We spent a week in Budapest this summer, and never tired of exploring the capital of Hungary, and home to a third of its population. We were enchanted by the rich and diverse grandeur of the city which was once joint-metropolis of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Our family time in Budapest with kids was a big hit and has left us with many happy memories.
Introduction to Budapest
The Physical Landscape
Budapest bridges the Danube, downstream of both Vienna and Bratislava, and is one of the major stops for Danube river cruises. The craggy outcrop on the west bank is Buda while Pest lies on flatter land to the east.. Only as late as 1873 did the two cities Buda and Pest amalgamate to form the modern-day Budapest. It is one of very few cities in continental Europe to have its own thermal springs.
An Historical City
Are you a history buff? Budapest will reward you richly as the hub of a vast historic civilisation. Now Capital of Hungary, it was formerly twinned with nearby Vienna as joint capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which from 1867 to the Great War was the largest nation in non-Russian Europe. The empire stretched from the German and Polish borders in the north, to Switzerland in the west and to the northern Balkans in the south east.
A walk through District VIII and Leonardo da Vinci Koz will take you through epochs of the city’s mesmerizing architecture. These areas of Budapest feature grand metropolitan streets cheek by jowl with 1970’s Brutalist blocks of flats along with a striking mix of structures dating back from the 1990s after the collapse of Communism Hungary. Here there is everything from a real mediaeval fortified castle in Buda to a the nineteenth century fantasy Vajdahunyad Castle at in Pest.
What is Budapest Like?
Budapest is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in Europe. For the traveller, it is cheaper and more hospitable than nearby Vienna, It has a lively culture of food and music. And to maintain your interest for longer, it also displays an interesting diversity in both topography and townscape on the two sides of the great river Danube – not to mention the delightful Margaret Island in the middle.
Pest is a formal civic town on a generally flat site, its main historic centre comprises grand streets flanked with classical stone architecture. It is a townscape of grand squares, statues and small city parks. With its vast parliament building and formal streets, Pest looks every inch the powerful capital of a great European empire..
Buda could hardly be more different but just as striking in its representation of an earlier era. As you cross the river at Elisabeth Bridge you find yourself face to face with a vertiginous wooded cliff face. Climb this on foot, or take a bus to explore the ancient fortified town of narrow streets and both a castle and a Royal Palace. The grandeur of Buda comes from a much older history than that of its formal brother across the Danube.
Budapest is also the best foodie hotspot in Eastern Europe. Its laid-back ambiance, as well as a menu of tasty, Hungarian foods is a dream for any food lover.
Budapest also boasts one of the most lively music scenes in Europe, the fascinating nightlife culture (and anytime street food) of Pest’s Jewish district would be enough to make the city a destination even without all the historical culture on display nearby. This is also an area of vast contemporary wall paintings which make for an interesting day of exploration on foot..
So, clearly, Budapest has so much to offer.. Whether you are looking for innovative cuisine, street art, or the hottest design trends, Budapest has it all.
Hungary sits pretty much in the middle of Europe but even so it has a fairly mild continental climate with comfortably warm sunny summers (20-25 degC) and short cold winters, (0-minus 5 degC) Budapest is one of the sunniest capitals in Europe. It’s great to visit any time from spring to autumn, although we would avoid the July-August high summer which can be a bit hot and crowded.
Budapest for Families with Children
Our kids were happy to wander around this lovely city in tow with us for a few days, and we were fortunate that there was a public sports event on Margaret Island too while we were there. But there is much more to the city from the perspective of keeping kids happily occupied.
Why Budapest is great place for family holiday
Budapest is an especially great city to visit with kids, and here are some of the reasons why:
- Plenty of pools and aqua parks make for a fun cool-down in the continental summer.
- The city has lots of summer outdoor activities
- Cave tours and labyrinths will surely amaze the little ones
- Budapest Zoo and Challenge land are perfect-for-kids zones
- Winter activities include ice-skating and sleigh-riding
- Bad weather? That’s covered too with plenty of indoor attractions such as the Circus, Minipolisz, and the Tepidarium – all perfect for all weather.
