Budapest is an amazing city and surprisingly very family-friendly. We hadn't been to Hungary before so we did a lot of research beforehand and asked some friends for tips on what our kids would like. When we travel with kids we prefer to get the feel of a city, wander, and explore rather than just check off a "To Do" list, but, of course, we had to fit in some of the iconic sites too. We hope this list will be helpful to you on your own adventure to Budapest with kids.
1. Wander the Castle District. The castle district of the city is full of sights and attractions. We hiked the hill up to Buda Castle (the Funicular was under construction while we were there) and stopped along the way to look over the Pest side of the city and at the Danube. My husband took the shorter staircase up to the top with our two oldest daughters while I pushed a stroller the long way around. In the castle district some of the sights you can visit Buda Castle, the Labyrinth, Fisherman's Bastion, Holy Trinity Square, and the Mattias Church. We hiked up to watch the sunset over the Danube from the Castle District and it was breathtaking.
2. Visit the Great Market Hall. Budapest's largest indoor market is a great place to buy souvenirs, taste local cuisine, and sight-see. The lower level of the hall mostly has produce, meat, and paprika vendors and the second level consists of shops selling arts and crafts and embroidery. The second level is also a good place to grab cheap Hungarian food. The basement is more of a supermarket and also where you can find fishmongers, spices, and pickles. We picked up a few souvenirs here and walked around tasting local cuisine that looked good to us. Our three-year old didn't last long inside because she wanted to touch everything, but our older girls had fun exploring this expansive market.
3. Stop at some playgrounds. We cannot say enough about the playgrounds in Budapest. We found them everywhere and they were wonderful. We especially liked the ones that were fenced in. Our favorite playground was just across the street from Erzebet Square on the way towards St Stephen's Basilica on Oktober 6th Street. We also loved the Olimpia Park playground near the Parliament.
4. Take a break in Erzsebet Square. This square is the largest green area in inner city Budapest. It was named after the wife of the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. The main attractions are the Danube fountain the middle of the square, the Design Terminal, and the Budapest Eye (Ferris wheel). It is also home to many cultural events and has a playground that our kids enjoyed. Our apartment was just a block from here and we loved wandering through and people watching. We also quite enjoyed the views of Budapest at night from the top of the Budapest Eye.
5. Enjoy the architecture of Parliament. The Hungarian Parliament is one of the iconic buildings in Budapest and it was built in the Gothic revival style. It lies on the Danube and it is the largest building in Hungary and the tallest building in Budapest. The best views of the building are from a Danube river tour. Guided tours are available of the building and you can also visit the Hungarian Crown Jewels. We enjoyed watching the changing of the guards outside the building and visiting the Lapidarium. We didn't take a guided tour on our latest visit.
6. Soak in the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. One of our highlights of our trip was visiting the thermal baths. I took my older daughters (ages 5 and 7) and left our 3-year-old with her dad because I was worried she might be too young for the baths and she isn't completely potty trained. After buying our tickets, renting a cabana (private changing room), renting towels, and changing into our swim suits we were ready to explore the baths. We mostly stayed in the larger baths outside because they were warm but not too hot for kids. We also explored some baths inside (paying close attention to the temperature readings) and soaked in some for a few minutes. I encouraged my kids to relax but not be too rowdy in the baths since most people were there to soak without distractions. We had a great time and wish we had been able to stay longer. The baths are located in City Park.
7. See the sights on a Danube River tour. We did a Hop On/Hop Off Bus tour in Budapest and it came with an evening boat tour of the Danube. It was a 60 minute ride along the Danube where we learned about the history and architecture of the buildings and bridges we passed. We didn't take our kids on the boat tour, although they would've enjoyed it. It did get a little chilly so we'd suggest dressing warmly. We took the boat tour that was closest to sunset and it was fun to watch the sunset across the city.
8. Step into history at the Budapest Zoo. While we soaked in the thermal baths my husband took our younger daughter to the nearby Budapest Zoo. The Budapest Zoo is one of the oldest in the world. It has 1,072 animal species and is located in City Park. Our daughter was especially enchanted with the hippopotamus, but apparently they also have a Komodo dragon and a wombat. Before arriving in Budapest we'd heard a lot of people telling us to visit the zoo and we don't usually visit zoos in other cities, but this one didn't disappoint.
9. See the mummified hand at St Stephen's Basilica. We might have visited St. Stephen's Basilica three times while we were in Budapest because our kids were obsessed with seeing the mummified right hand of Stephen (the first King of Hungary). The church is beautiful and decorated in the neo-classical style. Visitors can climb 364 stairs to the dome of the church to see amazing views of Budapest (there is also an elevator). We would definitely recommend stopping by this church and maybe grabbing a gelato nearby (see below).
10. Eat, a lot. We were surprised at how wonderful the food was in Budapest. We loved the traditional Hungarian dishes at restaurants we went to and also stumbled upon the Budapest Spring Fair where we got to try a variety of specialties. When we made our "To Do" list for Budapest we also had a "To Eat" list and we included the following foods on our list: Goulash, Langos, Rakott, Rantott, Dobos Torta, and Turo Rudi. Of course we tried some other things too. We also found some gelato we liked at Gelarto Rosa and donuts at Mr. Funk (sometimes we crave American food when we travel for a long time). Definitely spend some time trying food when you wander the streets of Budapest!
We hope you enjoy these "To Do" activities in Budapest. Let us know if you have any favorite activities that we missed!