Pécs has a zoo with decades of tradition and great plans for the future. No pandas as of now, but plenty other animals. We visited the facility on the last sunny day of September but there is a lot to see even in bad weather.
The park on Misina hill, near the TV-tower and can be reached by a number of buses, but a 30 minute walk will also get you there from the heart of the city. The uphill climb is definitely worth the exercise, as the zoo that was originally built in 1960 is now fully remodelled for the requirements of the 21st century. Locals could entertain you with the stories of the past from the socialist era and the struggles of the last couple of decades, but the recent attractions of the zoo are washing over the memories for the better.
The park takes up 40 thousand square meters, so it is not gigantic at all, but the somewhat confined space is used effectively. Outdoor locations and inside attractions are mixed well, and most importantly the animals seem to enjoy enough living space for their needs. The staff is taking care of 250 species of more than a thousand animals. Among the biggest are the american buffaloes, but the selection is getting regular updates – the next arrivals are said to be brown bears.
Update: After publishing the original version of this article in the October print issue a brown bear called Nikoláj was introduced to press on Oct 20.
As the aquarium and terrarium was moved from its former downtown location up the hill too, a great set of reptiles and fish can also be admired in the main building, where the inside of the chimpanzees’ quarters can be viewed as well. Outside the seal pool is a real gathering point, especially at the time of the regular feedings. To keep in mind, the seals can be seen swimming around in their pool gracefully from the main building’s aquarium, so even if it is raining outside, you can enjoy their sight.
The rest of the park still holds some remaining elements of its outdated past – for example some benches will have to be replaced – but most of the steel bars were replaced with safety glass to name just one positive example of the changes. An other symbol of fundamental improvement is the outside gift shop, that took the old, caged place of the chimpanzees.
The tickets are reasonably priced, a single ticket cost 1990 HUF, 1490 for students and 1300 for children. The park opens at 9 every day and closing comes at 6 in the evening in summer, 5 until the end of October and 4 in winter time. The attractions easily fill up a 3-4 hours visit at once, but if you happen to arrive with kids, you can plan for a whole day too. A restaurant and food vendors are available as well with reasonable selection of fast food and traditional dishes. Although they missed the opportunity to bring a little flair to the kitchen – we would love to see animal-themed items that would attract more kids too.
Being a little small and obviously no match for the famous large institutions of the world, Pécs Zoo is still a local must see. The experience of an animal park half inserted in a natural forest is unique, and the place has an overall family-feeling to it. Finally, a pro tip for souvenirs: at the entrance, you can buy beautiful bird-shaped metal pins for cheap and even support the Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society with your purchase.