Hide and seek – Wonders of nature around the city
Spring is drawing near, and sunshine attracts more and more people outdoors. If you wish to withdraw from the hustle and bustle for some time, we have good news: our capital abounds in charming green spaces; however, most of them lie off the beaten path. These places provide you with spirit-enlivening moments of relaxation and quietness. Moreover, they also furnish engaging stories of most striking events, remarkable figures and rare species of trees and plants.
Once a vineyard, now home to the oldest Persian ironwood in Hungary
Though it is no longer a vineyard that we recommend for a visit, but a botanical garden situated on the slopes of Gellért Hill. It forms part of the Faculty of Horticulture and Landscape Engineering, which institution was founded in 1853 originally as a professional school for winemasters. The garden is still actively used for educational purposes: seminars and lectures are held here, some parcels are separated for research purposes, and several new species were created here even. If you are a dedicated botanist, it is a must! However, even this Paradise keeps memories of troubled times: by the end of WWII, heavy fights were taking place around Gellért Hill, and one can still discover traces of shrapnel and bullet damage on the tree trunks.
Memories of Turkish times... besides Baths? Long history of a tiny building
Still on Buda side, another green treasure is awaiting you at the foot of Rose Hill. A wonderful terraced rose garden leads to the tomb of Gül Baba, a Bektashi dervish, who arrived in Hungary with the Ottoman troops and died during a festive ceremony in the mosque-transformed Matthias Church after the Siege of Buda in 1541.
Did you know? He was revered and considered a saint already by his contemporaries, and his tomb immediately became a pilgrimage site – and is still a popular destination among Turkish people.
The magnificent surrounding terraced garden is packed with roses, lavenders and fruit trees. A legend tells that it was Gül Baba who brought first-time roses to Hungary and planted them in Buda. Even his name means ‘Father of Roses’. When Turkish rule ended, it was given to the Jesuits, who transformed it to a Christian chapel. Much later, the monument standing earlier in a vineyard went into the private ownership of an architect, who purchased it with the ground.
A detour to Japan – fairy tale on an island
Before heading to Pest, it is advised to stop halfway on Margaret Island, which offers a number of fascinating, scenic spots. However, the most exquisite corner is the Japanese Garden: a considerably large ground, formed and chiselled on the model of oriental Japanese gardens, complete with bridges, little hills, canals, tiny islands, numerous curlicued paths flanked by benches inviting contemplation, and scenic recesses providing you with a hideaway place to read a poem or scribble notes into your diary. The ponds are filled with natural thermal water and are populated with goldfishes (some locals added further species from their aquarium), turtles, ducks, water lilies, plants and reeds, and even several sculptures are installed as decoration.
Károlyi-kert – high life in the middle of downtown with a hairy cutie (no, not the guards)
The park and the palace used to form one ensemble until 1928, when it was taken over by the city. Until then it was in the ownership of the Károlyis, one of the wealthiest aristocratic families in Hungarian history. As a private ground, it was surrounded by a 3-metre-tall brick-and-stone wall that prevented access to the garden. By the end of the 19th century, newspapers reported that tenants renting flats on the upper floors of the neighbouring houses were asked to pay extra besides the regular rental fee, due to the nice view of the greenery and the opportunity to peep into the Károlyis’ everyday life from their window.
Picture yourself as being an invitee at a very exclusive event, the name-day party of Alexandra Pavlovna (granddaughter of Catherine the Great), organised on 3 May 1800 by her husband, the young Archduke Joseph of Austria. It is known from personal diaries recording the event that the garden as well as the palace were decorated by thousands of candles, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere.
Besides birds and insects, there is only one permanent resident living on the estate today. Guess who! A rabbit called Charlie (Karcsi), second in line to Charles I, a sort of community pet nourished and taken care of by regular visitors to the playgrounds.
From spur maker’s home to art gallery – secret gardens in downtown
Do you want to know more secrets?
A light 5–10 minutes’ hidden walk from Károlyi-kert takes you to the last Mohican of historic, old-fashioned 18th-century residential houses. (1052 Budapest, Vitkovics Mihály utca 12.) When entering the hallway, you suddenly jump 200 years back in time. This cute one-storey house was built by a spur maker in 1799. Its wings enclose an inner courtyard, which is a private property, but the owners are, indeed, more than welcoming towards anyone interested in the history of this rare gem. The courtyard is arranged with a lovely pot garden that includes clivia, ficus, aloe, plantain lily and various palm trees. If you fancy drinking a good cup of coffee, only a few steps away, in Kamermayer Square you’ll find some nice places to sit in, also the sole elm tree in downtown.
If you would like to get to know more about the spur maker’s house or wish to explore further hidden gems, we recommend you book a place on one of our thematic walking tours titled Secret gardens and squares.
Guest blog post by Image Budapest
Be sure to head back to our Destination page to discover more of what to see and do in Budapest. Of course, our Clefs d'Or Member concierges and our entire staff at Kempinski Hotel Corvinus will be more than happy to assist in any way they can during your stay too.
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