Something for Everyone
Europe is the ideal continent to visit with family in tow; each country is vastly different from the next, each distinctive city is only hours away from the previous, and transit (even with strollers in tow) is a breeze. Plus, they’re filled with green parks for kids to run around in, amazing child-friendly museums for them to explore, and fascinating cultural and historical sites for them to discover.
We've rounded up the 12 best cities in Europe for family travelers — places where kids and parents alike can enjoy magical fairy tale worlds, heart-pounding amusement parks, unique toy collections, tasty chocolate exhibits and more.
Whether you’re six or 60 you’ll find something to hold your interest in Barcelona. Spain is a very child-friendly country and Barcelona is no different — almost all restaurants, hotels and even bars welcome kids, and no one will look at you strangely if you keep them out late. Transport in the city, including a robust metro and bus system, is cheap and easy to navigate, and you’ll find it simple taking strollers on board.
For kid-friendly fun, visit the Museu Blau, a museum dedicated to the natural world, filled with dinosaur skeletons and other beasts; the CosmoCaixa science museum, home to a living slice of the Amazon Rainforest; and, if you really want to be popular, the Chocolate Museum, where even your entry ticket is a bar of the sweet stuff.
Children are sure to love the city’s more famous attractions too — like Gaudi’s quirky and colorful architecture, from the stone sculptures and mosaics in Park Güell to the fairytale-esque Casa Batlló. When it’s time to chill out, take the little ones to Ciutadella Park, where they can enjoy themselves on the playground, ride row boats around the lake or visit animals at the zoo.
Surprisingly, Amsterdam — best known for its red-light district, infamous coffeehouses, and wild bachelor and bachelorette parties — is increasingly gaining renown as a family travel destination. And for good reason.
Amsterdam is a perfect city for cycling and you’ll find it easy to get around. Alternatively, you can rent Bakfiets with trailers on the front for younger kids to ride in. Another easy (and scenic) way to explore the city is via a canal boat tour through the best parts of the Dutch capital.
When you’re done, take your children to see the stuffed wild animals at the Pieter Vermeulen Museum, to learn about people and cultures across our planet at the Tropenmuseum Junior (Tropical Museum), or to make new friends at one of the many petting zoos located across the city. While perhaps not appropriate for very young children, older kids will find a visit to the Anne Frank Museum very insightful, especially if they’ve studied “The Diary of Anne Frank” at school.
You may think Munich is just a party city, best enjoyed during the beer-swilling Oktoberfest. But this Bavarian metropolis is, in fact, also a parent’s dream. It’s clean, it has a superb transport system — including a metro (U-Bahn), trams and buses — and it’s rife with spacious green parks and child-friendly museums.
Kids are sure to love the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum), as well as all the interactive biology and geology exhibits at the Museum Mensch und Natur (Museum of Humankind and Nature). And don’t miss the Deutsches Museum — the world’s largest museum of science and technology, featuring hundreds of interactive displays and the Kids’ Kingdom.
The indisputable highlight for the little ones, though, will be the fairytale forest of Freizeitpark Märchenwald just outside Munich, bringing all those famous German “once upon a time stories” to life — including Rapunzel, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. You can get discounts to many of these museums and attractions with the Münchener Familienpass, available at the tourist office.
The capital of Denmark has topped many “Happiest Cities in the World” lists recently, making it an ideal place to visit with the family. Child-friendly attractions and museums include the Experimentarium, where kids can conduct their own science experiments, and the Children’s Museum at the National Museum, which explores what life was like starting in the Viking era.
Animal-fanatic tykes will enjoy the National Aquarium Denmark, northern Europe’s largest aquarium, and the evolutionary displays at the Zoological Museum, while the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park and its rides are sure to please everyone. If your kids are “Little Mermaid” aficionados, don’t forget to take them to see the waterfront statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale.
London may be crowded, it may take hours to get anywhere, the weather may not be great, and the Tube may not always be stroller-friendly — but really, no other European city can beat it for family museums and attractions, and most of them are completely free to boot.
You could easily spend two whole days around South Kensington, visiting the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, filled with giant dinosaur skeletons and stuffed animals, rockets and earthquake simulators. Any child who is obsessed with cars, trains and buses will enjoy the London Transport Museum.
If the sun decides to grace you with its presence for a while, then head to the parks. Our picks? Go boating on the lake at Hyde Park, explore the flower gardens in Regent’s Park, and discover the magical world of the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Fountain and Playground at Kensington Gardens.
Parents seem to have it easier in Spain; kids are allowed everywhere and loved by all. In Valencia, your children will have fun exploring the alleyways of the old Barrio del Carmen, and you could easily spend several days exploring the attractions at the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Here you can explore the world under the sea at the Oceanografic oceanarium, take to the stars inside Hemisferic's planetarium and IMAX cinema, and learn all about the science of our world at the Museum of Sciences.
