Buda Hills for kids: The unique playground near Budapest
Take the family out for the perfect day trip to Buda Hills, and enjoy the many great things this excursion has to offer. Start with riding the Cog-wheel Railway, then change to the Children's Railway on the top of Széchenyi-hegy. Get off at János Hill to go for a ride on the Chairlift and continue your journey to the end of the Children's Railway line at Hűvösvölgy. Kids will love the experience and will go straight to bed once at home, guaranteed.
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1. Cog-wheel Railway
The Cog-wheel Railway (Fogaskerekű), officially tram no. 60, dates from 1874 and is one of the oldest means of transport in Budapest. First, it was steam-powered and got electrified later. There are spectacular views to enjoy as the train climbs into the Buda hills. It begins its journey at Városmajor and reaches Széchenyi-hegy, the upper terminus in half an hour. The difference in height is 327 metres between the two termini.
Where is the Cog-wheel Railway station located?
To start your journey from the valley, you can approach Városmajor station from Széll Kálmán tér by bus 22, 22A, 155 or 222 or by tram 56, 59, 61. The upper terminus Széchenyi-hegy is less than 200 meters from the Children's Railway station of the same name.
Spectacular views of Buda Hills
For the best views, sit on the right-hand side facing away from the direction of travel. You can see Szent János Kórház, one of the oldest in the city, when arriving at the first stop. As the train climbs, the modern buildings of the Kútvölgyi Hospital, once an exclusive clinic for Communist Party members, will appear.
The line passes through the villas of Diós árok and Svábhegy, a hill whose name comes from the Swabian settlers who came to Hungary after the Ottomans had left. Construction of the railway brought summer villas soon, many of them belonging to writers and artists.
Hikers use the cog railway a lot and many residents of the area, too. It is also very popular with cyclists because they allow them to transport bicycles. Therefore, it runs throughout the year, from early morning to late evening, being operated by BKK, whose tariff is valid on the trains.
Things to do in Buda Hills near the Cog-wheel Railway
Getting to Széchenyi-hegy mountain station, you can easily reach the Children's Railway station on foot, and Normafa is also within a short walk distance. There is a hiking trail to get to the Chairlift, and there are many great cycling paths around, too.
Cog-wheel Railway Timetable
Check the timetable on their webpage.
2. Children's Railway
The Children’s Railway (Gyermekvasút) begins near the last stop on the cog-wheel train line. The trains run on an eleven-kilometre narrow-gauge track built between 1948 and 1950 and make an enchanting trip through the woods for over 10 km with an average journey time of 40 minutes. It is run by children (except for driving), naturally with adult helpers for some of the tasks.
Getting to Children's Railway station
To start your journey from the valley, you can approach Hűvösvölgy station by tram 56, 56A, 59B, 61, or by bus 64, 64A, 164, 257, 264, 963, 964, 29, 57, 63, 157, 157A, 956. The upper terminus Széchenyi-hegy is less than 200 meters from the Cog-wheel Railway Station of the same name. There is limited or no parking around the Childen's Railway stations. The only exception to this is Hűvösvölgy station, which has several P+R car parks nearby.
One of the best things to do for kids in Budapest
Celebrating its 70th birthday in 2018, the Children’s Railway is always popular with newer and newer generations of children. For most kids, it’s magnificent to admire the small trains, stations, and little workers. Kids are more than impressed when a slightly older child handles their ticket. The stations of the Children's Railway are all perfect starting points for a longer or shorter trip to Buda. There are both open-sided and closed carriages in operation, and occasionally there is a steam locomotive.
The trains, stations, and ticket offices are entirely staffed by children between the ages of ten and 14. The children still wear traditional blue uniforms and red peaked caps and enthusiastically salute the trains in and out of the stations. They also make the loudspeaker announcements and pass up and down the carriages announcing stations and checking tickets. Participation is conditional on getting good marks at school and securing the permission of the headteacher. There are training courses and an exam to pass before the young guards and station masters are permitted to start working.
On platform one at Hűvösvölgy station, an interactive exhibition presents the history of the railway at the Children’s Railway Museum and Souvenir Shop.
