Hungary’s capital city is widely considered one of Europe’s best travel destinations. While the nightlife, shopping, and culinary scenes are what most travelers associate with Budapest, this is one of Europe’s most family-friendly cities. With many large and accessible parks, museums, and open spaces, there is a wide array of things to do in Budapest with kids of all ages. Considering its scenic beauty and eclectic attractions, Budapest is one of the most affordable destinations in the European Union. This makes a trip to this city a more feasible getaway for families on any budget.
Because this very child-friendly city is split in two by the gorgeous and historic Danube River, there is a great deal of topography and natural beauty in and around Budapest. The Pest side of the river has all of the iconic old-world streets and town squares. The hilly and leafy Buda side has more tranquil energy, perfect for relaxing meals and long walks. The walkable layout of either side of the river makes summer and autumn the best seasons for visiting Budapest. That’s not to mention the Christmas markets and charming medieval architecture that make this city one of the most outstanding family vacations in Europe. And you can always make your visit easier on yourself by dropping off the family's bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Budapest.
Whichever time of year you visit Budapest, you’ll find an astounding number of suitable and enjoyable family-friendly activities. Here are a few of our favorites:
Hungarian Natural History Museum
In a city jam-packed with incredible museums, The Hungarian Natural History Museum (some of the signs might read Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum) is one of Budapest’s best options for children of all ages. You’ll browse an expansive collection of natural and historical artifacts depicting the fascinating Hungarian (or Magyar) culture, which is an underexplored history for most Americans.
Young kids will probably sprint to the interactive exhibits, especially the dinosaurs. The rotating program always has something fresh, but one of the best permanent exhibits is the coral reefs located under a glass floor. Curious children have been known to stare past their feet for hours exploring the wondrous ecosystem of coral reefs. All in all, this is a fun and constructive activity for the whole family.
Like any proper European capital, this family-friendly city has its own iconic castle. The Buda Castle is a wonderful first port-of-call for families with small kids. American and western children treat castles with such a sense of wonder, as the Gothic architecture and fairy-tale setting are total novelties. Located just up the hill from the Danube River near the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Buda Castle overlooks the surrounding area and the beautiful city center across the river.
The complex comes equipped with a funicular, which is a peculiar railway system where small carts are propelled up and down steep hills using cables. These contraptions are rare, so taking advantage of the easy ride offers a fun educational opportunity for the kids. The hill is rather steep, so it is a highly recommended means of transporting younger children up the steep slopes.
Children’s Railway and Hungarian Railway Museum
Locally known as Gyermekvasút, the Children’s Railway was built after the Second World War and was intended as an entertaining and instructional way for children to learn how trains work. This entire railway is under the supervision of adult rail workers but is run by children.
Located in the Buda Hills, this Children’s Railway’s seven stops are a popular way to explore the area, and a convenient way to stop by a few fun attractions. The Challengeland Zip-line and Vasaspark petting zoo are fun activities. The János and Normafa Hills both offer some of the best views in Buda. This is a spectacular way to get out of the bustling city center and take in the natural beauty that surrounds Budapest.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
This is the best way to cram a lot of sightseeing into an afternoon. The Big Bus Tours, which you can find across the street from St. Stephen’s Basilica in the city center, offers an efficient way for newcomers and tourists to effortlessly navigate Budapest. Most importantly, the tours also include entry to a few attractions that you might already have planned to visit.
The relaxed pace of the bus makes it easy for families to keep track of one another, and the electronic tour guide will provide information (in English and a few other languages) that will help you get the most out of your experience. The double-decker bus provides excellent vantage points, and even a nice breeze during the summer months. This is absolutely the better alternative to renting a car and trying to fit everything in while having to look for parking spots.
Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden
First opened in the 1820s, this is one of the earliest zoos in the world and is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful zoological gardens. Throughout the leafy grounds of Budapest Zoo & Botanical Gardens, you’ll find over 1,000 animal species.
Unusual for a zoo of this size and stature, everything is located within Városliget Park not far from the center of the city and the WestEnd Shopping Center (which has a Bounce storage location). Because of its accessibility, over one million visitors descend upon this gorgeous park to feed giraffes and stare wide-eyed at tigers. Popular exhibits are the Great Ape House, Polar Bear Enclosure, Butterfly Greenhouse, Elephant grounds, Koala House, and, of course, a full pride of lions.
Advertised as miniVERSUM Akademie, this one-of-a-kind museum has a vast array of educational exhibits and activities for children 10 and younger. Interactive games and playsets will help kids flex their brainpower in a fun setting. The collection of miniature models depicting landmarks from Hungary, Austria, and Germany is another highlight. The precision with which these models recreate over 5000 characters in Central European castles and cities is remarkable. It will certainly make the kids miss their Legos, and will have them pining to build something as soon as they get home.
This is one of Europe’s largest saltwater aquariums. Its tropical rainforest exhibit has dozens of species, from monkeys and birds to alligators and fishes. There is also a shark tank with an observation deck. Every Thursday there is a (safe) interactive shark feeding activity. It’s located in the city’s outskirts, but there are numerous transportation options including the Budatétény train station that runs from the Pest city center.
Palatinus Thermal Baths
For adults and families alike, the thermal baths of Budapest are one of the most iconic activities in the city. The natural thermal pools that surround the city have been tastefully repurposed for the enjoyment of travelers and tourists to relax for a soak. There are a number of options, including the Palatinus Baths on Margaret Island. This is one of the more popular options, with a dozen pools of natural spring water ranging from frigid to hot temperatures (depending on the time of year and your mood).
