Our very own Budapest Mom and blogger, Jane, a.k.a. Mama Pea Pod, has written up her favorite, kid-friendly spots in Budapest. She’s also doing a fantastic Usborne book give-away here in Hungary, just follow the instructions at the bottom of this Mama Pea Pod blog post.
Do you know what I love most about living in Budapest?
Budapest is a fantastic place for children! There are so many things to do here with little ones!
“Really? More than at home?” you say, in a disbelieving tone.
There are endless children’s programs here, cultural events, community centres bursting with classes and programs for kids of all ages, and they are available in every neighbourhood. There are music, theatre and dance productions for children. There are restaurants equipped with play areas (not fast food restaurants, but actual nice restaurants where you’d be just as likely to go without kids). There are festivals galore.
At home you’d find some private children’s programs in affluent neighbourhoods, with baby music classes and such, and maybe soccer and baseball teams for the older kids. But nothing like the selection of activities available here. And you’d be very hard pressed in North America to find music concerts or dance performances or theatre productions specifically for children, at least not at the kind of professional level you find here.
Why is that? Well, in my opinion, it has to do with the fact that at ‘home’, most people live in their own house with their own yard to play in. They may even have a separate playroom in their house. They have toys galore, both for indoor and outdoor play spaces. They often have their own playground equipment in their yards. Here in Europe, however, most people live in apartment complexes. They don’t have space for playrooms or the amount of indoor and outdoor play equipment you see in North American homes and gardens. There isn’t much space for ‘play dates’ – having your friends come over to play at your house, and run rampant through your family’s apartment, just isn’t as easy.
Instead, there are more community play areas – common gardens with play equipment, plenty of well-equipped playgrounds (where even the sandbox is supplied with toys, and with water stations for hand-washing or filling buckets for water play), and public community centres in every neighbourhood, offering a wide array of children’s classes and programs. And, of course, being Europe, there are more of the cultural arts to be found here – and more cultural arts programs for children, too.
So, what do we like to do here in Budapest? Well, I’ve compiled a little list for you of some of our favourites…
Margit Sziget – sometimes we go just to take a walk through the park, admire the trees, perhaps take a peek at the animals in the little zoo area. Sometimes we go to listen to the musical fountain, then head to the nearby huge playground. And in the summer, we like to go to the Palatinus pools and spend the day lazing on a blanket in the shade, eating ice-cream and taking periodic dips in the pools to cool down.
Zoo – Budapest has a great zoo with lots of animals to see (you can’t miss the adorable baby gorilla and baby orangutans!), but it’s not so huge that you can’t do it in one day, even with little ones. There’s also a great playground there, so be sure to leave some time for that. And for a rainy day, the zoo also has an excellent Játszóház (play house) – it’s through a separate entrance, between the zoo and the circus.
Vadaspark – This wildlife park in Budakeszi features local wildlife from pine martins to wild boar. They’ve even got a couple of bison and, recently, bears. Not sure how local those are – hopefully not very!
Bábszínház – The children’s puppet theatre on Andrássy út puts on some wonderful shows for a range of ages. And it’s really cheap, too! But definitely book ahead as it fills up quickly, particularly on weekdays with school groups. I love that Budapest has a whole, real theatre devoted just to puppet shows!
Vár – The castle is great fun to explore on any day, and there are often festivals going on with even more to offer. Lots to see, do, smell, and taste! And definitely check out the Labyrinth caves underneath the castle – very interesting, and lots of fun for little ones (and big ones!) to explore. There is also a dance theatre in the castle that offers shows specifically for children – I can highly recommend their Peter and the Wolf performance!
Millenaris – Play at the amazing playground at Millenium Park, feed the fish in the coi pond, or check out any of the fantastic events going on – there seems to be something for families just about every weekend, usually with music, vendor stalls, and arts and crafts stations for the kids to explore their creative sides. If it starts to rain, you can head indoors to Mammut Shopping Centre to play with the fountain – there are buttons on the sides that kids can use to adjust the height of the fountain. Our Princess Pea loves it!
Öböl XI Park – this relatively new park in District XI is a great place for little ones to practice riding their bikes and has yet another great playground. When you reach the end, relax for a bit and watch the rowers practicing. Oh, and playing on the grass is strongly encouraged, so bring a ball and/or a picnic blanket.
Normafa – this enormous woodland is a great place for a walk in the woods. Take the road up to the Erzebet Kilato (tower) for amazing views. Or catch the Children’s Railway train from there – there’s even an old steam train you can take if you time it right. Better yet, instead of driving up to Normafa, take the Libego (chairlift) up from Zugligeti ut. The downwards ride offers the best views of the city we’ve seen. (With little ones, be aware that the lift doesn’t slow down for getting on and off, so be prepared to lift them quickly).
This list could go on and on, but hopefully you can get some ideas here.
What are your favourite things to do with your kids in Budapest? I’d love to hear from you! If you have any suggestions to share, please email me at mamapeapodblogger (at) gmail (dot) com!