Category: European city breaks

Reykjavík with kids

Things to do in Reykjavík with kids

If you are visiting Iceland, there is a good chance that you will head to Reykjavík at some point. Whether you’re using the city as a base for your Iceland travels, or are just popping for an afternoon, it’s a fascinating place to explore in its own right, with lots to keeps kids entertained (in both good and bad weather).

CONTENTS

Walk along the scenic waterfront
Take in the views from Hallgrímskirkja Observation Tower
An afternoon in Laugardalur (swimming pool, botanical gardens, zoo, and much more!)
Visit a hot spring
Visit a museum
Go bird spotting at Lake Tjörnin
Watch a children’s concert at Harpa Concert Hall
Grab a yummy hotdog
Take a FREE walking tour

Getting around Reykjavík with kids
Family accommodation recommendationss


We only spent a few hours in Reykjavík on the way back to the airport as part of our 5 day Iceland itinerary, and although it was bitterly cold, we enjoyed a few free activities (walking around the seafront area and visiting a playground) and realised that we should probably have allowed longer to explore the city. So I reached out to some fellow bloggers for their suggestions on what to do in Reykjavík with kids; including the best museums to visit in Reykjavík with kids, watching a children’s concert at Harpa, and visiting secret hot springs in the city.

Read: 5 day Iceland itinerary with kids
Reykjavík with kids

Small playground near the seafront (click here for Google Maps location)

Walk along the scenic waterfront

(Marta, Learning Escapes)

One of my favourite things to do in Reykjavík and one that is easy to enjoy with kids too, is taking a walk along the scenic city waterfront.

It follows the curve of the Reykjavík bay and stretches from the famous Harpa concert hall, to the impressive sculpture called the Sun Voyager and then the historical Hofdi house. It is a long and flat promenade but is a beautiful one: on a good day, you can see the mountains in front of the city and it is sheltered enough from traffic that kids can trot around and you can push a stroller safely.

Reykjavík with kids

The sun voyager is easy to spot and fun for kids: the sculpture represents a vessel but kids will notice it resembles an insect with stick legs too, a quality that my two found absolutely hilarious! This is a lovely spot to add to any Reykjavík itinerary.

Take in the views from Hallgrímskirkja Observation Tower

(Catherine, We Go With Kids)

When visiting a new city, our kids always the opportunity to get a a bird’s-eye view of the area. Located on top of a hill in the centre of Reykjavík , Hallgrímskirkja is visible throughout the city and one of its best known landmarks.

Reykjavík with kids

On clear days (which are certainly not guaranteed in Iceland), it 239 foot/73 meter observation tower offers a perfect 360 degree panoramic view of the Reykjavik and its harbour.

Most cathedrals we have visited were built well before elevators were invented and required significant climbs up winding and narrow staircases to reach the towers. However, Hallgrímskirkja is a modern 20th century building that includes the convenience of elevators, which makes the trip to the top so much easier with small kids. Our kids really enjoyed checking out the view from each window, and we definitely recommend visiting Hallgrímskirkja Observation Tower with kids.

Spend an afternoon in Laugardalur (swimming pool, botanical gardens, zoo, and much more!)

Just a 10 minute drive from the city centre, there is the recreational area of Laugardalur. Here you will find lots of green open space, a playground, ice skating, Botanical Gardens, a campsite, and it is also where the Secret Solstice festivals is held every year.

Reykjavík with kids

Laugardalur. Google Maps 2018.

A highlight for kids is the geothermal swimming pool (Laugardalslaug). It’s the largest in Iceland, complete with a slide and hot pools. Entry is only ISK980 (approx. £6.20) for adults, ISK160 (approx. £1) for children, and FREE for children under 5 (a fraction of entry costs to the Blue Lagoon).

It’s also worthwhile visiting Reykjavík’s Family Park and Zoo, which is also in Laugardalur and open all year round. This is home to lots of native animals, such as Icelandic goats and horses, seals and Artic Foxes, as well as reindeer.

If your kids are a bit older and love sport, you may even catch a game of football or basketball at the main sporting arena.

Visit a hot spring

(Patrick, Adventographer)

After a long day exploring the sights and sounds that make up the vibrant city there’s no better way to unwind than visiting one of Iceland’s hot springs.

You’ve likely heard of the famous Blue lagoon, but were you aware that Reykjavík has its own geothermal hotspots that won’t break the bank and aren’t a 45 minute drive away?

