Insider’s Guide: City Park in Budapest - One of First Public Parks in World

  • 26 Jun 2023 7:59 AM
Insider’s Guide: City Park in Budapest - One of First Public Parks in World
Budapest is home to many wonderful sights, each with a story to tell. Continuing our series of in-depth profiles of the city’s most prominent, revered and even lesser-known landmarks, we pay a visit to City Park, Városliget to Hungarians.

What is City Park in Budapest?

Budapest’s main recreation zone of City Park is a large rectangle of greenery behind Heroes’ Square where you find several attractions, most notably the Széchenyi Baths and Vajdahunyad Castle, while Budapest Circus and Zoo stand alongside.

In recent years, these have been augmented by the opening of the House of Hungarian Music and the Museum of Ethnography, as well as top-quality sports facilities and a children’s playground with a balloon feature modelled on a famous Hungarian painting.

Lined with cycle paths and sports courts, blessed with two lakes and a skating rink, City Park attracts leisure seekers all year round, whether for indoor or outdoor entertainment.

Top tips for City Park in Budapest

There are several ways to get great views of City Park. A public balloon is tethered behind Vajdahunyad Castle to take you up for ten minutes of panoramic vistas, not least of bathers in the three outdoor pools of the nearby Széchenyi Baths. 

You can also scale both ends of the new Museum of Ethnography, shaped like two facing skateboard tracks, allowing you to walk up the steepish set of steps to a viewing platform on either side, looking over towards Heroes’ Square or the Puskás Aréna. 

Széchényi Bath

Watching a concert at the open-air stage of the new House of Hungarian Music also gives you the chance to the architectural detail involved in its revolutionary design. Japanese Sou Fujimoto created an undulating roof interspersed with holes, through which tall trees grow, giving rise to an organic aesthetic between man-made ingenuity and nature.

Why was City Park created?

City Park was created, in the sense that we know it today, for the Hungarian millennial celebrations of 1896. Many of the exhibitions and attractions stood here over the course of the year so that the public could admire the achievements in the arts, industry and architecture. 

The showcase boulevard of Andrássy út, an arrow-straight avenue connecting City Park with the city centre, was already in place, while just beneath the surface ran the first underground rail service on Continental Europe, also opened for the 1896 festivities. 

City Park was then re-created in 125 years later with the opening of key attractions, the Museum of Ethnography and the House of Hungarian Music, as part of the so-called Liget Project. Inspired by Vienna, its aim is to change the function of City Park from lazy green getaway to a hub of public culture, and was not without controversy.

House of Hungarian Music

When was City Park created?

The area became a public park in the early 1800s after trees and walkways were installed a few decades earlier. You could accurately claim, however, that it became City Park in line with its prime role as host of the Hungarian Millennial celebrations of 1896.

Where in Budapest is City Park?

City Park marks the border between central and outer Pest, tucked just inside the third of three concentric ring roads that circle the city. This end of north-east Pest is where the residential district of Zugló begins, and the inner one of Terézváros, District VI, ends. 

City Park also provides a picturesque backstop to Andrássy út and Heroes’ Square, with the penultimate stop on the yellow M1 metro line, Széchenyi fürdő, sited close to the middle of the park. 

Bright red trolleybuses cut through the park, stopping close to the main attractions of the House of Hungarian Music, Budapest Zoo and the Museum of Ethnography.

What else should I know about City Park?

The Liget Project, which has already brought several new attractions to City Park, is still ongoing. In years to come, we can expect a new National Gallery and a National Museum Conservation & Storage Centre to be unveiled.

Liget project

Why visit City Park in Budapest?

For many reasons, most of them to do with leisure and pleasure. You can loll in the thermal waters of the Széchenyi Baths, ascend in a balloon over the landscape, experience the world of sound at the House of Hungarian Music, skate away in winter, row across a pretty lake in summer, admire folk art at the Museum of Ethnography – or just bring a good book and a picnic basket.

Words by Peterjon Cresswell for
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website

 MTI Photo: Zoltán Máthé 

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