Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
So many of Budapest’s attractions are suitable for children, you will hardly need to tweak your plans to ensure the whole family is satisfied. Here are a few family-friendly suggestions for making the most of your visit.
Even young children will be impressed by the grandeur of the city’s famous baths. Széchenyi and Gellért are perfect for all-weather fun, with multiple indoor and outdoor pools. Gellért has a wave pool and Széchenyi has a whirlpool. Dagály and Palatinus Strand have vast lawns for lounging or playing in the sun.
Budapest’s children’s dance houses have instructors who will put your kids through their traditional paces to a soundtrack of live folk music. Check the calendar at the Budavár Cultural Centre and the Municipal Cultural House for upcoming shows.
The marionette and puppet shows at the Budapest Puppet Theatre will mesmerise your little ones regardless of the language barrier. Shows designed for children are performed twice daily.
At Széchenyi-hegy, you can board the narrow-gauge children’s railway, Gyermekvasút. Built in 1951 by pioneers, the line is now staffed almost entirely by schoolchildren aged 10 to 14. The little train chugs along for 12km, terminating at Hűvösvölgy. Departure times vary depending on the day of the week and the season - consult the website - but there is usually one every hour or so between 9 am and 6pm. The line is closed on Mondays from September to April.
When the sugar levels start to drop, head to one of Budapest’s ubiquitous cukrászdák (pâtisseries). Hungarians love sweets and pastries such as Dobos torta, a layered chocolate and cream cake with a caramelised brown sugar top, and piték (fruit pies). These are usually consumed mid-afternoon, a perfect time to revive flagging spirits. For a classic Budapest treat take the kids to Centrál Kávéház, which has been satisfying sweet teeth since 1887.
Millennium Park is an attractive landscaped complex, comprising fountains, ponds, little bridges, a theatre, a gallery and, for kids, the wonderful Palace of Wonders. It is an interactive playhouse for children of all ages, with smart toys and puzzles, most of which have a scientific bent. Next door in building B is the House of the Future Exhibition, which hosts some unusual shows for kids.
Fun at the fair
Funfair Park is situated on 2.5 hectares and dates back to the mid-19th Century. There are a couple of dozen thrilling rides, including the heart-stopping Ikarus Space Needle, the looping Star roller coaster (alongside a vintage wooden one from 1926), the Hip-Hop freefall tower, go-karts and a carousel built in 1906.
Where the wild things are
If the children are getting beastly, it is best to visit the City Zoo and Botanical Garden. This large zoo and garden, which opened with 500 animals in 1866, has a good collection (big cats, hippopotamuses, polar bear, giraffe), but most visitors come for a glimpse of the calves born to Lulu the white rhinoceros.
Also have a look at the Secessionist animal houses built in the early part of the 20th Century, such as the renovated Elephant House with pachyderm heads in beetle-green Zsolnay ceramic, and the Palm House with an aquarium erected by the Eiffel Company of Paris.