Are you in planning mode right now?
Figuring where to travel with your family during the spring/summer break!
I have collaborated with Travel Bloggers around the world for ideas on best Family Holidays in Europe.
At this point, I must confess that ‘Family Friendly Holidays’ is probably the brainchild of some marketing person! You could possibly travel with your family anywhere in the world – barring the frozen poles or humid rainforests – and find interesting things to do. That said, there are some locations where facilities, attractions and things to do as a family are more appealing.
The weather in Europe from May until September is great. There is a buzz in the cities. And the activities for families are so many, that your vacation is bound to be a pleasure.
The Algarve Coast in Portugal is one of the best European destinations when it comes to Family Travel. We’ve been there several times with kids age 0-8 and each of our stays has been fantastic.
Our favourite season to travel to the Algarve is early spring – it is already warm enough to spend hours at the beach but too early for the crowds to arrive. Also, off-season prices are helping with budgeting.
Apart from beach days with sand castles and flotsam treasure hunts, the Algarve coast offers a lot of activities for the entire family. The region is great to have walks – for example in the mountain backcountry around Monchique or at the Peninsula at Sagres.
The old stronghold and the nautical school in Sagres are good destinations for a day trip. Kids love to run around the fort and also to watch the fishermen that are spectacularly balancing on the cliffs to fish!
Another nice activity for families is visiting the natural wetland park “Ria Formosa”.
It is one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal and an important area for aquatic birds and stop-over point on the migration route between Europe and Africa. Talking about birds, you can spot storks on plenty of occasions all along the coast – but especially in Faro where they are nesting on most chimneys.
The Lagos Science Centre and the Lagos Zoo are great destinations, too to spend a nice family day. You can also visit one of the big theme and water parks, you’re kids will love it!
Contributed by Lena Drevermann |Four On A World Trip
Most travelers think of Amsterdam as a destination for adults, but I think it is great for a city break for families as well. Art, history, parks, activities for kids, fine dining, cafe culture, creative vibe, this lovely city has something to offer for everyone.
If you have just a day or two to explore Amsterdam, my recommendation would be to stay in the city center. Most of the top attractions and the century-old canals are in the heart of the city.
The heart of the city is best explored on foot. The city’s historic canals can be admired via a morning stroll or you can opt for a cruise. A cruise might be the preferred option with younger kids. With older kids, a Segway or a bike tour can also be considered.
The city is a treasure trove for art lovers. Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum, Stedelijk Museum – all 3 museums are within easy walking distance. The city has some good museums for kids as well. My 6-year old daughter loved the time we spent at NEMO Science Center.
Had enough of museums? Amsterdam offers many parks for your kids to bike or run around. Vondelpark – the most famous park in Amsterdam is a big hit with families and kids.
And if this hasn’t convinced you to consider Amsterdam for your family vacation, their cheese and sweet offering would!
Take a cheese tasting session and buys loads of cheese for home. Your kids are sure to love the local Dutch treats – Stroopwafels and pancakes.
Contributed by Shweta | Zest In A Tote
Barcelona is not only a kid-friendly city to visit, it has been a dynamic and vibrant place to raise my 3 kids.
This sunny Spanish city is walkable, so getting around with little ones is uncomplicated. Many of the major sights are concentrated in the “old city” such as the mysterious cobblestoned Gothic Quarter, the medieval Born district, and the Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar.
You can also get around using Barcelona’s smooth-as-butter public transportation system: the wait time is short, and it’s a well-connected web of the bus, metro, and tram, all of which can be used on one ticket. Of course, the system takes time to figure out at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.
Wandering around Barcelona’s streets is safe, even when night falls. It’s not surprising to see kids enjoying tapas with their parents on the weekends, well past 10pm. However, expect restaurants to provide minimum services for little ones. A children’s menu, baby-changing stations, and highchairs are rare.
For kid entertainment, Barcelona is an open-air museum.