Reykjavík with kids

The Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is an interesting phenomenon. This small stretch of beach just outside of Reykjavik’s core is a geothermally heated bay. Even in the dead of winter you’ll find hearty Icelanders taking a dip here where the water temperature is consistently 10C higher than the surrounding ocean!

If an ocean swim is too much consider visiting the Kvika foot bath. Though not big enough for full immersion this small beachside hot spring makes a great place to explore and soak your tired feet after a day exploring Reykjavík with the kids!

Visit a museum

Reykjavík has some fantastic museums, and these are our recommendations for families:

Saga Museum

(Lori, Maps, Memories And Motherhood)

Reyjavik’s Saga Museum takes you on a journey back in time to the first inhabitants of Iceland. Seventeen sagas features lifelike scenes from particular points in time — with life-sized mannequins of historical figures (which we swore winked at us a few times). The museum is self-guided, with an audio recording, describing each exhibit. It’s a great primer on the history of Iceland, but might be tough to get through for kids under 10 as there are some pretty graphic depictions: battles, The Black Death, the first Icelandic martyr. There also aren’t any interactive exhibits until you get through the entire museum, which was my boys’ favourite part where they tried on traditional costumes and battled their dad with shields and swords. Don’t miss the gift shop. It has some beautiful hand-made, traditional Icelandic products, and there’s also a restaurant to grab some lunch after your tour.

Reykjavík with kids

Maritime Museum

Iceland has a deep rooted history of fishing and fish is a staple of the local diet. Learn about the history and growth of the fishing industry at Reykjavík’s Maritime Museum. This is a fantastic museum for kids as it’s high tech and visual displays are engaging. You can also take a guided tour around the Coast Guard Vessel, Óðinn.

Whales of Iceland

(Constance, The Adventures of Panda Bear)

Whales of Iceland is an educational exhibit about whales in Iceland and its surrounding waters. The museum is located close to downtown Reykjavík and offers an amazingly immersive experience and interactive exhibits for children.

Kids will delight at exploring the museum and walking amongst the life-sized whale models. The museum is home to over 20 different whale models, one of which is a 25 meter or 82 feet long blue whale. Your child will love learning about whale anatomy with their interactive exhibit, touching the whale models, and using their virtual reality headset.

Reykjavík with kids

Admission is free for children under 7 years. Whales of Iceland also has an audio guide app which you can use to learn more about each and every whale on display. The self-guided tour takes approximately 30 minutes and guided tours are offered for groups larger than 15 people.

Perlan

(John, From Real People)

One of the down sides of being in the centre of Reykjavík itself is that you miss the chance to view the whole cityscape. The way to solve this is to take a trip to the 4th Floor Observation Deck of the Perlan, or the Pearl in English. At a height of 25.7 metres, it’s one of the best places to get your bearings and take in the best views across the whole area. Kids will particularly love chance to watch the aircraft taking off and landing from Reykjavík ReykjavíkCity airport.

Perlan was built out of some old hot water storage tank by adding the giant hemisphere back in 1991. There are some fantastic exhibitions that kids will really love. The ‘Wonders of Iceland’ experience gives you the chance to see, hear and feel the power of volcanoes, earthquakes and the geothermal energy of this amazing place. There is an augmented reality model of the largest sea cliff in Europe as well as a virtual aquarium and a man-made ice cave. The joy is that everything is inside, you can even get great views from the Cafe when the weather is bad.

Go bird spotting at Lake Tjörnin

(Ting, My Travel Monkey)

Right in the heart of Reykjavík, Lake Tjörnin or ‘the pond’ as it’s known locally, has more than 40 species of visiting birds including geese, swans and Arctic Terns. During the summer, it’s popular with families feeding the ducks, while there are pretty sculptures that line the shore. We were amazed to see people actually skating on the frozen lake!

Watch a children’s concert at Harpa Concert Hall

(Nicolette, Nic & Cam)

When I was researching family activities for our trip to Iceland, it was my desire to incorporate a cultural experience into the mix. Since Harpa Concert Hall is such a magnificent focal point in downtown Reykjavík, I decided to check their calendar to see if, per chance, something would fit our schedule and interests.

Reykjavík with kids

We hit the jackpot! The Iceland Symphony Orchestra would be performing a concert for children, including a narrated story featuring Maximus Musicus. Maximus Musicus was created by two members of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and Icelandic children absolutely love “the most famous musical mouse in Iceland!” What a treat! Harpa was filled with children and parents. There were crafts for the kids before the concert. And then, we got to experience a wonderful concert in the Eldborg concert hall, the largest hall in Harpa!

