The jobs that Husband and I do mean that we take our summer holiday early, in Swedish terms, during June and are back at our desks in early July. It makes some things more difficult (the city (perhaps even the country) tends to close down during the month of July and most municipal offices have shorter office hours (tip: don’t try calling Skatteverket – the tax authority – for the next couple of weeks). On the other hand, Stockholmers are out in the archipelago or abroad and the streets are clearer and you can get around more easily. However, your favourite restaurant tends to close. Swings and roundabouts, really.
Anyway, this summer holiday we took two and a half weeks in Hungary and Slovakia – the first few days in Budapest, then a long weekend in Slovakia, followed by just over a week at Lake Balaton in central Hungary. We’ve visited Budapest before (Husband many times, me five times now and this was Little O’s second trip) but absolutely love the city. It’s child-friendly but in a totally different way to Stockholm.
Here, there are ramps everywhere for wheelchairs and pushchairs, you can travel of buses for free with a child in a pushchair or pram and nearly every restaurant has high chairs for the little ones. You see small children and babies everywhere you go and the norm seems to be families with two children or more. Having small children in Stockholm is nothing new, nothing special; and because of that, people rarely offer you any help.
Budapest differs considerably: pushchair access is more complicated, there are steps and staircases everywhere and public transport is trickier but people fall over themselves to help you. Budapest city dwellers seem to fall into two camps: those who are not keen on children and will ignore you (absolutely fine with me) and those who adore little ones, want to wave at them, chat to them and, in Baby E’s case, touch his golden curls.
A toddler’s guide to Budapest
The playgrounds in the city are fantastic and, ironically enough, are often filled with Swedish play equipment, with climbing frames, rope bridges and slides. Of course, the boys both monopolised the swings at most that we visited.
And just next to the playground in this photo, right by the headquarters of the Hungarian national television company, is a fantastic fountain that had Little O shrieking in delight (and Baby E crying in terror – it took quite a few more days for him to get over his dislike of water…). I think Little O spent the best part of an hour running backwards and forwards through the jets and just could not get over the fact that they would rise and fall and stop altogether if he stood for long in front of them. I think it blew his toddler mind.
Other days we spent at the baths. We visited the two most popular and well-known: Szechenyi and Gellert. Szechenyi is the one that you often see pictured in articles about Budapest: yellow and white stuccoed buildings, old men playing chess – that one.
And Gellert, on the Buda side of the Danube, is another popular choice, most likely because of its wave machine that cranks up for 15 minutes every hour (just listen out for a burst of America from West Side Story and you’ll know what’s coming).
There were plenty of shady patches under trees and they had set up water mist sprays at various points around the park, so we were able to keep cool. The zoo has also had a lot of births this year, so we were able to see lion cubs and a baby giraffe, although we went a little too late in the day and weren’t able to see the baby elephants before closing time.
Eating out we found reasonably easy. All of the restaurants and cafes we visited had high chairs and the vast majority welcomed children (in fact, I can only remember one where they were not happy with the boys being boys and on the move). Quite a few offered children’s menus but we often just asked for an extra plate and gave them some of ours or ordered Hortobágyi palacsinta for them – delicious.
So, yes, I think that Budapest is a great city for small children if they enjoy being in the water, like paprika and are willing to have their curls stroked multiple times a day.