Budapest, Hungary with Kids
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We loved Budapest and were completely charmed by the city. This is one of those places that we did almost nothing touristy and instead stuck to local kids activities. As a result we had an amazing trip, but can’t wait to go back and see more.
You will find plenty of play spaces throughout the city, making it easy to travel here with kids. We were able to let our kids run around in parks and between activities.
The Budapest Card
We had the Budapest City Card, but found it worked more as a discount card than in other cities were we felt city cards opened up the city’s must-see attractions. We did not find the card a good value for our trip. If you are in Budapest in the summer and can take advantage of the two walking tours in English then your value may be better. The best feature of the card, for us, was access to public transportation.
Where to stay:
The Aria Hotel & The Ritz Carlton Budapest
Our hotel accommodations in Budapest were split between the Ritz-Carlton and the Aria Hotel. The hotels were both excellent and treated the kids so well. (You can – and should – read my full review of the Aria on Bebe Voyage.) Both hotels sit on the main park, the perfect location for exploring the city and having access to public transportation.
The Aria Hotel boasts a wine happy hour in the evening (4-6pm daily). Our kids were entertained by the piano player, some toys from the hotel and we had a chance to speak with the concierge who comes around and chats with each table. The Aria also has a lovely spa that can be used by hotel guests. After the kids fell asleep Jeff and I each took a turn at the spa. This was a lovely perk.
The roof of the Aria Hotel has the best viewing area of the city. It is worth heading to the top of the Aria to see the city from this vantage point.
The rooms at the Ritz-Carlton were large with great views of the park. There was plenty of space in the room for our family of five.
The bathrooms at the Rtiz were also lovely. While Jeff went out to a few museums in the evening and I got the kids to sleep I took some time to relax and read.
The Concierge at the Ritz was so helpful even before our arrival. The kids received Ritz Kids packs at check-in and loved doing the activity books throughout our stay.
Getting Around: Public Transportation
Public transportation in Budapest is easy to use. The Budapest Card gives you free use of all the transportation systems. Download the BKK Futar App which helps you plan routes and gives you real time information on the location of the trains.
What to Do
There is so much to do in Budapest that we hardly scratched the surface. We had practically perfect weather and chose to spend lots of our time outside enjoying some kid friendly fun.
The Capitol Circus of Budapest was amazing! We love finding kids shows when we travel and this one was brilliant. They circus company hosts different shows throughout the year but all are acrobatic themed.
All the shows at the circus are in Hungarian but you won’t need to understand the language to appreciate the incredible acrobatics. The actors moved in and out of the crowd and were incredibly engaging.
The circus is across the street from the Szechenyi Baths, so consider combining these two attractions.
The Children’s Railway is a narrow gauge railway run by children. It is the world’s largest children’s railway. It is a holdover from the country’s communist past. It was closed during the Hungarian Revolution but reopened in 1957.
Our boys were fascinated by the children hard at work. We peeked into the switch board to see children at work and found others managing the station and working as conductors.
My train obsessed kids loved watching the locomotive hook up to our car.
The train runs through the forest and could not be more scenic. We asked other families where they were getting off and followed suit. Jeff had another plan in mind – but when the locals said “go here” we were delighted to follow.
We ended up in Normafa in the Buda Hills. This park was packed with locals. It sports amazing views of Budapest and plenty of local food stands. We got some Lagos and Hot Dogs and had lunch with a view.
Then we walked the length of the park enjoying the stunning views and fall colors.
The colors in this park were unbelievable. We enjoyed leaf peeping while the kids enjoyed running wild with Hungarian children.
Huge trees made perfect hideouts.
The park also sports a huge playground that was perfect. From this playground we could have taken the Children’s Railway back but opted for the more frequent bus back to the metro station instead.
The Hungarian Railway Museum was hosting a festival during our visit which was absolutely incredible. If there is any way for you to coincide your Budapest visit with a festival at the railway museum, make it happen. It is hard for us to know how much of what we did was typical or part of the festivities. You purchase tickets for each activity at the front gate. They were happy to explain to us in English all our options.
The boys of course wanted to ride on the small trains that run around the park. We sent the boys on their own. They said it was fun checking everything out on the train before we walked around to see it.
There is a large playground with several clusters of equipment to play on. The small static railroad cars were, of course, our absolute favorite.
The rails are full of old trains you can check out. Very few of them were available to hop into but there was plenty to look at. This car on rails was one of the kids’ favorite, and later in the day we saw it giving rides! The turntable was running. You were able to hop on and ride it as it did a full rotation.