Grab a yummy hotdog

(Celine, Family Can Travel)

If you’ve done any research into a trip to Iceland, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the Icelandic hot dogs. These dogs are delicious and sold everywhere (including gas stations). The Icelandic hot dogs are made mostly of Icelandic lamb with some pork and beef. What better time to indulge in this popular food than a day out in Reykjavik!

Reykjavík with kids

After having seen it on a travel show, we planned our mid-day stop at the popular Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a short walk from Reykjavik’s best known landmark, the Lutheran church Hallgrimskirkja. We recommend trying it first as the locals do, served on a steamed bun with raw onions, crispy white onions, ketchup, pylsusinnep (a sweet brown mustard) and remoulade (a sauce made with mayonnaise, mustard, capers and herbs). For our kids, we just went with ketchup, which is always a winner.

Take a FREE walking tour

(Bec, Wyld Family Travel)

One thing we decided we needed to do while we were in Reykjavik was one of the free walking tours. It is a city we did not know much about so it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Icelandic culture. We met at the square in front of the Parliament building and our guide was Eric. It was an easy walk through the city and as we went in the winter Eric made sure we weren’t standing still for long.

Reykjavík with kids

We went to all of the popular sites around Reykjavik and Eric told us about them, when they were built and what the significance of the building was. He was also able to share with us some of the more quirky sides of the Icelandic culture…the tree of the year being one of them! (We won’t give any of that away though, you will have to go on the tour to find out about that!) and how names are passed down to family members. It was a great way for the girls to learn about the Vikings all the way through to how tourism is now effecting Iceland.

We highly recommend a free walking tour when you are in Reykjavik especially with Eric. There is so much more you can learn from a local that is just not in any guide you will find and standing, in, near or around a landmark of importance to a city is the perfect way for the whole family to learn about a magnificent place like Iceland.


Essential info

Getting around Reykjavík with kids

We had a hire car and we found it reasonably easy to find parking spots in the city. Parking is not especially pricey (30 minutes was approximately £0.80).

The city is quite compact and you can walk around between the main sites. However, if little legs are tired, one of the best ways to get around Reykjavík is on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

Family accommodation recommendations

Budget: Central Guesthouse Reykjavík
Near airport: Airport Hotel Aurora Star
Mid-range: Fosshótel Rauðará

For more family-friendly accommodation options, check out the Best Family Hotels in Reykjavík from Little City Trips.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, this is at no extra cost to you, although I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog. 

Reykjavík with kids

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Where would we be without our Lonely Planet Guide? There’s also a specific Iceland Road Trip edition.

We also recommend you purchase a good Iceland road map.

You may also like to read:
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How to save money on a family trip to Iceland
What to pack for Iceland in October

Suitcases and Sandcastles
Copenhagen with kids in winter

Copenhagen with young kids

Think of Copenhagen and the first thing that might come into your mind is: expensive? If not that, then perhaps wintry? Or you might be like us and feel that even though it’s so close (for those in the UK), it’s not somewhere you know very well. It’s tucked away, the sort of place you might not think of visiting. But when you do, you’re very pleased that you did.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

We caught the train from the airport to the station, which costs DKK36 (approx £4.10) and is an easy, cheap and efficient way to reach the city. Make sure you buy your ticket before you board – there are machines in the baggage collection areas, plus a main ticket office in the arrivals hall. The journey only took fifteen minutes and the first thing that struck us when we emerged from Central Station was how imposing the city is, reminding us more of a Moscow or Berlin rather than the Riga or Amsterdam we were expecting. Stepping onto the January streets outside the station, everything seemed to be on a surprisingly large scale.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

Where we stayed

Our beautiful hotel (The Savoy) was within walking distance of the station and it wasn’t long before we were out of the cold and into the welcoming foyer. As with everyone we met in the city, we received a friendly, warm welcome from the staff and made our way up to the top floor where our family room awaited us. It was a fantastic room, spacious (for a European city hotel) with a lovely view over the surrounding rooftops, the chiming of the church bells nearby reminding us it was time to head out and find some food. This was another advantage of the hotel; right in the heart of things with numerous bars, restaurants, shops and supermarkets right on the doorstep. We also took advantage of the tasty, filling and complimentary breakfast each morning which was a perfect start to the day, lots of coffee, fruit juice, pastries, bread, meat and cheese to choose from. Plus the added bonus that when we returned each evening there were complimentary pastries available in reception which were a welcome treat before bed.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