Walking the streets is an experience in itself – all you have to do is look up! For things to do as a family, check out the works of architect Antoni Gaudí. He made his mark throughout the city with his colorful and quirky buildings like the almost-melting basilica – the Sagrada Familia. Or check out his Candyland-like Parc Guell, a unique park that boasts two huge gingerbread houses, rocks sculpted into palm trees, and multi-colored tilework of a dragon.
For a less touristy place, do visit Cosmocaixa, a sophisticated hands-on science museum with a stunning indoor Amazonian forest, where it rains every 15 minutes.
Contributed by Justine Ancheta | Latitude 41
Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest in Germany is a fantastic place to visit with kids.
The Black Forest region sits nestled at the south-western corner of Germany, bordered by France to the west and Switzerland to the South. Covered by a good layer of snow in the winter months, the spring melt reveals grassy pastures covering the low rolling mountains. Pastel-colored houses and planter boxes bursting with blooms pop against the almost neon green of the countryside.
The Black Forest is an outdoor destination with plenty for families to see and do.
The small town of Triberg is best known for its cuckoo clocks. Children will be delighted by the animated scenes of animals and farmers which come to life to the song of the cuckoo each hour. At the top end of town take the short hike up to view Germany’s largest waterfall. Pick up some peanuts sold at the entrance to feed the hungry squirrels.
Stay at a Farm – from simple guest rooms to serviced apartments, the accommodation is on a working farm. Farm stays, known as a Bauernhofurlaub in German, are great value for money, usually provide a hearty breakfast of farm fresh ingredients and children are often able to pet and feed the animals.
The Black Forest Open Air Museum shows visitors what life was like in the region in the past. See a blacksmith at work, a water mill grinding flour, and spend time playing in the indoor and outdoor play areas. There are also workshops that children can participate in such as woodworking and cooking.
Contributed by Kaylie Lewell | Happiness Travels Here
Budapest is considered more of a “youth” destination rather than a family destination, but it packs in a lot of fun for the little ones.
Once the twin capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest is a typical European city – cobbled streets, a beautiful castle, a lovely river, numerous bridges linking the two sides, an active Opera house, a dominating basilica and a large Jewish quarter. Yet, it retains its distinctive Hungarian roots.
We loved exploring Gozsdu Udvar and Kazinczy Utca – where ruin pubs and restaurants jostled with colorful play areas and outdoor beer gardens with hammocks. The funicular ride at the Buda Castle was exciting. Apart from the views and the architecture, the Castle hosts a number of art exhibitions. You get lovely views of the city and the river from Citadella on Gellert Hill as well.
A short cruise on the Danube is refreshing.
Stop by at Margaret Island for the musical fountains, extensive play areas and a long bicycle ride in a lush, car-free zone. Heroes’ Square at the end of Andrassy Avenue is a must do.
As are the famous hot baths. Margaret Island has the most kid-friendly baths but Szechenyi also goes down well with kids. There are 2 temperature-controlled pools outdoors with jacuzzis and whirlpools and more than 10 indoor pools at temperatures varying from 16oC to 40oC. A word of caution – don’t let the kids stay in the hotter pools for more than ten minutes, the cooler ones – believe me, no one will! Don’t miss walking across the Chain bridge and eating kurstoskalacs!
A relatively weak currency (Hungarian Forint) ensures that there is ample choice for accommodation. We stayed at the Brody Apartments, a five-minute walk from St Stephens Basilica. The arty, airy apartments are equipped with modern amenities – wifi, launderette, full kitchenette – with a quirky twist.
Contributed by Shweta Markandeya
Read her tips on Travelling the world with your Toddler
Crete, a gorgeous island in Greece, is an excellent destination for families looking for some R&R. It offers various attractions for children.
Many hotels in Crete are all-inclusive, giving you the peace of mind that you know exactly what you will be spending and not having to worry about meals at all. Many hotels also have built-in water parks – so you really don’t need to leave the hotel. You can find all-inclusive deals at different levels of luxury, not just 5-star hotels. Meals are usually buffet-style with a wide variety of food so even picky eaters will find something to eat.
