in the country, which offers reason to visit the zoo anytime.
And I really mean it.
When we visited it during a snowy day, my daughter had the chance to stroke a worm and walk a Patagonian mara on leash. Who knew that maras demand a good daily stroll? 😊
The ONCE-UPON-A-TIME CASTLE, the new wonderland of the Zoo opened in 2018 on a one and a half acres area.
It incorporates some elements of the former Amusement Park, for example the richly decorated and recently restored old carousel from 1908.
It has an interactive playground (suitable for children from age 3 to 10), a petting zoo and a tiny railway.
There is a huge, four-story educational playhouse with Hungarian animal fairy tale characters.
There is also a Guinea Pig city in the castle area, an emergency veterinary centre, and a Shark School (yes, sharks can be tamed a bit, they learn how to cooperate with their trainers during veterinary visits and feedings).
This shark aquarium is special because the everyday maintenance works are also visible, so we can have a look at everything that is behind the scenes elsewhere.
Once-upon-a-time Castle can also be visited separately from the Zoo for 1,600 HUF. Some attractions require “Sün” coins, that you can purchase on spot.
Sculptures of the Zoo
Among the sculptures the two cast-iron dragons are the oldest, they are even older than the Zoo itself.
These were cast in 1856 and originally located next to the Chain Bridge.
There are several bronze statues that help the visually impaired to feel the shape of buildings and animals (ring-tailed lemur, polar bear, hippo, sea-lion, etc.).
There are also wooden sculptures that are placed all around the Zoo: koala, lion, gorilla, huge caterpillar and even a tarantula and he created the huge guinea pig town in Once-upon-a-time Castle, too.
The future of the Zoo
It is impossible not to see that the Zoo is under a huge construction right now. It is being expanded with the area of the former Amusement Park of Budapest.
After the expansion a new area called Pannon Park will show the flora and fauna that existed in the Carpathian Basin during the Miocene period.
The main attraction and most interesting part of the Pannon Park will be a huge, 17.000 square meter biodome.
The heighest point of the structure will be 36 metres, about the same as the height of the cupola of the Széchenyi Baths, while the average height will be 17 meters.
The Biodome will use the thermal waters and thermal energy of the fountains of Széchenyi Baths.
To make space for the Biodome, existing buildings on the area were partly demolished, except heritage buildings like the Merry-go-round and the Fairy tale boats which will be operated by Budapest Zoo.
The wooden roller coaster that dates back to the 1920s remains, too.
(Despite its look, it is not life threatening to use it, I promise )
Is it worth visiting the Zoo before the opening of the new features in 2020?
Well, in my honest opinion: yes.
But I am biased.
We have already been in the Zoo uncountable times.
My daughter spent weeks in its summer camp when she was younger and I was working as a volunteer when baby sloths were born. 😊
Regular programs in the Budapest Zoo
Opening hours of the Budapest Zoo
Monday to Friday: 9 am – 6 pm
Sunday and Saturday: 9 am – 7 pm
The Zoo is open every day around the year, even on national and religious holidays.
Last entry to the Zoo is an hour before closing time.
For details visit the website of the Zoo here.
Tickets to the Budapest Zoo
How to get to the Zoo
I recommend taking the Millennium Underground (M1), the cutest metro line.
Get off at Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) or Széchenyi Bath (Széchenyi Fürdő).
The Zoo is much closer to the bath: just head to the right from the station and you will soon see its entrance.
From Heroes’ Square metro station it is about a 10 minutes walking, but this way you can also have a look at one of the most famous squares of Budapest.
Attractions close to the Budapest Zoo (City Park)
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