Budapest abounds in places that will delight children, and there is always a special child’s entry rate (and often a family one as well) to fee-paying attractions. Visits to many areas of the city can be designed around a rest stop or picnic – at City Park, say, or on Margaret Island.
Need to Know
- Babysitting An ever-growing number of hotels in Budapest offer babysitting services, but try to book at least six hours beforehand.
- Public transport Children up to age six travel free on the BKK; fares are discounted between ages seven and 16.
- Car hire Most car-hire firms have children’s safety seats for hire at a nominal cost, but book them in advance.
- Hotels and restaurants High chairs and cots (cribs) are standard equipment in many restaurants and hotels, but numbers can be limited; request them when booking a table.
- Children's menu Most restaurants won’t have a set children’s menu but will split the adult portion.
Come Rain or Shine
Raining cats and dogs? Some favourite wet-weather options include the playful, interactive science exhibits at the Palace of Wonders and Hungarian Natural History Museum and the the bathing and whirlpool delights of the Széchenyi Baths.
The Hungarian Natural History Museum has a lot of hands-on activities on offer, including Noah's Ark, which is part of an interactive exhibit on Hungary's natural world called the Variety of Life. Both the Palace of Wonders and the aquarium complex called Tropicarium were custom-made for hands-on learning. The granddaddy of museums for kids, though, is the Hungarian Railway History Park, with vintage locomotives to clamber about, a miniature locomotive ride, and carriages and trains to ‘drive’ via a high-tech simulator. It closes in winter, though.
Not many museums here – in fact, anywhere – are suitable for the very young, but the Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent program in which kids are allowed to handle original Egyptian artefacts and create their own master works of art. The Hungarian Agricultural Museum has all kinds of stuffed animals (for real) and mock-ups of traditional ways of life such as hunting and fishing. The Aquincum Museum has lots of interactive exhibits including virtual duelling with a gladiator.
Thermal Baths & Pools
Both the Széchenyi Baths and the Gellért Baths are huge and have an abundance of indoor and outdoor pools. Gellért’s outdoor pool has a wave machine, Széchenyi’s has a whirlpool. Palatinus Strand is vast and great for lounging and playing around on a summer’s day.
Aquaworld in northern Pest, a favourite with kids of all ages, is a bit far out of the city but easily reached by a free shuttle bus and public transport. Some of the slides reach five storeys in height (kids have to be 150cm tall to use these), and there’s a baby-swimming program available.
Most kids will be transfixed by the marionette and other shows at the Budapest Puppet Theatre, even if they don't speak Hungarian.
Táncház (a folk music and dance evening) is always a big hit with kids, whether they participate or just watch. Most of the children’s ones have instructors, with folk musicians playing the tunes. The best are the children’s programs at the Budavár Cultural Centre and the Municipal Cultural House in Buda and the Aranytíz House of Culture in Pest.
Kids love transport and the city’s many unusual forms of conveyance will delight. The Cog Railway and Children’s Railway in the Buda Hills and the Sikló funicular climbing up to Castle Hill are particular favourites. But even the mainstays of getting around town – the trams, trolleybuses and little M1 metro, commonplace to young Budapesters – will be a lot of fun for kids who rarely (if ever) board such forms of public transport.
The Budapest Zoo, at the northern end of City Park, is an excellent place to while away the day; it's due for an expansion and the addition of a futuristic biodome.
Great playgrounds include ones on XIII Margaret Island, about 50m northeast of the fountain at the southern end; on III Óbuda (Hajógyári) Island, about 200m along the main road (take the H5 HÉV suburban train to the island’s footbridge); and in XIII Szent István Park. Smaller playgrounds are at V Hild tér, VII Hunyadi tér and VII Almássy tér.