Iceland is one of the best natural playgrounds for kids and a world schooling Geography lesson for all ages. On our 5 day Iceland road trip last year, we fell head over heals in love with the country and managed to steer away from the tourist crowds. We also discovered ways to save money on a family trip to Iceland, despite it’s reputation as an expensive country, and discovered so many things to do in Iceland with kids. So much so, we’re going back again later this year!
Whilst there are a whole range of adrenaline pumping activities on offer in Iceland including ATV tours, river rafting, glacier walks, and volcano tours, many of these have a minimum age limit of at least 10. Therefore this list I’ve compiled is aimed at parents with young kids (toddlers up to age 10), including some free and cheap activities for kids in Iceland.
But without further ado, here are our top 15 things to do in Iceland with kids.
1. Hit the beach
The beaches of Iceland aren’t necessarily your standard sunbeds and swimwear destination. But with your kids wrapped up in layers, the dramatic beaches battered by the harsh North Atlantic are fascinating to explore. Many beaches are black from the volcanic rock, either as the perfectly smooth pebbles found at Djúpalónssandur or in fine sand form such as at Diamond Beach, where there are also shimmering shards of ice to marvel. But if you’re looking for an endless expanse of golden beach, head to Rauðisandur Beach on the remote West Fjords.
2. Swim in a geothermal pool
Whilst the Blue Lagoon and Secret Lagoon are top tourist spots for a dip in a geothermal pool, we recommend heading to one of the many local swimming pools found in most towns across the country. Not only are these a much cheaper option, but it’s the best way to mingle with the locals, who will happily chat away with you in hot tub about how wonderful their country is (we are in total agreement).
One of our favourites is Borgarnes Swimming Pool, just a couple of hours north of Reykjavik. Entry is IKR900 per adult (approx. £5.70) and the boys were FREE (although their website does state IKR300 for children). There are kids’ pools and slides, plus free arm bands for children should you need them. Ensure you follow the correct etiquette on entry to pool and wash thoroughly – yes, that does mean getting naked in the shower and washing your bits with soap in front of everyone!
This is the best way to explore Iceland’s stunning landscape and it’s free! Some of our favourite hiking spots were along the Snæfellsnes Peninsular. Park up your car and just follow the footpaths. Don’t forget the snacks and make sure your kids are wearing good walking boots (check out my guide for the best children’s walking boots).
4. Play by a waterfall
Iceland is known for its abundance of spectacular waterfalls. You will hear them before you see them. There are ones you can walk over (Kirkjufellsfoss ), ones you can walk behind (Seljalandsfoss), one with a rainbow (Skógafoss), and others that are just huge (Goðafoss). Whilst the waterfalls are impressive, my boys enjoyed those more where they could play in the river and over stones, such as at Öxarárfoss in Thingvellir National Park.
5. Check out Reykjavik’s kid-friendly museums
All travellers to Iceland seem to find themselves in Reykjavik at some point, whether it’s using the city as a base, or just passing through on the way to or from the airport. It’s a fascinating place to explore in its own right, with lots to keeps kids entertained, including kid-friendly museums (Saga Museum or Maritime Museum), watching a children’s concert at Harpa Concert Hall, and an afternoon spent at the recreational area of Laugardalur. Check out our guide to visiting Reykjavik with kids.
These beautiful hardy creatures are found all over Iceland, and even though our youngest was just 3 at the time, he got to ride one! If your kids have experience riding horses or are aged 7+, you can pre-book riding tours. We recommend Hestalanda Farm. As my boys had no riding experience and were 3 and 4 years old, they enjoyed a gentle ride around the indoor paddock and were involved in brushing down their horse and prepping it for riding. Call or email ahead to book.
7. Watch boiling water shoot out of a geyser
The hot springs of Geysir were a huge highlight for my Go Jetters fans (the Strokkur Geyser features in the first series). Thankfully there was no Grand Master Glitch to be seen, and the main geyser (Strokkur) was free to shoot boiling water up in the air at any given moment. Very exciting to witness. The geyser blows every 6-10 minutes, sometimes up to 40 metres high. You can also see them at Gunnuhver Hot Springs.
8. See the Northern Lights
Whilst everyone who visits Iceland has this on their bucket list, only a lucky few actually get to witness the spectacular Aurora Borealis. Many suggest driving out into the wilderness late at night armed with blankets and a flask of hot chocolate, or even taking a tour. This isn’t really ideal if you’re travelling Iceland with young kids.
Instead, stay at accommodation in isolated areas away from light pollution, ideally with large windows and a Northern Lights wake-up call (when the front desk can call you in the night no notify you of sightings). You can then wake your kids up to see them if it’s worthwhile. Our stay at Kast Guesthouse offered just this. Although the aurora during our visit wasn’t obvious to the naked eye and therefore not worth waking the boys up. Next time.
9. Eat hotdogs
Iceland’s de facto national fast food is the hot dog, and was a winner with our boys. They are everywhere! You’ll find hot dog stands in most towns and cities, and also at petrol stations.
Do as the locals do and order with everything – raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. If you’re a meat eater, you’ll be happy to know that these hot dogs are made with organic meat. However, being a vegetarian myself, it was disappointing to not find a vegetarian hot dog.
10. Spot seals on the beach
The Vatnsnes Peninsula in Northwest Iceland is perhaps the best and most well-known place to go seal watching. Driving around the peninsula there are road signs with pictures of seals to indicate good viewing spots. The best viewing times are two hours before and after low tide (check here for low tide) and if the sun is out, you will have a better chance of spotting them. Remember they are wild animals, so keep your distance and stay quiet. Be extra cautious in the summer and autumn when it’s pupping season.
11. Whale Watching
Iceland is one of the best places in the world for whale watching, and you have a good chance of spotting an orca (also known as a killer whale). The best time of year to see whales around Iceland is from April to September with the peak season being June, July and August. There are whale watching excursions all over the country, and some even operate through the winter. The tours are available to all ages, and kids under the age of 6 are often free. Just be weary of sea sickness as the waters around Iceland are far from calm.
12. Puffin watching
Iceland has the largest puffin population in the world and there are puffin colonies all over the country where you can visit and observe the birds in their natural habitat. You can combine and whale and puffin tour with Hey Iceland (children under the age of 6 are free).
13. Dog sledding
Become a musher for the day near Akureyri in Northern Iceland and go dog sledding! Children aged 7 and over will get their own sledge, whereas children between the ages of 4 and 6 can sit on their parent’s sledge (only one child extra per slegde). This activity is for the colder months when there is snow. However, in the summer months you can try dogscootering (scooter pulled by huskies)! Check out this review from Ladies What Travel.
Photo credit: Ladies What Travel
14. Discover plane wrecks and ship wrecks
The tempestuous weather and rough seas of Iceland have made the island home to many a wreckage. The most famous of these is the DC3 Plane Wreck which crashed into Sólheimasandur on Wednesday, November 21st, 1973. Amazingly, no one was injured in the crash. There is also the shipwreck remains of a fishing trawler from Grimsby (Epine GY7), scattered across the beach at Djúpalónssandur, left to remember the fourteen men who lost their lives on that tragic day of 13th March 1948. There are many others scattered across the island, bringing these tragic stories to life.
15. Descend into a lava tunnel
Grab a hard hat and head torch, and descend beneath the earth’s surface to explore a lava tunnel on a guided tour. If your kids are under the age of 12, you can still venture underground on a Standard Lava Tunnel Tour at Raufarhólshellir (minimum age 3).
This is a one hour tour and with good accessibility as a footbridge and several paths have been built over the roughest terrain. Wear warm waterproof clothing. It’s very cold down there and water drips down from the ceiling. If you visit during winter, you’ll see ice sculptures formed inside the entrance of the cave. And don’t worry, it’s very safe – this was formed by an eruption which occurred 5200 years ago and not likely to happen again any time soon!
16. Camp under the midnight sun
If you’re visiting in the warmer summer months, hiring a campervan or bringing your own tent is a great way to explore the country, get closer to nature, and keep costs down. And if your kids are anything like mine, they love camping!
In the summer months, due to the proximity to the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t fully dip below the horizon. This does mean lots of daylight hours to fill, and it can be very difficult to get young kids to sleep, especially if you’re in a tent. Try lying blankets and towels over the top of the tent to block out the light whilst you get the kids down.
You can even wild camp in many of the more remote locations. However, do remember that weather in Iceland is very unpredictable and you need to be prepared. Also, make sure you have a camping stove as open fires are not allowed in Iceland.
So yes, there are so many things to do in Iceland with kids! Lots of free stuff, and a tonne of natural adventures. Have you visited Iceland with kids? What did your kids love the most?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission.
Al fresco dining late into the evening, outdoor festivals, hiking amongst jagged mountain peaks, and days whiled away at the beach… Europe is at its best in the Summer months. And boy, doesn’t EVERYONE know it. Accommodations get booked up, there are queues to get a parking spot at the market towns and beaches, and prices rocket.
Our travels in Europe as a family have always been off season (such as the Vendée in February, Lisbon in December) and we have never travelled Europe in the summer school holidays. But now our eldest is in school, we can no longer be so selective in WHEN we travel to Europe. But we can be selective in WHERE we travel in Europe.
Living in Tuscany with our family has given us the opportunity to find the best places to sight-see in the high summer season without being shoulder to shoulder with the tourists in Florence or fighting for parking in San Gimignano. If you want to avoid the tour buses and overpriced souvenir stalls of the more famous ‘guide book cities’, head a bit further south to explore the town of Pitigliano.
Located between the western coast and the busier town of Orvieto, Pitigliano stands above the landscape seeming to emerge from rocks, known as ‘tufo’ in Italian. On a weekend in mid-July we wandered the streets of Pitigliano without a tour group in sight. We explored small artisan shops, ate pizza outdoors under a shady tree with a view of the countryside, and cooled down with water from a public fountain, which the kids thought was so much fun. At times we felt like the only travellers in the city and the kids loved being able to explore the streets without mom and dad grabbing their hands and worrying about losing them in a crowd.
Known as “little Jerusalem”, the town of Pitigliano has a unique story for history buffs to learn about as well. We parked on the outside of the city centre, along the top of the rock wall on a street lined with shady benches, which made for a picturesque and relaxing way to view the city. It’s a beautiful place to spend a day before heading toward the beach or back to the pool of your agriturismo.
When I think of visiting Spain in the summer holidays I generally picture beaches packed with sun loungers and umbrellas, all-inclusive hotels with kids clubs and streets lined with overflowing Irish bars. BUT if you take a step away from the traditional ‘Brits abroad’ destinations, you can find some really special places that are off the beaten path.
One of my favourite places that I have visited in Spain is the picturesque area of Frigiliana. Described as the ‘prettiest village in Andalusia’ by the Spanish tourism authority, this quaint area is only a few minutes drive from the hustle and bustle of Marbella, yet it seems a world away.
It has a traditional Spanish vibe and no big hotels or tourist crowds. There are many nearby tourist attractions that you can drive to before retiring back to enjoy the beautiful scenery over a nice relaxing glass of Sangria. Many of these attractions are perfect for kids – you can take them hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains (the hanging bridges are great fun), visit the Nerja Caves or explore how the ‘other half’ live in Puerto Banus.
There isn’t a huge amount of accommodation here but we found a gorgeous Airbnb that had the most stunning views looking out over the mountains and ocean!
Greece is perfect for families – kids are welcome everywhere, there are beaches galore, and plenty to explore whether you prefer myths and history or boat trips and snorkelling. And there are so many Greek islands that it’s still relatively easy to find one which is free of crowds.
Tucked between Rhodes and Kos, Symi is a world away from these tourist hotspots. Accessible only by ferry, you arrive to one of the prettiest harbours in the world, with Italianate pastel houses sprawling up the hillside.
There aren’t many ‘sights’ on the island but that’s part of its charm. Once an important spot for sponge diving, you can visit the island’s monastery or take the bus up the hill to the little town, but even better are long lazy days spent on one of the many beaches.
Little water buses cruised around the island stopping at tiny coves with a handful of loungers on the shingly sand, often only accessible from the water which was the clearest turquoise I’ve ever seen. And all seemed to have a small taverna with fabulous fresh fish at bargain prices. There’s no quicker way to relax.
We stayed at Iapetos Village, with a little pool and basic self-catering facilities, a few streets back from the harbour.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the summer crowds and head to Liscannor, Ireland! There you can rent an amazing cottage from Airbnb that’s just a short walk from the Cliffs of Moher. The over 200 year old cottage is surrounded by Irish farmland, fields of flowers, and the prettiest and healthiest cows you have ever seen. The cottage has multiple bedrooms to easily fit a family, and get this…it has goats! The host even left us a box of cereal to feed them.
When it starts nearing sunset, pack up some food for a picnic, a blanket, and a camera. Then stroll along the private trail through the fields that leads to a section of the cliffs. It is quite possible that you’ll have them all to yourself. Once you round the corner, and you start to hear the waves crashing, find a spot to setup your picnic. From there, be prepared to witness one of the most beautiful sites you ever see. The majestic Irish Cliffs of Moher at sunset…all alone.
