We only write about destinations we have personally visited with our family. This post contains affiliate links. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to UNICEF.
We are grateful to the Budapest Festival & Tourism Centre for their generosity during our visit. All opinions are our own.
Budapest is a very child-friendly city. We had the good fortune to visit Budapest for four days with our 2 year old son and 4 year old daughter. Budapest had everything we hope for in a city; beautiful outdoor spaces, excellent food, good playgrounds and amazing culture.
Here is how we spent our 4 days in Budapest with small children, we hope you get some inspiration for your trip:
THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN BUDAPEST
Citadella & Gellert Hill
As we like to do on our first day in a new city, we found a park with good views. This easy activity gives us a chance to ease into the city, get some fresh air and exercise and allows us to get our bearings from up high. We left Pest on foot by crossed the Danube River on the Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd). Once we got to the Buda side, we needed to take stairs down to go through a tunnel to cross a major roadway and get to the entrance of Gellert Hill.
To enter the lush, well-treed Gellert Hill park, you take a set of stairs upwards and soon you begin walking along well treed pathways. The trails are typically short, ending with a choice of two new trails; if your destination is the Citadella, try to choose the trail going left and/or the trail going uphill.
With a little luck, your path will take you to the impressive St. Gerard of Csanád Monument, for whom this hill was named after (he was killed on this hill in 1046). Complete with a row of Roman pillars behind the statue, this monument also gives an early glimpse of the views of Budapest which await you.
Climbing higher and higher, you will eventually get to the top where the Citadella resides. The Citadella was built in 1851 in response to the Hungarian Revolution which occurred a few years prior. This imposing military structure occupies the entire plateau of the hill and makes a great place to walk around to enjoy the excellent views of the beautiful city below. Although the public is no longer allowed inside, a visit to the massive Liberty Statue also makes the trip to the top of Gellert Hill worthwhile.
To reward our kids for their great walking efforts in the morning, we took them to a playground in the park to located just SW of the Citadella. The walk through the park was enjoyable, with thousands of flowers blooming in creatively shaped flower beds. The playground itself is one of the best playgrounds I have ever seen and is worth the trip if you are travelling with little ones. This playground features giant pencil crayons, which kids just love to climb all over. There is also a kid sized hamster wheel (really!), a tiny one person trampoline, and all the other playground classics you’d expect (swings, slides, etc).
The kids were really sad to leave this playground, but eventually we had to get home for lunch and naps. We used our hiking app to find a different path through Gellert Hill, giving us some fresh scenery and different viewpoints of the city and river below.
St. Stephens Basilica and the Shoes on the Danube
Our first stop of the afternoon was St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika). This beautiful church was completed in 1905 and is the third biggest church in Hungary. The real reason we wanted to visit the church was to climb the 302 steps up the bell tower (can you tell we like climbing things?). Our 4 year old daughter was able to climb the whole way herself, and our 2 year old son did quite well, needing only a little help.
Halfway up, they give you a little break as you enter a room with some religious artwork. The art on display during our visit seemed quite modern and was actually really cool – I didn’t expect that!
Near the top of the climb, you enter a chamber just under the very top of the dome. This is a very cool spot where you get the sense for how big the dome really is. The outdoor viewing platform wraps all the way around the dome. It’s a little tight for space up there, but there are larger balcony areas where people congregate to take selfies, etc. The views of the city are amazing and make the climb to the top worthwhile.
After we got back down to ground level, we took a few minutes to walk through the Basilica. Despite there being a lot of people inside, everyone was being very quiet except for our 2 year old son, who was being very loud. We kept our visit brief in order to get him out of there.
Next we wandered over to the eastern shore of the Danube and walked north along the nice pathway which parallels the river until we reached the Shoes on the Danube Bank. This chilling memorial honors the Jews who were shot and killed at the edge of the water. Prior to being shot, they were ordered to take off their shoes, so all that was left on the shores of the river were their shoes. This important memorial is a must-see while in Budapest.
