Exploring European Cities with Kids
With so many beautiful cities and towns to visit in Europe, it’s hard to decide which ones to visit first. Here are the best ones to start with. By Rowena Carr-Allinson
Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid (Photo: Kadellar)
Can’t decide where to go on your European adventure? Here’s a quick lowdown on the best cities to discover on your family vacation in Europe. Each city is packed with historical sights, each more beautiful than the next, and family-friendly attractions you won't soon forget. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes because European cities are all about exploring by foot!
You can’t tour Europe without stopping in the French capital. Although it has a reputation for being unfriendly for kids, there is actually plenty to do in the City Of Lights 'en famille'. Rich in history, with classic sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and the Champs Elysees, there’s plenty to keep the whole family busy. The city also has beautifully kept parks and a host of child friendly attractions such as the Jardins des Plantes Zoo, the Gallerie de L’Evolution with its stuffed critters and you can even take Tuk Tuk tours to get from A to B.
Trevi Fountain in Rome (Flickr: Patrick Subotkiewiez)
Another city steeped in history, Rome is stunningly beautiful and utterly bewitching. The kids will feel like they are literally walking through history thanks to the remnants from the past that literally litter the Italian capital – from the http://www.minitime.com/Colosseum-Rome-Italy-attraction to the Pantheon and all those amazing fountains like the Trevi Fountain made famous in Fellini’s movie 'La Dolce Vita'. And, of course, there’s the amazing food – glorious pasta and the best pizzas…
The British capital is a great place to explore with kids. Hop on the iconic red double decker buses and cruise the city to take in the sights from the Queen’s residence, Buckingham Palace, the parks like Hyde Park or Regent’s Park and the impressive Tower of London where the crown jewels are kept! Treat the kids to a proper high tea with scones cream and cakes aplenty.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam (Flickr: Bert Kaufmann)
Forget its reputation as a town for 'adult entertainment', the Dutch city well-known for its beautiful canals is really kid-friendly. There’s plenty to see with the family – whether you are art fanatics or not. Those who appreciate a museum or two will be spoilt for choice and even the kids have their own museums here like at the Hermitage. Then there’s the beautiful Vondelpark, the pancakes and the friendly locals. What more could you ask for?
Right on the Mediterranean, Nice is a great seaside resort to visit with the kids in tow. There’s the great food, the Cours Saleya market, the fishermen’s harbor, and, of course, the pebbled beach! It’s also the perfect base to explore the neighboring towns like Cannes, heading inland to Grasse, the perfume capital, or to the charming Provencal hideaway that is Mougins.
Parc Güell in Barcelona (Photo: JoRobot)
This Spanish town combines the beach escape with the urban experience. Barceloneta Beach is the place to go for sunbathing, sports and watching the hustle and bustle along the promenade! In town, don’t miss the gothic quarter for a Harry Potter type experience, walking amongst the age old buildings down tiny jumbled streets – or the market at La Rambla for all sorts of fresh food. The city is also famous for its rather eccentric Sagrada Familia cathedral and the Güell Park packed with weird and wonderful works by Gaudi.
Harry Potter fans will feel right at home in this picturesque little town famous for its elite university and dreaming spires. Families visiting should take in the jaw-droppingly beautiful colleges, but also the charming traditional covered market. And, if weather permits, join the punting in old flat bottom boats known as punts on the river Isis, preferably with a Pimms and Strawberries picnic.
The Spanish capital is packed with great things to see on a family vacation. There’s the art, the food, the architecture, and the nightlife, best enjoyed after a babysitter is booked since the Spaniards dine very late! For some fresh air and welcome shade in summer, don’t miss the Parque del Buen Retiro, which translates to "Park of the Pleasant Retreat" and so it should! The best bit? The boating lake for a little row about, and the beautiful Palacio de Cristal.
Best visited without a pram, due to all the steps on those bridges, the Italian city with a reputation as one of the most romantic spots in the world is a great place for a family vacation, because it’s traffic-free. Once you have mastered the canals, bridges and narrow lanes, you can enjoy the art, fine architecture, great food and chasing the pigeons on St. Mark’s Square.
Markt on Christmas at Bruges (Flickr: Ricardo Samaniego)
Nicknamed the 'Venice of the North', this Belgian city is utterly beautiful and full of surprises, not least the plethora of chocolate shops! What’s not to love? A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s quite fairy-tale like, and best visited in the run up to Christmas or in Spring. Don’t miss the old historical center, the market square, the City Hall and the 13th century belfry with its 48 bell musical carillon!
Rowena Carr-Allinson contributed this to MiniTime. Since the arrival of her son in 2011, she has taken him everywhere from Bangkok to NYC, writing family friendly articles en route.