Sas Hill: A piece of wildlife above Budapest’s city centre
Our everyday life has accelerated so much we tend to forget there are areas outside the concrete jungle. We do not really leave our (hopefully) cosy homes because who wants to go anywhere after a long day in the office? Well, we all should. I know a great place to visit if you have a spare afternoon for a trip. Read further, thank me later.
Many of us love the buzzing life of Budapest, although it might be tiring and stressful after a while. There are not too many parks and green areas in the city centre (okay, there is Margaret Island), and the air pollution, caused by the intense traffic, can be a critical factor for our health as well, especially for those who have asthma or allergies. All this comes down to one thing: one of the best trip destinations in town is Sas Hill (Eagle Hill) in the Duna-Ipoly National Park.
The dolomite hill is 266 meters high and has a wonderful panorama over the city of Budapest. The 11th and 12th districts share its territory as a part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park. People first produced grapes and wine here, until urbanisation reached the hill. Rich citizens built villas all over the area, replacing meadows, orchards and vines.
It was not far from full urbanisation at the beginning of the 20th century,
but that stopped, thanks to the results of the research done there with varying intensity between 1780 and 1940. Finally, it was declared in 1958 that the 30-hectare area on the top of the hill should be under environmental protection. This resolution required fencing off the area, afforestation, strict guarding of the territory and habitat restoration in order to protect the unique wildlife of Sas Hill.
The Nature Trail and the Lookout Tower
The 30-hectare area is a real “living museum” above the built-up parts of the hill. If you decide to go up, I would recommend you start your tour at the visitor centre.
You can watch an interactive exhibition about the geology and fauna of Sas Hill there, which presents the unique animals and plants in a playful way so that the smallest members of the family can enjoy it as well.
At the end of the exhibition, you will have to watch a 9-minute short film about the history of Sas Hill and the environmentally protected area. At the weekends, you can organise birthday parties there for kids as well, by the way. They are not advertising this opportunity at all, but it is worth checking with them because the centre’s schedule is always full of these programs.
There is an 850-meter-long trail around the top of the hill, which can only be visited with a guide, although we had the chance to walk through it all by ourselves because the guide was busy, so we had all the time to take the short tour and admire the view.
Prices and How to Get There
You can get there from Keleti Railway Station if you take bus number 8, 8E, 110 or 112 towards Korompai Street, or if you take tram number 59 from Széll Kálmán Square, which is going towards the cemetery of Farkasrét. And yes, you have to walk up the hill then; so did we, and we were green with envy about how beautiful a place the locals live in. Imagine yourselves sitting on one of those balconies, drinking your morning coffee or having your dinner while watching the city lights. However, do not try going up there on foot with an injured knee, trust me, it will hurt really bad when you are on your way back to the city.
You guessed it right, unfortunately, the tour is not free. However, you do not have to pay a fortune to enter the trail, and if the guide is busy, you do not have to pay for guidance, either. The exhibition, going up to the lookout tower and a guided tour cost approximately 950 forints/person which equals 3 euros. The tour costs 1 500 Ft/person (= 4,5 euros) if you need an English-speaking guide. However, if you are only interested in the great panorama, you can buy a cheaper ticket for 550 forints/person (= 1,5 euros), which includes only the exhibition and the opportunity to go up to the lookout tower.
The visitor centre is open every day except Mondays, from 10:00 to 18:00 between March and October.