I love Budapest, the architecture, the history, the cheap eats! But is the Pearl of the Danube a good place to take the kids? Well it’s full of family friendly parks, is great value so it’s a cheap European city break with kids and packed full of history and culture meaning it can be highly educational as well as fun. Here’s my run down of all my favourite things to do in Budapest with kids and a few tips on how and where to spend your time.
My favourite part of Budapest is the Buda side (on the West of the Danube) where you’ll find Buda Castle, the Fishermans Bastion, The Budapest History Museum and the Beautiful Matthias Church.
You get fabulous views over to Pest, the Parliament buildings and the Chain Bridge and the whole area feels full of history and charm.
It’s a pretty easy walk from most areas in Pest, wander over the Chain Bridge and then either queue for the funicular or take the short walk up the hill (fairly easy but a bit slippy when we visited in snow and probably not suitable for toddlers or buggys).
The breathtaking beauty of the buildings means you wont feel the need to actually go in anywhere but if you need a break from the weather – mega hot in summer, bone chillingly cold in winter, you can visit the Budapest History Museum, which has loads of exhibits on Budapest life spanning the Roman times, up to present day.
Whilst you’re up at the Castle, make sure you visit Fisherman’s Bastion, it’s a stunning lookout point with awesome views and intricately designed turrents which look straight out of a fairytale.
Reward yourself with a coffee at Halaszbastya Restaurant, just behind Matthias Church, it’s pricey (by Budapest Standards) but the views are well worth it.
Try the cake in a jar - you wont be dissapointed!
If it's as cold as it was when we visited, the tiny outdoor café at the bottom of the History Museum is a fab place to grab a mulled wine, and reminded me of the German Christmas markets springing up across Europe.
For something a bit quirky, The Childrens Railway is a fun 11 km train ride through the hills of the Buda side, it’s run by kids aged between 10 and 14 who can volunteer as long as they’re getting good grades at school. The kids do everything from ticket collection to selling things on board – don’t worry, there is actually an adult driving the trains!
Any long term followers of the blog will know how much I love a Modern Art Gallery so was chuffed when we stumbled on The Hall of Arts (Mucsarnok) next to Heroes Square. It’s a small gallery which seems to rotate various contemporary artists and has some really fab exhibits. The building is stunning and they have art materials and cushions spread out for kids to enjoy and create. There’s a little café if you fancy a coffee or snack, you wont need long but it’s definitely worth popping in.
This is a really chilling museum commemorating the victims of both the Communist and the Nazi regimes in Hungary. It’s probably not one for the little ones. Budapest has such a rich and harrowing history, if you can visit, it will be a humbling but highly educational experience. I recommend hiring an audio headset and giving yourself time to wander around. The queues were huge when we visited, which I think demonstrates the importance of this place.
Budapest is a city rich in history and also heartbreak, there are many war memorials throughout the city which are worth visiting and explaining, in as child friendly language as possible, why they are there and the history of this part of Europe.
A lovely way to see the sights of Budapest is a river cruise along the river Danube. There are loads of options available but I think my favourite has got to be a dinner cruise at sunset, it will tick off your dinner arrangements and you get awesome views of the Parliament buildings in daylight and then lit up for night on your return. Get Your Guide has loads of options you can prebook.
Budapest is full of these thermal spas. We visited the biggest and probably most iconic of them, Szechenyi Baths and it was a brilliant but totally surreal experience. With 15 indoor pools, all at different temperatures, steam rooms and massage treatments, extravagant architecture and a couple of huge outdoor pools, it’s quite an experience at any time of year.
The main outdoor pool is used for exercise, the other heated to 40 degrees and is a very strange experience dipping in when there’s snow on the ground and it’s minus two! This is not a posh spa, you’ll be lucky to get somewhere to throw your towel but the water is supposedly medicinal and it’s so much fun, who am I to argue!
Top tips for visiting
It was so cold when we were there, our wet towels left outside while we had a dip started to freeze – no good for drying off so if you can, bring a robe or two towels if its cold, and flipflops to save your feet. Book a cabin to change in (not as glamorous as they sound!), it’s only an extra couple of pounds and it means you will have somewhere safe to keep your stuff while you enjoy the pools.
It’s not recommended that children under 14 visit the baths but they are allowed if parents choose to bring them. Swimming nappies are not allowed in the baths so if they are not toilet trained, it’s a definite no.
One of our favourite things to do in any new city is to spend a day on an open top bus, it helps you work out where everything is then you can decide where you want to visit later. You can pre book your Budapest bus tour here
A castle straight out of a fairytale, now a museum desicated to 1000 years of hungarian architecture. It's a bit like a small Natural History Museum.
We’ve also heard great things about the Aria Hotel Budapest which has connecting family rooms, kid sized robes and slippers and a lovely pool, again in a fab location next to St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Visit a ruin bar whilst you’re in Budapest, although not a hugely kid friendly activity – they turn into clubs full of stag and hen dos and local kids in the evening, they are well worth a visit during the day as they’re so unusual and pretty. They’re built in dilapidated buildings with a real indoor/outdoor feel and truly instagramable décor. My favourite in Szimpla Kert (simple Garden) and it hosts a farmers market every Sunday from 9am. It's absolutely huge, hidden rooms lead into each other and has an indoor overgrown garden feel.
You can’t visit Budapest and miss out on trying these tunnel shaped bready cakes. There are stalls all over the city selling them, makers will bake them in front of you then coat it in sugar and butter and add a flavour – cinnamon is delicious! It has quite a strange texture and we only managed half but it really does make a lovely warm sweet treat.
A lovely little Italian restaurant near The House of Terror.
My absolutely favourite restaurant in Budapest with lovely views across the Ice rink/City Park serving freshly cooked hungarian food.
If you only want to visit the city then I would say a long weekend will give you plenty of time to tick off most of the sights but you could easily stretch it out to a week by taking in the surrounding countryside and spending some days at the many parks.
Budapest is a pretty walkable city but it does get tough when the weather's extreme. It has a fab underground system which is one of the oldest in the world, built in 1896.
The ticketing system is a little complicated – we had a few free rides simply because we didn’t know what we were doing! Not every station has ticket machines so just get one when you can and validate them for every trip. You could also get a hop on hop off bus which is always fun.
Most museums and attractions are closed on a Monday so make that your day of exploring, eating and maybe a trip to a thermal bath.
Featuring mini cities of Budapest, Austria and Germany with all their iconic landmarks.
A beautiful green area, perfect for spending time outdoors
Huge saltwater aquarium home to many species of fish, alligators and sharks.
Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens
One of the oldest Zoos in the world
A plethora of well planned fun scientific games for kids of most ages.
Have you been to Budapest with children or do you have another favouite place for a European city break with kids? I'd love to hear your thoughts, just leave me a comment below.
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