Budapest Zoo © Bachtrack Ltd / Hannah Marcus
Budapest Zoo
© Bachtrack Ltd / Hannah Marcus
If the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens feel like they’ve been designed with kids in mind, that’s probably because it’s true. The man who built them felt incredibly strongly about the education of children, thus the place is full of interesting information and the mini ‘mountain’ holds a learn-and-play type centre. You might argue that one zoo is very much like another, but this one is worth visiting – like nearly everything in the city, it’s beautiful; it features a botanical garden as well as animals, and perhaps most importantly for your kids, it has the largest number of baby animals in Europe. The Zoo has been experiencing a ‘baby boom’ as they’ve termed it, and they even have the only baby elephant on the continent. It’s super cute, and you should go see it. (Local tip – if the queues are intimidating, then have a snack at the restaurant next door – it also allows you to buy tickets and enter the Zoo from the side, saving you lots of time).

You’ll find that most of the museums have something for children to play with and learn from. The Museum of Fine Arts has an entire egyptian exhibition (which is pretty cool in itself – who doesn’t like mummified crocodiles?), but check the website for times of the ‘hands-on demonstrations’, where visitors are invited to handle some of the sturdier artefacts. Similarly, The National Museum has items specifically laid out for people to touch, creating a more interactive experience for visitors. Whilst the main exhibition is better for those interested in history, the archaeology section in particular will probably appeal more to children, with many interactive games to play, such as attempting to string your own bow or feed an ancient village. There is also a display of 3D WW1 photographs – this is possibly better for older children, since some of the images are a little disturbing, but for those who want to engage with the topic, being able to see them in three dimensions is a really good way to start.

Ice skating © Bachtrack Ltd / Hannah Marcus
Ice skating
© Bachtrack Ltd / Hannah Marcus
However, if we’re talking interactivity then it’s been taken to the extreme by Claustrophilia, one of the best of the city’s ‘live-action escape rooms’. Possibly something to do with older kids (or even to let them do with their friends), but the idea is that you’re locked in a room together, and have a certain amount of time to solve puzzles and riddles to get out. Think ‘the Crystal Maze’ but without public humilation (or a cash prize). There are several to do around the city, so if you get really into it you can try again and again without having to repeat old challenges. For slightly younger kids, there’s the Aquincum Museum of Roman ruins, a little to the north of the city. The museum has plenty to explore all year round, but look out for the Floralia Festival in May, a reconstructed Roman festival with food and activities for all the family - including watching a gladiator fight.

If your kids are more the outdoorsy types, then there’s plenty for them to do in the city. I’d particularly recommend the outdoor ice-skating rink – a summer boating lake which is converted in the winter once it freezes over (generally between December and March, but this can vary depending on the weather). There’s something wonderful about outdoor skating – particularly in the early evening when the ice is glowing and there’s a castle looming out of the darkness next to you. Some canny people have set up shops and stalls to sell you snacks and hot drinks next to the ice, so you can easily make a whole evening of this if you so wish.

Children's Puppet Theatre © Bachtrack Ltd / Hannah Marcus
Children's Puppet Theatre
© Bachtrack Ltd / Hannah Marcus
This building might seem dark and imposing, more suited to a bank or insurance firm, but it’s actually the Children’s Puppet Theatre, on Andrássy utca. Sadly most shows - other than Die Zauberflöte - require fluency in Hungarian.

A little further out of town, on the Buda side, you can find the Children’s Railway and Museum. The small train going through the forest is as exciting as small trains can be (which is very), but made even more so by the fact that it’s operated entirely by the visiting children. The museum details the history and construction of the site, whilst the train itself runs past many important sites, such as the Eszebet lookout tower. In the surrounding area, there’s also the Budakeszi Game Preserve, in case they didn’t see enough animals in the zoo, and Challengeland, one of those fun-but-terrifying rope and harness courses through the treetops.

Budapest is great for children because every museum and culture centre makes an extra effort to cater for them - as we’ve already seen with the museums, but even the Palace of Arts (MuPa) has a reconstruction of their famously large organ, (with probably much-needed headphones) and regular children concerts, whilst the Opera House will often play host to outdoor shows and markets to delight adults and children alike, such as their recent christmas Nutcracker festival.  Budapest has plenty to explore and discover, no matter if you’re an actual child - or a child at heart.