Budapest with kids: things to do with children in the capital of Hungary
What are the best family things to do and see in Budapest? The oldest subway in Europe and the world’s biggest sandglass, a stunt show at a movie studio and a bunker-hospital in a rock, a cogwheel tram and an amphibian bus, children’s playgrounds and caves with stalactites, a zoo, an aquarium, pools and water slides, concerts and theatres, museums and interactive excursions - all in our review of family attractions and activities in Budapest.
Budapest Sightseeing Tours and City Walks with Kids
All who visit Budapest for the first time soon learns that the city is divided into two parts by the Danube river. Buda is located on the right shore, with its Buda Hill (Budai Várnegyed), the Royal Palace (Budai Vár), the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya), Mount Gellert (Gellért-hegy), and the Citadella. The most famous sights, such as the Hungarian Parliament (Országház), Andrassy avenue (Andrassy út) and Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) are located on the left shore, in the lowland Pest.
In the heart of the city, at Heroes’ Square, there is the Millennium Monument, dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of the ancient Magyars’ passage through the Carpathian mountains. It is better to read about all the huge statues of national heroes beforehand, or to get hints from a guide. Starting from here, it is possible to walk down the Andrassy avenue (Andrassy út), the so-called ‘Budapest Champs-Élysées’, visit the zoo or the arts museum. The so-called ‘Time Wheel’, the world’s biggest hourglass is located not far from the monument. The hourglass is used once a year, every 31st of December.
Next to the Heroes’ Square - the Városliget Park begins, with its Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyadi vár), lakes, attractions and the biggest bath complex in the city - the Szechenyi Spa Baths (Széchenyi fürdő). The monument of Anonymus - a medieval Hungarian writer - is a good scene for a family photo: according to a city legend, every wish comes true for those, who touch the feather in Anonymus’ hand.
The Margaret Island (Margit-sziget), or the Island of Rabbits, located between Buda and Pest, is closed for vehicles, except buses and taxis. There are thermal swimming pools, tennis courts and athletic tracks for sports and activities fans. On this green island, it is possible to chill out in the shade of ancient sycamore trees, walk down the still Japanese garden, enjoy a view of medieval monastery ruins and musical fountain, swim and sunbathe at the Palatinus Beach (Palatinus Strandfürdő), ride a velotaxi or just lie on the grass at the park. A mini zoo where animals and birds are kept without cages is worth visiting with kids.
It is possible to enjoy a view of the Budapest city centre from the old cabins of the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló), which runs from the Adam Clark Square to Buda Castle. For those who come here at midday, it is possible to see the changing of the guard near the Presidential Palace (Sándor-palota) and take a photo with soldiers after that.
One of the best views of the Danube and the city centre opens up from the Citadella on the top of Mount Gellert. There are also famous sculptures on the mountain’s sides, such as the Freedom Monument, ‘Buda Meets Pest’ Monument and the Garden of Philosophers sculpture group. it is possible to reach the highest viewpoint, the white Elizabeth Tower (Erzsébet-kilátó) at Mount Janos (János-hegy) in different ways: on foot, by the Libegő ropeway, by the Children’s Railway or the #60 special cog-wheel tram, with special cogs helping it master the steep ups and downs.
The finest view of Pest opens up from St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István-bazilika). Visitors can reach the colonnade by a spiral staircase or the elevator, look at stained-glass windows or peek on an organ recital. On Sundays, Catholic masses with choir singing are held.
The mobile Ferris wheel, known as the Sziget Eye, or the Budapest Eye, is set at different places in different seasons. During a ten-minute ride, every cabin makes three turns. It is better to look at the city centre from the height of 65 minutes either in good weather or at night, when the city lights are on.
Since 2015, the longest trams in the world run around Budapest. It is possible to see the yellow trams 54 and 56 metres long on several routes in the city centre. The yellow line #1 of the Budapest subway (Budapesti metró), built in 1896, is the oldest in Europe, and is worth taking a ride on.
