What every Family traveling to Budapest, Hungary needs to know

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So many people wonder if Budapest, Hungary is a safe place to visit. Is it a good place for a family vacation? What kind of food is there to eat? What is there to do there? And, the list goes on.

I’m going to answer all of these questions and more.

Also, you need to know that there are two very distinct sides of Budapest. Buda & Pest. Two separate cities within a city. Weird right? They are separated by the Danube. If you are looking for more to do, stay on the Pest side. If you are wanting a more chill time, stay on the Buda side. We’ve stayed on both sides during our two separate visits here.

While the Buda side has a lot to do we definitely prefer Pest. Especially the Jewish district. We’ve stayed in 4 places on the Pest side and this area is our favorite. I circled it in RED for you. We’ve explored this ENTIRE area in the big circle of Budapest by foot. It’s an easy city to walk and there are sidewalks and crosswalks everywhere. Most drivers are really good about stopping for pedestrians.

Actually, we’d recommend NOT renting a car. WALK. That’s how you really see a city. If you are just going from destination to destination then you miss everything in between like all the cute shops, people watching, patisseries, parks, public squares, markets and more.

There is a lot to do for Adults, Teens, Kids, and Littles. Whether you are into history and culture; eating your way through a place; getting pampered; doing the outdoor thing or shopping… Budapest has you covered.

Budapest is also a loud party town so read reviews of past guests to find out if they can’t sleep at night because of all the noise in the neighborhood. We did have a lot of noise until 2 am nightly but it wasn’t like the thumping rave music we had at our Hostel 3 years earlier. It was impossible to sleep without earplugs in and even the, we could feel all the bass. Longest week for all of us with no sleep.

BATH HOUSES

This is a biggie. People come from all over the world for the amazing baths in Budapest. What is a Bath? No, it’s not like a public bathtub where you wash your body in the same water with soap and get naked.

Budapest is known as “The City of Baths”. Budapest sits on a fault line, and its thermal baths are naturally fed by 120 hot springs. The city is home to an impressive selection of thermal baths, many of which date to the 16th century.

To me, they are like public swimming pools. I don’t care for them. We’ve now been to several around the world and they just aren’t our thing. We would rather go to a day spa where we got pampering or a Korean bathhouse or Japanese Onsen. You can google them to learn more.

Anyway, we didn’t visit any of the bathhouses in Budapest. We just took baths in our Airbnb bathtub. They do have family times available so if this is something you want to do… look them up.

ENGLISH

There’s always someone who speaks English nearby. ASK for help if you need it. Some sign language goes a long way too.

2 KEY PHRASES

In every country we visit we make sure that we learn how to say “Hello” & “Thank You”. We do sometimes try to learn more but most of the time it’s hard enough to remember more.

Good Day is phonetically – SEE Ya
Thank you is phonetically – COO Suh Num

In Hungary, they also say “Ciao” (yes, Italian Ciao pronunciation) for Hi and goodbye. That one was easier for me to remember than SEE ya because that one always makes me think of Goodbye.

We also teach Sebastian both of these phrases for each country we visit and Locals LOVE when he says it. So, teach your kids to say these too.

SHOPPING

There are TONS of cute shops as well as name brands like H&M to choose from. There are Malls as well as walking streets that have a lot of fun places to go.

Want a cute Candy shop? Check out the Pirate Candy Shop which is on the Cobblestone walking street. Your kids will love getting some sweets and the walking street is a must-do as a tourist.

NIGHTLIFE

Should you be going out to bars on a Family Trip? I know that every family is different. Maybe you have teenagers and can leave them for an evening to have some alone time with your partner or to go cut loose. No judgment here!

I don’t go out and ‘party’ any more. I’ve done plenty of it in my life and I’m past that stage now. My husband, Shawn, however, likes to go out to the bars once a week. He loves to meet new people and socialize outside of just his family. I get it and embrace this need. I stay home with our toddler happily. I’m not about to hire a babysitter to go to da club!

There is a TON of nightlife to be had in Budapest. People are actually out until all hours of the night (and morning). Most people speak some English in Budapest so you don’t have to worry about not speaking the language but, you should know about Beer Re-Cupping before you head out.

Here is a tip. Book a Pub Crawl. If you are like Shawn or want some adult only time then this is a great way of getting familiar with the area in a fun and safe way and you can learn how bars/pubs work in Budapest, meet others from Budapest and around the world.