There are outdoor and indoor pools, but during the summer months, the outdoor baths are perfect for the whole family to relax and take a dip. The artificial wave outdoor pools at the Palatinus Baths will excite the kids (and maybe even tire them out). This is one of the attractions that is most unique to Budapest, as thermal pools are extremely rare, especially for a larger city. Thermal baths are a quintessential activity in Budapest that feels authentic but keeps the kids engaged while mom and dad can relax for a soak.
Budapest is situated on one of Europe’s most historic and iconic rivers. The Buda and Pest sides of the river both offer distinctive and beautiful views, so taking a cruise on one of the many riverboats is one of the best things to do in Budapest with kids. It offers a nice opportunity to relax, and the sights and sounds will keep kids of any age occupied and engaged. Most river cruises have food and drink options, and some even serve full dinner. Packing a simple snack for a short cruise might be the best and most affordable option.
Centre of Scientific Wonders
On the Buda side near Margaret Island, this interactive entertainment center and science museum is one of the best indoor activities, and perfect for younger kids. The rotating program of exhibits, displays, and attractions will teach kids how to be curious about the natural world. The focus on how to apply lessons learned in a classroom to real-life situations makes this a wonderful indoor activity, and a much-needed tune-up during long summer breaks away from school.
If you’re visiting the Budapest Zoo, it’s more than worth it to tour the surrounding grounds of Budapest’s largest public park. It’s absolutely free and has some of the city’s most beautiful attractions within its confines, just enter through Heroes Square. Want something a little scary? Vajdahunyad Castle is a replica of a Transylvanian castle, where you might have to make up your own stories of vampires and ghosts.
During the colder months, there is an ice skating rink. During the warm weather? The park has its own thermal bathhouse, the Széchenyi Baths. The Municipal/Capital Circus is open year-round. The Vidámpark Amusement Park has a wooden roller coaster and a giant Ferris wheel with some of the best views of Budapest, including the Danube River, Heroes Square, Parliament Building, Buda Castle, and city center. Is your kid a gearhead? The Museum of Transport has a wonderful collection of vintage motorcycles, cars, and carriages. City Park has a full day of fun things to do in Budapest with kids, just don’t forget about the zoo…
Also known as Elizabeth Square, this child-friendly town square is choc-full of fun activities. The Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel has some of the city’s best views. There is a skate park and a number of fountains that make this a lively little park. The central location (just a few minutes' walk from St. Stephen’s) makes this an easy spot to get to, and there are a number of excellent restaurants and bars for lunch and dinner located near Elizabeth Square.
Budapest Puppet Theater
Leave the iPads at the hotel (or nearby Bounce Storage facility at the Oktagon interchange) because beloved children’s stories like Snow White, Cinderella, and King Arthur are all told via puppeteer at this charming Budapest institution. The ornate and wonderfully-crafted puppets are an attraction by themselves. And many performances are in English, and easy enough to understand when performed in Hungarian.
Free Things To Do In Budapest With Kids
Known locally as Margitsziget Park, this island is located smack dab in the middle of Budapest, with parts of the Danube flowing on either side. The accessibility of this island (from just about anywhere in the city) makes this an excellent first stop for getting outside. It’s accessible using the Margaret Bridge and Arpad Bridge, and public transport is readily available to speed you on your way.
There are many amazing activities on offer on Margaret Island, and the most obvious is simply walking around and enjoying the views, sunshine, and fresh air. This might be the best of Budapest’s many amazing free things to do. You’ll be walking past the famous Magic Fountain, which runs throughout the day and is equipped with lights and water jets set to popular and classic music.
Some of the other casual attractions include playgrounds, a sandpit, and bike rentals. Margaret Island also has a petting zoo, with pony rides, a public swimming pool (which is clutch during summer months), and several restaurants and bars for a relaxed and efficient afternoon itinerary. If you find yourself with an early morning to yourself, the running trails and views make for some of Budapest’s best jogging routes or a morning walk.
Central Market Hall / Great Market Hall
This massive indoor marketplace spans multiple levels inside a well-preserved neogothic building in the city center (near the Parliament Building). Throughout the market’s dozens of stands and vendors, you’ll find traditional Hungarian food, clothing, handcrafted gifts, fresh produce, and a number of fun souvenirs. The takeaway options make for a great snack! The Great Market Hall is one of the highest-rated places for shopping in Budapest. So if you have a minute away, check out the racks of vintage and unique clothing.
What Are the Best Family Activities in Budapest?
The best family activities tend to be the free outdoor activities, or the easy ones to get to. The scenic beauty of Budapest cannot be overstated, and there are many fun (and free) activities that will land you with the perfect view of the hills and city center, and the Parliament Building. Take advantage of Budapest’s walkability, because you will find yourself getting to know the city, its architecture, culture, and more. The Children's Railway is another way to pack a lot of sights into a single afternoon.
By far, the must-visit family adventure would be the green space of City Park and the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Not only does this trip allow you to pack a ton of family-friendly action into an afternoon, the attractions are historic and important. Luckily, Budapest has dozens of other family-friendly activities once you’re done with City Park and Zoo. However you choose to spend your time visiting Budapest, just know that Bounce is here to take care of the bags while you explore the gorgeous Hungarian capital.