Berchtesgaden is a quaint Bavarian town located in southern, Germany. It is full of beauty and things to do, yet is often overlooked by tourists who instead go to Salzburg, Austria or other nearby Bavarian towns.
While in Berchtesgaden, we suggest visiting the Eagles Nest for stunning views and history. As the former Bavarian compound of the Nazi’s there is a vast array of history to walk through. Many of the tunnels are still in tact and you can visit on your way back down from the Eagles Nest, in Obersalzburg. The Berchtesgaden Salt Mines are another kid-pleasing attraction. You will take a tour through he underground mines, which includes a boat ride in an underground lake!
We suggest staying at Pension Seeklause where you’ll be treated to more gorgeous mountain and lake views as well as an authentic German bed and breakfast experience. From here you can walk through Berchtesgaden National Park and explore the serenity of this European town.
To read a more in depth guide to Berchtesgaden click here.
6. Tbilisi, Georgia
(Kami, Kami and the Rest of the World) Where to stay: Hotel Flower
Even if each year more and more tourists travel to Tbilisi the capital of Georgia is still relatively off the radar. It’s one of the most unique cities in Europe, a truly East meets West point, and you should visit it before the mass tourism discovers what a fantastic destination this is.
Tbilisi has so much to offer that it will keep you busy for at least 2-3 days. Be sure to wander around Old Tbilisi and look up the details of old houses – they are a great example of art nouveau architecture. Don’t be afraid to enter the yard and staircases as they hide some real gems too. Marvel at the splendid Rustaveli Avenue, take the cable car to Narikala Fortress to see the city from above and visit some of the old churches (did you know that Georgia was among the first countries that adopted Christianity?).
Don’t forget about the food – Georgian cuisine is extraordinarily delicious, and each meal turns into a small fest. The best place to stay is Hotel Flower, located in the heart of the Old Tbilisi – no other accommodation gives you such a splendid view of the city.
Lumbarda is a picturesque village in the south-east of Korcula Island in Croatia. It is five miles away from historic Korcula Town. The pretty, hilly village is situated around a small harbour overlooking the Skoji Archipelago in the Adriatic.
There are a few welcoming restaurants and bars offering fabulous views of the Adriatic. There are no discos or thumping music! Families can hire bikes, paddle boards or kayaks to enjoy the pristine water around Lumbarda. The visibility for snorkelling is fantastic and the sea is luxuriously warm for swimming. Kids will love the sandy beaches of Vela Przina and Bilin Zal just 1.5 kilometres away from the village centre. Both beaches gently slope into the sea making them ideal swimming spots for children. There is an easy coastal path families can walk providing beautiful views of the sea particularly at sunset.
Every Friday evening, the small village square comes alive with a Fisherman’s Market. Local people set up enticing stalls selling wine, main dinner courses (mostly fish caught that day) and delicious, locally made desserts.
We stayed in gorgeous Appartment Rano, a friendly Airbnb metres from the shoreline. The village was very quiet, even in August and was a peaceful, calm retreat from other busy Europe locations we visited.
The Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh and the islands can be incredibly busy during the summer. Luckily Scotland has a lot more to offer and there are many places to visit and things to do off the beaten track. A summer trip to the north-east of Scotland boasts sandy beaches, stunning coastal scenery, dramatic lighthouse, fairytale castles and much more!
Aberdeenshire is my favourite region to explore when I’m hungry for nature, history, delicious food and vibrant cities. You can follow the Scottish Castle Trail to visit ruins by the sea and fully-restored castles in the countryside – one of them even has a treetop course. In the Royal Deeside you can go for easy walks and see lots of wild animals – a Scottish forest safari! And on the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail you can hike, visit lighthouses or do watersports – there is so much to discover and many family-friendly activities!
It is much easier to find affordable accommodation here as well – although I would always book ahead of I visit during school holidays. I recommend Skene House in Aberdeen because their fully equipped apartments make life a lot easier.
One of my favourite hidden gems to discover is the beach at Rattray Head – a remote sandy beach with an off-shore lighthouse that makes for some dramatic landscape photography and sand castle backdrop! What are you waiting for!?
If you’ve visited Tuscany and you’re after more amazing hilltop villages, plenty of art and culture but with a fraction of the tourist crowds, head to Le Marche. This central Italian region offers top notch cities such as Urbino, birthplace of Renaissance artist Raphael, and Macerata home to an excellent open-air opera festival. There are charming villages to enjoy long lazy lunches in and plenty of wine tasting opportunities. There are mountains to explore and miles of sandy coastline to unwind on.
In August Italians flock to the beaches of Le Marche but you’ll find very few foreign tourists. It remains very much a locals’ holiday destination. The beaches are really well equipped for families: lots of pizzerias and gelaterias along with beachfront play areas and long shady promendes perfect for cycling.
Accommodation is noticeably cheaper in Le Marche compared to Tuscany: there’s a good range of villas or you can opt for an good value agriturismo where you’ll feast on incredible cuisine!
Once we made our way to Aix-en-Provence, when we were on our Southern France road trip, and visited the markets in the evening, we did not want to leave. The streets were so lively with that South of France charm – plane tree lined boulevards and fountains at every turn. The town was not crowded like most other European cities during summer.
Well-known as the city of art and lights, many famous artists have lived here. These days it is a college town with a Provençal charm. Our original plan was to spend just a night, we decided to extend our stay in Aix-en-Provence and drove to Sault the next day looking for lavender fields. It was beginning of August when we embarked on our little road trip, which was well beyond lavender season. We were checking out the evening market near Cours Mirabeau, where one of the vendors who owns some lavender fields told us that there were a few unharvested fields near Sault, so we decided to drive to go find them the next day! We saw many sunflower fields and a few lavender fields albeit beyond their time and a little gray, but still smelt wonderful.
Of all the European cities we visited during last summer’s family interrailing adventure, Innsbruck quickly became our favourite. Better known for winter holidays, this beautiful city on the banks of the River Inn becomes a peaceful and colourful place to visit over the summer months. Being surrounded by mountains you’ll feel totally cut off from the rest of the world – heaven!
Pick up the funicular at Congress station, designed by Zaha Hadid it’s a work of art itself, then it’s two cable car rides up to Hafelekar station – 2,256m above sea level where it’s time to dismount and explore the top of the mountain range. The views are absolutely stunning, it feels like you’ve landed on Mars. You’re on top of an Alp so give yourself time to hike a few of the child friendly, easy trails.
On your way back down, I suggest popping into the Alpine Zoo where you’ll see various mountain creatures and learn about how they live in such an hostile environment.
This enchanting town in fjord land, on the west coast of Norway, is the perfect place to visit to escape the summer crowds in Europe. We were lucky enough to spend a week there last summer in glorious weather (can’t be guaranteed in Norway!) as part of a road trip around Norway. Stavanger has so much going for it: a spectacular location on the Lysefjord, a bustling colourful historic centre, some unique and interesting museums and some amazing hiking, all within easy reach of the town.
Wander the streets to see the old historic buildings, left over from the sardine canning industry, and bustling harbour. There are flowers everywhere in summertime. Visit two fabulously informative and interactive museums – the Norwegian Canning Museum to find out all about Stavanger’s sardine history, and the Norwegian Petroleum Museum to find out all about oil exploration. Both are fun and engaging for children, with lots of interaction. There’s also a wonderful playground outside the Oil Museum,made from recycled materials from the oil industry.
While in Stavanger you have to spend some time in in the great outdoors. Take a boat ride on the Lysefjord for spectacular fjord views. There are a number of memorable hikes all within an easy drive of Stavanger. Three to recommend would be Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen, with its far reaching fjord views; Kjerag, to stand on a boulder wedged between two cliffs high above the valley floor; and Florli 4444, to climb the world’s longest wooden staircase. Pulpit Rock is the most suitable for younger children, with the other two being being more suited to older kids who have done some hiking.
Iceland is firmly on the beaten path for summer tourists. But hear me out; while there are going to be crowds in and around Reykjavik and along the south coast’s attractions, the further north you go, the fewer tourists you’ll see. One of Iceland’s top things to see is in the north, and when we visited in August we found it much quieter than other places on the ring road.
Lake Myvatn is on the ring road in the north of the country, near Iceland’s second city, Akureyri. The whole area around the lake is on top of a seismic rift, so there’s lots of volcanic activity here. You probably need two days to do Lake Myvatn justice, but it can be done in one. Kids will love the volcanic sights and smells even though there are no specific kid-friendly activities – it’s all about exploring the great outdoors here!
I’d head to Hverir geothermal area first, before going up to the volcano Krafla where you can walk on steaming lava. Elsewhere you can explore a magical forest by the shores of the lake and soak away your cares in the Myvatn Nature Baths – a much quieter (and cheaper) version of the Blue Lagoon.
We were based in Akureyri when we visited Lake Myvatn, but Vogafjós Farm Resort has family accommodation and a restaurant, and is set on the shores of the lake.
There are loads of kid-friendly activities like swimming in the lake or in the many lidos dotted around the area. There’s mini golf in Menaggio – a winner with my kids boasting a backdrop of the lake and mountains. You can hire a boat or take the ferry to another town on the lake. Going exploring is another fun thing to do – my kids adored Belaggio’s cobbled streets and going in a funicular followed by a small hike. If that’s not enough, surely Italian food (pizza and gelato anyone?) was made to be kid friendly!
As for the crowds? It wasn’t deserted but we were pleasantly surprised with how uncrowded it was. We stayed in a lovely AirBnB in a little village called Argegno and had one of our best family holidays ever.
The Orkney Islands is a small archipelago off the north eastern coast of Scotland and it is very rich in Neolithic history. With such places as Skara Brae (a Neolthic settlement), the Ring of Brodger (a stone circle – think Outlander) and Maeshowe (chambered cairn with Viking ‘graffiti’ on the inside) it is easy to get lost in the way life use to be 5,000 years ago.
If modern history is more to your liking than you need to see Scapa Flow (acted as a Naval base during the World Wars), the Italian Chapel (built by prisoners of war) and the Ness Battery (a base). All of these places, including the Neolithic places, are kid friendly and will easily introduce them to the world of history.
My favourite accommodation on the islands was based in Stromness and is a Self Catering Bothy that I booked through Airbnb. Situated on a pier it allowed for me to watch the boats come into the harbour and the sea life that surrounds the island. I would drop everything that I am doing to go back and explore the Orkneys.
Stuttgart, Germany is a major city that packs a punch without the swarms of tourists like the nearby cities of Munich and Frankfurt. There is plenty to do in the city itself such as two car museums (Porsche and Mercedez Benz), visiting the Schlossplatz with the baroque palace standing regal in the background, and taking a stroll in Killesberg park where you can enjoy the biergardens, climb to the top of the Killesberg tower for views of the city below.
If you have children travelling with you, don’t miss the fun train that makes a round trip around the park, the petting area, and a huge playground complete with water play and a zip line.
Be sure to book your stay at the Maritim Hotel, Stuttgart due to its location, large rooms, indoor pool, and three onsite restaurants. Stuttgart is also the perfect jumping off point to visiting other small towns in the area such as the famous Triberg, Germany with its waterfall, black forest clocks, and cake. Or venture off the beaten path to take part in some local German activities like a barefoot walk through the forest. With its international airport and connecting flights around Europe, it is easy to see why Stuttgart, Germany would be the perfect European destination.
Croatia became really popular in recent years thanks to the famous series Game of Thrones. While Dubrovnik is packed with tourists in the summer months, just a 40-minute ferry ride away you can find the quiet Elaphiti Islands.
Kolocep and Lopud islands are car-free. You can imagine this makes it a lovely peaceful paradise for those who come here to relax. You can get around by golf carts, but everything on the islands are within walking distance.
There are several Airbnb places to choose from, each with its own charm! We stayed at Guest House Tomić on Lopud Island, which had the most gorgeous view from the balcony to the town and the Adriatic Sea.
Sunj Beach on Lopud island has a shallow, sandy beach, which is very rare in Croatia. So this place is very ideal for families with children. You can also go snorkelling here and see some lovely fishes.
If you want something more adventurous you can go kayaking around the Elaphiti Islands. It is a great way to explore hidden bays and secluded beaches. There is a cool underwater cave near Sipan Island which can only be reached by kayak. So don’t miss out on this experience if you have a chance!
Luxembourg is one of the most overlooked countries to visit in Europe, but should be on everyone’s bucket list. Because of it’s location within the Ardennes forest, it’s the perfect place for hiking, kayaking, camping, an outdoor lovers paradise!
Not only can you go on an outdoor adventure, but Luxembourg is a great place to go on a castle hunt as well! You can follow the national hiking trail of the “Valley of the 7 castles” that runs through the idyllic Valley of Eisch in the western part of the country. It is a 37 km walk, if your into it, or you can just drive.
It’s capital, Luxembourg City is a great city break with so much to do. You can explore historic fortresses and get lost at the Bock Casemates, stroll through the picturesque streets of the Grund, or simply watch the kiddos play at one of the many playgrounds around the city. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful countries in Europe that has not been overrun by tourists!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post where fellow travel bloggers have expressed their own opinion of a location and provided their own personal recommended for accommodation. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission, which goes towards the running of this blog.
