In 1866, under the leadership of János Xantus the Budapest zoological and botanical garden opens featuring 500 animals and 11 buildings on what was then the edge of the city. The current layout dates from a substantial renovation between 1907 and 1912 when the city of Budapest has taken over the zoo. On May 20, 1912, zoologist Adolf Lendl who has been in charge of the overall management of the reconstruction project is the new director of the zoo. Partly due to the zoo's strategic position between two railway lines, several buildings are damaged or destroyed during the WWII attacks.
Rural and Transylvanian architecture
Instead of the expected exotic animal enclosures, you come across traditional rural buildings like barns and wooden stables. Definitely inspired by Hungarian Romanticism, the architects Károly Kós and Dezsö Zrumeczky have indulged in this national folk(lore) style. The fake Great and Little Rock and the row Transylvanian buildings are also designed by Kós.
In the 19th century, the practice of displaying exotic animals in exotic buildings was common. The elephant pavilion, built between 1909 and 1912 to a design by the professor of engineering Kornél Neuschloss, is an example of Art Nouveau in the zoo. Zsolnay ceramics decorate the ceilings, the horseshoe or Moorish arches and the mosaic floor. Minaret and dome are hints to Ottoman domination. After protests from the Turkish side, the minaret has been demolished in 1915. Kornél Neuschloss is by the way also the designer of the magnificent main entrance.
When after WWII, the central heating still appears in operation, all the zoo animals are ensconced temporarily at the elephant house. After a long period of abandonment and decay, the idea arises to restore the building to its original condition, in the 1990s. Between 1997 and 1999, the pachyderm house undergoes a renovation, in which the minaret has been returned to its former glory (without protest). Elephants, rhinos, and hippos return to the animal house. In 2000 the zoo has been awarded the Europa Nostra medal for the elephant house, because of
the sensitive and precise restoration of this remarkable example of Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture.
Today, the elephant house is a protected monument.
Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, has been active in Budapest, too. The Palm House in the Budapest Zoo and the Western Station both carry the signature of the Eiffel Company.
A 21st-century attraction is an interactive exhibition inside the Great Rock. Varázshegy aka Magic Mountain features the evolution through educational games, 3D film, and live animal shows.
In 1995, the zoo is under construction and a walkway ends abruptly with a sign saying "end of the zoo." The zoo is structured along geographical principles and features numerous native as well as exotic animals.
After the Jugendstil entrance by Kornél Neuschloss to the left, we see the big pond opposite the Japanese garden (1965). The Palm House is a listed building and is home to exotic plants, aquarium, terrarium and crocodile house; the basement is containing a marine and freshwater aquarium. In 1985, the Károly Kós bird house (also a listed building) has been modernized and a free-flight aviary has been added. Birds of prey in an adjacent aviary. Pelicans and polar bears near the rocks. We notice a small mammal house, a collection of monkeys including orang utans and otters can be seen above and below the water, predators such as leopards and bears alongside kangaroos. The Africa House opposite the Asia house. Giraffes and an insectarium on the side of the Great Rock near the new ape house.
Zoo maps Budapest
- August 9, 1866
- Species: 700
- Animals: 3000
- 42,7 acres
- 19th-century zoo
- Architect involved
- Listed structures