Shawn has made some great friendships that have turned into family friendships from these outings. We are in Warsaw Poland as I write this post and Shawn met Piotr at a pub in Budapest (not on a pub crawl) and we met up with him here in Warsaw.

There are pubs, bars, and nightclubs all over Budapest. You’ll have no problem finding nightlife but just need to figure out what kind of place will suit you best.

FOOD & RESTAURANTS

Food is everywhere. Every corner, down the alley and across the street. EVERYWHERE.

There are Grocery & Convenience stores down most streets as well. Hungarians are Hungry. People seem to be constantly eating and that makes us happy because we are foodies. We live to explore a countries delicacies.

Budapest has Fine Dining, Mid-range, Fast Food, food carts – you name it. We found a LOT of Kebab places, Indian, Italian, Hungarian obviously and more. I would say that there were less Asian and Mexican restaurants.

Most restaurants are very family-friendly. They are all Non-Smoking and most have high-chairs for your littles. There are Hot Dog shops, Pizza and McDonalds. Plenty of food for your kids to be happy even for the pickiest eaters.

We Happened to go to a Fine Dining restaurant one night – Laurel Wine Bar. We made sure they knew we had a 2-year-old with us and we picked a time of the evening that wouldn’t be crowded so he wouldn’t bother the other patrons.

We didn’t have a single bad meal and in fact, one of our favorites was an Indian Restaurant – Indigo Indian Restaurant. It was fantastic. If you love Indian food we highly suggest you check them out.

The restaurant we went to the most was around the corner from our place in Pest. It also happened to be a place with went with Sam and Alex exactly 3 years prior, Alanya Kebab Török Étterem. Nothing like a good Turkish meal!

SAFETY

At no time did either of us feel unsafe walking around any part of Budapest, with our Teenagers (who were 15 & 19 at the time) or with our now 2-year-old.

Shawn runs every morning, very early. People were still out and about some mornings stumbling home from the bars. Others were starting their mornings getting to work and opening up the shops.

We were out at all times of the day and evening. Just be smart though. Anything can happen in a big city so just always be aware of your surroundings and make smart decisions. Look at people, smile, and always have a good attitude and you will be fine.

TAXI DRIVERS

We find that, around the world, Taxi Drivers in big cities will usually overcharge tourists unless there is a strict policy in place set by the government.

Budapest is no different. Most Taxi drivers who park near the Train/Railway stations are just looking for easy prey. Most taxi drivers who happen to be parked down a residential street, however, are usually on a meter and honest.

Ask in advance if the taxi is Metered before getting in AND always check online to see what a normal priced fare is from one part of the city to another. There is always a blogger who has shared this information and it’s right on.

You can also negotiate. Don’t be afraid to counter a Taxi Drivers quoted price. When we arrived in Buda it was raining and we didn’t have a lot of drivers in line to choose from. Our driver overpriced us and we knew it but didn’t even care. It was still really cheap so we just got in.

Also, don’t get bajiggity with a driver. Be friendly, smile and stand your ground but don’t get hot and bothered. Negotiate if you must but don’t be a jerk about it. You are on their turf, not the other way around Capiche?

The City is one big Neighborhood

This may sound weird but people live all over the city. Buildings have businesses and residences in them. Not all but it seems like most do. There are neighborhoods everywhere.

Also, Most buildings have Giant Doors that open up to huge Courtyards with Apartments up to 6 floors. They are very old but many have Elevators. This is the one we stayed at in Pest. They are modern keyless entries. We suggest staying in an Airbnb or an Apartment. We get to know a city and it’s neighborhoods much better than staying at a Hotel. There were businesses on the ground floor next to our door and across the street. There was also a large park around the corner. We find that it’s much easier to find Playgrounds if you are in a neighborhood.

PARKS AND PLAYROUNDS

You will find Playgrounds in Budapest but you do have to look for them. Not all are even listed on the map so if you happen to come across one, ask any of the other parents there if there are others nearby. Also, ask about play areas in Malls.

There was a Mall in Buda, MAMMUT, that has a really great Playland inside. We actually just ran into it as it wasn’t listed on google maps. it’s on the 2nd floor I believe near a corner. Usually, look for kid’s stores and you will find it nearby. It’s huge inside and fun for Toddlers to Elementary. There is also a playland down the street that we didn’t make it to called Millipop.

