Our district boasts a unique forest which is worthy of care and protection. Normafa Park and its surroundings are a valuable natural treasure, and yet in the past few decades the area has been affected by many activities that have damaged the environment and inconvenienced visitors. For decades, the forest in Normafa had seen over ten thousand visitors a week, or almost half a million a year. The infrastructure needed immediate redevelopment – there were no suitable places for cultural events or even safe fireplaces, and there was litter everywhere. Parking was a problem, and there was nowhere to change clothes or store personal items safely before exercising or playing sport. The list of much-needed improvements could go on. Numerous dilapidated buildings dotted the Normafa area, including Hotel Olimpia. Many significant historic buildings had been left to crumble – the former terminus building of the Lóvasút (horse-drawn tramway), the Fácán (Pheasant) Restaurant and the Hild Villa were waiting to be saved. The Normafa Nature Reserve was becoming overgrown, threatening many protected plant and animal species, and endangering the area’s biodiversity. Climate change caused the area to become drier more often. The state of the grassy fields in past decades had deteriorated, exacerbated in winter by skiing and sledding on barely any snow cover (2-3 cm), accelerating soil erosion.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and with the millennium approaching, plans were needed for improving the parklands. In 2005, the Hegyvidék District Council renovated Erzsébet Lookout on János-hegy (John Hill) at a cost of 150 million forints. Until the autumn of 2013, the area was strangulated by regulations pertaining to forest management, nature preservation and urban planning, as it fell within the Buda Natural Protection Area and the EU’s Natura 2000 network, and it was also a designated protected forest. Control of the area was equally confusing. Forest management was the responsibility of Pilis Parklands, a company owned by the Hungarian state, but the area was also subject to regulations from both the Hegyvidék District Council and Budapest Capital City Council.
In 2013 the Hungarian Parliament passed a law for the rehabilitation of the area which would transfer all responsibility to the Hegyvidék District Council in 2014. They established the Normafa Park Maintenance and Management Authority, which came into operation on 1 May 2014. The Authority became responsible for the maintenance of 350 hectares of forest, including the implementation of a prescribed forestry management plan. It also took over ownership of over fifty properties. A basic condition of any development was that it should comply fully with the requirements of nature protection in accordance with strict national and EU regulations, with the support of local residents.
The Natura 2000 environmental survey, which stretched over two seasonal cycles, was completed by December 2014. Based on the study’s results and findings, and with the assistance of over 43 civil organizations and environmental agencies as well as local residents, a feasibility study was completed which received broad attention locally. The residents voted in a local referendum about the redevelopment of Normafa Park in May 2015.
Numerous developments have followed since then, and Normafa Park continues to be improved, with close regard to the strict regulation of the area as a nature reserve within the Buda Natural Protection Area, and with continuous community consultation.
The first phase of redevelopment started in the autumn of 2015. This included the reconditioning of the walkway between Normafa and the Libegő chairlift. This professionally made, stable, water-permeable gravel path is three metres wide between Normafa and Anna-rét, and from there to the chairlift it is two metres wide. Rest stops with benches and tables are provided along the path, as well as additional rubbish bins, directional and information signs, and bicycle stands. The new “forest furniture” has a unique look – primarily constructed from limestone bases and oak beams. Old park benches, rather than being discarded, were reconditioned and repositioned within the park. The new modern safe fireplaces are regularly supplied with firewood by the Authority so that picnickers do not damage the forest in search of firewood.
The fully renovated playground at Anna-rét (Anna Field) contains nineteen new wooden play structures that blend in with their natural setting. It caters for children big and small, including handicapped children, following the recommendations of the relevant organizations. An area of more than 600 square metres has been covered in pine bark mulch, cushioning any child that may fall. Drinking and toilet facilities are located nearby. A playground near the chairlift’s upper station was also renovated by the District Council. It includes a prefabricated toilet block finished with a wood veneer that blends in with its surroundings. Another toilet block was also renovated next to Normafa Síház (Ski Lodge).