Travelling families are becoming increasingly aware and making wiser choices about how their travels impact the environment and the communities they visit. There are so many small things you can do that make a huge difference, such as packing a water purifier bottle and solar powerbank, using shampoo bars and bamboo toothbrushes, or doing a beach clean with the kids. But perhaps the travel choice that makes the biggest impact is your accommodation.
We always try to stay with independent, family-owned accommodation, rather than large, corporate hotel chains. In this way, we know that our tourist dollar is going to a local family, and in turn, supporting that community. But this choice can be taken a step further by staying with accommodations that are taking steps to reduce their impact on the environment through sustainable waste and energy management.
On our recent visit to Lanzarote, we stayed at the fantastic, off-grid, eco resort of Finca de Arrieta (you can read our review here). I was so impressed at their continued efforts to limit their environmental impact, that it got me thinking… there must be other places like this in Europe?
So I’ve reached out to my fellow family travel bloggers to find the best family eco resorts and eco accommodations in Europe. These accommodations are off-grid, or very almost there, and I hope to add to this list over time.
Family-run Finca de Arrieta (click here to read our review) is an enclave of yurts, just outside the sleepy village of Arrieta, in the North of Lanzarote. This is a far cry from the package holiday scenes typically associated with the island. The North offers the most panoramic views and unspoilt towns of the island, as well as some beautiful secluded beaches. It’s really very beautiful, and not a high rise in sight!
Finca de Arrieta is leading the way in eco-tourism for the Canaries, and quite possibly, Spain. The eco-resort has been built using locally sourced materials, and is entirely off-grid. Power is generated from the the abundance of wind and solar energy, and water is pumped from a well under the Eco Tower, which then runs through a desalinator. Guests are encouraged to separate their waste for recycling, feed any food waste to the on-site chickens, donkeys and rabbits, and to collect water from the shower when waiting for it to warm up and reuse washing up water to hydrate the plants.
There has obviously been a lot of thought in to welcoming families to Finca de Arrieta. From the plastic plates and cutlery, the highchairs, potty and baby bath in every accommodation, to the solar-heated kids’ pool and playground (with huge trampoline), the toy box in the common area, and the pile of buckets and spades to borrow for the beach. Plus, there are chickens, donkeys and bunnies to meet! It really is a wonderful environment for families, especially those with young children.
Set in the foothills of Crete’s White Mountains, Milia Mountain Retreat is a truly magical place to stay with children. Milia is a collection of 15th century stone houses, restored in the 1980s by two friends who wanted to create a sustainable tourism project at a time when other areas of Crete were embracing quite the opposite. Today there are 14 units which sleep between one and five people.
There is great pride in the food here. In keeping with the low-impact philosophy at Milia (water comes from the mountain springs, heating is from solar energy), the produce is all locally grown or reared. Everything we consumed, from the cheese pies, bread and honey at breakfast, to the fresh salads, tender meats and the complimentary raki and desserts in the evening, was delicious.
Our children loved exploring the mountain paths that lead off from Milia. There are walking trails of varying lengths, leading to magnificent gorges, a tiny church or down to the village of Vlatos.
Although Milia feels remote (the mountain approach road is not for the faint hearted), it’s easy to explore the region. We visited the famous beaches of Elafonisi and Falasarna on sunny days. Closer to home, we enjoyed taking in the views at the village of Topolia with its lovely cafes, bakery and wood art shop. We paid a visit to the atmospheric Agia Sofia Cave complete with tiny church, where Neolithic and Minoan artefacts have been discovered.
We fell in love with Bohinj on our trip to Slovenia. Away from the crowds at Lake Bled, Bohinj is not only a beautiful lake but is located on the edge of the Triglav National Park. Besides boating on the lake and enjoying walks, Bohinj is also famous for its flower meadows up in the hills above the lake, and the best time to visit these is in May.
Photo credit: Bohinj ECO Hotel
Bohinj has also worked to ensure its local communities are supported through tourism through creating the Bohinj Brand—‘Bohinjsko from Bohinj’. The brand is a signal to visitors that the product has been created locally, in partnership with local communities. The brand covers products ranging from food products and teas to arts and crafts and general souvenirs, and are available in a number of restaurants and gift shops in the town.
We stayed that the Bohinj Park hotel which was Slovenia’s first Eco Hotel. All Sustainable Certifications are handled centrally in Slovenia, and this is one of the country’s finest. The hotel even has its own water well and energy centre to heat and cool the property effectively. There is plenty to do in the hotel for kids and big kids alike: there are several pools as well as a wellness centre, and stunning views of the mountains. There are family suites/rooms available in the hotel.
Nestled in the heart of the forest, 25 minutes off the main road and totally off the beaten track …. you will find Eco Retreats. Eco Retreats is an eco friendly retreat on an organic working farm in the heart of Wales’ Dyfi forest approximately 7 miles north-east of Machynlleth.
Eco Retreats offer a wonderful and unique glamping experience where you can stay in a yurt or a tipi with incredible views, and provides an opportunity to sit back and relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. The site is wi-fi free, there is a private eco toilet, outdoor wood fired bath and no electricity – the living spaces are lit up but candles and lanterns at night.
We fell in love with the the beautiful yurts and tipi, equipped with everything that you will need for your stay including organic and fairtrade toiletries and tea and coffee. You will need to stock up on food as the shop is a good drive away!
This glamping retreat stole our hearts, and I loved the secluded location, completely off the beaten track. During your stay there are lots of lovely walks, and just a short drive away is the market town of Machynlleth. We also had to stop by in Aberdovey on our way home to soak up some Autumn sunshine.
Around 4 hours drive from Athens lies the magnificent Kinsterna Hotel, a stunning, sustainable, family friendly hotel, ideal if you are travelling with young toddlers or babies.
Just 10 minutes away from the rock of Monemvasia and 80 kilometres away from one of the best beaches in Greece on Elafonisos island, this old estate is quaint, eco friendly and luxurious at the same time. The old building has been completely renovated, but kept the 19th century architecture and decor. A few houses were built and are now spacious apartments with their own gardens, swimming pools or great views to Monemvasia, perfect for families.
All fruits and vegetables used in the kitchen are grown there, while dairy and meat products are bought from local producers. With special emphasis on reviving ancient practices used in the estate in the old times (harvesting grapes and making wine and tsipouro, gathering olives and producing olive oil, baking bread, making soap, weaving fabric on the traditional loom, etc.), the owners have consciously made great efforts to ensure that the local community and wider region will benefit from this impressive model of sustainability. It’s worth to mention that both swimming pools (the adult and the kid one) are filled with fresh running water. Kitchen and garden waste is composted, while organic waste is bio-treated and there’s a program for recycling towels, making Kinsterna perfect for the International “Green Key” certification they received and ideal for families who love sustainable travelling.
Ecolodge l’Etoile d’Argens is a family friendly campsite located in the South of France. Nestled in between st Tropez and Cannes it’s the perfect place for families to explore the beauty of the Cote d’Azur region.
Since 2017 the campsite has been under new management and there is a large focus on making the site more environmentally friendly. All new accommodations are developed using eco-sustainable, natural materials. Wooden cladding comes from “responsible” forests. And local French companies are favoured in the creation and development of chalets.
In Summer 2018 when we visited the campsite entertainment included environmental quizzes as well as activities teaching families about nature and the world around them.
Water in the Var region is a strange topic. Some summers there’s too much and the region suffers with awful floods. While, other Summers, there’s not enough and the region suffers from droughts. The Ecolodge takes care to ensure their water is looked after. The child friendly pool area is fitted with a very powerful filtration system to ensure the purest waters to avoid the use of chemicals like chlorine and the stainless steel trunking ensures no pollutants are released into the water. While the mobile homes and accommodations are fitted with water savers and monitors to avoid any leaks.
But that’s not it, the campsite is continuing to progress. Their future plans include making the campsite a no vehicle zone as well as the creation of a 2-hectare botanical park. They’ve taken the first steps towards using renewable energy which is a lengthy process and they’ve made a commitment to ban all chemical fertilisers and cleaners. So not only is this park fun for the family but it’s working on being amazing for the environment too!
Sitting slap bang next to the rushing Dysynni river, snuggled beneath the dizzying heights of Craig Coch mountain in Snowdonia National Park, is the charming converted mill, Y Felin. The house sleeps up to eight people, so is perfect for a join family break.
Surrounded by 1200 acres of farmland in this beautiful rural area means the owners are eco-aware and have taken pains to ensure the property’s renovation reflects this (the interiors are all local oak, slate and stone). The mill’s water comes from their very own mountain spring and goes through a purification process in the Storage Room. As well as a cosy log burner (with firewood provided from the farm), there is further heating (and hot water) from a ground source pump – a renewable energy source which takes cold air from outside and makes it toasty inside!
High quality and sustainable food is hugely important to the owners and before your arrival, they’ll send you details on how to order organic meat online, which can be delivered to you frozen, direct from Coombe Farm (we went for nitrate free bacon and four juicy steaks). You can also phone through an advance food order of fresh local fish, meat, groceries and bread to the EuroSpar in Dolgellau, who are making a big effort to source local goods.
It’s a magical place to holiday with kids, surrounded by jaw-dropping views and wandering wildlife, where gazing at the stars alongside flickering fire pit flames is as stressful as it gets.
Have you stayed in a family eco resort in Europe that you recommend and is not listed here? Please let me know so I can add it 🙂
Pin for later
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, although I receive a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.
Lying on the beach, with the sun warming my cheeks and the boys digging holes and running around in their underpants, it almost felt like summer. But a step into the Atlantic Ocean for a paddle, quickly reminded me that it was indeed only February.
But what glorious weather we had in the Vendée for February half term! We only had one cloudy day, and all the others were warm and sunny, with a couple of days up to 20°C. Wonderful.
Avoiding half term air fares
Our visit to the Vendée was rather last minute. I had been keeping an eye on flight prices via Skyscanner, but everywhere was just so expensive, quadruple the price of term time. So instead, we decided to take the Dover/Calais ferry (which was £130 return) and drive to the Vendée on the French Atlantic Coast.
We had previously visited the Dordogne and the Loire, but this was somewhere new! Being February, it was too cold to camp, so we looked for a family friendly cottage in the Vendée. Something quaint and authentic, yet which welcomed families and had something for the kids to do.
So we were absolutely delighted when Annette from Maison Lairoux offered to host us for the week in exchange for this honest review!
Check our our video of our half term holiday in the Vendée with kids.
L’Ecurie Holiday Home at Maison Lairoux
We’ve stayed in places before which we’ve called a home-from-home but L’Ecurie Holiday Home at Maison Lairoux might just be the best example we’ve ever seen. You’ll be greeted by the very friendly and sociable owners (Jason and Annette) who you’ll always find on hand to answer any questions and generally make you feel as if you’re staying at a friend’s house.
The cottage is extremely well stocked for families – dishwasher, washing machine, TV, DVD player, open plan dining and living room, two separate bedrooms (one twin room and large one double room, with cot and extra single bed), and a kitchen containing everything (and we mean EVERYTHING) you could ever think of needing during your stay.
There’s a log burner in the living room which makes for a very cosy evening in the winter months, whilst you curl up with a good book and glass of Troussepinette (a fruit liqueur and speciality of the region). For those warm days though, step outside to the patio dining area with views over the wetlands (it’s also a great bird watching spot).
In the communal areas you’ll find an amazing games room containing a pool table, table football, games console, table-tennis, stacks of board games, books, soft toys, beach gear, a costume rack – basically imagine your own toy shop and you’re not far off! The rest of the grounds are well-maintained and provide a perfect space for the little ones to explore whilst the adults enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the expansive views (sunsets are great here).
There is also a very tempting-looking pool, which was closed during our visit in February. But we were assured it was THE place to relax on a warm summer’s evening. We also enjoyed checking out the herb-garden (help yourself) and there is plenty of space to park your car right outside the front door.
The property is situated in the quaint village of Lairoux; very quiet streets to walk around with virtually no traffic, some mid-range walks on your doorstep and 10 minute drive to the nearby town of Luçon (where you’ll find a supermarket and petrol station).
It’s the peace and quiet that we enjoyed, especially after some visits to Eurocamp which, whilst we find very fun, can be quite loud with other kids throughout the day and late into the evening. At L’Ecurie Holiday Home though, the only sounds you’re likely to hear are birds tweeting and the hourly chimes of the adjacent church bells.
There is no bakery or convenience store in the village, so ensure you stock up in Luçon at the start of the week. Although the nearby village of Beugné l’Abbé has a bakery selling delicious Pain des Patrons and all butter croissants, and is only 4km away.
But as our regular readers know, we’re not generally ones for theme parks and often prefer to spend our days exploring more natural landscapes. As we were visiting off-season, it meant that we could enjoy the region’s fine beaches and stunning walks away from the crowds. The beaches in particular are what the region is known for.
In our cottage, we found a booklet that Annette has put together, detailing their favourite walks and beaches in the area (as well as restaurants and attractions). You really don’t need to do any research before your visit, as all you need is in this booklet.
