If you’re planning a European holiday with the whole family it can be quite a challenge to find a location that suits everyone – especially if you have older children. While toddlers and little ones are usually generally kept entertained by a typical beach holiday, older kids and teenagers will probably be looking for something more stimulating.
The solution? A European city break. Choose the right kind of city and you’ll find a location that’s packed with fascinating attractions, spectacular scenery, vibrant cafe culture, relaxing green spaces and, sometimes, even a beach. That’s just about every holiday box ticked, all in one location.
If you’re in need of some inspiration, consider these three family friendly cities…
Expansive beaches and artistic genius in Barcelona
The capital city of the Catalonia region of Spain, Barcelona is a supremely popular destination and it’s easy to see why. Families will absolutely adore this colourful and passionate city, which offers a beach holiday and urban adventure rolled into one. An abundance of sweeping beaches, dotted along a coastline stretching 4.5km, mean you’ll get your fix of sun, sea and sand before venturing into the city.
This is no ordinary city. Spend some time admiring the quirky buildings, many of which were designed by the visionary genius architect Antonio Gaudi. The Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in Spain, a towering, gothic-style church that’s still under construction. Stretch your legs and soak up more masterpieces from Gaudi in Parc Guell, and stroll long Las Ramblas, which teems with restaurants, bars and street stalls. Beyond this main area, Barcelona has a huge range of restaurants just perfect for children.
Of course, if you have football fans in the family, a visit to Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona, is a must. If you’re visiting during the football season you might be lucky enough to get hold of tickets for a match but a stadium tour is available throughout the year. Get an inside view of one of the greatest football clubs in the world, standing on the side of the pitch and sitting on the Barcelona bench.
World class museums and spacious parks in Amsterdam
Laidback style awaits in Amsterdam, with its networks of canals, galleries and museums. Art lovers will be drawn to the Stedelijk Museum, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, but kids might be impressed most of all by the NEMO Science Museum. It has five floors of interactive features and, perhaps best of all, you can access the sloping roof of the building, which is designed like a terrace. Stop for a drink and admire the panoramic views out across the city.
Amsterdam is pretty compact so it’s relatively easy to walk around the city. But if little legs start to tire, choose another way to get about. Hop on a tram or hire a bicycle – the city is full of cyclists. Book a canal ride too, cruising around in one of many glass-roofed boats.
The city is full of bars and cafes, and street vendors selling seriously tasty treats. Tuck into piping hot stroopwafel – waffles stuck together with syrup – a cone of thick fries, pancakes and churros dipped in rich chocolate.
Enjoy a change of scene, switching from urban cool to inner city green space by heading to one of Amsterdam’s parks. Actually, there are more than 30 in the city but the major ones include Vondelpark and Oosterpark. These are great places for kids to let off some steam, burn off some energy and perhaps enjoy a picnic afterwards.
Browse flights from Amsterdam and experience one of Europe’s most diverse cities.
Ancient ruins and mouth-watering Italian food in Rome
Italy’s Eternal City blazes with ancient ruins, passion, delicious food and lashings of the dolce vita, the good life. To walk around the city is to step back in time to the glorious days of the Roman Empire, with a number of well-preserved ruins headed up by the Colosseum. Kids will love the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre in the world. In its pomp it housed 50,000 spectators who hungrily watched gladiators in combat. Though it of course now stands empty, the atmosphere remains eerily powerful.
While you’re in sightseeing mode, tick off some of Rome’s other striking attractions – the Pantheon, Vatican City, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, where it’s tradition to toss in a coin. Doing so means you’re destined to return to the city one day.
Of course, there’s a vivacious and modern side to Rome, too. The piazzas buzz and sing with tourists and locals going about their business, and there’s sumptuous food around every street corner. When in Rome, eat pizza and gelato and lots of it. The restaurants and pizzerias in the main areas will catch the eye but some of the very best food in Rome can be found in humble establishments – don’t be afraid to ask locals for their recommendations. Try wood-fired pizzas at La Gatta Mangiona, the small but hugely popular Pizzarium and the roasted pork (porchetta) sandwiches at Panificio Bonci. Part of the fun, however, is in discovering culinary delights of your own.