Budapest may not be the first city you think of when dreaming about a European vacation with kids, but it should make its way to the top of your list. Rich in history, with amazing food, stunning architecture and unique experiences, it is a perfect place to balance culture with relaxation. Its location makes it an appealing option to combine with Vienna, Prague or Croatia, so planning a few days in Budapest is a great way to start exploring the area. Follow this three-day itinerary to make the most of your time.
Recoup from a long travel day with a visit to Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Collectively, these form the largest thermal bath site in Europe, with waters that are warm but not too hot for little ones. Parents will enjoy the healing properties of the thermal waters and spa environment, and kids will love splashing around and playing with bubbles regardless of the season. We recommend reserving ahead of time and bringing bathing suits — they rent them there, but for comfort and fit it will be nice to have your own. Lockers are available.
Refuel at Retro Lángos for a traditional meal of fried flatbread, which will appeal to kids and foodies alike. This street food stand is near a burger stand, so if the kids aren’t ready to try something different they have an easy alternative.
End the day with a riverboat tour of the Danube, a good way to get a brief and engaging history lesson while seeing the beautiful architecture. We love this tour at night — in the winter you see all the beautiful city monuments lit up, and in the summer they have fireworks shows to complement the boat ride. It is a great way to get your bearings while resting weary legs.
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Hopefully you got some rest on your first day, because the second is a perfect day to kick it into high gear. Take a bike tour for a fun way to enjoy Budapest’s great weather and street life. Not only will you learn about the history and culture, but you’ll also see the beautiful buildings up close while experiencing the city like a local. Bike tours in Budapest typically go through smaller roads and on bike paths, but it’s important to check the appropriateness of the tour for younger kids.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, the afternoon is perfect for a cooking class with a tour of the famous Great Market Hall (take note of where the restaurant stands are for an easy lunch tomorrow!). Learn how to make Hungarian classics like gulyás and paprikash as well as sweet treats like Dobos tortes and Somlói galuska and enjoy your well-earned meal family style.
You’ve had a lot of time to enjoy the city center, so today, indulge in fairy tales and castles with a walking tour of Castle Hill (west of the river). This is best done with a guide to learn the fascinating stories of former residents while finding the best viewpoints from the Royal Palace. Stop by the oldest confectionary in Budapest before returning to the city. Head back to Great Market Hall for a lunch that will appeal to everyone. Each family member can choose their favorite restaurant to order from, and you can all eat together in the center. Don’t forget to stock up on paprika to take home and recreate your meal from the previous day.
End the evening with a Ferris wheel ride on Erzsebet Square, and take your time strolling the pedestrian shopping area of Ferenc tér. It’s especially magical if you happen to be traveling in late November through December to enjoy the holiday markets.
An additional day in the area opens up a lot of possibilities for day trips to the countryside or a small neighboring town for a fun change of pace. You can try a wine tour for the adults with space to play for the kids; a visit to Visegrád, where Vlad Tepes (you may know him as “Dracula”) famously was held prisoner; or time in the small town of Szentendre enjoying great food and the fun creations at the Marzipan Museum. Alternatively, add these to the itinerary for your next trip to Budapest, because you will want to come back again and again.
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