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Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden

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Simply called "the zoo" by Budapest residents, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of the most visited places in the country. And that's no accident. It not only showcases creatures from Hungary and afar, it is also home to a number of educational and entertainment events. With more than 700 animal species and 2000 different types of plants, one of the world's oldest zoos offers perfect relaxing fun for individuals or the entire family.

Transportation: The Budapest Zoo and Botanical garden is located in Budapest's XIV. district at the edge of Városliget (City Park) on Állatkerti körút (Zoo Boulevard) 6-12. By mass transit, the fastest way to get to the zoo would be with the millennium underground (M1, yellow metro line), via trolley busses 72, 75, 79, or by buses 4, 20, or 30.

History: The Zoo opened on August 9th, 1866 and its first director, János Xantus was appointed. During the first few decades it was mainly home to creatures of the Carpathian Basin, but there were a few real specialties such as Empress Elizabeth's gift, a giraffe. Franz Joseph wasn't a pincher either: he offered 35 animals to the Budapest Zoo from Schönbrunn. Yet the real favorite (much beloved by Ferenc Deák himself) was a brown bear by the name of Kristóf (Christopher). The nine different monkeys and the colorful parrots were also much adored.

However, the initial interest quickly waned and the zoo turned to showman, comics, and raffle tickets as a remedy. These solutions were not too effective, and the mounting problems eventually forced Xantus to resign. The next few years were plagued with numerous director-replacements, as none of the successors were able to solve the lack of funds, internal battles, spreading animal diseases, and keeping out the foxes of City Park. But in 1873 Károly Serák a yeoman from Borsod became the new director.

This was the begininnig of the 30-year "Serák Era", which is still considered the golden age of the institution. With lots of experience in reorganization, Serák wanted to solve the financial troubles so he hired tons of comics and showmen and he never shied away from artificially tidying up the annual fiscal reports. Yet in the end he still had something to show for: by 1875 the city was willing to support the zoo and the park was soon expanded with Alajos Hauszman's Lions' den (Oroszlánok Háza) and Andor Semsey's Birdhouse (Madárház). The fast growth and increasing revenues convinced the leadership to prepare an extravagant commemoration for the country's millennium celebration. Starting in 1890, they began to acquire many new, fascinating creatures like the Nile hippo or the rhinos of Sumatra. But visitors were also treated with chimps, orangutans, sea lions, anteaters, the white-tailed gnu, both elephant species, and just about every bear one could imagine.

Following the unprecedented success of 1896, the zoo nevertheless entered another slump. After their lease expired, the city decided to raise the rent, which the institution could not afford. The last major animal acquisition was in 1898, and in 1907 the zoo entered bankruptcy while its parent company Zoo and Botanical Group (Állat- és Növénykert Társaság) was dismantled. The city eventually purchased the zoo.

In 1990s Miklós Persányi became the new director and the zoo underwent major reconstruction and an expansion of children's entertainment services.

The Building: Most of the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden's buildings are considered to be historical monuments and the recent reconstruction has restored them to their original pomp and beauty. Antal Szkalnitzky and Henrik Koch Jr originally designed the zoo in the Romantic style. Between 1909 and 1912, many of the old buildings were torn down to make way for the new facilities designed by the famous architects Károly Kós and Desző Zrumeczky. This was the advent of the Main Gate decorated with elephants, the Elephant House (Elefántház), the Small and Big Cliff (Kis-, Nagyszikla), the Palm House (Pálmaház), the Monkey House (Majomház), the Pheasant Preserve (Fácános), the Deer House (Szarvasház), the Rodent House (Rágcsálóház), the Bird House (Madárház), and the Bambi-house (Bambi-ház). The Aquarium uses the latest technology to display 150 species. Colorful corals are also presented in the 150 thousand liter tank.

For an unmatched tropical atmosphere visit the Palm House and its neighbor, the wax museum, showcasing the unique reptiles, dinosaurs, and giant ice-age creatures of ancient times. The renovated Monkey House is the new home to several different monkey species and the large mammals were also moved to locations that are bigger and more closely resemble their natural habitat. We might also mention the children's favorites: the Playground, the Playhouse, the Petting Zoo, and the "Animals in Action" showcase where the young ones can closely interact with certain animals. | Contact us

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