All-inclusive resorts notwithstanding, sometimes you need to get out. Crete has many options for fun, including many water sports (especially for older kids) such as snorkeling, kayaks, and windsurfing.
Older kids will also enjoy a Greek cooking class!
Younger kids can visit the local aquarium, go to Dinosauria Park (which is exactly what it sounds like), take the Fun Train, see the Palace of Knossos and see the animals at Amazonas Animal Park.
There are plenty of attractions for all age groups to enjoy together, such as the Acua Plus water park and the Dikteon Cave. Finally, you can rent bicycles from age 7, but you can also find a seat for the younger kids to attach to a parent’s bike.
Contributed by Talia Klein Perez | Hul with Kids
People do perceive Geneva as one of the business destinations in Europe. Perhaps, this is not entirely false as Geneva hosts 33 International organizations and more than 300 NGOs.
That said, this lovely city also boasts of panoramic views of Lake Leman and Jet d’eau, owns great free-admission museums, has numerable parks and is the hub for ever-enduring Swiss chocolates.
Free admission to some exquisite museums in Geneva makes it an ideal location for a family vacation on a budget.
Few such museums are:
- The History of Science Museum has the oldest and yet surprisingly the best scientific equipment ever used in the history.
- Maison Tavel has a 3D structure of Geneva on the third floor.
- Ariana Museum has 20,000 different objects made up of glass, ceramics, and porcelain.
- CERN is where one can understand the fundamentals of the universe.
- Museum of Ethnography recites everything about the world history and world culture under one roof.
Apart from the museums, a family can definitely enjoy a good time near the lake. There are free admission gardens, parks and botanical gardens near the lake that promise a relaxed family vacation. During summers, you can add a zing to the whole holiday by swimming in the designated lake areas, taking a boat ride and hiking to Mount Saleve for the gorgeous view of the city.
Geneva also has kid-friendly areas like Carouge. With a Sardinian kind of an architecture and best of Swiss Chocolate makers, Carouge invites kids of all ages to enjoy a wonderful time in the city. The place keeps the kids entertained with street murals like unsolved puzzles, maze structures and much more.
Contributed by Ridima Mittal | Little Joys and more
Built on seven hills and stretching along the river Tejo, this enchanting city includes everything to make it a perfect family destination. It boasts a warm, Mediterranean climate and an incredible culture with rich history.
If you take a stroll around the city, you will realize that there is something interesting to see whether it’s just a miradouro – a beautiful square, an interesting tiled building or street art.
Besides being incredibly beautiful and charming, Lisbon is an ideal place to visit with family. There are so many activities you can do with your kids. You can use a tuk-tuk around the city or take a Tram 28 – something which is incredibly fun and entertaining for kids.
I recommend visiting the Parque das Nações area where you can find one of the biggest and most impressive oceanariums in the world. Also, if you are looking for something interesting in the same area, you should check out telecabine which gives you an aerial lift of 30m over the Tagus River and some breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
Lisbon is also an amazing location for family day trips. Sintra is the most magical place I have ever been to and has some of the most beautiful palaces in the world. You should visit Pena Palace or Quinta da Regaleira which has some unique gardens.
Also, you can visit Obidos, a medieval town just an hour away from Lisbon. There are many festivals around the year. In the Medieval Festival which happens in the summer, everyone is dressed as kings and queens and there are many activities organized which you can enjoy as a family.
Contributed by Stafanie Konstanta | Stef’s Journey
Before taking my young teen daughters on their first international trip, I gave a lot of thought to what the best European destination for our family travel would be. There were a lot of European destinations that were good options, but the best for us wound up being London.
My reasoning in choosing London was to break them into this international thing gently, taking them somewhere that the language, culture, and history was familiar but different enough to give them a little cultural stretch. I also wanted a destination that would provide options that appealed to each of our girls, and keep Mom and Dad interested, too.
Thankfully, London is such a major city and has so much history, that there is plenty offered. For the physically active kids try a Fat Tire Bike tour (a big hit for our crew) and spend time running and climbing in Trafalgar Square or Hyde Park.