On the Pest side, we didn’t find any indoor Playlands but we did find several outdoor playgrounds. Zoom in on parks and type in “Playground” into google. Again, ask parents where they take their kids to play.

Sebastian playing at his favorite playground
Sebastian playing at his favorite playground

In Pest, there is a great KIDS CAFE! It’s where Toddlers can play while Parents sit back and have a latte and snacks. It’s called HellóAnyu! Kávézó. If you have a 2-year-old a good time to go is between 10 & 2 pm. Not too crowded but there will be other kids to play with. Our son loved it.

Parks and Playgrounds have fences around them with set hours BUT, we found cigarette butts and beer bottles. Doesn’t seem to keep the teens and partiers from using them as their playground so make sure your littles are putting cigarette butts in their mouths.

CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL

Again, if you are a drinker or smoker then you need to look for these shops. You can’t buy cigarettes anywhere but at special stores. They almost look like porn shops because of how the windows are blacked out. But they aren’t. Perfectly respectable inside but you must be 18 or over to go in. Shawn made friends with a local one night who told him about these shops.

Cigarette and Alcohol Shops in Budapest

Again, all restaurants are non-smoking but there are still lots of smokers walking around and standing outside of buildings. I was always trying to push Sebastian around the smokers when walking down the streets so their smoke wasn’t going in his face when their hands were down.

GROCERIES

If you stay at an Airbnb or really any place that has a refrigerator, you will want to pick up some snacks, at the very least.

Spar is the most common grocery store and they are everywhere. There is also Prima and Lidl but they aren’t all over the city. Tesco Express is like a mini-grocery store where you can get essentials (think 7-11).

There are also different markets open throughout the city on various days so ask your host for some ideas on good ones to visit. There is one, Szimpla Sunday Farmers’ Market, which is just – okay. Everyone will tell you to go there but it’s very small and not a lot of stalls. It’s worth a walk through though and should only take about 15 minutes max to get through so spend the rest of your Sunday going around the Jewish Quarter and eating your way through it. There is a food truck area next to Simpla Market – Street Food Karavan Budapest – There are some great eats there.

TIPPING

It’s expected in Budapest. A good 10% tip is the norm for good service. We always give more if the service is good – way more if it’s excellent.

CHIVALRY

This is an interesting tidbit. It’s traditional for have a Man enter the building first to make sure that it’s safe and also appropriate before the woman and a family enter. So men, get ready to leap to that door and make sure your family is safe!

CURRENCY

The official currency in Hungary is HUF (Hungarian Forint) but they also accept Euros. We chose to only use HUF there. There are ATMs all over the city and while they say HUF & EUR they only disburse HUF.

$10 USD is roughly 3,158 Forint/HUF

Also, NEVER ACCEPT A CONVERSION. When the ATM asks you which exchange rate your want – ONLY pick the HUF. Let your bank do the conversion on your end as it will save you money. Our first time there we chose the Conversion to USD and we were charged an additional $30 above the ATM fee of $3. Ever since I’ve never accepted the conversion. Some ATM’s though automatically do the conversion so pay attention to which machines do and don’t so you can save yourself some grief and money.

KIDS

We saw kids and strollers everywhere. Most littles are walking hand in hand with their parents or even have cute little bikes dragged along with their strollers for them to roll around on and get their exercise in while in walking streets or squares. The streets and buildings are easy to access with Strollers and Pest is pretty flat. Buda is definitely more hilly so be prepared to push uphill or carry your stroller up lots of stairs.

SPAS & MASSAGES

Trust me, sometimes I just need a relaxing massage. Dragging our belongings all over the world, wrestling with a big toddler all day, and lifting the stroller (with him in it) up stairs – can wreak havoc on my body. Also, it’s a nice break to have ME time.

Most Hotels offer Spa services like massages and manicures. If you are looking for something more affordable. In Budapest I’d say that 95% of all massage places are Thai. Not sure how so many Thai people managed to come to Hungary but it seems like there are Thai Massage shops on every street.

I visited two of them, one twice, and both were great. Search Google for places with good reviews near you. The prices were fair for the services received. You can just drop in but most require a reservation. You can do it online or over the phone or even just stop in. They always have someone speaking English at the counter.