The second phase of redevelopment in 2016 included the resurfacing of the nearly two-kilometre section of Jánoshegyi Road from Normafa to the upper station of the chairlift, with a separate green rubberized lane for runners. The road is now reserved for cycling, skateboarding, and similar recreational activities, and is also ideal for walkers with prams and strollers. New eco-friendly lighting activated by motion sensors has been installed so that the road may also be used during the darker evenings of winter.
Barrier gates have been placed at either end of Jánoshegyi Road, as well as on Mátyás Király Road, preventing vehicular entry without a permit.
A fitness course was created near Normafa Síház, containing 22 pieces of exercise equipment for the public.
After some years of preparation, in the autumn of 2017, the process of taking over the Hotel Olimpia began. This unsightly, dilapidated, and unsalvageable hotel which had become a blight next to the city’s most panoramic parkland was demolished the following year. A large part of the over 15000 cubic metres of concrete rubble was incorporated into the upper section of Eötvös Road, which was closed to traffic. A reserve was created on the site of the demolished hotel. Its design and name were decided in collaboration with local residents, so finally the reserve was given the name Eötvös Loránd Park.
The area near the upper station of the Libegő chairlift was also improved. A pavilion was built that blends in with the landscape. The lookout next to the chairlift was restored and made accessible for those using wheelchairs and prams, and the surrounding greenery was also rehabilitated.
An important element of these developments was the conservation of architectural heritage.
The former horse-drawn tramway terminus building in Zugliget has been returned to its former glory thanks to investments by the Hegyvidék District Council, with the support of the Hungarian state and an EEA grant. The reconstruction of the heritage protected building began in the summer of 2017. The newly renovated building was named the Lóvasút Cultural and Event Centre. Visitors can see an exhibition of the Hegyvidék Local History Collection, but the building also contains space for museum pedagogical work and can be used for education, scientific research, film screenings, and small conferences and events. A patisserie was opened there in the spring of 2019.
Serious challenges accompanied the renovation of the Pheasant Restaurant in Zugliget. It had been boarded up and neglected for many decades. In 2017, the first steps were taken to remove those elements of the structures which were not representative of the original design. After its transformation and extension, it became the home for the senior classes of Zugligeti Elementary School in the autumn of 2019.
In the area next to the former restaurant, renovation has commenced of another historic building that had been in poor condition, the classicist reception hall designed by József Hild. The completion of structural work is expected by the end of 2020. In the meantime, a new function for the building is being considered.
The old cottage located at 48-50 Eötvös Road, which enjoys local conservation, has been totally renovated. It will soon become part of Normafa Park’s upper gateway, with a visitor information point.
A new wooden building which will blend in with its surroundings is being erected near the cottage. It will direct pedestrians to Normafa Park, and later to the extended cog-wheel railway’s terminus building. A footpath will run parallel to the main building, tying the buildings together. The new visitor centre will include a small restaurant, changing rooms, secure storage, sports equipment hire, and tourist information. Local residents were able to vote on these functions during the planning phase. It is also expected to be completed in 2020.
In association with St Francis Hospital’s “Paths to Health” program, “cardio-paths” were created for those with heart and circulatory problems and diabetes, however, we recommend these paths for any visitors who want to stay fit and healthy. Along the paths, you can read about basic health indicators and measurement methods, and you can also monitor your own condition with devices you can borrow.
The number of visitors to Normafa Park on summer days perfect for sunbathing or on snowy winter weekends can rise into the tens of thousands, creating a car parking problem. When the asphalt parking area at Normafa Síház and the old gravelled car park on Konkoly Thege Miklós Road reach capacity, cars are parked illegally on footpaths and in protected areas of the forest. We ask visitors who drive into the park to follow the parking rules and avoid damaging the environment.
The parking and bus turning area next to Normafa Síház will soon be redeveloped, with possibilities for green landscaping, gardens, and a pavilion with an eatery and gift shop. Around 3500 cubic metres of asphalt will be removed from an area officially designated as protected forest – an important step in the preservation of the environment. The northern end of Konkoly Thege Miklós Road will become a cul-de-sac, and an enclosed parking area with 163 designated spaces will be built between Eötvös Road and Normafa Síház, making it impossible to park illegally in the forest. It will have slightly less capacity than previous parking areas, so it will also become especially important to improve public transport into the area.