Continuing north along the river pathway, we passed Budapest’s massive and beautiful Parliament Building. We’re not really interested in visiting stuff like the parliament buildings, so we simply kept walking and admired it from the outside. If you are interested, you can take tours of the building, but you should book your tour ahead of time as same-day tickets are limited.
Margaret Island is found in the Danube River just north of the Parliament buildings. The island is 1.5 miles (2.5km) long and is green space from tip to tip. There is a walking and jogging track alongside the river which circles the island and there are plenty of quiet pathways found in the interior as well.
We got off the #4 tram at the south end of the island. It was 8:30 am and there weren’t many people around outside of locals out for their morning jog. We started our walk along the eastern shore. We walked at the kid’s pace as we weren’t in a hurry and soon turned inland and continued our walk towards the mini-zoo.
We arrived at the zoo before it opened, but it wasn’t a big deal as we could see all the animals through the fence. It’s a small facility, so it didn’t take long. The kids liked the peacocks, bunnies and the ducks. I thought the Imperial Eagle was a majestic bird.
We knew Margaret Island had a fountain which puts on water shows to music and we wanted the kids to see it. There are maps of the island around the park and they showed the “Musical Fountain” near the very northern tip, so we picked the kids up to try to get there in time for the next show, which begin on the hour. We stopped to explore the ruins of a nunnery (where Margaret herself once lived), before walking through a pretty gardens of flowers and a Japanese Garden on our way to the fountain.
When we arrived at the Musical Fountain, we were confused; it did not look like the pictures we had seen online… After a quick Google search on our phones, we realized that the one we were looking for was simply labelled “Fountain” on the park map… groan…
Not all was lost as there was a nice playground near the northern fountain, so we let the kids play there for a little while and have a snack before we jumped on the #26 bus to the south end of the island. After getting off the bus, we had 5 minutes to find the fountain before the next show. We got there just in time, to find fences all around it, with burly repair guys hard at work. Sigh… that would have been nice to know… In any case, to avoid any confusion during your visit, here is where the good musical fountain is located.
By this time we were ready to go find some lunch. There are plenty of other fun things to do on Margaret island with kids, like rent family bikes for up to four people, or golf carts, the zoo has pony rides, etc. This is a great place to come and escape the noise of the city to enjoy some family time in nature.
Fiume Road Graveyard
After naps and snacks we hopped on the M2 Metro for two stops and then walked 8 minutes to the Fiume Road Graveyard (Fiumei úti sírkert). I know what you are thinking… a graveyard?!?! Yup – a graveyard. There are a few graveyards in the world which are worth a visit: the Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires, the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb and I would dare add this one to the list.
It was a very hot day in April with temperatures hovering around 28C, so we wanted something in the shade and the Fiume Road Graveyard fit the bill perfectly. This peaceful, tree-lined cemetery is a great place for a very interesting afternoon walk. The plots are filled with the who’s who of Budapest’s past; the gravestones are amazing and are worth a visit. Tourists are welcome here and they even hand out free maps at the main gate. This is a common place for locals to come walk, so why not join them for an interesting afternoon outing?
We arrived in Buda by crossing the landmark Chain Bridge from Pest. We skipped the funicular and opted to take the nice, treed walk up the stairs to the top. The walk wasn’t too hard and our kids were able to make the climb no problem.
Once at the top, we headed up Disz ter, the main commercial street on Castle Hill. It was around 9:30am and this charming shopping street was still pretty empty. One great thing about traveling with small kids is the early starts to the day allow you to beat the crowds, although most of the stores and restaurants were closed, so pick your poison…
Before long, we arrived at the square which is home to two incredibly beautiful buildings, the Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom) and Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya). We started with Fisherman’s Bastion by climbing the stairs on the south side of the complex. The views from this magnificent building, which overlook the Danube and Pest beyond, are amazing. It was good to get here early as the crowds were starting to noticeably build over the course of our visit. This allowed us to get at least a few pictures without anyone else in them. If possible, we recommend you get here very early as well. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk of the southern part of the complex, but we were unable to visit the north complex due to some ongoing renovations.