TOURS

There are all sorts of tours you can book on Trip Advisor and other such sites like Viator. We booked a 70 minute River Cruise on the Danube. I think that these tours are a great way to get to know the history of Budapest. There are other tours that include Bath Houses, Buda Palace and so on. Figure out which one is best for your family. Very short tours are best for us because of our 2-year-old. Thankfully he slept the entire time but we were hoping that he’d get to have fun squealing about being on a boat.

ARCHITECTURE & BEAUTY

Budapest is beautiful. So much beautiful architecture, statues, churches and temples, street layouts, brickwork…I can go on and on. There is modern mixed in with the very old. If you love photography then you will be in heaven.

PAYING FOR GOODS

Everyone is friendly but sometimes, when we paid for things, cashiers would get impatient and just grab correct change out of our hands. The first time it was kind of like… um, Okay, I know I’m slow here but quit being handsy. I let them do it though because honestly, I was holding up the line.

The 2nd time I showed the cashier my hand because I couldn’t understand what she was telling me the total was. She huffed a bit but to the proper change.

Anyway, they also like getting change and can’t stand when you constantly give them a large bill and no coin with it. So, give as close to exact as possible and keep plenty of small bills on you. We use big bills at grocery stores because they generally have more cash on hand than, let us say, the local Kebab place.

TRANSPORTATION

Besides Taxis there are local trains, big trains, buses, cars you can rent, scooters and bikes. You won’t have any problem getting around if walking isn’t your thing.

Now, here’s a fun one. We’ve only ever arrived and left Budapest by Train. We’ve gone through Budapest-Nyugati Station. You can purchase Domestic as well as International Tickets here. We have gone in person, both times we’ve left.

There have been a LOT of issues with Foreigners trying to figure out how to purchase tickets so if you want to leave Budapest by Train you can Learn how to book your tickets here.

MELTING POT

I hadn’t known what to really expect of Budapest the first time we came but really, it’s a melting pot of people of many ethnicities and cultures. People from all walks of life reside in Budapest. Be kind to everyone and have a quick smile and you will be treated kindly in return. At least this is our experience.

WATER

Be prepared to purchase bottled water. Don’t drink from the Tap. Some places say that their tap water is drinkable but others say no. Believe what each person tells you of their place.

And, better yet, learn how to read the difference between Flat and Sparkling water. Google translate doesn’t always get it right. If you can find bottles of Nestle water, the PINK Lid is Flatwater. You’re welcome. Nothing worse than getting a gallon of water home only to find out it’s sparkling.

UNDERGROUND WALKWAYS

Sometimes, the only way to cross a street is to do so underground. Most times there are no Elevators nor Escalators. If there is an Escalator it’s usually on going up.

These underground passages contain all kinds of shops and sometimes they lead to Subway stations.

If you are traveling with a stroller or with anyone mobility challenged, figure out alternate routes if you don’t want to carry strollers up and down stairs. We have mastered the art of carrying the stroller, with the kid and all our stuff, up and down throughout European cities.

Again, these are generally well lit, busy and safe but, some walkways seem sketchy at times however, we’ve never had a problem.

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34 thoughts on “What every Family traveling to Budapest, Hungary needs to know”

  1. So much great information in your post! I never looked at Budapest as a travel destination for myself, but after your post I would really like to venture there. I agree with the sparkling water issues! NOTHING WORSE. ha!

    1. You should go. It’s one of our favorite destinations. The sparkling water has been a real pain in the rear for years for us. Mostly in European countries

  2. I remember driving through Budapest years ago and thinking, “What a beautiful city!” Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop and look around. Now that I have read all this great info, I really want to go back and see it properly! It’s most definitely a worthwhile destination. Love the sparkling water tip, BTW! This happened to us in Italy. We kept buying sparkling water…Not a good way to quench your thirst, although Italians may disagree! 🙂

    1. I can’t stand sparkling water. I didn’t like it before but now it’s something I can tolerate as I know I’m stuck with it at times. You’d love it there. Fantastic place.

    1. That makes me tired too. I’m with a toddler all day… I don’t have that kind of energy any longer to spend on staying out late and partying! 😉

  3. I learned so much from this post. Didn’t realize there was a Buda and a Pest. I love walking whenever I can in new places. This sounds like a great place to visit and experience a new culture.

  4. I never knew they were know for baths! Learn something new every day! 😉 It looks like a great place to visit! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. Great post! Our niece served a mission in Budapest for almost 2 years and loved it. We’d like to visit one day. Had no idea it was actually made of 2 places, Buda and Pest, so interesting. And the food, yes please!

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