Just outside the City of Arts and Sciences sits another ideal attraction for kids — Turia Gardens, a green ribbon that runs through the middle of the city inside a dried-up river bed. It’s filled with playgrounds, sports fields and places for the children to run around, skate or cycle. Animal-loving families, meanwhile, should visit the BIOPARC, a sprawling African safari-style nature park, home to giraffes, gorillas, leopards and more.
Of course you can’t leave without visiting the beach, and Valencia has one of the best in Spain — a swathe of 1.7 miles of fine soft sand and warm Mediterranean waves to splash around in.
Berlin may have a reputation for being a hipster’s hangout, but it is well-suited to the little ones too, with plenty of parks, playgrounds and museums. The huge Tiergarten park is the city’s biggest and greatest outdoor space, perfect for picnics, sports or bike rides, while the Labyrinth Kindermuseum, an interactive activity center for kids up to age 12, is ideal for staying active on a rainy day.
Other highlights include the Deutsches Technikmuseum (Museum of Technology), featuring massive planes suspended from the ceiling, and the Berlin Zoo, one of the world’s best and home to almost 20,000 animals. More offbeat museums, such as the Computerspielemuseum (Computer Game Museum) and the Puppet Theatre Museum, are sure to be a hit too. The Berlin Welcome Card offers discounts to many of these attractions.
Belgium's capital is sometimes referred to as dull and boring — but for families, it's anything but. This charming city is compact, organized and has loads to keep the kids entertained.
Start with a visit to the Choco-Story Brussels Museum to learn all about (and taste!) one of Belgium’s most famous exports, followed by time exploring the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, where kids will become acquainted with some of Belgium’s most renowned characters, including Tintin and the Smurfs. Younger children will surely be impressed by the Children’s Museum, filled with traditional wooden toys, workshops and stage settings, and Train World, showcasing exhibits on everything from steam locomotives to high-speed trains.
The city is dotted with many playgrounds too — at Rouge Cloitre your little ones can climb aboard a pirate ship, and at Halle Gate they can pretend to be royalty in their very own castle. And if all else fails — feed them. Belgium is famous for its fries, waffles and of course chocolate. Parents, meanwhile, can take a load off by enjoying its celebrated beers.
Paris is not only a city for romance — it’s also an excellent place for families. Don’t bother with the Eiffel Tower; the queues are long enough to make even the most patient adult lose it. Instead, try the Museum of Magic and adjoining Museum of Automatons. The former is dedicated to magic tricks from the 16th century to the present day, while the latter displays more than 100 robots.
Of course, the Museum of Natural History is sure to be a hit with any dino-mad kids, and the Choco-Story Paris chocolate museum will delight the whole family. While it might be too much for young kids, older kids will appreciate the Louvre, where they will be able to see great masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”
Budapest — a magical city topped by a castle and split by a mighty river — will charm anyone, and that includes your children. Kids will love riding the tram along the riverfront as an introduction to this grand city. A visit to Buda Castle is a must, especially since one tour option allows kids to hunt for treasure and complete fun tasks along the way.
Other sure-to-be-hit attractions with children include the Hungarian Natural History Museum and the Palace of Miracles, an interactive science museum designed especially for kids. For something a little more active, take your tykes to Aquaworld, one of Europe’s largest indoor waterparks, with 11 pools, wave machines, slides, a surf pool and a thrilling mountain river ride.
In the summer, the city's abundant parks provide fun and free entertainment for kids, while Margaret Island, a large green island in the middle of the River Danube, offers outdoor pools, a petting zoo, playgrounds and places to skate and cycle.
There’s nothing like taking the family to the Greek capital for a real-life history lesson.
The charming old district of Plaka is virtually car-free, and the small alleyways are ideal for exploring. The legendary ancient Greek settlement of the Acropolis can’t be missed, and neither can a visit to the Acropolis Museum. If you want your children to learn a little more than you can teach them, book a special kids tour with Discover Greek Culture. Designed for kids ages six to 11, it focuses on Greek history and mythology.
Athens also has a couple of excellent child-specific museums, including the Hellenic Children’s Museum, which teaches kids about the world around them through play, and the Emotions Museum of Childhood, where children can learn about their emotions through games, workshops, play areas and displays.
Plus, Greek food is sure to delight even the fussiest of eaters, with lots of hummus, bread, hearty pies and simple kebabs.
Sweden’s capital may be expensive compared with some other choices on the list, but it makes for a great hassle-free trip. The transport system is highly efficient, and those with kids in strollers will even find that bus travel is free.
The first stop for families in Stockholm should be Djurgården, the city’s green lung, a verdant island connected via a bridge to the city center. Here you’ll find a host of child-friendly attractions, including the Skansen Open-Air Museum, home to reproductions of historical buildings and native Nordic animals; the Gröna Lund amusement park; and the Junibacken Museum, a fairytale world filled with stories and characters from some of Sweden’s best loved authors, including “Pippi Longstocking” writer Astrid Lindgren.
Other top-notch museums include the Tidö Collection of Toys & Comics, the largest of its kind in Scandinavia, and the Tekniska Museet (National Museum of Science and Technology).