On a boat ride down the Danube river, it is possible to see the main city sights from a different perspective: the Old Town and the Royal Palace, the Freedom Monument on Mount Gellert, the Citadella, the Chain Bridge, the Parliament, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Technical University. The RiverRide amphibious bus takes visitors through Budapest on wheels as well as afloat down the Danube river near the Parliament and the embankment. The Budapest MOL Bubi city bike parking system offers visitors to borrow bikes for half an hour for free, and the full rent prices can be found online at molbubi.bkk.hu/.
Attractions, Playgrounds and Entertainment for Kids in Budapest
The Millenáris Park is one of the most popular places for time out with kids in Budapest. The cultural and entertainment centre is housed in the building of a former electric plant. Concerts, plays, exhibitions, performances, gastronomic fairs and other family events are often held here. The landscape park, situated among ponds and modern buildings has indoor playgrounds with swings and sandboxes.
Family picnics, active games and bike tours can take place at the Kopaszi Gát park in the Southern part of Buda. There are several playgrounds in the park, visitors can also feed ducks, swim or rent a kayak at a sandy beach in the Danube bay. Кhe Cerka Firka playground is located on the slope of Mount Gellert, there are slides, trampolines. climbing structures, and sandboxes, surrounded by giant pencils.
All nine stations of the Children’s Railway (Gyermekvasút) are operated by schoolchildren (supervised by adults), who do all the work from driving trains to selling tickets. A ride around the Buda Hills lasts 45 minutes. The main station is a home to an exposition devoted to the history of the railway. In summer, the railway is open every day, and from September to April - every day except Mondays.
In spring, summer and autumn, the rope parks of Budapest are open to visitors, offering courses of various difficulty levels with bridges, zip lines and more. There are Orczy Kalandpark, Challengeland, and Római Kalandpark, the rope park at the Budapest Zoo also has a trampoline and a giant slide.
When weather is not perfect for time outdoors, families with kids may want to visit one of the indoor entertainment centres of Budapest, which have slides, labyrinths, trampolines, ball pits, car racing tracks, video games and cafés. The Zöld Péter játszóter playground (themed after Hungarian fairy tales) is a part of the Millipop complex at the Millenaris park. The KASKAS complex has a huge sandbox for small kids, the Elevenpark has a ceiling-high slide in the shape of a volcano, and the eXbox Action Park has a rope park, a climbing wall, and a trampoline area for kids and adults.
At the MiniPolisz interactive indoor edutainment center, kids aged from 3 to 12 can try themselves in different professions. They can become hairdressers, doctors, engineers, salesmen, florists, bakers, post officers, they can sing and dance on stage, ride bikes on a racing track. On holidays, entertainment programs are held here for kids in Hungarian and English.
Balance masters and acrobats, dog and parrot trainers, illusionists and clowns perform on stage at the Hungarian National Circus (Fővárosi Nagycirkusz). Laser and water shows are held here, many are accompanied by light effects, and all are accompanied by live orchestra music.
The Korda Filmpark Cinema Studio is located in 30 km away from Budapest, it is the very spot where such movies as ‘Hellboy 2’,‘American Rhapsody’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘The Borgias’ series were filmed. On a studio tour, visitors can see the real scenery, walk down the streets of ‘modern New York’ or a ‘medieval town in Europe’. Stunt shows are held on a specially equipped stage. Visitors can also learn about the filming process, how sound is recorded, and visual effects are created.
