Parents’ Travel Guide: What to Do in Budapest
Take a boat ride down the Danube River, spot exotic wildlife at the zoo and explore storied architecture on your next family vacation in this European city.
Scenic, youthful and stylish, with top-notch classical music, steamy thermal baths and buzzing nightlife: Budapest, Hungary, is a gorgeous city nestled in the heart of Eastern Europe. With a dramatic past as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it’s rich with history, culture, stunning architecture and an exciting variety of year-round family activities.
When you travel with young children, it’s lovely to be in a spot that’s not too overwhelming, and Budapest fits the bill for parents. You can take in the major sights in a few days and really feel that you experienced the best of Budapest. And welcoming locals, a pedestrian-friendly downtown and a very efficient tram system make it easy to navigate the city with children.
Standing majestically at the end of the Chain Bridge and overlooking the Danube River, Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest was never an actual palace. But when you step into the stunning Art Nouveau lobby (kids will be enchanted by the soaring gates with a peacock motif), you’ll find it’s easy to pretend you’re royalty.
- Location. Budapest is easy to get to from many European cities. It’s about three hours by train or car from Vienna, or a short flight from Prague or Berlin, yet has its own distinct cultural flavour.
- The lavish architecture. The awe-inspiring structures span hundreds of years and range from detailed Baroque to Neo-Renaissance.
- Great music. The city was home to classical composers such as Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók.
- The Art Nouveau design elements at Four Seasons Budapest. Built in 1906, the building underwent an extensive five-year restoration and modernization in 2004. It features delicious details such as stained-glass floors, a wrought-iron elevator, a huge glass dome and a tile floor made up of 2 million mosaic pieces. Your family will never forget staying in such an elegant Old World setting.
What the kids will love
- The royal treatment. In-room kids’ amenities include fresh-baked chocolate cookies and hot popcorn.
- Swimming in the Hotel’s indoor infinity pool, located on the top floor.
- The staircase. Expect them to try and beat you to the lobby by taking the glorious marble staircase instead of the elevators.
- Honey tasting at the Hotel’s Gresham Restaurant. Hungary is a leading EU honey producer, and Gresham serves and sells delicious varieties from a local apiarist. Kids love the Elderberry and Acacia flavours, while you may prefer the creamed honey, which spreads like butter.
- Chilling on the cosy pull-out sofa in a Park Suite. Spacious and comfy, this lavish space also promises stunning views of the city through floor-to-ceiling windows.
What you will love
- A room with a view. Take in Budapest’s historic Chain Bridge, spanning the Danube River between Buda and Pest.
- Coffee. Budapest is known for its coffee house culture. You even get your own in-room Nespresso maker. Stop in at the historic New York Café, where artists and intellectuals spend the day dining and philosophizing.
- Abundant culture and art. The Museum of Fine Arts is a must. Permanent collections include Greek and Roman antiquities; drawings by masters along the lines of van Gogh, Rembrandt and Manet; and post-1800 works by artists such as Chagall, Gauguin and Rodin.
- Signs of the past. In the Hotel lobby, see if you can figure out which area was used as an entrance for horse-drawn carriages. The building was an insurance company and an upscale apartment complex before it was ravaged during World War II.
- The Hotel’s Gresham Restaurant has a scrumptious Wiener schnitzel, among other delicious local cuisine options, and the tiramisu is out of this world. The menu also includes kid-friendly dishes, such as hamburgers.
- Try the ultimate Hungarian comfort food: goulash at nearby Café Kör.
- The Great Market Hall has three storeys of stalls for meats, produce, prepared foods and souvenirs. A tasty, cheesy, fried-doughy treat called lángos is not to be missed. (Get there by 11:00 am and avoid the lunch crowd.)
5 family to-dos
1. A boat ride on the Danube River. You get a whole different view of the city.
2. Cycling. Rent four-wheeled “bikes” that seat four to get around Margaret Island, where no vehicles are allowed. On this beautiful, 2.6-kilometre (1.6-mile) island park in the middle of the Danube, you and your kids can climb around on the ruins of an old church or visit a tiny petting zoo.
3. The Budapest Zoo. It’s one of the oldest zoos in the world and today is a conservation workhouse with programmes to promote the survival of endangered species. Right next door is the Budapest Circus, home to its own troupe of performers.
4. Take a history lesson. You’ll feel as if you’ve travelled back in time in the Castle Hill area, where you can visit icons such as the Royal Palace (also known as Buda Castle), the medieval Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Hungarian National Gallery.
5. Go on a castle tour. A visit to Vajdahunyad Castle, located in City Park and designed in 1896 to show off the variety of architectural styles from Hungary’s history, is like several tours in one. Facing the park is a statue of an anonymous cloaked monk. Little is known about him, except that he penned the first book of the history of the Hungarians, the Gesta Hungarorum, but legend has it that touching the pen the statue holds will make you wise and help you with your studies.