Whether you are travelling with young children or teenagers, there is much to be said about choosing a city break for your family holiday. The many attractions, often designed specifically for children, provide endless entertainment, and there are still plenty of chances for rest and relaxation. If you are tempted to depart from traditional package holidays and simple resort stays, consider one of these three European cities for your next family getaway.
1. London, England
Coming in second overall and top in Europe in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, London is an enduringly popular destination that has all you need and more for a family holiday.
London’s astonishing historical sites range from royal palaces exuding grandeur to the 1,000-year-old Gothic masterpiece Westminster Abbey. One of the best heritage attractions for children is the Tower of London: all the details of its grisly past can be explored on an informative child-friendly trail that features live actors and culminates with a viewing of the Crown Jewels.
There are plenty of modern attractions for children in London, such as the London Eye for aerial city views, the celebrity waxworks at Madame Tussauds, and a series of engaging museums with outstanding exhibitions including the renowned Natural History Museum with a dedicated dinosaurs section.
If your children prefer to explore the great outdoors, head to one of the large and attractive green spaces in the city centre such as Hyde Park which has a children’s play area. A short train rides out of the centre is Richmond Park for a proper country walk and the chance to see deer. You could also marvel at the astonishing tropical plants at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens which children can explore on a miniature train.
2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
A European city that has risen in popularity in recent years is Dubrovnik in Croatia. The reason for the climb in visitor numbers is largely thanks to the internationally-celebrated TV series Game of Thrones, part of which was set in Dubrovnik. Like London, it might be fairly busy, especially during the peak tourist season, but this only serves to emphasise how fantastic it is as a travel destination.
Children and adults alike will be left staggered by Dubrovnik’s exquisite Old Town. A network of polished marble streets, green-shuttered stone buildings and a collection of glorious Baroque palaces, contained within towering fortress walls, seems to float on the surface of the sea. Visitors can explore on foot and also take a cable car ride over the city for an awe-inspiring aerial view of the Old Town’s terracotta rooftops.
There are many things to do in Dubrovnik aside from exploring the Old Town. Families will find the most enjoyable activities on the coastline: parents can get some much-needed chill time on the beach taking in the views while the kids play in the sand and paddle in the azure waters. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at sea-kayaking or go island-hopping in a sailboat.
3. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Less well-known than most European capitals, Ljubljana in Slovenia is nonetheless a sensational setting for a family holiday.
For a start, Ljubljana is utterly picturesque. From the large, lush parks to the staggering heritage buildings, you will find something to captivate your attention around each corner. In fact, the top attractions in Ljubljana all centre around the city’s unique architectural highlights such as the cathedral, the Dragon Bridge, and Prešernov trg Square with its pink Franciscan church.
The best thing to do in the city centre is undoubtedly the climb to Ljubljana Castle which has been standing above the city for around 900 years. You can also reach the castle by a funicular railway if you have very small children with you. The views of the city from the castle ramparts are astonishing, and there are two permanent exhibitions to be enjoyed and a café to rest at.
What makes Ljubljana such a great city break, however, is the surrounding countryside. Sensational undulating hills in varying shades of yellow, green, and emerald are interlaced with gleaming rivers and deep blue lakes. There are plenty of well-signposted walking trails and bike paths that will lead you to the most incredible viewpoints. Perhaps the most beautiful is Lake Bled, just a short drive or train ride from the city of Ljubljana.
Bonus: Bucharest, Romania
Ready for something different? Bucharest, Romania’s capital, offers an interesting mix of old-world history, communist past and Western lifestyle. Families can explore the huge Palace of the Parliament, wander through the charming Old Town and relax in Cismigiu Park. With its eclectic culture, kid-friendly museums, friendly locals and lots of low-cost flights from the UK, there are many things to do in Bucharest that promise a memorable European city break for your family.
How to prepare for a family city break
Family holidays can be daunting, and cities in particular can feel overwhelming to explore with children due to the hustle and bustle of large crowds. However, a city break can be just as enjoyable and relaxing as a beach holiday if you prepare it correctly. Here are some quick tips for how to prepare for a family city break:
Book transport in advance
The most important part of your pre-holiday arrangements is to book transport in advance. Whether this is organising holiday transfers between the airport and your accommodation, hiring a car, or buying public transport passes, booking transport ahead of time saves you money and stress during the holiday.
Keep the itinerary balanced
Especially with city breaks where there is so much to experience, it can be tempting to overload the itinerary. However, this could lead to rushed activities, early starts, late meals – and ultimately overtired children. Make sure you keep the itinerary balanced with plenty of time at each venue and lots of opportunities for relaxation.
Pack for every possibility
As with any holiday, pack for every possibility to avoid any discomfort or being caught out by unexpected weather! As you will be doing lots of walking on your city break, blister plasters are a must. For clothing, stick to light layers so that it is easy for you and the kids to cool down or warm up as needed.