Budapest Botanical Garden, Aquarium and Zoos
Budapest Zoo (Állatkert) is one of the oldest zoos in the world: it turned 150 in 2016. Together with the Botanical Garden, it keeps about 3 thousand species of animals and 7 thousand species of plants, rare and exotic among them. Domestic animals live on a farm. The elephant enclosure - the symbol of the zoo - looks like a mosque: it is believed that the Hungarians thus responded after a long period of wars with Turkey was over. At the Palm Tree pavilion, visitors are surrounded by monkeys, birds and butterflies, they can also see baby animals of different species at the Animal Kindergarten. The aquarium is a home to a reconstructed coral reef, and a show with seals is also held here. Special treats for feeding some of the animals can be bought at the entrance to the zoo. For the convenience of guests the zoo has a café and a playground. Educational lectures on the history of primates and humankind, as well as open air concerts (only in the summer) take place here as well.
Orangeries of the Botanical Garden (Fűvészkert) display the flora of various climatic zones. Visitors can see orchids, citrus plants, cactuses, palm trees, and other tropical plants, such as Victoria Regia - the biggest water lily in the world, which blooms once a year.
It is possible to learn more about Hungarian nature at the Wild Animal Park (Budakeszi Vadaspark). Roes and wisents, wolves and boars, lynxes, foxes and other animals walk here in large aviaries which are similar to their natural habitats. It is also possible to pet goats, cows, piglets, rabbits and hens at the farm, look at the neighbourhood from a 12-metre observation tower. Visitors can also see the feeding of raccoons, jackals, bears and bisons.
Underwater and tropical wonders open up to visitors of the Tropicarium. Its visitors can see monkeys and crocodiles from a wooden bridge at an artificial tropical garden, see sharks and stingrays from inside a 12-metre underwater tunnel. Tropicarium also has a terrarium with snakes and reptiles, a tropical zone with birds flying above visitors’ heads, and an open pool with stingrays, which can even be touched by visitors.
Pools and Spa Baths in Budapest, AquaWorld Aqua Park
There are approximately 130 thermal pools within the city of Budapest. One of the most prominent water attractions of Budapest is the Szechenyi Bath Complex (Széchenyi fürdő) at Városliget park. This is a complex with 3 open and 15 indoor pools, filled with different kinds of water, ranging from icy to hot in temperature. There are also saunas and steam rooms here. Visitors can sunbathe in deckchairs and have a snack at the café. Especially when accompanied by children, it is better to go swimming in the outdoor pool with massage jets in the morning, as the place is very popular among tourists.
The old Art Nouveau building of the Gellert Spa (Gellért fürdő) is a jewel at the bottom of Mount Gellert. The Gellert Spa is famous not only for its healing water, but also for its luxurious palace-like interiors. Water in the Gellert Spa contains mud, so it is also known as ‘The Muddy Spa’. Here, visitors can visit different kinds of saunas or enjoy a water massage.
Waters of the St. Lukac Thermal Bath have been known since the Middle Ages, and the healing spa complex was finally built in 1937. It has 8 swimming pools, a carbonic dip, massage and mud procedures are offered here. Three thermal baths can be found at the Palatinus Beach & Spa (Palatinus Strandfürdő), along with 11 thermal outdoor pools and a children’s pool with water slides.
The AquaWorld indoor waterpark - one of the biggest in Europe - is a good for place for active leisure with swimming and water sliding. 15 out of 17 of its swimming pools, along with 11 water slides, are open all year round. Visitors can swim, surf and play volleyball here. For little ones, there is a special zone with a playgrounds and water slides, and in the summer, there is an outdoor mini beach where kids can swim in a children’s pool and build sand castles.
Museums of Budapest for Children and Educational Tours for Kids
The Palace of Wonders (Csodák Palotája) interactive museum is located in the same building as the Tropicarium. Children of all ages can see the laws of physics in action here: draw with LEDs and shoot in an electromagnetic dash, press gigantic buttons and drive a retro car, play, run and jump around the exhibition, taking showpieces apart and putting them back together, while keeping an eye on the scientific surroundings. There are special programs for young children with toys and cartoons, and interactive shows with experiments in different scientific fields for older kids.
