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The capital's larges park now houses a number of fascinating historical sites, as well as fun family places

Budapest City Park (Városliget)

Location: 14th district

How to get there: Metro M1 to Hősök Tere, or to Széchényi Fürdő, Trolley 70, 72, 75, 79


The area, once a swamp, began to be drained in the 19th century, and soon the park became a popular resting-place. The Millennial Exhibition in 1896 brought a large number of innovations, to the point that the capital's larges park now houses a number of fascinating historical sites, as well as fun family places. Historical sites include the Hero's Square, a George Washington memorial, as well as the Castle of Vajdahunyad.


The Vajdahunyad Castle was originally constructed in 1896, as a temporary exhibit for the Hungarian millennial celebrations. However, the castle proved so popular, that it was replaced with an identical permanent structure after the celebrations were over. The structure is a bizarre agglomeration of architectural styles, from Romanesque to Gothic, which represent each century since the Hungarian conquest of the territory.  The entrance is delicately ornamented. Part of the building houses the Budapest Agricultural Museum. In addition, shows and special events are held here in the summer.


The George Washington memorial was erected in absentia by a group of Hungarian emigrants in the US in 1906. It managed to survive Communism and the Cold War.


Fun family places include the Municipal Circus, the Transport Museum, the Aviation Museum, the Széchenyi Medicinal Baths and swimming pool, the renowned Gundel Restaurant, and the City Park Pond, where rowing boats can be hired in the summer, while the ground becomes Europe's largest outdoor skating-rink during the winter. In addition, the Park houses the city's main amusement park, Vidám Park, along with the Municipal Zoo.


The amusement park is open each day of the week, from 10am until 6pm off-season, and until 8pm in season (Apr-Sep). Some of its attractions date back to pre-World War II times, including Victorian style merry-go-rounds, and a renovated wooden roller coaster.


The Budapest ZOO and Botanical Garden (Fővárosi Állat- és Növénykert) was established in 1866. Enlargement followed in 1912, when many new animal-houses were built, which are still the most outstanding pieces of architecture. The main entrance and the elephant-house, richly decorated with ceramics, are works of Kornél Neuschloss. Hungarian Art Nouveau is represented in pavilions designed by Károly Kós, a well known writer and architect of the time.


Over 2,000 animals are cared for in the ZOO, supported by a conservation and research center, which implements internationally important breeding programs for endangered native and exotic species as well. Parts of the ZOO represent the African savannah, the artic area, and the wetland habitats. The Children's ZOO section includes tame animals they can pet. A peasant farm, where the building features those in the upper Tisza region, samples ancient Hungarian livestock: swallow bellied woolly pigs, bold necked hens, spotted cattle, puli dogs, sheep, horses, and more.


A notable landmark, the Great Rock is under restoration at the moment, completion is projected for September 2007. Renovation of the Palm House is completed, it is again open to the public. Permanent exhibitions include: The Jewels of Nature, Hungarian farmhouse, Palm-house, Life-Death House, Insectariums, Waterside Life House, Bonsai Pavilion.


Perhaps the most outstanding historical sight in the City Park is located on Hero's Square: The Millenary Monument, erected to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian Conquest. Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herczog designed the monument. 14 renowned figures of the Hungarian history found their place in the 85 meters wide, 25 meters deep, and 13 meters high semicircular composition, where the distance between the two wings is 20 meters. Statues of kings and renown figures of Hungarian history stand between pillars, in open niches, 7 on the left and 7 on the right: King Saint Stephen I (I. Szent István király), King Saint Laszló I (I. Szent László király), Kálmán the Bookish (Könyves Kálmán), Andrew II (II. András), Béla IV, Charles Robert (Károly Róbert), Louis I the Great (I. Nagy Lajos), János Hunyadi, Matthias I (Mátyás király), István Bocskai, Gábor Bethlen, Imre Thököly, Ferencz Rákóczi II, and Lajos Kossuth. On the pedestal, relieves with inscriptions illustrate historical events from the life of the person depicted by the statue, or from the appropriate historical period. Above the rows of pillars, there are two statue-groups on each side: the horse chariots of War and Peace, while the outside is closed by the bronze, allegorical figures of Work and Prosperity, Knowledge and Glory.


In the middle, the spirit of victory, personified by Archangel Gabriel, stands on top of a 36 meter-tall column. Architect Albert Schikedanz designed this piece of art. The statue itself was created by György Zala, and won a Grand-Prix at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition. The bronze archangel, with extended wings, is nearly 5 meters tall, and holds up the Hungarian crown with one hand, a double cross with the other. Above the rows of pillars, there are two statues groups on each side. Within the butt piers of the colonnade are the two horse chariots of War and Peace; the outside is closed by the bronze, allegorical figures of Work and Prosperity, Knowledge and Glory. The capstone is decorated with a laurel branch, and bears the inscription: "In memory of the heroes who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our people and independence of our nation".
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