Following our dream destinations last year, picked from our encounters at World Travel Market, this week it’s hot destinations for family European city breaks and adventures…
Team picks: Family European city breaks
Penny’s Top 3
There has never been a better time to visit, Flanders was the scene of some of the most important aspects of WW1 making Flanders an area that shaped the modern world. Flanders is known for its gastronomy, beer, chocolate, ice cream, just three of the amazing reasons the Visit Flanders stand gave me to visit. Of course name drop Brussels, Bruges and Ghent, amazing cities within easy reach with cycling, boat and city tours as a means to experience them, and it’s got to be a done deal. That’s the Flemish coast pictured above.
Following on from our time in Malta, where we saw the Azure Window, one of the sets for Game of Thrones, I discovered that apart from a couple of scenes, most of my husband’s favourite TV series du jour was filmed in Belfast.
There is also loads for kids to do, especially active and impulsive ones like my 5yo. The first of its kind in the UK and Ireland, Climbit is a unique, visually elegant, three dimensional sculpture specially designed for climbing. W5 is a science and discovery centre. It is not a museum so visitors of all ages are free to let their imagination turn, twist and fly through 250 hands-on exhibits. Add the fun of a ferry crossing and you have a wonderful weekend, or longer away.
Noi Marche, Italy
An unsung area on Italy’s North East coast with some really imaginative offerings. From pizza making to basket waving to shoemaking all the areas and attractions in the guidebook have a specific family friendly offering. So touring the region is fun and full of surprises. For example, for 107 Euros a family of 4 can have a one night stay, visit the historic centre of the village of Mogliano and make a basket. Noi Marche
Helen’s Top 3
The picturesque harbour of St. Peterport is just an indication of the beauty of this very small island. At only 30 miles circumference, it is smaller than its sister Jersey, and feels incredibly safe for young families, and Condor Ferries can have you there in as little as 3 hours. The island has so many beaches, from rocky coves to windswept expanses of sand perfect for surfing and flying a kite, it would be hard not to find something to please everyone here. With coasteering and karting, you’ll get great family activities here, so even if the weather is unpredictable, no-one will be bored. Top tips are:
- Sample a Guernsey Cream Tea by the beach, or try the island speciality Guernsey Gâche, a yeasty fruit bread that’s hard to say no to!
- Visit Castle Cornet and hear the noon day gun fired by soldiers in 19th Century costume – the kids will love learning from the fact trail too.
- For older children, visit the German underground military hospital and get a real feeling for the wartime occupation.
Cobo Bay, Guernsey
Jason is a huge fan of all things World War and has convinced me many times to run along the D-Day landing beaches, or stand in quiet contemplation in a trench at the Somme. But until I visited Somme Tourism at World Travel Market, I’d been reluctant to take the children to such a serious location. I’m inspired though, by the very creative, and sensitive ways the area is bringing this particularly dark period of our history to life for children. With interactive trails of discovery for them to follow, and cycle tours through the incredible countryside, this is an area that can be enjoyed by everyone, on a level that suits each member of the family, and I will certainly be visiting with my daughter before she tackles the subject in Year 6 at school.
San Sebastián, Spain
We British have had a long love affair with the coasts of Spain, but we often overlook one of the most interesting areas of the Spanish coastline – the North. The northern coastline of Spain boasts wonderful temperatures without the blazing heat of the Mediterranean summer, and also plays host to one of the most vibrant cultural cities, San Sebastián. The stunning beach, La Concha, is clean and safe for children, the Aquarium looks really impressive, and the Science museum has plenty of fascinating activities to delight young children. Food and wine is very important to the Basque region, so it’s no surprise that children are introduced to cooking local specialities at a young age, with lots of cookery activities available for adults and children alike. I suspect this may be my next sneaky long weekend break with the family!
Katie’s Top 3
Although I have already been to Amsterdam recently, (check out my Top 5 Things to do in Amsterdam with Kids here ), I feel like we only just scratched the surface of what it has to offer and as a family we all fell in love with this beautiful city. I would love to explore the Amsterdam Noord area a little more, visit some of the open park spaces like Vondelpark. I normally like to go to different places and try new experiences, but we really did find Amsterdam one of the most family friendly cities we have been to.
Of course all parents want their children to experience a little bit of Disney magic at some point in their lives and I think my girls are at the perfect age to be captivated by Mickey and co. My eldest is four now and so will understand while still believing in the magic, while my youngest at nearly two will still be classed as free! (They charge from 3 upwards) Eventually we would like to do Florida but I want to wait until they are bigger so this would be a great in-between visit. We would like to drive there and perhaps stop off at some other places on the way- France is such a beautiful country.
Again it is somewhere I have visited before and really enjoyed, but I would love to go back to Barcelona with my children. Alison’s recent post about her child free time in Barcelona really made me want to revisit it all, but with my small people in tow. I previously stayed in the TRYP Barcelona Condal Mar which was a little bit out of the centre, but near to Mar Bella Beach and was affordable yet contemporary- I would definitely stay here again as it was a great base for exploring.
Alison’s Top 3
I’ve done Paris with my husband, with friends and with my mum and brother, but I’ve never done Paris as a family. I’d love to take my daughter to see the Eiffel Tower (not sure she’d manage the long queues to get to the top…), do a treasure hunt at The Louvre, drink chocolat chaud and take a boat trip along the Seine. This trip would be perfect combined with a visit to Disneyland Paris, of course!
Everyone keeps telling me that Italy is one of the best places in the world to travel with kids – Italians love children and families are welcomed with open arms in most hotels, restaurants and attractions. I’ve only been to Italy once – to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s wedding in Sicily back in 2002. There are loads of family-friendly villas like Casa Cicerali in Puglia to tempt me there with my husband and daughter.
Last year, I was lucky enough to travel with Mark Warner to their Levante Beach resort in Rhodes. It’s an absolutely outstanding family resort, with top-notch childcare facilities and gorgeous areas to chill out in as a couple when the kids are busy playing. I went with a group of fellow bloggers but I’d love to go back with my family, and really road-test the family experience properly.
Join in the conversation: @visitflanders @visitbelfast https://www.facebook.com/noimarche @VisitGuernsey @SommeTourisme @SSTurismo @PaisVascoTurism
Some great ideas – I’m off to Amsterdam in June hopefully so will definitely be reading your tips. I loved Paris with my daughter when we went last year, so much to do even for under-twos. And I loved Belfast and Barcelona pre-baby so would be great to go back again.
Yes!!!! People think Paris couldn’t be for children, but there’s something for everyone!