Have a horse lover? Check out the Queens Life Guard who are all on horseback and do a formal changing of the guard throughout the day.
Have a history or war buff? How about Churchill’s War Rooms or the Tower of London.
The Tower also has an area with instruments of torture displayed for those enjoying a little of the dark side, too. And, for the princess in the family, there’s always touring a true castle of real-life royalty, and even afternoon tea at The Orangery Restaurant, which used to be the royal greenhouse! And then there are easy day trips like Hampton Court and Harry Potter studios.
Honestly, we had such a variety of options that we nearly wore ourselves out in our 6 days, and still have some sites we never made it to. We so enjoyed our time that returning to London is a regular topic of travel conversation… as if I needed more motivation to return!
Contributed by Megan | Wandertoes
The obvious draw of Northern Ireland is The Giant’s Causeway but don’t be deceived, there is so much more than that on offer. Between exploring stunning beaches, a secret fairy garden, and castles, you won’t be bored for even a moment.
If your family enjoys outdoorsy holidays, then this is the place for you.
The Giant’s Causeway: Everyone can enjoy this wondrous place at their own level. Smaller kids will enjoy clambering over the flatter areas and peering in to rock pools while those with slightly stronger ankles can pretend they’re mountain goats and climb to their hearts’ content. For those with even older, more adventurous kids, there are additional walks up the cliffs. While the site itself is free (as long as you don’t park in their carpark or use their facilities), the bus up and down to the sea does have a small fee for when those little ones are exhausted at the end of the day’s exploring.
Dunluce Castle: This ruined castle is just perfect for letting little ones fall in love with history without even realizing it! While they run, climb and marvel at the setting (high up on a cliff face), just watch how happy they are…and then relax in the lovely little cafe just opposite the castle entrance.
Beaches: We explored White Rocks and Carrick a Rede. At White Rocks, we discovered a phenomenal sand wall that we spent hours climbing only to throw ourselves down, over and over! We also walked for miles enjoying the rocks and caves.
After taking your kids for the thrilling walk over the Carrick a Rede rope bridge there is a rocky beach crying out for exploration. Don’t miss it!
The Dark Hedges: Just before the famous Dark Hedges is a stately home (Gracehill House), which has created a small fairy village in the grounds. Take a walk and let your little ones discover the cutest little fairy houses ever.
Obviously, this is a tiny snapshot of what this warm and welcoming place has to offer and I highly recommend you get yourself over there asap. But don’t forget the raincoats because I can’t guarantee perfect weather!
Contributed by Cassie Perse | Mexico Cassie
When you think of Venice, romance comes to mind. Roaming cobbled streets, snuggling in a gondola, and sharing a gelato while a clock tower rings through the city streets.
But did you know Venice is family friendly as well? Here are some tips to include the kids in your Venice adventure.
First, get there early. We woke up early (my kiddos wake up early anyway) and headed into the streets of Venice at about 8:30 AM – early enough to have the city to ourselves. We explored alleys, bridges, canals, and piazzas. It felt like our own personal movie set.
Next, do a Gondola ride. It seems touristy, but my kiddos still reminisce about traveling the canals. We took the first gondola of the morning. Tourists took pictures of us because we were the only ones on the water. The kids felt like stars!
When traveling with kids, don’t over-plan things. Besides the gondola ride, and a general idea of what we wanted to see, we didn’t really have an itinerary. We let the day, and our children, guide our adventure. That way the kids are more invested in the experience.
Sometimes leaving your schedule open leads to amazing experiences. For instance, we found the library (actually a church) from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We had an adventure finding a shop that serves pasta in Chinese take-out containers. We followed people walking around with them until we found the secret location.
So, make travel a game, have fun with the kids, get some gelato, and you’ll see visiting the magnificent city of Venice really is an experience for the whole family!
Contributed by Janelle Vecchio | My Vacation Pants
Also, read – La Dolce Vita: The classic two-week Italy Itinerary
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