City breaks are the perfect family bonding experience – they’re a great low-stress option for half-term – and Europe is full of child-friendly restaurants, hotels and activities. Here are our favourite cities for children of all ages.
With playgrounds and glorious parks in every neighbourhood, London has plenty to entertain young visitors. Its vast range of museums and sporting venues make it a winner for teens, too.
From the Tower of London to the Changing of the Guard, there’s much in London that will bring history to life; plus, most of its museums are free to enter.
Forget any trips you made here pre-children. Actually, you probably already have. There is far more to Amsterdam than coffee shops and the red light district; in fact, it’s the ideal place for children.
Start by touring the city by boat or bicycle. The Van Gogh museum is unmissable (buy tickets ahead to avoid queuing), and for children of mid-primary school age and upwards, the Anne Frank House offers unforgettable insight into the horrors of war – read this brave girl’s diary ahead of the trip, as a family.
The food will please even the fussiest eaters (who doesn’t like pancakes and chips?) In fact, Amsterdam may be the most easy-going family city destination in Europe
Disney’s sappy happy endings have no place in Copenhagen; here, the fairy tales take a darker and altogether more fascinating turn. From the sad mermaid in the harbour to the magical Round Tower, with its equestrian staircase, there is plenty of food for thought.
Tivoli, Copenhagen’s amusement park, open since the days of Hans Christian Andersen, features a handful of adrenaline rides, but also flower gardens, funfair booths, a lake, good dining venues and a romantic air in the evenings.
Top 10 family adventure holidays in Europe
Cycling, Austrian Tyrol
With dramatic mountains all around, this self-guided cycling holiday with Saddle Skedaddle starting in Fügen (closest airport Innsbruck, 40 minutes’ drive) is along quiet cycle paths in the Tyrolean valleys. It can either be a relaxed introduction to family cycling or faster-paced, depending on the routes chosen each day – though all cyclists will want to ride to the dramatic gorge at Wolfsklamm and swim in the lakes of Krummsee and Reintalersee. Kids will love the Black Hole water slide at the Zillertal Thermal Baths, plus a trip to the Kufstein fortress and planetarium at Schwaz.
Zipwiring, canoeing and abseiling, Scotland
In the shadow of sequoias, deep in Scotland’s Big Tree Country, is the 18th-century mansion of Dalguise (30 minutes’ drive north of Perth, two hours from Glasgow), once the summer home of Beatrix Potter. Peter Rabbit-loving kids will recognise the manager’s centre as the home of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. Now its 50 acres of formal gardens and mature woodland, by the river Tay, are the setting for family adventures ranging from zipwiring and tree climbing, to abseiling, canoeing, rock climbing, and mountain biking. There’s also an indoor sports dome for rainy days, and family and kids’ entertainment in the evenings.
Coastal horse riding, Ireland
Galloping, or just trotting, on horseback along a beach while Atlantic waves crash in is an exhilarating experience. This farm in County Sligo, right by the sea, runs family holidays for intermediate riders and above, aged 12-plus, with riding every day. Trek along the lanes, past lakes, waterfalls, historic houses and mountain backdrops, too.
Rock climbing, Spain
If your kids love the climbing wall back home, try them on the real thing on the sunny Costa Blanca, where the limestone sea cliffs and mountain crags provide a perfect and varied learning setting. Rock and Sun tailors holidays to level and age – for younger children one morning session a day is often enough. The beaches at Calp are great to relax on when not climbing. Nearest airport is Alicante, 40 miles away.
Canoeing and camping, Sweden
For the ultimate family slow travel experience, paddle down the Klarälven river in Sweden, averaging just 2km per hour. The serpentine meanderings, and Värmland landscape of forests, small villages and farmland are a delight. The river is wide and mellow, so this trip is suitable for children of all ages, as long as they’re keen to wild camp on the river’s banks. You can stop whenever you want to hike in the forest and be sure to look out for beavers around the banks and shallows. An adventure yes, but a peaceful one. The starting point is Gunnerud, about four hours from Oslo or Stockholm by train to Karlstad then bus