We tried out a few of the walks and beaches suggested. Our favourite walk was Val de Yon, with large boulders to climb over and streams to jump across (park at La Guinguette de Piquet. Our favourite beach was probably La Faute sur Mer, which is conveniently the closest to the cottage, just a 15 minute drive away. La Terrière and Veillon Plage were a close joint second for beaches.
La Faute sur Mer
A morning in Luçon is also recommended. My boys absolutely loved exploring the pathways, rocks and waterfalls of Jardin Dumaine. There’s also a good playground here. Don’t miss a visit to beautiful Luçon Cathedral.
Also, the impressive city of La Rochelle and the trendy island of Île de Ré are only a one hour drive away from the cottage. Allow a day for each.
Getting to the Vendée
There are flights to Nantes and La Rochelle. However, it’s also very easy to take either a ferry or the Eurotunnel and drive. We took the ferry from Dover to Calais. It was then a 6.5 drive to Lairoux, plus an extra hour or so for stops along the way. If you take the overnight ferry to St-Malo, it’s just a three hour drive to Lairoux.
Driving also means no luggage constraints, and a car to get around on holiday. You really do need a car to best explore the Vendée with kids.
Do we recommend L’Ecurie Holiday Home at Maison Lairoux?
If you’re looking for family friendly accommodation in the Vendée that oozes French charm, is in a quiet location, but sociable, and comes with a pool, then I definitely recommend L’Ecurie Holiday Home. We absolutely loved our stay and I particularly appreciated the good insider knowledge that Jason and Annette had of the region.
How to book
Book online at Maison Lairoux. If L’Ecurie Holiday Home is not available, there is also the three-bedroom holiday home, Le Vieux Café, on the same site; equally as beautiful, but has an extra bedroom for larger families or grandparents.
Le Vieux Café
Pin for later
Disclaimer: We were invited to stay at L’Ecurie Holiday Home for a one week complimentary stay in return for this honest review and social media coverage. As always, these are all my own words and opinions.
As an adventurous family who prefer an intrepid style of travel, a family holiday to the Spanish island of Lanzarote had always been off our radar. I had wrongly assumed it was all package holiday resorts and British pubs, and offered little in the way of culture and natural landscapes.
But when I was looking into a warm destination in January/February for a one-on-one adventure with just my three year old, I was very much tempted by cheap flights to Lanzarote and the opportunity to thaw out from the cold British winter. Surely the entire island hasn’t been overrun by mass tourism? Would we be able to travel Lanzarote off the beaten track? Is there much to do in Lanzarote with kids beside the beaches and waterparks? I bought the flights and hoped for the best. It turned out to be a brilliant decision.
Lanzarote seriously impressed me. There is a wild nature to the barren landscape, carved by volcanoes and moulded by the artist and activist, César Manrique. Strict building controls are in place, where high-rises are forbidden, and all buildings are painted white, with green shutters in the countryside (for farmers) and blue by the sea (for the fishermen).
Yes, there are a lot of tourists (there doesn’t seem to be a low season!), and the big resorts do exist (mostly in the South East corner). But we soon realised that there is a lot more to this island than waterparks and beach resorts. During the two weeks with Ezra (my 3 year old) in Lanzarote, we managed to avoid the crowds and found some quiet gems that I feel a little guilty sharing with you.
So here are my tips for getting off the beaten track in Lanzarote with kids.
Base yourself in the north of the island
The main beach resorts are Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca, and Costa Teguise. Therefore it makes sense to base yourself away from these areas should you wish to experience a more authentic side of Lanzarote. The North offers the most panoramic views and unspoilt towns on the island, as well as some beautiful secluded beaches.
We had a wonderful two week stay in a luxury yurt at Finca de Arrieta, towards the North of the island (read our review here). This is a family-run eco-resort just outside the sleepy town of Arrietta, and an absolutely fantastic place for young families with a playground, farm animals, heated pool, and kids’ activities (such as yoga and film night).
Check out the video of our stay at Finca de Arrieta and what we got up to in Lanzarote.
Have your own wheels
Public transport is very limited on the island and the tour buses… well, they don’t really embrace independent travel. A car allows you to travel under your own steam, stopping wherever you like for as long as you like, and gets you to those quieter spots away from the tour groups.
The island of Lanzarote offers such an array of beaches; from volcanic black sand beaches, surf beaches, small sandy coves, and stretches of sunbeds lined along shoreline.
The beaches around El Papagayo are extremely beautiful and the sea is a perfect turquoise. However, despite the long, bumpy road to get there, these beaches do get busy. Alternatively, head to the opposite end of the island to Playa de la Cantería, by the tranquil town of Órzola. This is a beautiful sandy cove with a steep mountain on one side, and rock pools to explore on the other. There’s quite a surf, so bring a boogie board. The quiet beaches just south of Órzola, off the LZ1, are also worth a visit.
Playa de la Cantería
We also loved Playa de Famara, a spectacular surf beach adjoined to the chilled-out surf town of Caleta, on the West Coast, with a dramatic backdrop of mountain. This beach is very much dominated by surfers and THE place to come if you want to learn to surf. If you’re visiting Lanzarote with toddlers or younger kids, just walk a bit further along the beach, and you’ll find your own little spot for some paddling, boogie boarding, and sand castle building.
Playa de Famara
Find the authentic towns
Our favourite towns to wander were Arrieta, Orzola, Haria and Teguise. The latter two get very busy on market days. Teguise is firmly on the tourist map and the Friday market caters to its audience, but it’s very pretty town. However, Haria market day on a Saturday is more of a local market selling organic fruit and veg. If you want to avoid the crowds through, don’t visit on market day.
In all these towns there are local restaurants with sea food specialities in abundance, and you will always stumble across a playground and somewhere to pick up an ice-cream.
Arrive early to tourist sites
There are some impressive sights on the island, including the volcanoes at Timanfaya with its Mars-like landscape, the lava caves of Jameos del Agua and Cuevas de los Verdes, the Jardin de Cactus, and the houses of César Manrique. You do not want to miss these. Your best bet is to arrive at opening to have the best chance of avoiding the crowds. Check the respective websites for up to date opening times.
We arrived to Timanfaya as it opened at 9am, and when we left around 10:30am, there were cars lining up a very long way from the entrance gate, waiting to get in, on a weekday in February.
Checking out the volcanoes at Timanfaya National Park
One tourist spot to perhaps avoid is Mirador del Rio. The view over to Isla Graciosa are indeed incredible, but it’s just as incredible 10 minutes south at Mirador de Guinate, where there are no tour buses or entrance fee.
Take the ferry to Isla Graciosa
If you truly want to escape the crowds and get off the beaten track in Lanzarote, take the 25 minute ferry from Órzola to Isla Graciosa. There are no paved roads on this island and only 700 people live here. As you step off the ferry, you feel like you’ve been transported a million miles away.
Playa de las Conchas, Isla Graciosa
Our 4×4 on Isla Graciosa. Felt like we were back in Africa for a moment!
You can walk or hire bikes to get around the island. But as it was just me and my three year old, we clubbed together with some other travellers we met on the ferry and hired a 4×4 to take us around the island. SO MUCH FUN! For four adults the price is €50, and small children are free. When you disembark the ferry, walk to the right and to the line of 4×4 waiting for tourists.
If you stay on Isla Graciosa for a night after the last ferry has left, you will most definitely have escaped the crowds of Lanzarote.
Have you visited Lanzarote with kids? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Pin for later
Disclaimer: We were invited to stay in the Eco Yurt Royale at Finca de Arrieta for two weeks complimentary stay in return for this honest review and social media coverage. As always, these are all my own words and opinions. Furthermore, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission towards the running of this blog.
My finger hesitated over the ‘confirm’ button. Didn’t Michael Palin christen the island ‘Lanzagrotty’? Supposedly the island of sunburnt beer bellies, English fry ups, and soulless resorts?
But flights were SO cheap. £130 return for just Ezra and I at the end of January (I wanted to do a little one-on-one trip before he started school) and the weather was certainly going to be warmer than our home in the UK’s Peak District. Surely the entire island hasn’t completely been overrun my mass tourism?
I was determined to find something a little different. Something that would suit our sense of adventure. So I was absolutely over the moon when Michelle, the founder of Lanzarote Retreats, offered to host Ezra and I for a couple of weeks in their luxury Eco Yurt Royale at Finca de Arrieta in return for this review. Yes – a YURT! Now that’s definitely something I could get on board with. I immediately accepted her kind offer. A quick check of Finca de Arrieta on Tripadvisor confirmed that I had indeed made the right decision. Glamping in Lanzarote sounded perfect.
Check out our video of our stay in Lanzarote
Family-run Finca de Arrieta is an enclave of yurts, just outside the sleepy village of Arietta, in the North of Lanzarote. The North offers the most panoramic views and unspoilt towns of the island, as well as some beautiful secluded beaches. I was genuinely surprised. All my preconceived ideas of the island flew out of the window after a couple of road trips around the area. There is a wild nature to the barren landscape here, punctuated by the crumbling white-washed buildings of quaint towns and villages, which almost have a Moroccan feel to them. It’s really very beautiful, and not a high rise in sight!
Playa de la Cantería, Orzola
There are a range of yurts on offer at Finca de Arrieta to suit all budgets and group sizes, as well as a couple of quirky lodges like the Eco Surf Shack and Eco Cabin. Each accommodation is unique and private from its neighbour, yet a sense of belonging radiates through this eco-conscious community, firmly established with Monday’s Paella Night.
We stayed in the beautifully designed Eco Yurt Royale, a spacious 83m² Mongolian yurt. There are two super king-size beds and two single beds, which can be separated into bedrooms with curtains. Red felt material encases the wooden beams and lattice frame, and statement hardwood Mongolian and Balinese furniture, provide a luxury, but homely feel. A Buddha sits underneath the central skylight, which can be opened in warmer months for ventilation and stargazing. In the cooler winter months, it feels very cosy and extra blankets and hot water bottles are provided (not that we needed them).
Once you step outside of the yurt you enter a central courtyard leading to a covered kitchen, an indulgent outside bath and gazebo, and an elevated bamboo dining area, and bathroom. This area is all open, so you can cook in the kitchen, whilst the kids play in the courtyard, and someone else sits reading on the gazebo, or even has a bath (there are curtains!)
Finca de Arrieta is leading the way in eco-tourism for the Canaries, and quite possibly, Spain. The eco-resort has been built using locally sourced materials, and is entirely off-grid. Power is generated from the the abundance of wind and solar energy, and water is pumped from a well under the Eco Tower, which then runs through a desalinator. Guests are encouraged to separate their waste for recycling, feed any food waste to the on-site chickens, donkeys and rabbits, and to collect water from the shower when waiting for it to warm up and reuse washing up water to hydrate the plants.
There has obviously been a lot of thought in to welcoming families to Finca de Arrieta. From the plastic plates and cutlery, the highchairs, potty and baby bath in every accommodation, to the solar-heated kids’ pool and playground (with huge trampoline), the toy box in the common area, and the pile of buckets and spades to borrow for the beach. There are even a range of car seats to hire and push chairs to borrow, to save parents bringing these items from home. Plus, there are chickens, donkeys and bunnies to meet! It really is a wonderful environment for families, especially those with young children.
Children will also love planting their own cactus in the cactus garden. This is offered free to all guests. A little something to leave behind and perhaps return to one day down the line.
And make sure you book in to Kids’ Yoga on a Friday and the Kids’ Movie Night on a Sunday!
Each accommodation has a private kitchen with cooker and large fridge/freezer. There is a small supermarket in the local town of Arrieta, as well as the convenience store next to the petrol station. However, on our first day, I drove the 25 minutes to Mercadona in Arrecife (click here for location), a large supermarket, to do a big shop for the fortnight ahead.
There is no restaurant on-site, although you can order in the meal of the day in advance, and a breakfast box to be delivered. If you find yourself short though, you will be able to find something in the small honesty shop. There are even jars of pre-prepared ingredients for baking muffins!
Playa de la Garita, Arrieta
From the resort, a 300 metre pathway leads you to sandy Playa de la Garita, with a low-key beach bar, tapas restaurant and playground. Try the mojitos from the camper. Delicious. Further into the town, you’ll find a few more restaurants overlooking the sea. There are some great seafood options if you like your fish flapping fresh, although as a vegetarian, I found the menus rather limiting.
Aside from kids’ yoga, and kids’ Movie Night, as mentioned before, there are also adult yoga and pilates classes.
Should you wish to book a tour, hire bikes, or book ferry tickets, chat to Renata at the info desk. She’s there every morning from 10 to 3 and has a fantastic knowledge of the island if you’re after something a bit different.
4×4 tour around the nearby island of La Graciosa
Finca de Arrieta is in a great location for many of Lanzarote’s sites. Although do remember that this is a small island (it only takes one hour to drive from the northernmost town of Orzola to the southenmost town of Playa Blanca), so everywhere is in reasonable reach for a day trip. It’s just a 5 minutes drive to The Catus Garden, 8 minutes to the caves of Jameos del Agua and Cueva De Los Verdes, and 10 and 15 minutes to the picturesque villages of Haria and Teguise respectively.
Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Teguise
A courtesy hybrid car is provided for guests staying in the luxury accommodation, including Eco Yurt Royale. A car is essential for getting around the island, as the public transport is very limited. You could of course opt for tour buses, but we always prefer the independence of our own wheels. Driving around the island is very easy. Download offline Google Maps before you arrive so you can use it’s navigation. Although the main sights are all very well sign posted. Parking is never a problem, unless it’s a town’s market day.
When to go
We visited at the end of January / beginning of February. Temperatures hovered between 18 and 21 degrees Celcius, and dropped to 14 at night. Some days offered four seasons in one, so wear layers and take a light jacket should you be caught in drizzle, and you will still need suncream for those warmer days. The pool, although heated, did feel rather chilly. However, my three year old was absolutely fine in a wetsuit. Same with the sea. July and August are the hottest months of the year with temperatures reaching 38°C, combined with frequent windy days.
A dip in the pool in February. Tip: pack a wetsuit for kids and they’ll be totally fine as it is heated.
Though with sunshine all year round, the peak periods are Easter, July, August and December.
If you’re a family who love getting off the beaten track, crave wild open landscapes, and like things a little bit different, I cannot recommend glamping in Lanzarote enough. Finca de Arrieta was a wonderful base for our two weeks of adventures, and I was extremely impressed at how much thought has gone in to welcoming families and making life easier for parents. Plus, the location is perfect. Nearby Arrieta has retained its local charm and the surrounding landscape is wild and stunning. Just ensure you book ahead for school holiday dates as the secret is out on this very special place.
Disclaimer: We were invited to stay in the Eco Yurt Royale at Finca de Arrieta for two weeks complimentary in return for this honest review and social media coverage. As always, these are all my own words and opinions. Furthermore, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission towards the running of this blog.
One of our favourite things about living in the UK is the ease (once you’ve got through airport security checks!) of being able to pop on a short flight to a different country and immerse yourself in a totally different culture for a weekend. We’re so lucky to have such a variety of culture and history on our doorstep and just over the past few months we’ve visited Reykjavik, Lisbon and Nuremberg thanks to Easyjet and Ryanair.
Visiting Lisbon, December 2018
But as a family, we’re always looking for something a little different. Yes, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome, are all incredible cities, but their popularity often translates to expensive accommodation and busy tourist sights (especially if travelling during school holidays), and perhaps you’ve ticked them all off already. However, if you are looking to venture somewhere different, you need to have the confidence in knowing that there will be enough to keep the kids happy.
So I’ve reached out to some fellow travel bloggers for their suggestions of alternative European city breaks with kids. I’ve already found so much inspiration from this, and hope you do to. You may also want to check out my list of ‘Places to visit in Europe in Summer to avoid the crowds’.
Pin for later
Now put your feet up with a cuppa, as this is a bumper of a post…
Our visit to Nuremberg after Christmas last year really took us by surprise. It was a city I’d always associated with a dark history, and really had no idea how much there were for families to do. There’s the Transport Museum, Toy Museum, the castle, and Playmobil Park, to name a few (READ: Nuremberg with kids: Top 10 things to do).
With it’s cobbled streets and medieval architecture set within the old city walls, it’s a lovely compact city to wander around, perfect for little legs. If you wish to venture further afield, the public transport is excellent with a choice of tram, bus and metro criss-crossing the city efficiently to a reliable timetable. If you need to refuel at any point, try the Nuremberg Bratwurst, sold at street stalls around the Old Town. Apparently the way to ask is “Drei im Weggla” (“Three in a bun”); a bit different to your standard one-sausage in a finger bun, and arguably tastier.
Image used for feature photo | credit: Corina, Packed Again
I’ve got to be honest, cities are not our most favourite travel destinations, unless they are surrounded by mountains, have a medieval feel and a size whereby we can easily walk from A to Z.
Sion, the Capital City of the Canton of Valais in Switzerland has all this to offer and more. A scenic train journey from either Geneva or Zurich airport brings you right into the heart of the city. Sion is really family friendly with beautiful narrow streets, fashion shops, small coffee corners and amazing old architecture.
The Nature Museum of Valais surprises and seduces young and old with its original approach. Interactive stations and questionnaires make this a great family activity and a museum the kids will love. And last but certainly not least walk up to the medieval castle Tourbillon and pretend to be back in the time of knights and princesses. Once you have finished exploring the old town hop on the tourist train (Le P’tit Sédunois). The route brings you out of the city to a beautiful park with a lake which gives you a great perspective of the city layout.
The medieval town of Kotor in Montenegro is a great city break for families looking for a combination of city and outdoor activities.
The world heritage listed town is tucked away on the spectacular Bay of Kotor. Take time to explore the pretty cobblestone alleyways and churches. Our kids loved climbing the city walls and chasing/patting some of the many cats that call Kotor home. Our top tip is to check the arrival times of the cruise ships that regularly dock at Kotor as the town can be very busy at times.
While you are in town, plan to hike to the San Giovanni Fortress overlooking Kotor. The cobblestone path winds up past a dilapidated stone church tower to the top where the views across the bay are spectacular! Allow at least 2 hours to make the climb with kids and plan to walk early or late in the day to avoid the heat. The views are worth the steep climb and any grizzles you hear from the kids!
Finally, hop on a boat to really appreciate the beauty of the bay and surrounding areas. Book a tour or rent a private boat and visit the small island of Our Lady of the Rocks and take a swim.
Located right between Brussels and Antwerp, city of Mechelen is one of those beautiful hidden Belgian gems. With majority of the city centre being a pedestrian zone, many child-friendly restaurants and activities for kids, it’s also a great place for a family trip.
Things kid will love meeting Rommy;A cute character created after the St Rumbold’s Tower. His image is in front of the child-friendly restaurants, museums with some children activities and similar child-friendly places. There’s also the Toy Museum, which holds one of the biggest toy collections in Belgium. With different tasks kids could do there and art workshops, it’s a place where the whole day could be spent.
Also make sure you do one of the two self-guided children tours. Maps with routes and explanations can be found at the Tourist office. They could be combined with tasting booklets, so you can try some cheese (there is even a kids corner at the cheese shop), pastries or cookies on your way.
Whilst Croatia and Serbia get most of the attention when it comes to travelling to the Balkans, the landlocked country of Macedonia provides the same opportunity to explore incredible history whilst also taking in wonderful natural sights.
A great city break is the historic UNESCO township of Ohrid nestled on the ancient shores of Lake Ohrid. Here families can explore a plethora of sites and experience the wonders of both history and nature.
A quick walk along the cobblestone laneways of Old Ohrid will take you to an ancient theatre where the kids can jump on stage and perhaps put on a impromptu act for you whilst you watch from the stands. Or perhaps you could take a walk along the lakeside boardwalk to Kaneo Beach where you can feast on the unique trout caught from the lakes depths before exploring the archaeological site of Plaoshnik and then climbing up to Samuel’s Fortress which is said to have been built by Alexander the Greats father Philip himself.
But to take full advantage of the location, charter one of the traditional fishing boats and sail to Sveti Naum where the kids can run around, row along a hidden river and explore a medieval monastery before heading back via the Bay of Bones, a prehistoric immersive museum which is well worth your while. Or, if you would rather just relax, you could park yourself on the shores of the lake for the duration of your trip!
Wizz Air offers flights from both England and France to Ohrid airport. Some visitors prefer flying into the country’s capital city of Skopje and taking a bus to Ohrid.
On a recent summer road trip through Norway, Stavanger quickly became our favourite city. Stavanger on the west coast of Norway has many things going for it. It has a spectacular location on the edge of the Lysefjord, an old historic centre, several interesting museums, and also some amazing hikes all within easy reach of the city.
There is plenty to do in Stavanger with kids. Take a boat ride on the Lysefjord for spectacular fjord views. Visit two of the best child-friendly and interactive museums we’ve been too – the Norwegian Canning Museum to find out all about Stavanger’s sardine history and the Norwegian Petroleum Museum to find out all about oil exploration. Spend some time in the great outdoors with a hike to Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), manageable for most active kids.
When you think of visiting Ireland, Dublin is probably the city that springs to mind the most. But there are so many more family-friendly cities in the country that you should forgo the expensive capital and try somewhere else. Like Cork City. Located in the southern half of the country it is less than 3 hours from Dublin along smooth motorways and has plenty on offer for kids.
If you’ve got a budding scientist on your hands, why not visit Blackrock Castle. Although it looks like a castle from the outside, it’s actually an observatory with interactive displays for kids to learn about things like life and the cosmos. If your kids love animals, then Fota Wildlife Park is the place to take them. With all the major animals on-site and more, it’s a great place to spend several hours with the kids. Just remember your wellies if it’s been raining.
And finally, no trip to Cork is complete without visiting Blarney Castle. Situated just 20 minutes from the city, you might even get bestowed with the gift of the gab if you are brave enough to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Without an iconic landmark such as Paris’ Eiffel Tower and Rome’s Colosseum, Helsinki sometimes gets overlooked when it comes to city breaks with kids. But where else can you swim in an outdoor pool next to the Baltic, spot Moomins and submarines on an island fortress, and visit a church hollowed out of the rock – just for starters?
We spent a few days in the Finnish capital in May, a perfect month to make the most of the sun – while still having some night to encourage my daughter to sleep. If you visit nothing else, make a trip to the island of Suomenlinna: once a naval base and a prison, today it’s home to the city’s toy museum as well as a submarine you can board, plus long clifftop paths to wander along.
Some of our other highlights included the interactive National Museum, which mixes VR goggles and audio exhibits with child-friendly displays, plus the Allas Sea Pools on the harbour front. The Baltic pool is as bracingly chilly as you’d expect, even in early summer, but there are two heated pools including a kids pool to try.
Do your kids know the fairy tale writer H.C. Andersen? And do they like his stories? If so, you should consider visiting Odense, Denmark. H.C. Andersen was born in Odense, and the city is full of H.C. Andersen related activities. Most of them are some that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children – like H.C. Andersen’s childhood home where he lived with his parents from the age of 2 to 14. When you see the house, you’ll realize that H.C. Andersen came from very humble beginnings. You can also visit The Tinderbox, a children’s culture house where H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales come to life through play and art.
If you visit Odense in October, there is a unique opportunity to let your imagination run wild and dive into a fantasy world almost as popular as H.C. Andersen’s – namely Harry Potter’s universe. Every year more than 10.000 people come to Odense to take part in the Harry Potter inspired festival “Magical Days“.
If you’re visiting Poland and want to shun the popular tourist spots like Warsaw and Kraków head to Zakopane. It’s roughly a two-hour drive from the more well-known city of Kraków and ticks the boxes for a cheap weekend break with little ones.
In Zakopane you can head to what claims to be the smallest factory of sweets in the world, Ciuciu Cukier Artist. You can watch syrupy concoctions being mixed and rolled out to create colourful candies. If you look longingly enough you might even get a little sample.
If you want to tire the children out or you’re in need of a rainy day activity head to Aqua Park Zakopane. There’s a small toddler section with fountains and small slides, an outdoor pool (great for sunset) and bigger slides for older ones. Also, whilst in Zakopane, it would be wrong not head up the funicular for the mountain views and a cheeky chimney cake.
Larnaca (Larnaka) in Cyprus is a great place to visit with kids. The temperate climate can get a bit warm in the summer months, but it’s ideal in the spring and fall when the rest of Europe can be a bit cool for outdoor fun. When I visited with my daughter, our favourite thing was to grab an ice cream (or a coffee) in the square by the Church of Saint Lazarus, then wander down to the promenade. We could people-watch, do a bit of shopping with the various vendors, or simply sit with our toes in the sand.
However, for a phenomenal beach experience, Ayia Napa is a quick car ride away. The sand is soft and white, and the water is a warm and calm. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon! The beaches are very different, but many have have pedal boats and jet skis to rent so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
No trip with kids would be complete without a visit to a playground. The closest one to central Larnaca is beside the Cultural Center at the Monastery and Church Saint Georgios. There’s plenty of room for the kids to run around, and the Monastery itself makes a beautiful backdrop.
York is the perfect alternative city in Europe to visit with kids! Easy to get to either by car or train from most major UK cities and close to Leeds international airport, York is very accessible wherever you are coming from! There are tons of family friendly things to do whatever the weather, such as the fabulous National Railway Museum, river cruises, ghost walks and the yummy chocolate story museum. For older children you can learn about some of York’s more gruesome history on a ghost walking tour or a trip to York Dungeons!
It is also a great place to visit for the budget conscious family! A trip to York doesn’t have to be expensive for families with plenty of free activities such as walking the historic city walls, visiting the national railway museum – where you can see the mallard, rocket and other famous trains or taking a trip to the historic shopping street the Shambles! Be warned there is s Harry Potter shop there that may prove a costly trip!
On top of that York is full of historical and cultural gems that no visit to the city is complete without. Firstly, be sure to visit the York Minster and marvel at the beautiful stained glass. With older children, climb the tower for unrivalled views across the city. Clifford Tower is another gem that explores some of York’s more unpleasant history. And, at any time of year, children will love the Museum Gardens. My little one especially loves a visit York during Christmas to see the beautiful illuminations.
What would Switzerland be without cheese, chocolate? Not much, possibly! Well, you can experience all this without visiting the Top-Rated Tourist Swiss Attractions, which means anywhere in the Alps.
