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  • Writer's pictureKristin

10 Family Friendly Things to do in Budapest

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Budapest is such an iconic European city full of museums, great architecture and just general ambiance. We enjoyed our 11 day stay in Budapest – we decided to keep it as a central base. Our first 4 days were dedicated to the Hungarian Grand Prix, one day we went out to visit Szentendre and then the remaining six days we explored Budapest at a casual speed. You could definitely explore Budapest faster, but one week would definitely do it justice. Even in our 6 days we didn’t get to see everything, but taking time for the kids to play and explore factored quite a bit into that.

These are 10 Family Friendly Activities in Budapest:

Buda Castle & District

As you look at the Buda side of the Danube River it’s hard to miss the Buda Castle and District, as it takes up a big section of the hillside. This Castle was initially built in 1265 for Hungarian kings in Budapest and the area was just expanded upon over the years. The architecture is intriguing, the views are amazing and there is lots to see as you explore the district.

Buda Castle & District from the Bridge

There are several ways to get to the top, including some escalators, elevators and pathways at various points. However, one of the more popular ways is the Buda Castle Funicular. It is definitely the tourist way to get to the top – it was 1500 HUF (about $5 USD) per adult and 700 HUF ($2.50 USD) for children. The ascension to the top was only about less than a minute up and to be honest, the views are probably better from the top than from within the funicular. But it’s one of the iconic Budapest things to do.

The rest of the Buda Castle & District is open and no charges associated with it. There are a variety of buildings, monuments and fountains you can see along the way, so I’d just make sure to check a map prior to setting out to make sure you cover the areas you want to see. (We actually headed back to the Buda Castle District for a second time as we missed some spots on the first visit.)

Holy Trinity Square, St. Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion are all located within the same square and definitely worth checking out. St. Matthias Church is breathtaking and the ornate roof is unique and beautiful. There are tours that take you inside the church but they were a little more than we were looking to spend, so we decided to forego and just enjoy the views from the outside. You can also walk along the walls of Fisherman’s Bastion, which offer amazing views of the Danube River and the Pest side of the city, including an Eagle’s eye view of the Parliament Building.

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
Trinity Square & St. Matthias Church - Budapest, Hungary

Further to the east side of the Buda Castle District there is Buda Tower. This used to be St. Mary Magadalene Church, but it was destroyed over the years and today just the bell tower remains and then the ruins of the church walls. As a family we were able to go up for just 600 HUF (about $2 USD)/person to get a view of the Buda Castle District.

Buda Tower

Cave Church & Gellert Hill Park (Citadella)

Also on the Buda side of the river and close to where we were staying was Gellert Hill Park. At the western side of the base of the hill was a Cave Church, which the church was built into the side of the rockface – it was pretty amazing. Inside the church the sanctuary and other areas were built within the cave walls. Because of the thermal springs that runs through the cave, the temperature inside the cave church remains at a consistent 20 C throughout the year.

After checking out the church we hiked up Gellert Hill to the Citadella. The ascent was pretty steep, but there was an amazing playground built into the hillside along the way to help break it up. There were also various viewpoints that you could stop at for views over the Danube River and the Pest side of the city.

Views from Gellert Hill - Budapest

Our timing was a bit off as when we reached the top the Citadella with the Liberty statue it was closed due to refurbishments. The city is doing various refurbishments across the city from 2020-2022, including the infamous Chain Bridge, which had it closed during our visit as well. The Liberty Statue was placed at the top of the hill after WWII as a symbol of peace over the city.

Citadella on top of Gellert Hill - Budapest

Then on the east side at the base of Gellert Hill there is a series of pathways and staircases that are along the hillside with a waterfall in the middle of it.

Great Market Hall

The largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest is here in the central part of the city. It was built in 1896 and today still is a functioning market. The architecture of the hall is one of the more impressive parts, but the ground floor still sells produce and other food goods for many locals and the 1st floor is more for tourists and sells souvenirs, etc. The ground floor also has several vendors who sell paprika, as main staple of Hungrian cuisine. The market is open Monday-Saturdays, but closed on Sundays. We visited on a Monday morning and found that it seemed pretty quiet, except in the row with the fresh fruits and vegetables. Several of the vendor booths also seemed to be shut down, which might be from the effects of Covid, although that would just be my speculation.

Margaret Island

This island is located in the middle of the Danube River between the Buda and Pest sides and is accessible by a Y-shaped bridge that brings people from both sides of the city to it. The island is also closed off to vehicles; although there is a city bus that goes through the island. We found lots of locals enjoying the space. On the island there are recreational facilities, a small zoo, a botanical garden, a thermal pool, ruins, lots of green space and a rubber running track that goes around the entire perimeter of the island. In other words, there is no shortage of things to do. We decided to rent one of the GoCarts, which is the 4-person bicycle, for an hour and explore around the island, which seemed to be the best alternative versus having the kids walk the entire island and complain about it. The cost wasn’t too bad – only about 4100 HUF (about $14 USD/hr).

Thermal Bath – Palatinus Strand Thermal Bath

There are an abundance of thermal pools in Hungary and it’s one of the top things do while in Budapest. There are the iconic and popular thermal pools – Gellert Thermal Bath and Szechenyi Thermal Bath – that look amazing! However, all the thermal pools post that it isn’t recommended for children 14 years old and younger to go in them; although they don’t prohibit it. But the price is definitely up there – we had about 90 minutes one night and checked out the Gellert Thermal Bath, but it was going to cost about $70 for the four of us to go inside. Therefore, because of the time limit, not really planning to spend a ton of time in the thermal pool and the high cost, we opted to not go there. Instead, we decided to go to Palatinus Strand Thermal Bath on Margaret Island for the afternoon. They had a wide variety of options including a wave pool, slides, a children’s play area and several thermal pools that had ranging temperatures. We went on a partly cloudy day and the warm water felt perfect! The kids also enjoyed it more, with the wave pool being a big hit. The outdoor area was so expansive that it didn’t feel crowded at all and it only cost $25-30 for the entire family and an unlimited time frame.

Buda Hill

Buda Hill is located towards the outskirts of the city, but it offered a whole day worth of entertainment. We drove there, but you can also access via city transportation, but it would involve some transfers if staying centrally. However, there is also the ability to catch the cog-wheel railway (Tram 60) to get up to the train station. It is basically a park on a hill that offers a wide selection of hiking paths and mountain biking paths, playgrounds and several lookout towers as it offers an excellent view of Budapest below. There are a couple different ways you can access the top of Buda Hill – either via the chairlift, hiking to the top (it looked steep though!) or via the Children’s Railway.

We knew the kids wouldn’t be pleased walking up or down so we had purchased a round-trip chairlift ticket to take us to the top. The chairlift offered as great of views of Budapest as the lookout tower did, especially on the way down.

Buda Hill Chairlift - Budapest

The Children’s Railway was another interesting relic to enjoy at Buda Hill. This is the largest Children’s Railway in the world (almost 12 km long) and the railway is mostly run by children ages 10-14. The children perform the tasks of selling and taking tickets, giving signals and even flipping switches. The only thing they don’t really do is operate the train engines. The Children’s Railway originated in 1948 and it is one of the only pleasant reminders of the Soviet era. The children were part of the railway and it was used to reinforce values of work and encourage them to take jobs in transportation later on in life. However, the wardrobe of the kids and the salutes they gave as they arrived and departed stations felt very soviet era.

There are two stops that you can access the Railway at the bottom of Buda Hill – you can park and get on the train there. Then there are either one-way or round-trip ticket options. However, we ended up taking the chairlift up and then just getting on the train partway through its journey. It worked out well but in hindsight it might have been more economical to take the train up to the high point, do the chairlift (if needed) and then finish the train ride. We wanted to do the full train round trip train ride, so we ended up having to pay for a round-trip ticket + a 1-way ticket. Luckily under 6 years old was free and it wasn’t too expensive. For ticket prices and information, check here.

There are a variety of lookouts to choose from – the map from the Children’s Railway listed about 4 or 5. However, we visited the Erzsebet Lookout Tower and got some great views of the surrounding area.

Danube River Cruise

The river cruise is a pretty iconic thing to do and we can see why. We decided to do an evening cruise starting at 8 p.m. so could get the night time views of the Parliament building and the surrounding areas. The cruise we went on lasted 90 minutes and adults were given a complimentary wine or beer on the cruise.

Budapest Tram Rides

Several of the trams in Budapest are the older version and add an iconic feel to the city. The #2 Tram actually follows along the river on the Pest side and offers some great views of the river, city and the Parliament Building all for 350 HUF ($1.25 USD)/person.


If looking for something for kids to just be kids, we found Minipolisz, which was a great activity for the kids on a rainy day. The centre is set up with about 30 different stations where kids can act out different real-life activities such as making pizza at a pizzeria, visiting a hotel or bank, picking apples at an ‘orchard’, shopping at a grocery store or mini-mart for goods, fixing a car on a lift, driving a tram, putting out a ‘fire’ with a water hose, being a dentist or veterinarian and so much more! The shopping was definitely a hit for Clara as she could select the items, put them in her cart and then scan them at the check out herself. She even got a receipt at the end of the transaction. Connor also enjoyed shopping, but really liked the city traffic centre where he rode around a strider bike, watched for traffic signals and pretended to get gas at the pump.

We had barely even walked out the door and the kids were asking if we could come back the next day.

Budapest Playgrounds

We were super impressed with the variety and uniqueness of the playgrounds in Budapest. We never came across two similar playgrounds and often they would have some sort of unique theme to them. We visited a ship playground at Olimpia Park along the river, a pencil playground (made to look like colored pencils), a castle playground near Fisherman’s Bastillion in the Buda Castle District and the Slide Playground along the hillside of Gellert Park. This last playground offered about 5 different slides off the side of a hill. Even adults were stopping to join in on the fun.

On our last day in Budapest we were talking about how it was our last day and Clara commented that she’ll miss the city. When I asked her why, she commented that they had the best playgrounds! I would have to agree – there were some pretty amazing ones!!

These ten family friendly activities were a great way to explore all that Budapest had to offer and it seemed to be just the right variety to keep us engaged throughout our visit.

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