Miniature copies of famous sights from Hungary, Austria and Germany are present at the Miniversum in Andrassy avenue. The layout has moving trains and cars; visitors can press buttons to ring church bells, launch windmills, turn on music and lights. Interactive displays show information about all the famous places and buildings. There is a playroom for kids, you visitors can grab a bite at the museum’s café.
The Transport Museum (Közlekedési Múzeum)’s exhibitions show the history of railway, vehicle, river and city transport systems from the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until today. Carriages and sledges, bicycles and motorbikes, prototypes of modern transport created over a century ago and mini models of cars from Soviet Union era are also present at the museum. Visitors can peek inside and even enter some of the wagons with mannequins in old passenger and conductor dresses. The main building has been closed due to reconstruction, but other expositions are still opened to public.
The Metropolitan Museum (Földalatti Vasút Múzeum) is located in the heart of the city, inside a real working subway station named Deak Ferenc tér. The small exposition shows an old station with wagons and wax sculptures of a driver, a conductor and passengers inside. On the shelves, visitors can see train miniatures and a collection of old tickets and photos.
Lectures about the origin of the Universe, stars, the Solar System and its planets are held at the Budapest Planetarium (TIT Budapesti Planetárium) which is also famous for its spectacular laser show. Movies about space are played in Hungarian and English, but tickets for English-language programs should be booked at the Planetarium’s website in advance.
The Hungarian Natural History Museum (Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum) with its unique paleontological, geological, zoological and botanical collections has received awards as the best family museum several times. Here, visitors can see skeletons of dinosaurs and a whale, stuffed saber-toothed tiger and woolly rhinoceros, coral reef flora and fauna dioramas, a collection of stones and minerals from the Carpathian basin. Interactive exhibitions and tours for children are regularly held at the museum.
The Hungarian Railway Museum (Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park) is located inside a railway depot. Visitors are allowed to enter wagons and cabins of every steam and electric train, it is even possible to push buttons and pull levers. For an additional fee it is possible to ride an old locomotives. There is also a mini steam railway for kids at the museum.
The Hungarian Agricultural Museum (Magyar Mezőgazdasági Múzeum) is located in the historical interiors of the Vajdahunyad Castle. In its halls, visitors can see ancient work equipment and technical items for farmery, domestic cattle and agricultural plants grown in Hungary, together with hunting trophies and a collection of wild animals’ horns. There is also a tower with an observation deck within the Vajdahunyad Castle.
The Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum) is located inside the Royal Palace (Budavári Palota). Guests of the museum can walk down the dungeon and reach the catacomb chamber in the medieval part of the exposition, see some royal dresses and the throne in the newer part. At the palace, there is also the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum (Aranysas Patikamúzeum), with an alchemist’s laboratory, a shelf with medieval vessels, medical books and unusual medications such as herbs, dried bats or little crocodiles in glass cans.
More than 240 historical buildings from all over Hungary are presented at Skansen (Szentendrei Szabadtéri Néprajzi Múzeum), in 20 km North of Budapest. Visitors can see the work of smiths, cheesemakers, shepherds, bakers and laundresses at peasants’ yards and workshops from the 17th to 20th centuries. In some houses, visitors can see the making of and even try some traditional food and drinks. Pigs, sheep, goats, horses, geese and hens live at the cattle yard. There is a railway with an old train running all around Skansen.
The Aquincum (Aquincumi Múzeum) invites visitors to see the ruins of an ancient Roman town with amphitheatres, baths, columns and fresco paintings. At the Hungarian National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum) presents a great collection of arms from different epochs, its guests can also learn some facts from the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the Ethnographic Museum (Néprajzi Múzeum), it is possible to learn about the traditions and everyday life of European nations, mostly of those living in Hungary, but there are also temporary exhibitions devoted to the culture of nations and tribes from all over the world (since 3 December 2017 the museum is going to be closed for undefined period due to removal).