Before visiting the church, we took a short snack break on some benches in the shade in a little park just south of the church. A Gothic masterpiece built in the 14th century, the Matthias Church is just as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. It’s a pretty small church, so your visit should be pretty quick unless you stop and linger in the museum sections of the church.
After visiting the church, we escaped the rapidly growing crowds by walking towards the Buda Castle via a charming pedestrian-only street on the west side of Castle Hill called Tóth Árpád stny. This street is lined with trees and offers good views of the city of Buda beyond.
We ended our morning walk with the Buda Castle, an enormous building dating back to the 1700’s. We didn’t have time (nor interest, to be honest) to go in for a visit, but we were very impressed by the building as we walked past.
Heroes’ Square and City Park
Heroes’ Square is part of Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage listing and is the largest and most important square in Budapest. The square is largely empty (making it great for kids who love to run around), with the exception of a series of very impressive statues at the NE end. The central statues honor the seven chieftains who led the Magyar tribes to Hungary, while the outer statues within the columns honor kings and other important historical figures.
We continued our walk into City Park. The kids had two little Frisbees with them, so they immediately ran to a patch of grass to start throwing and chasing them. They would have played that forever, so we eventually had to stop them to continue our walk through the park. The kids noticed a decent playground near the entrance to the park, so we walked over and let them play for a while. We had a better playground in mind for later, so before long we continued our walk. City Park is very big and you could walk for hours, but we spent so much time playing, we didn’t have much time to walk; that’s ok, parks are for playing. We slowly circled the southern part of the lake, enjoying excellent views of Vajdahunyad Castle along the way.
We finally ended up at this great playground suggested to us by our friends at Budapest Tourism. It was hidden away down a little alley, but worth the find!
Great Market Hall and Memento Park
This morning we started our day by walking to the Great Market Hall. Dating back to 1896, the Great Market Hall is Budapest’s largest indoor market. Set in a massive building which resembles an old train station, the market is spread over three floors. The kids loved running from stall to stall on the main floor pointing out the types of brightly colored produce stacked neatly for sale. When we reached the far end of the building, we climbed the stairs to the top floor, which is home to many takeout food shops and souvenirs.
The Hungarian food on display here looked so appetizing, we were literally drooling, but it was too early in the morning to eat it. What we ended up ordering was a fun twist on a traditional Hungarian food – we ordered a chocolate Langosh, which was topped with Nutella, a sugary cocoa powder, slivered almonds and chocolate sauce. It was a little pricey for what it was, but it sure was delicious and the kids loved it!
Next we hopped on the nearby #4 Metro and transferred to the 150 bus on our way to Memento Park. Small problem… we got on the 150 bus going the wrong direction! D’oh! Once we realized our error, we hopped off, walked across the street and jumped on the next 150 that came by. Problem solved, we arrived at Memento Park with no further issues and thankfully both our kids enjoy riding the bus. If you don’t feel like taking the bus, try a private tour with a pickup from your hotel.
Memento Park is a very unique, open-air museum which is home to many monumental statues from Hungary’s 50 year communist period, which ended in 1989. Most countries destroy statues of this nature after a revolution, so we are lucky that Hungary had the sense to save these pieces of history.
Memento Park is reasonably small with 42 pieces of art on display. You will easily recognize the famous communists like Lenin and Marx, but the rest of the subjects are interesting too. The kid’s favorite (and mine too) was the 6 meter tall red army soldier holding a machine gun and a hammer-and-sickle flag. This statue used to reside at the top of Gellert Hill. Our visit here took around 45 minutes. I doubt the kids thought this was the most fun they’ve ever had, but a little history never kills them every now and then.
Ahhhh…. we pushed the kids pretty hard since we arrived in Budapest, but we managed to see everything that was on our list. With a few big travel days to Croatia ahead of us, we decided to stay at home and let the kids have a quiet afternoon at our Airbnb, playing with their toys and watching cartoons on Netflix. When travelling with small kids, giving them time to have a ‘normal’ morning or afternoon every now and then is essential for their mental health. We find this recharges their energy and their attitudes and is always time well spent.
We had an exceptional time in Budapest with our kids. We hope you find some good ideas and inspiration in our itinerary. Let us know how your trip goes!