How to get around the City
The city has four metro lines and numerous tramlines as well as bus routes that run from dawn till late night. Moreover, there is a regular direct bus line between the city center and the airport. All stops on metro line 4 and some of the buses and trolley buses are accessible for people with strollers. Travel cards are available for all public transport or tickets can be bought from metro stations and machines at many bus stops.
For a budget sightseeing tour, check Tram number 2, which goes along the ridge of Buda, allowing you to marvel at the main attractions of the city including the Castle, the Parliament, the Gellert Hill, and the Promenade. For a Christmas, treat enjoy the vintage trams, decorated in coats of glittering light bulbs during the holiday period.
Way to get around Budapest – summary
- Walk – Budapest is a walkable city
- Grab the ride – use Grab app if your kids are tired
Taxi – very often the same cars as you will use in Grab,
Metro – best get 24 hours ticket
Scooter – The city has lots of scooter for rent
Hop on hop off buses
Budapest Travel Cards
It’s always worth checking for discount cards in major cities around the world, and Budapest has an excellent one. This is not only a convenient way to ensure you aren’t searching for change at inconvenient moments, but it’s also great value. The Budapest Card allows you free use of all public transport anywhere in the city as well as providing you with free access to a number of art galleries and museums, entry to the Lukacs Thermal Bath and Buda Castle. It is also good for discounts at selected restaurants.
Outdoor Activities in Budapest with Kids
Whether you are in Budapest in the summer or winter, there are plenty of outdoor activities for you and your kids to enjoy.
Aqua Parks, Beaches, and Thermal Baths
One of the best things to do in summer in Budapest is splashing in open-air baths. Palatinus Strand in the center of the city on Margaret Island features ten different pools, including a wave pool, thermal pool, and children’s pool.
Another thermal bath to visit is the Rudas Thermal Bath located near Gellert Hill. It offers an excellent setting for the whole family to relax. A ticket to this thermal bath includes access to steams, saunas, hot water baths and a rooftop pool with a vista of the city. However, kids are not allowed in the thermal hot water.
Yes it’s a five kilometre beach located thousands of miles from the coast in Central Europe! Take bus number 34 to reach the Roman Beach which is located to the north of Buda on the West Bank of the Danube. The district comprises not only beaches but water parks, a nature reserve and vast recreation areas.
Off-season the Roman Beach area is still popular with locals as well as visitors, and known as a gastronomic wonderland with numerous eateries ranging from cafes to restaurants.
Head over towards Mogyorod, about half an hour from the city, to find Aquarena, the largest aqua park not only in the city but also in the whole country. It has a 1.5 kilometer long slide with a number of diving pools, sunshades, Jacuzzis, and more.
Aquaworld is another great water park in Budapest. FIt features Inca theming and a surf pool, which all our family love, kids, and adults alike. There are also slides but they are not as wild as those in other aqua parks. The resort organizes night pool and foam parties with body painting, UV face, fire as well as LED shows it is integrated with a hotel and spa.
Best Playgrounds in Budapest
During our “Budapest Family Holiday” we spent lots of time exploring different playgrounds that are conveniently located around City. Most of the playgrounds are well adjust for kids of all ages. Starting from toddlers and finishing on bigger kids, who can enjoy ziplines or high climbing frames.
Playgrounds in Budapest parks
- Gellért Hill, Cerka-firka Playground
- City Park, Városliget Playground
- Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
Zöld Péter Playground
If you visiting with Budapest with Teens you should visit some of the skate parks
- Erzsébet tér
- Zuglói skatepark
- Sashalmi pool
- Laktanya Street sportpark
Another way to get out of the summer heat in Budapest is to escape underground!
Labyrinth of Buda Castle
Lying 16 meters below the surface, the Labyrinth of the Buda Castle is the most cave system in Budapest. The Labrynth offers a unique exhibition for adults as well as action-packed events for young ones, including creative games and treasure hunts. A visit to this cave is like a camp trip, complete with wax figures and smoke machines, and for a spooky experience, you can visit after 6, to explore with just the light of an oil lamp.