The world's largest child-operated railway
They used to call it the Pioneers’ Railway, after the Communist equivalent of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, whose Youth Camp was at Csillebérc. The railway was ceremonially opened by Ernő Gerő, hardline early Communist, former KGB agent, and, at the time, Hungarian Minister of Transport. The rail has been operated by children ever since, linking the hiking trails of Buda Hills.
Attractions in Buda Hills for kids near the Children's Railway
There are many attractions in the vicinity of Children's Railway, such as Erzsébet Lookout Tower, Normafa, Chairlift, Cogwheel, and many playgrounds.
Children's Railway Timetable
From June 13, 2020, the Children's Railway will run again after the lockdown. Check the timetable on their webpage.
3. Chairlift (Zugliget Libegő)
The Chairlift (Libegő) runs eight metres above the hillside from the valley called Zugliget to the highest peak in the city, the look-out tower on János-hegy. There is a 262-metre difference in elevation between the two termini and it takes twelve minutes to make the journey. The Chairlift is a popular means of transportation in the Buda hills, offering amazing forest views and panorama of Budapest. The two-seat, open chairs cover the 1,040-meter ropeway distance in fifteen minutes.
How to get to the Chairlift?
The valley station of the Chairlift is in Zugliget, at the terminus of bus 291. Bus 291 leaves from Nyugati Railway Station. Its mountain station is on the Hármaskút roof, which connects János Hill with Normafa. You can get to Normafa by bus 21, 21A from Széll Kálmán tér. A pleasant 30-minute forest trip from Normafa leads to the upper station of the Libegő. The Children's Railway is within a short forest walk from János Hill and Virágvölgy station.
Probably the best thing to do in Buda Hills for kids
Many of Budapest's transport vehicles have an amazing impact on children, but nothing can compete with the Chairlift. Although adults are more interested in the beautiful view, children tend not to care about that at all. For them, the experience of gliding is captivating, and some complementary activities are far more interesting, like shouting and waving to oncoming passengers. There is a chair at the lower terminus in Zugliget, where you can practice to get in and out the Chairlift before you travel. If only one child under the age of ten sits next to you, you can take a sledge on board with you in winter.
Spectacular views over Budapest from the Chairlift
The cable car starts in the forest, and then it passes over private gardens. There is an amazing view of Hármashatárhegy, the peaks of Pilis Hill, as well as Buda and Pest. When approaching the lower terminus, you can see the Zugliget Valley with houses in the green.
Reconstructing the Chairlift by 2022
The current reception buildings of the Libegő are outdated both functionally and technically, and the two-seater chairlift can no longer meet the expectations. They will renovate the Libegő with twenty-first-century technology; with a four-seater lift suitable for transporting bicycles and skis including a rain cover, and a modern lighting system. Hikers will be able to take possession of the new Chairlift in 2022.
Things to do in Buda Hills for kids near the Chairlift
There is a smaller playground at the upper terminus, and you can enjoy countless child-friendly excursions in-between János Hill and Normafa.
The chairlift operates all year round except in strong winds and heavy rain. At the moment, because of the COVID situation, it runs only on weekends. Check the timetable on their webpage.
One of the most famous excursion places in Budapest, Normafa, was named after a tree. The ancient old beech tree fell in 1927 due to a lightning strike after surviving storms for many centuries. This Svábhegy area is a popular destination for hikers, tourists, and those wishing to relax and unwind since the 17th century. Two ski jumps were established in the 1920s here: small and large ski jumps, hosting domestic championships, and international jumping competitions.
Things to do at Normafa
There are two playgrounds for children near Normafa Park: one at the upper station of the Chairlift, and another called Anna's meadow playground near Normafa Children's Railway station. There is a great cult of sports here; skiing, cross-country skiing, running, hiking, cycling, dog walking and Nordic walking attract countless people of all ages.
5. More attractions in Buda Hills for kids
The highest point in Budapest, János-hegy (527m), is near the Children's Railway stop of the same name. You can reach it on foot by the path above Béka-tó (Frog Pond), a natural clay-bedded pool that is home to frogs and dragonflies. A stepped path leads to the top of János-Hill, where you can climb the neo-Romanesque lookout tower, Erzsébet-kilátó (Elizabeth Lookout), which offers excellent views. Close to the lower station of the Chairlift, is the recently restored station building of the old Lóvasút (horse-drawn tram). There is a small local history display on its past.