We did get tickets to ride on the old steam train. You just climb right into the engine and they slowly roll backwards for half a kilometer and then reverse and race back as fast as they can. The kids thought this was incredible. We were inside Thomas! It was dirty, loud and extremely hot.
I rank this ride as one of the most dangerous things we’ve ever done. The kids were inches from a roaring fire. There was NO SPACE. I was standing on hot coal holding a baby. It was fun but I’m not sure I’ll climb inside another steam engine in a foreign country for a while.
We also had the chance to ride on a push car on the rails. As long as everyone kept their hands out of the open gears and stayed away from the holes in the floor it was fine. ha! We were able to roll all the way down the track, reverse and come back. Jeff did most of the work but it was super fun! This is where we got to watch other families board the steam train and race down the tracks. Frankly it looked even more dangerous from outside!
Inside were some displays of model railways to look at. The kids also found a wooden railway track to play on. Despite having these same toys at home, the wooden railway is always a winner.
We ate lunch at the restaurant at the train museum. While we waited for food the kids ran around in the field just outside the restaurant.
They mostly tried to collect berries from this tree to use as currency in their pretend tree house.
The beer was excellent and the food was sufficient. You can likely find better elsewhere but if you’re at the museum and are in need of a meal this is a perfectly acceptable option. Expect mostly fried options.
Prior to our visit I inquired at several of the thermal baths about visiting with kids. Most cautioned that using the thermal baths would be at my own risk with the kids. We ended up trying two different baths with just our Big Little (5) and not messing with taking the littlest ones into the water.
We missed the mark a bit seasonally. Many of the baths have huge outdoor options that are perfect with kids, but they were mostly closed in October, despite the perfect weather.
I took the Big Little to Palatinus Bath on Margaret Island. They had only one of their outdoor pools open. We both enjoyed the warm water in the crisp fall air. They also have a lovely kids pool inside complete with several small slides. We were the only ones in the kids pool making it a super special experience.
The Palatinus Baths outdoor complex is incredible. If you are there when it is all open you could easily spend a day trying everything out. We loved seeing it and added it to our list of things we need to come back to do in a different season.
Jeff and the Big Little were up quite early one morning. They snuck out to Lukacs Thermal Baths, which are included on the Budapest Card and open at 6am. While the rest of us slept they enjoyed some fun swimming in non-touristy baths. They had to don swim caps (for purchase at most baths, and only needed in the swimming pools at the baths) and met many locals but came back raving about their experience.
Public Transport Boat
Since public transport is included with the Budapest Card we opted to take the boat to Margaret Island. (You could also just ride the boat for the view!) The boats have open tops perfect for sightseeing. Many of Budapest sights and bridges are best seen from the Danube. The public transport boat operates roughly hourly so check the schedule online or at any of the numerous stops on both sides of the Danube.
We spent nearly a full day on Margaret Island doing nothing in particular. The fall weather meant the kids loved running down the paths and we enjoyed the walk. The island has a lovely little petting zoo to visit. We have grown to expect these farms in Europe and the kids just love them. This one had a small playground inside, perfect for viewing the animals from above.
The musical fountain was so much fun. Once an hour it performs a water show to music, but it’s captivating even without the music. I could have sat in the chairs here and watched the fountains all day. The boys however wanted to move on.
We rented a Surry bike to see the whole of the island. The problem was finding a bike big enough to fit our folding stroller! We ended up with the largest bike available and threw the stroller in the backseat. (The Little Little rode in the carrier while I peddled.) There are also electric cars you can rent but the bike was just perfect.
There are several monastery ruins to visit on the island. We parked the bike and checked them out. We also stopped at a cafe or two for a bite to eat. There are a few proper restaurants on the north end of the island connected to the hotels. We chose one for lunch and it was good enough.
The Japanese Garden is lovely and quiet, but small. The kids could sense a change when we entered the garden and moved quietly around. They love the bridges, Buddhas and water features. It’s a magical little garden on the island.
Margaret Island also has several playgrounds scattered around. We stopped and visited each one we saw. It was a good way to break up visits to the gardens and ruins.
Other Helpful Information:
The Budapest Local webpage has lots of great information and ideas for your trip. There are so many great lists here that it is a perfect place to start your trip planning.
We did not partake in the great bar scene or even really explore much in town. We usually feel like we’ve checked all the boxes when we’ve left a place, but Budapest in one city I hope to return to and explore further.
I was provided a Budapest City Card in exchange for my review. We were guests of the Aria Hotel in Budapest. Capitol Circus hosted our visit. All opinions are of course my own.