The city of St.Gallen is the 8th Swiss largest city and definitely off-the-beaten-path.
Visit the Naturmuseum, one of the best Swiss museums dedicated to natural history. Learn all about bears (the symbol of St. Gallen) and get to know all the other inhabitants of our mountains, rivers, lakes and forests: beavers, lynxes, stags, ibexes, and so on. Even cat fish. The museum is highly interactive, with plenty of touch&smell positions.
Ride out to the Appenzell cheese factory (Schaukäserei Appenzell) in nearby Stein, less than 20 minutes away. The Appenzeller cheese is one of our most popular ones, as well as the tastiest and smelliest. You can see the production in the making, sample 5 different types of cheese and visit an interactive exhibit. The secret of this cheese unique flavour derives from the 42 local herbs and spices used in the making. Kids can mortar and pestle some of these herbs, and take them home.
Make your own chocolate bar at the Maestrani Chocolate Factory in Flawil (25 minutes away). Enjoy the interactive Chocolarium museum and eat as much Swiss chocolate as you can. During the 1-hour long workshop, wearing a chef hat and apron, you’ll be creating your own unique chocolate bar to take home, using the types of chocolate and toppings of your choice.
Ireland, in general, is one of my favorite family destinations and Waterford, located in Ireland’s Ancient East along the southern shore, is one of the best cities in Ireland to visit with kids. It’s chock full of incredible museums, fun food, old charm, water, and historic sites.
Kids will love wandering down the old cobblestone streets and learning all about Vikings and medieval times in Ireland at the Medieval Museum where you can see actual ruins from ancient castles and learn about life long ago in a fun and engaging way.
The Waterford Crystal factory, although not a place you would normally think to bring kids, is actually amazing. You can take a factory tour and learn all about how the crystal is made and even see crystal moulds for many famous people as well as high-end projects that are in progress.
If you catch Waterford on a rainy day, you can head to Activate, a huge indoor family fun centre with a soft play area, rock climbing, and bowling. It’s a fun alternative if the kids are burnt out from learning about all of Ireland’s incredible history! If you visit during good weather, be sure to take advantage of all the outdoor activities and nature that Waterford offers, from horseback riding, cycling, hiking, and boating.
(Lisa, Travel Loving Family) Recommended stay for families: Nantes Camping
We absolutely loved our city break in Nantes located in the Upper Brittany region of western France. It’s a very green city with over 100 parks and gardens, lots of attractions, museums and over 30 theatres so great for active and culture loving families.
Our favourite attraction was 40 foot mechanical elephant at The Machine de l’île (Machines on the Island). He strolls around the former ship yard spraying water at bystanders. My boys loved it!
The Château de Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is also worth checking out. You can walk around the ramparts whilst taking in the impressive views of Nantes city centre.
Directly opposite the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany there’s a free water sprinkler area which is great fun for young kids to cool off on a hot day.
We stayed just at a five star campsite, Nantes Camping, which was just a short ten minute drive from Nantes City Centre (although on the bus and tram route too so we found it easier to pop in on public transportation).
(Katja, globetotting.com) Recommended stay for families: Chez Tante Alice(a lovely family-friendly B&B about 14km from Durbuy itself)
Durbuy is “la plus petit ville du monde” (the smallest city in the world) but few people outside of Belgium have even heard of it. This medieval city in the country’s Wallonia province is incredibly picturesque with ancient cobbled streets, timber-frame houses and a pretty chateau – all dating back to the 14th century.
Today Durbuy includes 41 villages and hamlets under its umbrella making it a great destination for families with plenty to do. Start your visit with a ride on Le petit train touristique, a fun tourist train that winds its way through the city streets and up to a viewing tower where you can see how small the city really is. Once you’re back in the centre, head to Durbuy’s topiary park; it’s the largest of its kind in Europe home to over 250 figures crafted from Boxwood plants. Kids are given an activity booklet as they enter and have a great time trying to work out what all the sculptures are. From here, visit the neighbouring town of Borlon and the Goat Farm run by the extremely friendly Géradine. Visits to the farm have to be arranged in advance and run from a two-hour experience to a full-day outing milking the goats and taking them to the field. We spent a couple of hours here and the kids loved it!
In 2018 we spent February half term exploring Porto with kids. As a family of 5 we flew from the UK to Porto for only £220 (yes that price was for all of us) so it was a fabulously cheap thing to do for Half Term.
The three things we loved in Porto were our family friendly tour with Sara from Portoalities. She was warm and engaging and made the history of Porto accessible to the kids as well as to us. We took a trip to Guimaraes (another recommendation from Sara) which everyone enjoyed and the train trip was fun. Thirdly we loved the Teleferico de Gaia – the cable car which runs from the Jardim de Morro park by the Dom Luis I bridge down to the port warehouses and the boat tours.
(Katy, Untold Morsels) Recommended stay for families: La Romea
A city with buckets of charm and green spaces for exploring, Lucca is a great alternative to Florence for a family trip to Tuscany. In the 19th century, Lucca’s historic city walls were converted into a public park circling the old town. This is the perfect place to take a stroll or hire bikes to cruise around the 4 kilometre track. There are a couple of playgrounds along the way too.
From the walls you can see the city’s iconic medieval towers rising up over terracotta rooftops. Visit the most famous Torre Guinigi for sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside under the shade of the trees of its unique rooftop garden. On the ground, Lucca is a delightful city to wander and stop at fountains, admire Renaissance churches and play in its piazzas. Of course there are plenty of opportunities to stop for gelato.
Bled is not only one of the most iconic places in Slovenia but also a favourite spot for families with children. One of the things you can do is taking a walk around Lake Bled. This is a beautiful 6 km long walk, also suitable for cycling with your little ones. Along the path, there are several areas suitable for having a picnic, also numerous cafes and restaurants.
And what is visiting the lake without water activities?! Of course, swimming will make for kids the best part of the day. There is a great area for swimming with several pools, two waterslides, playgrounds, but also various table games and kayak rentals. And if this is not enough, you can also enjoy a boat ride and paddle to the island.
Another activity is visiting Bled Castle, a mountaintop fortress with a stunning view – of the lake and surrounding areas. This is a must place for taking a good family picture with a panoramic background. A popular hiking trip from here, not difficult at all, is going to Vintgar Gorge.
To make the family day perfect, there is a typical symbol of Bled – cream cake, called “kremšnita” that kids will surely love it.
The city of Dundee on Scotland’s east coast hasn’t always had the best reputation but in recent years that has changed. It’s now a city that is thriving and exciting and is the perfect destination for a city break with the family. A city, which is best know for its jam, jute and journalism is the birthplace of Beano, Dandy and Oor Wullie, cartoon characters which can be found as sculptures dotted across the city centre.
The brand new V+A Museum (the only one in the world outside London) has exhibitions popular with kids including comics and a dress from Star Wars and next to this amazing building is the RSS Discovery which Captain Scott sailed in to the Antartica. Kids absolutely love the Science Centre where they can shoot out nose like a bogey, move a ping pong ball with their mind and turn themselves into a gorilla.
(Katalin, Our Life, Our Travel) Recommended stay for families: Hotel Sadova
Gdansk is a budget destination for families on the northern shore of Poland. We rented a whole floor in an old villa and spent 10 days to rest, emerge to culture, explore nature, and fill up our bellies with delicious Polish meals.
The Old Town is filled with historic buildings, famous war locations and our favourite a museum ship, the Sołdek, is anchored on the shore of Vistula too. The variety of sights can occupy teenagers as well.
The city beach and its wooden pier are must-visit places with kids. Although the sea is rather cold compared to the popular beach destinations, the sandy beach and the cheap prices make it up for. The beach spreads along the shore for several kilometres.
If you want to avoid crowds, head to Westerplatte peninsula. The WW2 started there and it’s a spacious green area with remains of bunkers and monuments to learn about the war or just let the kids run around. Ideal location for a half-day-trip from the city.
Conwy, Wales is one of the most beautiful areas of Wales, and often overlooked by travelling families. Located on the northern coast, just outside Snowdonia National Park, the area is perfect for exploring with kids. Conwy is a walled town with a historic castle built by King Edward I in the 13th century. Kids will love exploring Conwy Castle with all its nooks and crannies and views of the town and harbour.
Families can also walk along the town walls for free for a different perspective, but know that the stairs are steep and it is not stroller friendly. Once you’re done exploring the castle, head into town for a bite at one of the local restaurants or pubs on High Street.
Kids will also enjoy the Conwy Valley Railway Museum where they can ride on a miniature train or taking a visit to Bodafon Farm Park where they can interact with the animals and see a working farm.
Luxembourg City is fairly compact and has a great public transport system, which recently became free for everyone. On top of that, the tourism board has devised a really cool way for families to visit Luxembourg City – the ‘City Promenade for Kids’, a walking tour and treasure hunt for families including tales about the city, like that of Melusina, the wife of the city founder, who also happened to be a mermaid!
Older kids and teenagers will love to explore the Bock Casemates, a network of tunnels into the rock atop which the city was built, also housing cannons, kitchens, shelters, and even stables.
If the little ones (and the big ones) get hungry, the Chocolate House is a great place for a break. Located right in front of the Grand Ducal Palace, you’ll find lots of chocolate-based delicacies including ‘hot chocolate spoons’, lumps of chocolate with various flavours on a spoon that can be stirred into hot milk.
(Bec, Wyld Family Travel) Recommended stay for families: Hostal Atenas
When you see a picture of Granada the one thing you will not be able to go past is the Alhambra. Sitting high on a hill it overlooks everything, it looks stunning from a distance but it is nothing like the beauty on the inside. It is a must visit, as well as the Generalife Gardens which can be done on the one day or over two if you have little ones.
But there are plenty of other things to do in Granada as well. You can go on a Segway Tour through the streets of Granada for people with older kids. You can see a Flamenco show and share some tapas together. You can wander the alleyway markets and pick out a gorgeous souvenir of your time in the city. Find a free walking tour and learn about how a local feels about their city. Visit the Hammam Al Andalus Arabian baths for a relaxing soak.
You can also just wander the streets and find so many gorgeous buildings. There is an old Bull fighting ring in the city. While it is no longer in use we found it a great conversation started with our girls about the practice. There are plenty of play grounds for the younger children as well.
Granada is a lovely place and is a great family friendly place that not everyone knows about!
The beautiful city of Mostar is not the obvious choice for a European break but any visitor will fall in the love with this city – just like we did! Located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia Herzegovina the city has easy links to Sarajevo and the neighbouring countries of Montenegro and Croatia. Mostar is still recovering from the devastating conflicts of the early 1990s and whilst there is still evidence of this, the people of Mostar have made incredible progress in rebuilding their historic city.
There are many attractions in Mostar but our children particularly enjoyed learning about the variety of traditional dress of this region at the BosnaSeum museum. They liked exploring the 17th Century Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque and climbing the impossibly narrow minaret for a stomach-churning but beautiful view of Mostar. This was our children’s’ first visit to a mosque and it was a wonderful experience. After exploring the cobbled streets of the Old Bazaar, the kids favourite activity was to sit beneath the iconic Stari Most – Mostar famous bridge – and watch the daring divers leap into the Neretva river below.
We stayed in the new Appartments Old Bridge, a sparkling clean, one bedroom self-catering apartment metres from the Old Town for just £40 a night for five people. Accommodation, food and attractions are much cheaper than most other European destinations making this fascinating city a perfect destination for an affordable family break.
Cordoba is one of Spain’s most historical cities. Throughout its history it’s been home to large populations of Christians, Jews and Muslims and all three religions have left their mark on the city. There is plenty of interest here for adults, but there’s a surprising amount of things for kids to do in Cordoba too.
The main attraction in Cordoba is its incredible Mezquita-Cathedral, a combination of mosque and cathedral. It’s most famous for its candy cane arched hall; a photographer’s dream, but children will also be enchanted by the space.
After you’ve explored the Mezquita, head to the Alcazar. Yes, it’s another historical building, but don’t worry about looking around the Alcazar itself; the gardens are what the kids will love. Beautiful pools with delicate arched fountains, borders full of hibiscus and some hedge lined paths perfect for hide and seek make this garden a great place to visit with kids.
Elsewhere in the town centre, kids will enjoy splashing in the many fountains, exploring the Roman bridge and looking in all the souvenir shops. A little way out of the centre of town there’s a little zoo and botanical garden just opposite, and the nearby Children’s City, a brilliant playground for small kids.
Bialystok is one the largest cities in Poland but relatively unknown. Situated in north-east Poland, Bialystok is a great leisure destination for families, if you want to avoid the huge tourist crowds and immerse yourself instead in local culture.
A visit to the beautiful Branicki Palace is a must, as kids will love exploring the expansive gardens that surround it. There are also several museums and a zoo in Bialystok, and a quaint town square – Kościuszko Market Square, lined with restaurants and cafes. Be sure to get yourself a plate of pierogi, followed by something indulgent at the E.Wedel Chocolate Lounges.