As part of the development, the uppermost section of Eötvös Road, roughly 200 metres long, will be closed to traffic to create a pedestrian walkway. A new road built alongside the Children’s Railway running from the former site of Hotel Olimpia to Konkoly Thege Miklós Road will divert traffic away from the protected forest area. Ample area has also been reserved for the future extension of the cog-wheeled railway to Normafa. These traffic changes will come into effect in the second half of 2020.
The vacant, run down and unsightly Sport Hotel can no longer serve a function within the protected forest. With the closure of Jánoshegyi Road to vehicular traffic, the operation of the hotel would represent a burden on the environment. The demolition of the building will be completed by the summer of 2020. This means a further 5200 cubic metres of building rubble and concrete will need to be removed from the forest.
An important step in connection with the rejuvenation of Normafa Park is the modernization of the Libegő chairlift. The main aim is to reduce vehicular traffic while giving visitors greater access to the park by public transport, as well as sightseeing opportunities. The chairlift’s present reception building, from both a functional and a technical standpoint, and the chairlift’s two-seat design, have become obsolete. A renovated chairlift is needed, utilizing 21st century technology, with detachable four-seat designs that also accommodate bicycles and skis, awnings that protect users from the rain, and modern lighting systems. The District Council has initiated the transfer of responsibility for the chairlift from Budapest City Council. They have prepared plans and have permits for the work, and now await agreement from the City for the transfer.
Within the framework of Normafa Park’s rejuvenation, and in connection with improvements to the chairlift, are the broadening of functions for the historic building, the former tram terminus in Zugliget. During renovation, the restaurant would remain in operation. Next to it, an ice rink would be built with cooling technology, thus requiring a technical area, as well as a storeroom, skate hire centre, changing rooms and toilet block. The improvement of the surrounding area also forms part of the plans.
In order to reduce traffic in Normafa in the long term, the improvement of public transport is essential, including the modernisation of the cog-wheeled railway and its extension west to Normafa and east to Széll Kálmán tér, an important transport node in Buda. With further development, this railway could be used to its full potential as a form of public transport. Its quiet operation relieves residents of noise pollution and would also reduce vehicular traffic in Normafa. Plans have been prepared, and permission is near complete. The District Council and the City Council are looking for funding for its realization.
The area around Normafa was well known for its pleasant restaurants which over the past century have closed and disappeared. The lack of gastronomic services in the area remained unaddressed. There is a great demand for snack bars, self-service eateries, and restaurants. The District Council included this problem when considering the rejuvenation of Normafa Park. After Normafa Síház came into the hands of the District Council, its Property and Development Committee, in December 2019, decided to lease it for a 90-day transitional period so that the building would not fall into disrepair due to lack of use. Then a plan was made for the long-term utilization of the restaurant section. The removal of the fencing from an enclosed area behind the building also served these objectives, making that area useful to the restaurant.
Snack bars behind Normafa Síház now stand in an area controlled by the District Council. Its long-term plans for this area include a canteen in the parkland where the car park and bus turning area had been. The chairlift reception building and the former tram terminus building will also have quality restaurants. Plans also exist for a self-service restaurant at the Normafa Gate Visitors’ Centre.
The activities of the Normafa Park Maintenance and Management Authority
A law passed in 2013 (CXLVIII, regarding the laws pertaining to the Normafa Park historic sporting area) passed trusteeship of Normafa Park to the Hegyvidek District Council. It established the Normafa Park Maintenance and Management Authority on May 1, 2014.
The Authority is responsible for the maintenance of the 350 hectares of parkland and over fifty properties that came into the hands of the District Council, as well as for implementing forestry management plans as prescribed by forestry authorities.
The Authority’s tasks include:
For more details about the rehabilitation of Normafa Park, please click here: