One of the greatest parts of having children is being able to teach them new things, to show them new sights, and to enjoy new experiences with them. There’s no better way of ticking all of these boxes than travelling with the kids, whether it’s on a cultural trip or one aloft with leisurely activities, and the best way of combining these kinds of holidays is to visit somewhere that has it all.
Everybody needs some time off now and then, but people with kids might think that planning a holiday for the whole family can be a fairly arduous task. Do you focus the entire plan around child-friendly spots? Do you opt for a pre-organised package deal? Do you give in and fork up the prices for DisneyLand?
No; you simply have to look a little bit more locally. Luckily for UK based families, there’s a host of locations nearby that are easy to get to, are mostly budget-friendly and offer both parents & kids plenty of things to sink their teeth into; and they’re all in Europe. A short flight or ferry away, many of these European cities, countries and regions provide everything a family could ask for, all whilst often providing plenty of sunshine.
Complete Holiday Homes know all about making the most of time with the family on holiday, which is why they’ve compiled this list of fantastic European spots to consider when schools out and the kids want to see something new, each of which provides plenty for the parents to enjoy too.
Devon/Cornwall - England
Our first destination really puts a focus on the term ‘local’ as it’s England-based. The tail end of the country features plenty of fantastic family-friendly activities, superb sights to see and delicious indulgences to sample. Whether you focus on Devon or stay within Cornwall, there are lots of lovely things in the south of England to enjoy with the family.
Divine Devon ice cream, scrumptious Cornish pasties, classic fish & chips; what more could taste buds want from a vacation? Whether the kids need a quick pick me up during a day of exploration or you fancy getting comfortable in one of the many charming pubs, asking a local guide should reveal some truly delightful spots for food and drink.
Get Your Hiking Boots
A particularly fantastic day-out if you’ve got a four-legged friend within the family, there are plenty of fantastic hiking opportunities and walking paths to explore. Devon has its famous moors, while Cornwall boasts breath-taking coastal hikes, and both offer captivating views of nature; all whilst getting some exercise in.
Whether you’re trying to decide between one destination or looking to make the most of visiting both, both Devon and Cornwall have some spectacular unique selling points; with Devon playing host to the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway and Cornwall having The Eden Project. The former is a historic water-powered railway, the highest & steepest in the world, and the latter is a gigantic & beautiful botanical garden.
Themed Family Fun
Finally, if all else fails, South Devon has the ever-popular Woodlands Family Theme Park. Known as the largest theme park in Devon, Woodlands has everything from rides to petting zoos, providing something from kids of all ages. Also, if you want to go all-in, you can even organise camping or caravaning on-site.
Brittany - France
Our first step out of the UK and into Europe is into the romantic country of France. As wonderful as the famous Paris can be, there are many other places to visit that offer French charm and family-friendly fun in spades, with the region of Brittany being a prime example. Considered the French alternative to Cornwall, Brittany truly offers something for every member of the family.
Brittany offers plenty of spots for those looking to enjoy a little bit of water-based fun. Those looking to try their hand at surfing & sailing can find a variety of different places for lessons, but an exceptional location for this is in Audierne, where you can learn from the best; the European surfing vice-champion, Thomas Joncour.
French food is widely recognised as being some of the best in the world, but you don’t need to go to Michelin star restaurants to get a taste of the region. Excellent food can be found in abundance in Carantec; a wonderful seaside town that has fresh oysters, crepes and lemon tarts around every corner.
The Whimsical Side of History
Located in the central-northern part of Brittany is the natural beauty that is Parc d’Armorique. Particularly enchanting are the storytelling walks in the Monts d’Arrée, which showcases the stunning sights with stories about Breton folklore, with Celtic fairy tales and multilingual songs.
Get Closer to Nature
Certainly one of the most magical places to visit is Huelgoat, which features a free-to-visit waterfall & grotto. The area also features Domaine de Menez Meur, a parkland that’s filled with wild boar, deer and even wolves. The latter is kept safely behind fences, but the herbivorous parkland dwellers flit around the area freely.
Lisbon - Portugal
Lisbon is one of the finest spots in Portugal to visit for both day trips and the nightlife, though fortunately for families the latter isn’t something that’s entirely intended for those above the age of 18. Lisbon can serve as a great choice for more active families too, as it’s based almost entirely on hills, and those that can adjust to these steep walks can find plenty of cultural riches around every corner.
Beaches, Beaches & Beaches
It should come as no surprise that the gloriously sunny Portugal features some utterly delightful beaches, with each one being well worth visiting, whether it’s for a couple of hours or for the day. The quality of beaches means that even picking the one closest to you will likely result in a superb day out, but some of the greatest for its sights alone are the Praia Sao Pedro beach and the Costa da Caparica beaches.
Sundown, No Problem
The culture in Portugal often encourages late-night dining as the norm, and due to this, it’s not uncommon to see children accompanying parents long after the sun goes down. Whether it’s watching some Fado music performances or enjoy the city lighting up after dark, staying up a little over normal bedtimes can be immensely rewarding.
For some reason, it’s hard to deny that cities with their own, unique tram systems have a certain sense of charm. Lisbon is no different, with its bright yellow trams often showing visitors plenty of the city. The number 28 tram, in particular, passes dozens, if not hundreds, of photo-worthy sights, with virtually every spot being the perfect place to get off and see some more cultural marvels.
The Hills are Alive
As aforementioned, Lisbon is a hill-rich city, yet these steep climbs will almost always reveal awe-inspiring sights. Special mentions should go to the traditional district of Alfama, which rewards travellers with beautiful sea-based sights, as well as the beautiful Lisbon castle. Lisbon can largely be recommended district by district, and although they all have their strengths, Alfama is definitely one of the best to spend your time in.
Amsterdam - Netherlands
While some might dismiss Amsterdam as the place to visit to legally indulge in a certain narcotic, this is a short-sighted approach to the grand city. The beautifully cultural location boasts a wealth of wonderful pastimes and sights that are all more than child-friendly.
All Animals, Great & Small
One of the finest zoos in Europe, ARTIS Zoo is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and features an amazing variety of animals, exhibitions and special buildings. As well as an impressive arboretum, planetarium and aquarium, ARTIS Zoo has a Children’s Farm area, a magical Butterfly Pavilion and even an awe-inspiring art collection to enjoy.
Science & History
As well as featuring the extensive Van Gogh Museum and the humbling Anne Frank House (which requires advanced booking, just in case you fancy it) Amsterdam is absolutely packed with fantastic museums, but the most lively place to take children would probably be the NEMO Science Museum. With regularly changing exhibitions and activities to explore, the NEMO Science Museum will always have something enthralling to show the kids.
By Boat & Bike
Famous for the many canals that spread through the city like veins, Amsterdam offers plenty of opportunities to take in the city via boat, with various different boat tours available from virtually anywhere in the city. If you feel like ingratiating yourself with the local life a little more intimately though you can easily hire bikes, which make travelling through the city easy and enjoyable, thanks in no small part to the bike trails, which easily match the number of roads.
Speaking of boats, the beloved Amsterdam Food Tour is a private canal tour that explores the city and the many delicious cuisines the city offers. Complete with in-depth history lessons and dozens of different food samples, the Amsterdam Food Tour is one of the best ways to get kids excited about the culture of Amsterdam.
Sorrento - Italy
Finally, we have what is arguably the jewel of Europe; Italy. This country may have classic beauties, such as Rome or Nice, but one of the country’s greatest hidden gems is undoubtedly Sorrento. The coastal town is an utterly enchanting spot for sights, the sea, food and family fun, as well as being virtually a stone’s throw away from other exceptional locations like Pompei and Capri.
More Than Just Pizza
It should go without saying that Italian cuisine is almost universally beloved, and it’s actually harder to find somewhere bad to eat rather than good when in Sorrento. Many restaurants have either enchanting interiors, filled with trees and vines, or overlook the captivating coast. The sights with these spots rival the delicious food that, although serve sublime pizzas, offer lesser-known Italian delights.
Wonder Down Every Street
Street performances and odd examples of art are found in essentially every city in the world, but some of the most intriguing examples of such can definitely be found in Sorrento. The same can be said of delightful hidden spots, such as charming wine bars for the parents, gelato shops for the kids and shops filled with fanciful wonders, such as the traditional Sorrento wood inlay art.
Culture for Children & Adults Alike
Local guides will be able to point the directions easily enough, but some spots that are certainly worth investigating include the MAV, the Città della Scienza and the Giffoni Film Festival. The MAV, aka the Museo Archeologico Virtuale, brings ancient ruins to life using captivating holograms and videos, the Città della Scienza is an engaging science centre and, when in season, the Giffoni Film Festival is a week-long event that presents kids with film-based workshops and plenty of family-focused film screenings.
Italian Style Wonders
It’s difficult to list all of the enthralling attractions Sorrento offers, but a handful of these include the Nehombo thermal-springs park, the enchanting, serenely blue Grotta Azzurra and the fantasia-inspiring Monte Faito, a cable-car ride that reaches the top of the Lattari mountains. Last, but certainly not least, any evening can be finished in magical style by visiting one of Sorrento’s stunning sky bars, such as the Sky View Bar at the Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento.
*Pictures from Pixabay*