Springtime’s warmth is rousing the people of Hungary to emerge from winter’s indoor habitats and frolic in the sunshine – and the country’s animal kingdom is also now springing to life. Budapest and the surrounding region feature numerous sites for interacting with wildlife and domesticated beasts alike, whether visitors seek cute little creatures to caress amid a family excursion, exotic jungle critters to admire up close, or more active pursuits like horseback riding. Here is a roundup of pleasant places for getting reacquainted with nature’s living wonders.
Central Europe’s only bear sanctuary is located a short journey northeast of Budapest in the town of Veresegyház. The Bear Farm (“Medveotthon” in Hungarian) provides a comfortably safe habitat for 42 brown bears and over two dozen wolves, most of which were rescued from harsh conditions in the wild. The huge animal enclosures are designed with the beasts’ natural instincts in mind – the bears enjoy man-made caves for winter hibernation and ponds for splashing about or hunting for fish, while the wolves enjoy hiding out among the dense forest.
Where: Veresegyház, Patak u. 39 More details
Nearly 1,000 species occupy a huge corner of City Park amid the popular Budapest Zoo, established in the mid-1800s and featuring many wild things residing in beautifully ornate historic buildings. Along with impressive mammals like tigers, orangutans, and the native Mangalica pig, Europe’s largest flamingo flock also lives here, as do myriad reptiles, amphibians, and interesting insects. This is also a celebrated nursery for baby fauna – already this year, the zoo welcomed newborns Ikinya the giraffe, Rozi the zebra, and Boldizsár the antelope.
You know how some laid-back coffeehouses have a resident kitty that adds a little life to every visit, even if all it does is lie around while bathing in sunbeams? Well, Budapest’s Cat Café takes this situation to the extreme, providing a playful home for over a dozen fluffy felines that roam freely between every table. Sip specialty fruit teas, hot chocolates (flavored with mint, cinnamon, chili, and more), or even cold beers while admiring the antics of Pompom, RinTin, Pongó, O’Mara, or any of the café’s other friendly four-legged inhabitants.
Where: Budapest 1065, Révay u. 3
Horseback riding plays a crucial role in Hungary’s culture since the nation’s earliest times, and still today anyone can mount noble steeds at the Petneházy Club, offering lessons, trail riding, and camp programs for kids amid beautiful meadows tucked in the rolling Buda Hills. Enjoy a fine spring day atop one of the stable’s well-mannered horses under the guidance of expert instructors, while more experienced riders can trot out into the area’s undulating woods, and everyone can visit the club’s restaurant and sneak a peek at the stables.
Where: Budapest 1029, Feketefej u. 2
Explore a lush jungle in southern Buda at this exotic-animal habitat and aquarium. The Tropicarium provides a comfortable home for such curious creatures as the pygmy marmoset (the planet’s tiniest monkey), alligators, boa constrictors, and many other wild beasts living in an amazing indoor rain forest. Meanwhile, gigantic water tanks house spectacular fish specimens from the world’s oceans and rivers, including leopard sharks, stingrays, moray eels, and a plethora of other tropical fish swimming amid brilliant living corals in colorful harmony.
Where: Budapest 1222, Nagytétényi út 37-43 More details
Dine and drink amid a wild crowd of fascinating birds, lizards, cats, snakes, chipmunks, and myriad other adorable animals at downtown Pest’s Zoo Café. While snacking on tasty toasted sandwiches, regional cakes, and a wide variety of specialty coffee drinks and teas, guests here can pet friendly furry creatures or watch reptiles dart between tables, while parrots flit overhead as though this restaurant was located amid a tropical jungle. Adding additional waves of color to this tasteful environment, multiple aquariums contain fish, corals, and crabs.