Hospital in the Rock
The Hospital in the Rock joins the Castle Labyrinth by manmade tunnels. It was indeed an operational hospital during World War II used heavily during the Siege of Budapest. Later, it became a secret nuclear bunker during the Cold War. Today, Hospital in the Rock hosts an immersive exhibition offering visitors a guided trip back to the past.
These caves don’t have stalactites or stalagmites; rather they have steep walls lined with minerals and crystals. Because of these crystals, the caves have earned their nickname of the ‘Underground Flower Garden”. The Semlohegyi Caves are accessible to wheelchair users.
Challengeland and Children’s Railway
If your visit to Budapest is between March and October, you and your kids will get a chance to explore Challengeland at its best. There are fun activities here including zip lining, wall climbing, and many other rope activities, all in the magnificent forests surrounding Buda.
To reach the Challengeland, in summer, take a ride on the Children’s Railway, which runs between Szechenyi-hegy and Huvosvolgy, operated by kids between 10 and 14 years old.
Budapest Zoo and Botanic Garden
Perhaps the best thing to do in Budapest in the summer is a visit to the 150-year-old Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden. The Zoo is open to the public throughout the year, but summer is the season when the zoo and gardens are at their best. You will find a wide range of animal species from across the seven continents, including ring-tailed lemurs, hippos, rhinos, piranhas, polar bears, and at least a hundred kinds of butterfly. The Botanical Gardens are home to more than 2,000 plant species including rare tropical specimens.
In case your thirst for nature is even wider than this, near the Zoo you will find City Park, one of the largest green areas of the city, and featuring ponds, groves, a boating lake, and several children playgrounds.
Sightseeing Cruise on Danube River in Budapest
Taking a Sightseeing Cruise on the Danube River is a great way to introduce yourself to the city as a boat pass all the Budapest’s landmarks like House of Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and Margaret Island and Great Market Hall. Boat trip helps in better understanding the city and its location plus its a great fun and photo opportunity for all ages. There are available day and night sightseeing cruises.
Winter Outdoor Activities for Families with Kids
Budapest still has plenty to offer even during the windy and snowy months of the year. During winter, the major attraction is usually the City Park, which is a playgrounds for snowball fights and anyone with a sledge. If you haven’t brought your own you can hire one). When it’s frozen, the boating lake becomes a Skating Rink, perfect not only for professional skaters but also for newbies. Skate hire and training are available at the site, and visitors can also grab hot chocolate at the bar nearby.
Half an hour from the city in the Buda Hills is the Normafa. Here you can find all the more formal winter sports as well as more snow to play in. Take a No21 bus up the hills. The location gives a great panoramic view of the city and food and drink outlets (grab a hot tea and local apple pie) whether or not you partake in the sports activities yourselves.
Indoors Activities for Families with kids
Playhouses and Museums
Visit Hungarian Parliament Building
Parliament Of Budapest opened in 1902 is the biggest building in Hungary and one of the famous European Landmarks. Parliament is open to public and have visiting session. For other worldschoolers like us its a great opportunity to teach kids about democracy.
Book your Parliament building tour here
Natural History Museum
Budapest Natural History Museum is not the biggest Natural History Museum in the world, but if your kids as ours like nature its a great place to spend a few hours. We definitely enjoyed the Museum even if it wasn’t as good as our favorite Natural History Museum in London
Hungarian National Gallery
The Hungarian National Gallery is located inside the gorgeous Buda Castle. It presents the culture of the city and country at its finest. Visitors can get to view a variety of exhibitions, including artworks from notable Hungarian painters such as Pal Szinyei Merse, Istvan Csok, and Munkacsy Mihaly.
Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
Visitors can see pop art by Tom Wesselmann and Roy Lichtenstein at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art.
Family holiday in Budapest – Pin it for later
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