Although the number one thing you must do when visiting Bialystok with kids is take a day trip to Bialowieza National Park, which is only around an hour and a half by car or bus. Bialowieza is what last remains of the primeval forest which once covered most of Europe, with many unique native plants and animals, and a really cool zoo and museum.This is the only place the European bison still roam free in the wild. There are guided tours that take you into the inner area of the forest.
My teens and I escaped the bustle of Venice to beautiful Verona, just an hour away. It’s a compact and walkable northern Italian city that dates from Roman times with pretty squares and medieval buildings. One must-see is Casa di Guilietta, a little house and balcony in a courtyard said to be linked to the real-life feuding families who inspired Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Though probably not historically accurate it’s a romantic story that has made Verona world famous.
No one can question the history of Verona’s Arena, the third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world and a present day venue for opera. It’s more complete than Rome’s Colosseum and audiences still sit on the marble tiers. Visitors can climb to the top – not for young children it’s scarily steep! – to see the views. I’d take a guided tour next time. Outside the Arena, Piazza Bra with it’s colourful buildings is a great place to stop for a break and an ice-cream.
Castle Vecchio on the river Adige has a museum and crenellated bridge with stunning views. And don’t miss Piazza delle Erbe with it’s market stalls, ancient frescoes on the high walls and a whale rib hanging from an archway. The bone will fall the day someone walks beneath it who has never told a lie!
Akureyri in North Iceland is a great off the beaten path location for families. Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest metropolitan area outside of Reykjavik, but it’s population is only about 18,000. This quaint town has break taking views, a walkable shopping area, and the city’s Lutheran church, Akureyrarkirkja. We were very ecstatic to find Asian cuisine available. We enjoyed a morning at the Akureyri Thermal Pool, which is just outside the centre of town. Whale watching is available in Akureyri, but most people opt for the more popular but relatively close options in Dalvik and Husavik.
Akureyri is an ideal location to use as a home base while exploring Northern Iceland because of availability of accommodations and its amenities. It’s harder to secure lodging in the popular Lake Myvatn area, but we were able to make a lovely day trip to explore the the Lake, Dimmuborgir lava field and the Hverir geothermal field that made our kids feel like they stepped into a Star Wars set. Nearby, we visited Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall and Godafoss, a stunning waterfall just off the Ring Road between Myvatn and Akureyri. We also attended memorable Mass at St. Peter’s Parish, one of seven Catholic churches in Iceland. We spent two nights in Akureyri, a hidden gem that has so much to offer traveling families!
A lot of people that visit the Netherlands only stay for a few days, and spend those days in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a fun city, but there’s so much more to see in The Netherlands! Haarlem is one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands, dating back to 1245. It’s only 15 minutes away from the Dutch capital by train, but offers a completely different experience.
Haarlem has a beautiful historic centre and if your kids are into history don’t forget to look up the legend of brave Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaar, who defended the city against the Spanish invaders in the 16th century. A visit to petting farm De Houthoeve, a few minutes walk from the city center, should definitely be on your list when visiting Haarlem. Kids love petting the goats and seeing the pigs, turkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs. Both the Archeology Museum and the Teylers Museum are fun to visit with kids age 4+. And hidden city playground Het Paradijsje in the Witte Herenstraat is great to visit with young kids.
Romans, museums and food. Lyon has the lot, and you can catch a train direct from London St Pancras.
Lyon has not one but two huge Roman amphitheatres, right next door to each other, even better you can clamber all over them, playing at being Roman to your hearts content. Hidden in the centre of Lyon is a network of Traboules. These are tiny pathways that lead to hidden courtyards with fantastic tower staircases. Younger children might struggle with a tour but our teens loved the search for hidden doorways.
No trip is complete for the Cultural Wednesday family if it doesn’t include a museum. We caught a boat to Musee des Confluences. It is housed in spectacular new building and the displays are tailor-made to appeal to children.
What drew us to Lyon was its reputation as the culinary capital of France, it has Michelin starred restaurants coming out of its ears, but more teen friendly are the traditional Bouchon restaurants, or better still the huge Les Halles food market; here you can either sit down and eat or buy a picnic to eat by the banks of the Saone.
Billund is a small town located in Denmark, 265.5km away from Copenhagen. This town is famously known for being the home of the first ever LEGO factory, Legoland resort and Lego House. Most families who travel to Billund, usually do so because of Legoland. However there are plenty of other kid friendly things to do. A few are Givskud Zoo, Museumsgaarden Karensminde and Skulpturpark. My hotel recommendations are Lalandia because of it’s huge indoor waterpark and Hotel Legoland because there are many activities to keep your kids entertained. When in Billund, make sure to stop by Billund Pizza Steakhouse for a meal your kids will love.
My favourite city in the Netherlands and one of my favourite cities in Europe is Utrecht. It’s a beautiful city, reminiscent of Amsterdam with all its canals and cobbled streets but with a fraction of the tourists. Life goes on as it always has in Utrecht and you turn corners to feel you’re in a painting, it’s so picturesque.
When visiting with kids don’t miss the Miffy Museum – the creator, Dick Bruna was from Utrecht so there is a fantastic museum dedicated to the little rabbit here as well as little reminders through the city, like a set of traffic lights with Miffy characters to tell you when to stop and when to walk. We also adore the Speelklok Museum which is a converted church now filled with instruments and street organs and they have the best trail to take with children where they get to make their own sheet music that you can then play at the end. Another activity kids will love is to take a trip down the canals which are so peaceful in Utrecht. In fact my top tip is to stay next to one – we loved the old canal cellars, many of which have been converted to accommodation and we stayed in Hotel 26 which was beautifully reimagined as somewhere to stay. I have such happy memories of our wonderful times in Utrecht.
Toulouse is an intrigue destination for family holidays. There are so many kid-friendly activities and attractions to make your child occupied for days.
While the city itself reflects the charm of Southern France with beautiful brick houses, shimmering Capital squares, the rural areas are full of castles, parks to spontaneous kid’s brain.
The first place you should bring your kid to in Toulouse is the Space museum known as Cite Espace. This is simply the best exhibition of space science in Europe featuring perfect educational chances about planets, stars, etc..
For a taste of Toulouse heritage, a day trip cruising along the Canal Du Midi is really recommended. It is undoubtedly a perfect way to appreciate the rich history of the area in combination with local sightseeing where you can photograph the unspoiled nature in the suburb of Toulouse.
If you thinking about something that excites your kid very much, take a zipline trip. The large forest will welcome them with different games and different challenges. Personally, a flight from one trip to another is very exhilarating for all kids.
Ljubljana is a capital with everything set up for an exciting weekend trip. When visiting with kids, I especially suggest to go to the Ljubljana Castle. It’s a great history lesson and a fun activity for the day as well. If your kids love knick-knacks and antiques, don’t miss the famous flea market called Cakarjevo Nabrezje on Sundays. It’s fun to check out the stalls, and for kids there are plenty of old toys to find. There is also a new museum called the Museum of Illusions that is another fun thing to do with kids in Ljubljana.
Pin for later
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post where fellow travel bloggers have expressed their own opinion of a city. Where possible, the blogger has recommended the accommodation. If they were unable to, I have suggested family-friendly accommodation recommended by Trip Advisor. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission, which goes towards the running of this blog.
Our visit to Nuremberg after Christmas last year really took us by surprise. It was a city I’d always associated with a dark history, and really had no idea how much there is for families to do. There’s the Transport Museum, Toy Museum, the castle, and Playmobil Park, and you can read all about these things and more in our recent post – Nuremberg with kids: Top 10 things to do. Plus the city is nicely compact, making it easy to walk around, and if you wish to venture further afield, the public transport is excellent.
But what really made our visit special was our stay at the Holiday Inn Nürnberg City Centre. It’s situated in the picturesque Old Town, meaning it’s close enough to visit sights on foot, but it’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle. It’s a hotel which combines modern, international class accommodation, with cute B&B style features like free coffee and pastries in the foyer, and warm, welcoming staff.
Location of Holiday Inn Nürnberg | credit: Google Maps 2019
Foyer of Holiday Inn Nürnberg
Holiday Inn Nürnberg kindly hosted our five night stay in a family room, which included bunk beds for the boys. Handily, the bunk beds are tucked in a corner, meaning that once the boys were asleep, we could put lights on to read and watch TV, whilst their area still remained reasonably dark and undisturbed.
The temperature-controlled rooms, are clean and modern, with tea/coffee making facilities, generous storage space, a safe, and spacious en-suite with deep bath and double sinks. Fluffy towels are standard. The sparkling apple juice left daily in the room’s fridge is a nice touch. There are also black-out curtains, which are handy if visiting in the summer months.
There’s a restaurant on site and we enjoyed a couple of take-in dinners. However at a fee of €2.50 per dish (including sides) for room delivery, we decided to send down Dad to collect the food, rather than have it delivered to our door.
However, the highlight of our stay each day was the generous buffet breakfast each morning offering fresh breads and fruits, yogurts, cereals, meats, cheeses, and cooked breakfast options. As the breakfast was so large, we treated it more like a brunch and it kept us all going through to an early dinner, albeit with a couple of snacks along the way (where do my boys put all the food they eat?)
Check out is 12pm, meaning that our last morning was nice and relaxed (we didn’t need to be at the airport until 1:30pm). A leisurely brunch and final stroll around the old town was a perfect end to our break.
Nuremberg is steeped in elegance and charm, boasting medieval architecture, numerous museums, and characterful beer cellars. It makes for a wonderful German city break. But what we didn’t appreciate before our visit, is exactly how much there is to do in Nuremberg with kids; a castle, toy museum, train museum, zoo, and planetarium to name but a few.
Check out our video to see what we got up to:
We visited Nuremberg in December for five nights, in-between Christmas and New Year, flying direct from Manchester with Ryanair. With temperatures hovering around 0°C we wrapped up warm, but there was always a hot chocolate or Nuremberg Bratwurst to warm us up if needed. The city is compact making it easy to walk between places in the Old Town, and the public transport efficient and affordable if venturing further afield.
If you are looking to visit Nuremberg with kids, these are our top ten things to do:
1. Walk around the old town
Nuremberg’s old town is compact, with lots of pedestrianised streets. It’s therefore relatively easy for little ones to get around, and also rather flat if you wish to take a buggy. Take a stroll from Josephsplatz to the small island in the Pegnitz across the wooded ‘Hangman’s Bridge’, then along picturesque Weißgerbergasse and up to the Imperial Castle (where kids will want to play and climb on the boulders at the front), via the Lutheran St. Sebaldus Church. Head back in to the centre via Burgstraße, past Hauptmarkt (opposite the Catholica Church) and on to St Lorenz Kirche.
2. Imperial Castle
Towering over the rooftops of Nuremberg, the Imperial Castle was once one of the most important fortified palaces of the Roman Empire. Explore the hidden staircases and marvel at the armour and weaponry, before taking a guided tour of the Sinwell Tower and Deep Well. At the foot of the castle are large boulders, perfect for little explorers to climb over. Note that there are no toilets inside the castle, only mobile toilets by the viewpoint.
3. DB Railway Museum
A must for all train enthusiasts, learn about the history of the German railroad at the oldest railway museum in the world. There are lots of fine models displayed behind glass, and restored and replica engines, all to admire from a distance with no touching. The lack of interaction was initially disappointing.
However, if you head through the Communications Exhibition (which is a lot more interactive with quill writing, pneumatic postal tubes, and phone calls – our boys had no idea how a dial phone worked!), you will find ‘Kids Trainland’. This is a fantastic kids’ play area with train carriages to scoot around on, a dress up area, wooden track making, an electric ride-along train, and much more. We would have missed it if we hadn’t decided to wander into the Communications Exhibition.
4. Toy Museum
Nuremberg has a long history of toy making, starting with the doll makers of the Middle Ages. Marvelling at the historic toys behind glass, I couldn’t help but notice how delicate toys used to be, and how they wouldn’t last a second with my boys! Thankfully there are designated play areas next to the entrance and on the third floor. Lots of building blocks, board games, retro electronics, and wooden toys await curious minds, both young and old.
5. Taste the Nuremberg Bratwurst
Mini sausages piled into a bun. Apparently the way to ask is “Drei im Weggla” (“Three in a bun”); a bit different to your standard one-sausage in a finger bun, and arguably tastier. You’ll stumble across market stalls in the old town selling them, ready to eat. Squirt on ketchup, mustard, or (more traditionally) horseradish (“Kren”). Perhaps order some sauerkraut on the side. The kids will love it.
6. Nuremberg Zoo
Since our overlanding travels through Africa, we were yet to visit a zoo as we didn’t feel right seeing animals in captivity. However, as far as zoos go, Nuremberg Zoo is pretty good; the conservation work and research undertaken is extremely worthwhile, and it’s wonderful to see children so engaged in our natural world. The pens are clean and spacious, yet the zoo isn’t too spread out for little legs. There’s a good playground and lots of picnic sites for the warmer months. Our boys particularly enjoyed the gorilla enclosure and the rather vocal lion (although it didn’t quite seem right watching him pacing up and down in the snow). Take tram no. 6 from Main Railway Station (Hauptbahnhof Nürnberg) and get off at Tiergarten (Zoo).
