Think of Újpest and you might think of its industrial past, its football team or its communal blocks of flats. Fifty hectares of wild woods probably wouldn’t come into the equation – yet, right alongside the Káposztásmegyer housing estate, Farkaserdő is a great green getaway for hikers, joggers and cyclists.
Though industrialisation and the infrastructure surrounding it swallowed up the wetlands and sizeable meadows that once stretched across expanses of north Pest, Farkaserdő shows the benefits to the urban environment when a space such as this one is replanted.
Stride down Homoktövis utca, which bisects Farkaserdő, and your senses are assaulted by the scent of oak trees. These woods close to the 14 tram line and rows of housing blocks are woven with walking paths, including two nature trails, such as the Road to Health, marked with a small red heart, ideal for those with cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Heart-friendly trails are actually a convenient hiking option for anyone looking for outdoor exercise, cross-country runners who prefer flat terrain, cyclists and joggers. Street workout equipment is also scattered along the trail, not something you would commonly find in woods around Budapest but underlines the health-conscious nature of the area.
Despite a little facelift in 2013, the forest seems somewhat left to its fate, though a higher proportion of installations would only take away from the lush greenery and natural feel. Benches, rubbish bins, a forest playground and barbecue facilities are all on hand. There’s no need to look out for protected botanical rarities as the place is not yet under nature protection, although you can also find a small lake in the area facing Megyeri út. The Farkaserdő is also known for its mushrooms, and you should find plenty of them after a few days of rain.
Fixed to trees here and there are bird feeders provided by the Hungarian Ornithological & Nature Conservation Association while the only resident mammal is the hazel dormouse. The nearby Homoktövis nature reserve does has more serious wildlife, but entry is by previous appointment only.
Rex Animal Island, on the other hand, on the south-western edge of the woods along Óceánárok utca, is both an animal refuge and a petting zoo with farm animals. They’re always in need of dog walkers six days a week and foster carers, temporarily adopting animals for two to four weeks. In fact, if you do volunteer to walk a dog and offer a bit of open air away from its cage, a nature trail starts out from the centre, where a map is provided, handy for your next visit. You can choose between a smaller (2.4-km) and a longer (4.2-km) circuit.
The value of a contiguous forest area of oak, pine (and in some places maple, alder and acacia) close to a built-up environment is invaluable, allow you to take in fresh air, the rustle of foliage and the proximity of vegetation.
To reach Farkaserdő from the Óceánárok utca side, near Rex Animal Island, take bus 30 from Újpest-központ or 122 from Újpest-városkapu. Alternatively, tram 14 from Újpest-központ runs parallel to the eastern side of the woods, nearest stop Bőrfestő utca.