Fret not, my friends. For there are plenty, plenty, plenty of things to do in the city. Both in Buda and Pest. You didn’t think Budapest is just one big city did you? Well, it is and it isn’t. Here’s a little bit of history:
Budapest was a tale of two cities from the opposite side of the danube that merged into one circa 1872. Buda is located on the west side of the river with hilly terrains with streets that are cobbled, winding and narrow. It is also the greener part of the city, almost fairy-tale like.
Pest is on the east side of the river. It is much busier since it is the urban center of the city. It is where the trains run (along with the oldest subways in the world is found; still in working order) and where culture, arts, parks, spas, shopping and the various types of eats can be found. It’s always busy yet extremely vibrant.
Either part of the city is a great choice to spend your night(s). It is also relatively easy to get from places to places and as well as crossing over Buda to Pest and/or vice versa. This can be done via a very well-connected public transport with pre-paid passes, the tourist Shuttle-Castle buggy service or if you feel like a little work-out, on foot up (or down) the winding hills.
7 days in Budapest sounded like a stretch staying put at one place when you have kids with ants in their pants. The duration though was just about right for us yet we still didn’t get to do all the things that we could do. I assure you that we were barely scratching the surface when it comes to places of interest.
It was almost impossible to get bored.There was always something to do, places to explore, venues to check out and ice-creams to eat.
With so very many places easily accessible in and around Budapest, here’s our round-up of family-friendly places to see and do:
1 – Visit the Hungarian Fair and watch fireworks from the top of the hill on Saint Stephen’s Day
It turned out that Hungary celebrated its foundation of the Hungarian State of more than 1000 years ago on the 2nd day of our stay in the city. We were caught by surprise with the grandeur of the day and what a lovely day it was to be walking about.
We joined in the street food festival that was only filled with local delights, bought and touted over by locals. As if to welcome our visit to the beautiful country, we were honoured with a full half hour of amazing fireworks display from the top of the hill.
The showdown was mere minutes away from our hotel and at 9pm (!) we dragged the kids down to the castle area and watched the fireworks from across the danube. One of the best we have ever seen.
2 – Walkabout on the Castle grounds
Yes. That easy. It also happened to be a bloody hot day, so all we wanted to do was sit in the shade, eat some ice-creams and quench our thirsts. The kids had fun mucking about and we got to chill.
3 – Spend a day at the Budapest Zoo
Don’t underestimate the zoo. We did. We thought it was just going to be a couple of hours from “the looks” of it. Nothing of that.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like it was the most spectacular zoo ever. It has its downside (some parts were really old) and its merits. The biggest thing about this zoo was that it covered such a huge ground that we ended up spending the whole day over there. There was no way you could do it in a few hours.
And oh! bring your own bottled water. Not only are the bottled water expensive, it came with only GLASS bottle. The size of a liter. I kid you not.
4 – Ride soviet-era escalators and trains
This ain’t no ordinary escalator. This is a scary, creaky, extremely steep 45 degree angle soviet-era escalator that came straight out of the 1940s. They were pretty fast too and offered a loooooong ride up (or down). The “jagged teeth” on the steps of the escalators looked intimidating and quite a tad bit and screamed ancient.
It is not by choice, mind you. Those scary things are installed in the underground train stations and one has no other alternatives but to ride in them to get to the trains. The trains though, were pretty cool looking. Just as creaky.
Riding in one of those sent shivers down my spine. It was hard to look back.
5 – Ride the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular
Tired of walking up the hill? Take the Furnicular to the Castle Hill. It’s only a short 3 minutes ride and a very touristy thing to do. Granted, we would not have taken the ride if not for the kids nagging day after day after day.
And day after day, after day we had to postpone the ride up or down because the queue was just too long. The sun was just too hot for us to be standing around to wait for our turn so each day, we delayed the ride. Until one evening…and we were just in time to catch the 2nd last ride up.
There were only 6 other people in the queue.
If I remember it right, it cost us about 1200 HUF for 1 adult and 700 HUF per kid. That was a total of 12 Euros for the entire family. Not exactly a cheap ride. But at least the kids got their thrill. I was not so sure what the fuss was all about!
6. Go to the Center of Scientific Wonder (CSOPA)
That’s the first interactive Science Center of Hungary for you and one of the most fascinating places to be.
We spent a good 3/4 of the day there going from room to room where each room housed a different type of exhibition – from every day scientific phenomenon to illusion to interactive games to learning about the birds and the bees.
We were stuck in the Illusion Room the longest – they were the most fun! Then we had a damn hilarious time watching the kids throwing beanbags into the holes of what looked like a bowling ball. It was in the room that explained about The Birds and The Bees.
The kids couldn’t figure out why we were laughing so hard when they started throwing those bean bags aiming at the holes. They threw us a puzzled look when we said, well…that’s really how babies are made. They looked at us as if we were crazy.
Ahh..! What would you do! Too funny.
7. Walk the bridge that connects Buda and Pest at sunset
This was an impromptu call. We didn’t have any intention to walk the distance from Pest to Buda, but we somehow ended up walking anyway. It must have taken us about half an hour to walk it and we strolled at a very leisurely pace with the kids in tow.
Sure they complained a little; after all we have been walking about for almost the entire day. Still, they were a sport! They indulged us and we chatted a lot with the kids individually while we walked hand-in-hand with one kid at a time talking about this and that as the sun was going down.
After all that walking and talking along with a little ice-cream treat before we returned to the hotel, they both slept really well that night. Just the way we like it!
8. Take the Boat Bus
Is it a bus? Or is it a boat? Well. It must be the boat bus!
Yep. That was what it was. We got suckered into it because the pamphlet at the hotel showed a cool picture about the bus that would transform itself into a boat which could pass through the river danube.
The kids loved the concept and we thought that it was interesting. So we went and do another touristy thing.
The tour lasted for about 1.5 hours. After about half an hour into the river, the kids got really, really bored and would not stop with the whining.
What’s with these kids? First they nagged about not going to the boat bus fast enough, and when we were on it, they wouldn’t stop nagging about getting out of the boat bus soon enough. I have to admit though with kids, the 1.5 hours in the boat bus was a tad too long…but that’s not to say it wasn’t an interesting ride.
Did the bus become a boat? Indeed it did!
9. Visit the Houdini Museum
Remember the world’s greatest magician from way, way back called Houdini?
He was a Hungarian and somewhere in the Castle Hill, there stood a museum dedicated to the life and art of Houdini. The house magician was a hoot and the kids were fascinated by him. All eyes were on him all the time!
Definitely a place to check out when you have the time.
10. Lots of other stuff…!
Go to the Exhibition of the month, go to the Chocolate Museum, go to the Opera, check out the cats’ cafe, walk about at the local market (especially the Great Market Hall) and go to the local supermarkets. Basically just walk about anywhere and take in all the sights!
We were terribly lucky, I must say! We happened to be there at the right time to be able to visit the Space Exhibition that was going on for a limited period of time somewhere in city. It was a lovely way to be spending time with the kids and most of all, they loved the space simulator!
Did I say you will not be bored yet?
Once you are in Budapest, there are more than enough things to do. And, if push comes to shove, park your ass at any cafes and do some people-watching. Always a fun activity.
With some of the most important things done and dusted, we were ready for our next leg to Eger.
But first and one that is of utmost importance: Food.