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6 places to admire spring flowers in Budapest

Winter aconites, snowdrops and snowflakes – thanks to the unusually mild weather this February, the first harbingers of spring are already with us. To delight in their colours, here are six attractive arboretums and botanical gardens, filled with pretty flora.

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Buda Arboretum

A few minutes' walk from bustling Bartók Béla út, at the southern foot of Gellért Hill, the 7.5-hectare Buda Arboretum can be visited free of charge. Once this area was full of vineyards but they were destroyed by phylloxera at the end of the 19th century. The first educational institution was established here by Ferenc Entz, a military doctor during the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848-49. Although the grapes disappeared, the gardeners' training school remained, and was expanded into other fields. Today they also train landscapers, viticulturists and master brewers. There are only a few general rules to follow, such as not deviating from the designated trails. The winter aconites and snowdrops have already emerged and although you won’t find endless carpets of colours, you can expect a fair number of spring blooms in smaller clusters. More info here. Open from 4 Mar-30 Oct, Fri-Sun 9am-5pm. Admission HUF 1,500/discounted HUF 1,000.

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Budakeszi Arboretum

Opening for 2022 on Friday, 4 March, the Budakeszi Arboretum is part of the Buda Landscape Protection Area on the edge of Hidegvölgy Forest, just the other side of the city limits from Normafa. As the gardens awaken from winter, you see snowdrops and winter aconites and, around Easter, hosts of golden daffodils. Although created more than half a century ago, the Budakeszi Arboretum only opened to the public in 2016 and now hosts a number of walks and presentations throughout the year. It can also be hired for private functions, with an indoor area for barbecuesMore info here. Open From 4 Mar-30 Oct, Fri-Sun 9am-5pm. Admission HUF 1,500/discounted HUF 1,000.

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Budapest Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Few who visit Budapest Zoo realise that it also contains botanical gardens. In fact, it is home to more plant species than animal ones. The oldest is the huge plane tree that stands on the edge of the Japanese Garden on the lakeside promenade. It is may have been already existed when the Zoo first opened its doors in 1866. The Canadian poplar planted in 1911 is still standing tall. The Japanese Garden was created in the 1960s and has been relandscaped several times since then. The green areas around the main entrance feature typical representatives of Asian and North-American flora. The Palm House has been a showcase for tropical plants since 1912, and includes popular varieties such as Venus flytraps. If you’d just like a wander, then snowdrops, winter aconites, scillas, gageas and spring snowflakes abound. You can also spot many crocuses, in all kinds of colour variations. Admission includes entry to the zoo as well, so be prepared to dedicate a few hours for the outlay. More info here. Open Daily from 10am. Closing times from 3.30pm (winter) to 6.30pm (summer). Admission (includes Zoo) HUF 3,200/2-18s HUF 2,200.

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ELTE Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) lie in a lesser-explored area of District VIII. They date back more than 250 years – see our feature story here. In their heyday, the gardens were home to more than 12,000 different species. If you like cactiorchids and huge water lilies, this picturesque attraction is the place to be. Snowdrops and winter aconites have already appeared, but if you want to see more exotic plants, visit the Palm House and the other greenhouses as well. There’s even a green bamboo forest. Every year, the ELTE Botanical Gardens welcome visitors for the spring Sakura, a celebration of Japanese cherry blossom, scheduled for 2-3 and 9-10 April in 2022. More info here. Open Until 31 Mar, daily 9am-4pm. From 1 Apr daily 9am-5pm. Admission HUF 1,200/discounted HUF 600-900.

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Sas-hegy Visitor Centre

Only accessible with prior registration and a professional guide, the Sas-hegy Visitor Centre is a true curiosity, formed by ancient seas and home to valuable and extremely diverse micro-habitats. While around it, Districts XI-XII have been built up, this site of 30 hectares has managed to preserve its original wildlife. For some time, it operated as a military station, before Hungarian scientific authorities joined together in 1958 to declare it a protected reserve. Because the local flora is so delicate, a path is laid out, with eight information points along the way. Rising 250 metres above Budapest, this must, for these plants, feel like the Alps. Even the north and south faces of the mountain have something unique to offer. It can be so hot on the south side that you can even fry an egg on the rocks in summer. A special habitat is formed here, where you find plants such as the Hungarian gourd, a remnant species from the last Ice Age. The common foal tail is dichotomous: the male plants live on Sas Hill, the females on Gellért Hill. The wind carries the pollen across the long distance to pollinate the flowers. The northern side shows a completely different picture, one of Alpine pasture. Here grows rabbit tailweed, a cold-loving remnant from the Ice Age, whose relatives live in the low-altitude shrubs of the Alps and Carpathians. Also unique are the Pannonian lizard, the praying locust and the saw-footed grasshopper, that reproduces through virgin breeding, meaning there are only female individuals. More info here. Open (2022 dates) 4 Mar-31 July & 21 Aug-30 Oct. Sat-Sun & hols 10am-6pm. 5-27 Nov Sat-Sun & hols 10am-4pm. Admission HUF 1,700/discounted HUF 1,200.

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Soroksár Botanical Gardens

Tucked inside the city limits just beyond Budapest Airport, these 60-hectare gardens were set up in 1962 by the College of Horticulture and Viticulture. Their aim was to develop practical training in botany, helping prospective horticulturalists gain direct experience with plants. A wetland of 12 hectares contains large populations of rare and protected plant species in their natural state. Thanks to decades of research, control of invasive weeds and attempts to retain groundwater, this area has remained close to nature. The bog always shows different faces at different times of the year, perhaps the most beautiful in late May-early June when meadow thyme, meadow buttercup and mouse garlic bloom. The flowering of thousands of Siberian irises is an unparalleled experience. Also in early summer, all kinds of orchids open up, including the anacamptis palustris, military orchids, marsh orchids and purple-coloured fragrant orchids. For now, around the rest of the site, winter aconites have already emerged, to be followed by hellebores, crocuses and snowflakes. Soroksár merits a day out, visiting the whole gardens, relaxing by the lake and admiring the evergreens. It’s close to Soroksár train station, 20 minutes by hourly train from Keleti. More info hereOpen Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 9am-4pm. Admission HUF 800/discounted HUF 500.

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