Pictures and sculptures of Hungarian artists are presented at the Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria) which also has an observation point at the roof. Works by French, Spanish and Italian painters can be seen at the Arts Museum (Szépművészeti Múzeum) at the Heroes’ Square (the exposition is closed until 2018). A collection of handmade home furnishings from the times of the Ottoman Empire is presented at the Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum, closed until 2021).
Visitors of the Victor Vasarely Museum (Vasarely Múzeum) in Obuda can get acquainted with op art (optical art). The works of art look more like optical illusions rather than traditional paintings. Aside from the permanent exposition, modern art exhibitions also take place at the museum.
About a hundred game machines from the 1920’s until modern days are collected at the Budapest Pinball Museum. Visitors buy just the entrance tickets, and gain unlimited access to various games - pinball, video games (such as Mortal Kombat), and many types of retro arcade entertainment: rifle shooting machines, basketball, football, bowling etc.
The Marchpane Museum (Szabó Marcipán Múzeum) is located near the Fisherman’s Bastion. Everything here is made of marchpane - from dishes, pictures, and furniture miniatures to cactuses in flower pots. It is possible to taste the sweets at the museum’s café or buy them at the souvenir shop.
A trip to the Budapest caves turns out to be a real adventure. The Labyrinth of the Buda Castle (Budavári Labirintus) with its wax figures in medieval dresses and carnival costumes is located under the fortress of the Castle Hill (Várhegy). Part of the labyrinth has to be passed in total darkness, there is also the gloomy Dracula’s Room and parts of an ancient Turkish Tomb. The Hospital in the Rock Museum (Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum) is also located in the underground tunnels. The WWII hospital was rebuilt into the nuclear bunker during the Cold War. Later the hospital atmosphere was reconstructed with wax figures in historical dresses and in original interiors: wounded people lying on couches, a surgeon working in the operating room together with nurses. The excursions are held in Hungarian and English.
It is possible to look at stalactites, stalagmites and crystals in the Szemlőhegy Cave (Szemlőhegyi-barlang), which has a playground and the Geologist’s Path for kids. The Pálvölgyi Cave - the longest in Buda, contains a big grotto with stalactites in the form of an elephant, a lion and other animals. The underground tours are only accessible with a guide. The air temperature in caves ranges from +8 to +12°C all throughout the year, so visitors are asked to have sufficient clothing to stay warm inside the cave.
Theatres and Concerts for Kids in Budapest
Budapest is one of the capitals of classical music and theatre in Europe. Interactive concerts with songs and games for kids under 3 years old and their parents are held at the Budapest Arts Palace (Müpa Budapest). Young audiences can also take part in musical evenings, play instruments or learn folk songs here.
The Budapest Puppet Theatre (Budapest Bábszínház) at Andrassy avenue is famous for its plays for children and adults. Plays for kids usually take place in the morning, while adult performances - in the evening. Most plays are in Hungarian (a few in English), but it is usually not that hard to grasp the storyline in musical fairy tales with well-known plots and characters, even without knowing the language they are played in.
Classical performances and modern musicals for the entire family are played at the Budapest Operetta Theatre (Budapesti Operettszínház) and the Hungarian National Opera (Magyar Allámi Operaház). Those who wish to see the czardas, gopak, flamenco, and tango dancing should go to the National Dance Theatre (Nemzeti Táncszínház).
Festivals, performances and exhibitions for families with children in Europe and around the world are collected in our What’s On? section.
Photo: familywithkids.com, wikipedia.org, facebook.com/BudapestGyogyfurdoi/home, en.bazilika.biz, facebook.com/gyermekvasut, facebook.com/MiniPolisz/, facebook.com/KordaFilmpark, facebook.com/ELTE-F%C3%BCv%C3%A9szkert-116600588398600/, facebook.com/tropicarium, facebook.com/BudapestiTortenetiMuzeum, facebook.com/neprajzimuzeum, facebook.com/cavingunderbudapest, facebook.com/babszinhaz
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