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Budapest Zoo: the Budapest destination that's a surefire hit

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Are there any children not amazed by the zoo? Even we adults are easily swept off our feet by the sight of cute or special animals. Family programme, a meet-up of friends or even a date – no matter the occasion for your visit to the city, the Budapest Zoo is without a doubt an excellent destination. 

What does the Budapest Zoo entice the visitor with?

The things to see at the Budapest Zoo are too many to count – you’ll need a full day to discover everything it has in store.  

  • As far as the animals are concerned, the zoo is home to almost 9,000 specimens of close to 1,000 species. The list of species extends from mammals all the way to arachnids: see representatives of birds, reptiles, amphibians, cartilaginous and bony fish, snails, starfish and many other animal classes. Visitors can become familiar with animals from all continents, separated and organised by habitat. The most popular residents include elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, penguins and monkeys, but also many domesticated animals. 
  • In addition to fascinating animal species, Budapest Zoo also has a vast number of plant species on display. Make sure not to miss the Japanese Garden, the international bonsai collection or the rock and cactus show in front of the Palm House. 
  • The buildings also merit mention as these are, in essence, veritable works of art. Recent decades have seen great emphasis placed on the restoration of monument buildings, but new animal houses have also built. Perhaps the most popular spot in the zoo, especially for children, is the Magic Mountain, a four-storey display of the development and diversity of fauna in a spectacular, exciting form with interactive elements. In addition to so many other things, it would be a sin to miss the Elephant House or the Butterfly Garden, home to more than 800, primarily tropical butterfly species. 
  • The experience is made even better with feeding displays and a petting zoo (a hit with young and old alike). Buy unique souvenirs at the gift shop and relax a bit while the children enjoy themselves in one of the many playgrounds. If you wish to add a ‘bit of culture’ to your visit to City Park, visit nearby Hősök tere, where practically the entire history of Hungary is lined up for you. Finally, if you want to take that well earned rest after your walk in the zoo, make your way to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Brief history of the Zoo

Budapest Zoo, located in City Park in the heart of Budapest, is one of the oldest zoos in the world, having operated since the mid-19th century, with a rich and varied history. Key milestones: 

  • Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden opened its gates in 1866. For a long time, this was the only institution of its kind in the country, with many simply calling it ‘the Zoo’ to this day.
  • A success story right from the start: uniquely, many experts contributed their skills to its construction free of charge, and it has attracted large crowds from the very beginning.
  • The number of visitors saw a strong decline at the beginning of the 20th century and the zoo went bankrupt.
  • The capital then took the institution under its wing and had it completely renovated. Many of the buildings still visible today have been designed by renowned representatives of romantic architecture, such as Károly Kós, winner of the Miklós Ybl prize.
  • The two world wars took their toll on the zoo, with only 15 of the thousands of animals surviving WWII.
  • The reconstruction of the zoo started immediately after the war and is, in essence, ongoing to this day: there is always some part or location being renovated/retouched, to ensure better living conditions for animals and to provide an even finer experience for visitors.
  • A great example of this is the Elephant House, renovated in 2000: this particular building won the renowned Europa Nostra Award, given to recognise cultural heritage.
  • The adjacent Budapest Amusement Park closed its doors in 2013. The more than 6 hectare area, still home to antique attractions, such as the Carrousel built in 1906, the Rollercoaster delivered in 1920, as well as the Fairy Tale Boat (also built in that period), was returned to the zoo. 

If you want to arrive prepared and plan your discovery of the zoo in advance, make sure to study this map.  


Recommendation: if you work up an appetite while discovering the diverse world of animals, and are looking to discuss everything you've seen in a truly elegant location with wonderful dishes, reserve a table at internationally renowned Gundel Restaurant – a key player of the history of Hungarian gastronomy – located just a few steps from the zoo.  

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