Getting Around

As we say, Copenhagen is deceptively large with the distance between the main sights a little too far for us to manage on foot with the boys in tow. We’re sure that if you were travelling here without young children you could easily make your way around on foot but instead we took advantage of the excellent number 26 bus which stopped outside our hotel and took us to most of the places we wanted to get to. Tickets worked out quite expensive (DKK24 – about £2.75) if you only used them for a short hop but they were valid for an hour so would be better value if you were making either a long trip, or managed to hop back on-board within the time limit and in effect hitched a free ride. Our boys enjoyed sitting at the back and there was always space at the front for our buggy (very useful in the city to help the youngest ones cover the distances in warmth and comfort).

In general (and despite our preconceptions), we were quite lucky with the weather, as January in Denmark has a well-deserved reputation for being very cold. But we’d been warned in advance and were very well wrapped up and always made sure we dived into a shop, museum or bus whenever it got too cold.

How to keep the kids entertained

Copenhagen has so much going for it that we couldn’t hope to cover all of the sights in a few days but the following were some of our child-friendly highlights:

Wandering the streets around Nyhavn

If you’ve seen one photo of Copenhagen before, it’s probably of this colourful, picturesque street. It’s a great way to spend an hour or so, checking out the boats, grabbing a quick hot-chocolate and taking the obligatory selfie on the bridge.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

Visit the Lego shop

We didn’t know Lego came from Denmark until we arrived! How lax of us, but we soon made up for it by escaping the cold and spending almost an hour marvelling at these tiny pieces of plastic turned into amazing sculptures. The super-friendly staff were always on hand to help keep the little ones entertained in the various free play areas.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

National Gallery of Denmark

Visit the brilliant children’s workshops if you’re there on a weekend and let your little ones get their creative juices flowing with paints, crafts and crayons. The museum is well worth a visit on any day of the week with the building itself a spectacular sight. Leave your buggy outside and borrow one of the museum’s to give you and the little ones a smooth ride around the gallery. There are also free cloakrooms and spaces to eat your own food. Great place to visit, highly recommended.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

Take the number 26 bus out to the little Mermaid statue 

Head to the edge of the city and see the iconic statue, fight the crowds to get the perfect picture and grab a delicious cup of coffee or hot chocolate when you’re done.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

Spend some time at the fantastic National Museum of Denmark

One of the few museums we’ve ever visited which has a dedicated Children’s section where the kids are encouraged to touch, climb and interact with the exhibits – a definite relief for parents not to have to constantly tell them not to touch things – the kids will love it.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

Play in the park near Rosenborg Castle 

If the weather is kind, head to the Rosenborg Castle in the heart of the city. Play in the children’s playground, walk around the grounds and take in the views of the fairytale castle.

Copenhagen with kids in winter

How to keep costs down

Our other preconception proved to be wrong as we didn’t find Copenhagen as expensive as we’d been warned, mainly because we stocked up on the fantastic hotel breakfast, caught the bus most places, didn’t drink alcohol (much), and had a supermarket nearby which we used to stock up on the essentials most days. The public transport is efficient but not incredibly cheap if you only buy single trip tickets each time you travel. However, there is a travel pass (Copenhagen Card) which covers all travel in the city over a 72 hour period – recommended if you intend to use public transport a lot during your stay. As with most other cities, there is also a city card available which includes access to most major sights, museums, galleries and monuments, plus all public transport. It’s quite a large initial outlay but would be good value if you planned to fit a lot into your trip. We did the sums and decided not to get one but your mileage may vary.

 


We stayed at the Savoy Hotel on Vesterbrogade in the heart of the city.  The room rates include an excellent breakfast. 

We flew with EasyJet from London Gatwick airport, the 90 minute flight was very straightforward (it takes almost as long though to walk from the arrival gate in Copenhagem to baggage collection though – be warned!)

The Copenhagen Card costs EUR85 for 72 hours (child EUR43 although two children under 10 are included with the adult pass).


Disclaimer: We’re very grateful for the Savoy Hotel, National Gallery of Denmark and National Museum of Denmark for hosting our visit. However, as always, all words and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog. 

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Ghent in winter with kids

A winter weekend with young kids in Ghent, Belgium

Have you considered visiting Ghent with kids? One of our favourite travelling experiences is heading over to Europe and exploring the different cultures and countries right on our doorstep. There is something incredibly exciting about arriving in Calais, watching the ferry doors open and then driving out of the port with a whole continent in front of you. We’re always looking for new places to visit and the latest has been the beautiful Belgian city of Ghent, only ninety minutes drive from Calais.