7. Playmobil Fun Park
A Playmobil theme park offering various play worlds including a Farm, Police Station, Dinosaur Land, and a Knight’s Castle. There’s also an extensive water play area and sand sludge section for cooling down on hot summer days. As we visited during the winter, only the glass HOB-Center was open. This is a huge Playmobile entertainment centre with lots of Playmobil toys to play with, a large climbing area, and lots of cafés. It was insanely busy and overcrowded when we visited, but the boys loved it. Check their website for opening times.
If it’s a rainy, cold day and your little ones need to burn off some energy, head to this indoor play centre. There are trampolines, bouncy castles, high ropes, a climbing wall, and virtual games. There’s also an outdoor lake where you can paddle and swim in the summer. We didn’t actually visit here, but thought I’d mention in case a parent is in need 😉
9. Nicolaus Copernicus Planetarium
With shows geared at kids aged 4 and up, this is a fantastic way to explore outer space from the comfort of an air-conditioned domed hall. This is another place we didn’t get round to visiting. Do bear in mind that shows are all in German. Check out their website for further details.
10. Nazi Party Rally Grounds
Now this is far from the most obvious place to take kids on a city break in Nuremberg, but it’s a place us parents wanted to visit, and we actually found the boys were quite engaged in the various displays which provided a factual, sombre and thought-provoking explanation of the past. Entry price includes an audio guide but there are no buttons to press or interactive exhibits for kids, and you will have to be selective in how much ground you cover. To the back of the building is a open parkland if your little ones require a run around.
Save on attractions with the Nürnberg card
With the Nürnberg card you have free entry to more than 40 museums and attractions and you can use the Nürnberg card for unlimited travel in Zone A on 2 consecutive days (not 48 hours). The cost is €28 for adults, €6 for children ages 6-11, and FREE for children aged 5 and under. If you plan to visit three or more attractions in Nuremberg over two consecutive days, it’s definitely worth getting. Contact you hotel to purchase or email Tourismus Nuernberg directly.
Where we stayed
Centrally located within the city walls, the aptly named Holiday Inn Nürnberg City Centre is a great choice for families. We stayed in a spacious family room with bunk beds for the boys. The temperature-controlled rooms, are clean and modern, with tea/coffee making facilities, generous storage space, a safe, and spacious en-suite with deep bath and double sinks. Fluffy towels are standard. The sparkling apple juice left daily in the room’s fridge is a nice touch.
Staff have a good balance of formal and friendly, and we particularly enjoyed the generous buffet breakfast each morning offering fresh breads and fruits, yogurts, cereals, meats, cheeses, and cooked breakfast options.
Getting around Nuremberg
The old town is compact and therefore walking between places within the city walls is doable with young kids. The city is also buggy-friendly. However, should you wish to venture further afield, there is a good network of trams, buses and metro. If you ride the tram, try and get a seat right at the back so you can watch the rails from the large rear window.
The easiest way to get from the airport to the city centre is via the metro.
Have you visited Nuremberg with kids? I’d love to hear what you got up to!
Pin for later
Disclaimer: Tourismus Nuernberg provided us with a two-day pass to cover transport and entry costs to the Imperial Castle, Toy Museum, DB Museum, Nazi Party Rally Grounds, and Zoo. Holiday Inn Nürnberg City Centre provided us with five nights complimentary stay in a family apartment. However, as always, these are all my own words and opinions. Furthermore, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission, which goes towards the running of this blog.
Feeling the warm sun on my face, my toe tapping to the buskers behind me, I couldn’t help but feel a little smug that we were visiting Lisbon in December. I was sat on the steps of the Tagus River at Comércio Plaza, whilst the boys chased the waves lapping up the steps, dodging tourists with their selfie-sticks.
Check out our video of what we got up to in Lisbon with kids.
Admittedly the warm winter sun and bright blue skies provided the perfect filter, but Lisbon was a city I instantly fell in love with; cobbled streets connecting grand architecture, restaurants spilling out onto expansive plazas, and brightly coloured buildings framed by terracotta rooftops. Plus, we found that there is so much to do in Lisbon for kids! The Oceanarium and Science Museum were a huge hit, but also riding the trams and metro, as well lots of open, pedestrianised squares for running and chasing pigeons. If you’re visiting Lisbon with kids, you should kind some inspiration here. There is particularly lots to do in Lisbon for toddlers.
We usually embrace slow travel and generally like some downtime of an afternoon. Not this time. The boys were on form this weekend and were happy to keep going and going (Portuguese ice-cream must contain magic beans, and it was also the first time they wore their hiking boots for a city break). Plus, there is really so much to do in Lisbon with kids, that we wanted to cram in as much as possible!
We flew in to Lisbon in December on a Thursday morning, arriving at our hotel just before noon, and left on a Sunday morning. So we had 72 hours across 4 days.
Day 1 – Soak up the history
As we arrived at our hotel just before noon, our first day started around lunch time…
Begin your Lisbon family adventures in the heart of the old town at Comércio Plaza. If the sun is shining, head down to the steps on the river and soak up the atmosphere, before enjoying a short wander along the waterfront.
Soaking in the sun and views of the Tagus River
Head back to the Comércio Plaza and through Arco da Rua Augusta to stroll along pedestrianised Rua Augusta towards Rossio. Give in to temptation and stop for a drink at one of the many restaurants spilling out on to the cobbled streets.
Take tram No.12 from Praça da Figueira towards São Jorge’s Castle(it’s a short walk up hill from the tram stop) to marvel the impressive views across the old city and over to the Tagus River and beyond, before exploring inside the castle. Unintentionally, we timed our visit perfectly with sunset.
View from São Jorge’s Castle
We had wanted to have dinner in the area, but found restaurants closing. So instead we took a very crammed tram back to Comércio Plaza and found a restaurant along Rua Augusta.
Day 2 – Visit the ‘new’ Lisbon
The former industrial area of Lisbon was transformed into Parque das Nações for Expo98 and has been completely transformed into a modern and pedestrianised recreational area.
Just a 15 minute walk from our hotel, is Lisbon’s Oceanarium. This aquarium is considered one of the best in the world, and a must if visiting Lisbon with kids. The marine life seem to be very well looked after and it’s thrilling watching the sharks and rays brush past with just a sheet of glass separating you. They also have penguins, puffins, and some extremely cute otters. However, get there early. It was too busy for us and we left earlier that we would have liked as it felt rather claustrophobic.
Almost next to the Oceanarium is Pavilhão do conhecimento (Science Museum). This is honestly the BEST kids science museum we have ever been to. This museum is all about learning through play, and extremely fun play. We spent a good few hours here, and there are friendly staff on hand to help kids work out how to to do things. My boys particularly loved playing with the wheels and cranes in the building area, driving the car with square wheels, creating flowers out of their heads through dance, and programming a robot around a maze. This would be our absolute must do if visiting Lisbon with kids.
Then for some chilled time, enjoy the cable car ride along the river and back again, before jumping on Bus no728 from here to Comércio Plaza. Walk along Rua Augusta and select a spot for an early dinner.
Day 3 – Sintra and Belém
A 40 minute train journey from Lisbon (we took the train from Oriente) transports you to the fairytale-esque town of Sintra, complete with ornate castles and pastel-washed alleyways. We only had a couple of hours to wander around and unfortunately missed out on visiting the ‘must-see’ Pena Palace as buses were full and the boys were apparently too young to ride tuk-tuks. Our friends over at Wyld Family Travel suggest spending three days here (check out their Sintra post) and we can totally see why. However, a morning was just enough to get a vibe of the town before the throngs of tourists arrived.
Tip 1: Get there early!
Tip 2: Don’t wait for a bus into the town. It’s a lovely walk and only about 15 minutes.
Tip 3: Escape down the alleyways to avoid the crowds. You’ll have those instagrammable walls and doorways all to yourself.
Back in the city, as we were visiting Lisbon in December, we visited Wonderland Lisboato soak up some Christmas cheer. Being brutally honest, rides are over-priced and there were long queues. However, I don’t think that’s very different to any other Christmas markets across Europe. But we all loved the views from the top of the ferris wheel, even if the cabin did feel like a sauna in the winter sunshine.
Take the metro back to Comércio Plaza (we keep ending up here!) and board the Yellow Boat Tour to Belém. Do check the website for times as the boat only runs four times a day in winter. It’s lovely seeing the city from the water and many people opt to stay on the boat to return to Comércio Plaza. However, we jumped off to take a closer look at the impressive Belém Tower before walking along the waterfront and then catching a tram back to Comércio Plaza.
And whilst we found ourselves back at Comércio Plaza yet again, we felt it suitable to enjoy dinner for a third night in a row along one of Rua Augusta’s side streets. If visiting Lisbon with toddlers, this area is perfect for dining as you can sit outside and it’s pedestrianised for your little one to wander around close to the table.
Day 4 – Return home
Our flight back home departed at 10:20 am. We therefore only had time for breakfast, before catching the 15 minute metro to Lisbon airport. If you are departing from Terminal 2, allow enough time to get the transfer bus as the metro takes you to Terminal 1.
Lisbon in December isn’t the obvious choice if you’re looking for a Christmas family city break. Many head to the traditional Christmas markets of Germany and Belgium. But perhaps consider a little sunshine and warmth with your mulled wine and Christmas shopping?
We visited Lisbon in the second weekend of December and found that the city really comes alive at this time of year. There are Christmas markets at seemingly every main square. Or your can head to Wonderland Lisboa to go ice-skating, meet Father Christmas, ride the Ferris Wheel and peruse even more Christmas markets.
Wonderland Lisboa runs from the 1st December to 1st January.
You will also find the main shopping streets decorated with twinkling lights, and we absolutely loved the conical tree in the main square of Comércio Plaza, which you can sit inside and looks magical when lit up at night.
The location is fantastic for the Oceanarium and Pavilhão do conhecimento (Science Museum), and there is a massive supermarket in the mall across the road. Plus, it’s only three stops away from the airport. However, we only spent half a day at these places and seemed to gravitate more towards Comércio Plaza and its surrounding streets. To get to Comércio Plaza you either have to take a bus or the metro (including a change). Although this wasn’t too much of a problem as my boys loved riding the public transport.
We had a family room on the 10th floor overlooking the Oriente train station; my train-obsessed boys loved this, although personally I would have preferred a river view. Rooms are modern, clean and a good size. There’s a fridge in the room, although unfortunately no coffee and tea making facilities. We had a double bed and a bunk bed for the boys. Do note that the sides of the beds in the bunks aren’t entirely safe, as there are big gaps where they could fall out. We filled these gaps with pillows and bedding, which worked, but wouldn’t be ideal for very young children.
A buffet breakfast is provided, including a full English, pancakes, omelettes, breads, meats, cheeses – it really is an impressive spread! Although do note that the hotel is popular with tour buses and so breakfast does get busy at all times.
Getting around Lisbon with kids
We advise getting the Lisboa Card for unlimited free travel by bus, metro and tram. You can get this for 24, 48, or 72 hours. The card also includes free or discounted entry to many museums and attractions, and also free travel by train to Sintra and Cascais.
It is very easy to navigate the public transport system and signage is very clear. Plus, we never seemed to be too far from a metro, bus or tram stop; and rarely had to wait long.
Be warned though that from our experience, Lisbon public transport gets extremely busy, especially around rush hour. We were lucky on a few occasions to actually get a seat. If travelling with babies and toddlers, I would imagine that getting a pushchair on and off would be hard work. Consider taking a carrier.
Getting to Lisbon
We flew direct from Manchester, UK, to Lisbon in December with easyJet. It’s a 2 hour 50 minute flight.
Manchester airport is only a one hour hour drive from our home and we left our car at the airport using the Meet & Greet option booked with Holiday Extras. This is super easy. Drive to the Meet & Greet drop off following the signs (M+G), pass through the inspection area that automatically scans your car to record its condition, park up, drop keys into the machine, and walk the 2 minutes into the terminal. On return, pick up your keys from the collection point in arrivals and you will find your car parked in the short-term car-park. It was 15 minutes from walking off our flight to stepping into our car and driving home.
“Holiday Extras is the market leader in UK airport parking, hotels and lounges, and in 2018 customers who pre-booked their parking with Holiday Extras saved an average of £59 each vs the price they’d have paid on the day. Meet and Greet parking takes the hassle out of your trip to the airport and is the best way to start your holiday with a smile.”
Pin for later
Disclaimer: Our visit to Lisbon was hosted by Visit Lisboa who provided us with three nights bed and breakfast at TRYP Lisboa Oriente Hotel as well as a complimentary 72 hour Lisboa Card for unlimited free travel by bus, metro and tram. Our visit to the Oceanarium, Pavilhão do conhecimento, São Jorge Castle, and our Yellow Boat Tour was also complimentary. We paid for our own flights with Easy Jet. This post also contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no cost to you, though I receive a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.
Where would we be without our Lonely Planet guide book?
I'm Jenny - a travel addicted mum to my two boys (aged 3 and 5). As a family we aim to push the boundaries of family travel and dispel the myth that adventure needs to wait until the kids are older!
After a year living in India and 4 months traversing Africa in a Land Rover, we have recently moved to the Peak District in England and now plotting affordable adventures across Europe and around school terms.