This compact medieval town is often overlooked by travellers who make a beeline for Bruges. But with fewer visitors and cheaper accommodation, travellers are discovering the quaint canal-side architecture, edgy art scene and quirky bars of Ghent. But is is a good weekend destination with kids, especially in Winter?

Ghent in winter with kids

Getting there

As usual, we caught the excellent DFDS service from Dover and had our customary breakfast and soft-play time on the ferry; it passes so quickly doing it this way and provides an extra activity for the kids at the start of the holiday. The drive over to Ghent is straightforward as well; just head east along the A16, then join the E40 and stay on it until you reach Ghent (Gent in Dutch).

Where we stayed

We were staying in the fantastic Ghent Marriott hotel which is located on a street called Korenlei, right in the heart of the historic part of the city. At one time all the country’s produce (including corn, hence the street name) had to pass through this area and the result today is a Facebook-profile worthy, picturesque location, right on the river and only a short walk to all of the city’s attractions.

Ghent in winter with kids - Marriot

Getting around

Ghent has a small-town feel and we found it very easy to navigate, meaning that we didn’t need to jump onto the frequent trams which glide (sometimes a little too close for comfort) around the city. Alongside the trams, there are also buses and water-taxis to choose from if you don’t fancy walking. We had the buggy with us and were lucky with the weather so didn’t use them much.

What to do in Ghent with kids

We were in Ghent for a couple of days just after New Year and wanted to see as much of the city as we could in the short time we had. To help with this, we were very grateful to Visit Gent who provided us with complimentary city cards. These provide free access to a large number of museums, galleries, monuments and other attractions, plus all public transport (and bike-hire) so they are a great deal if you plan to visit several attractions and perhaps travel further afield using public transport.

Boat trip

It also provides a free boat trip around the central district which we enjoyed but it could perhaps have covered a greater distance at a less sedate pace for it to be truly something we’d recommend – the boys were becoming a bit restless by the end. But, it’s free with the card and certainly a relaxing way to spend forty minutes and see the city from a different perspective.

Ghent in winter with kids

Gravensteenw

We then spent a fantastic couple of hours in Gravensteen, the castle overlooking the city. The boys really enjoyed it here with it being a great combination of ancient ruins and interesting displays for the children. There are a few tricky staircases so you’ll need to leave the buggy at reception but the rest of it is fairly child-friendly, the highlight being a medieval dungeon transformed into a Christmas room, complete with soft cushions, classical music and a Christmas tree.

DSC01498.JPG

Ghent in winter with kids - Gravesteen

Christmas Markets

Luckily for us the Christmas markets were still open so we wandered around there on several occasions looking at the stalls, eating lots of chocolate waffles and riding on the Ferris wheel.

Design Museum

We also found time to visit the Design Museum which we initially found slightly too formal for our group but it got better as we went around and our eldest had a great time trying to find the tiny Playmobil figurines dotted around the museum, happily ticking them off on his checklist. Both boys finished the visit by rolling around for fifteen minutes on a huge structure made of wool, which was certainly a first.

DSC01527.JPG

Where to eat in Ghent with kids

We found lots of food options around the city and we mainly ate at the Christmas markets from the various stalls (bratwursts and waffles were our staple diet). There were also numerous fast food chains if you fancied something more familiar plus several incredibly beautiful and inviting bistros tucked into the backstreets which we’d have loved to visit but decided to save for when we visit without children and will appreciate candles and tablecloths again.

Ghent in winter with kids

So is weekend in Ghent with kids a good idea?

Before we knew it, our time in Ghent was over and we were heading back along the E40 towards Calais and our early morning ferry. We really recommend Ghent as a family-friendly weekend break. It’s so close to the UK and easily accessible by either car or train so you’ll be spending minimal time travelling. Which leaves plenty of time to look around this beautiful historic city at your leisure, safe in the knowledge that the kids will be entertained just as much as you.

 

We stayed at the Ghent Marriott Hotel on Korenlei and travelled with DFDS ferries. During our stay we used the Ghent city cards which can be bought from the tourist office, hotels and other places around the city. They cost EUR30 for 48 hours and EUR35 for 72 hours.

Disclaimer: We’re very grateful to the Marriott Hotel for an upgrade and to Visit Gent for the complimentary City Passes. However, as always, these are all our own words and opinions. This post also contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog. 

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