With the holiday hoopla behind us and a fresh new year at our feet, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about a summer vacation for the whole family. And we’re not talking about suffering through another trip to a water park or character-driven theme park. While it’s a popular trend to put off seeing the world until after the kids are grown and gone, there are a number of European cities that make traveling with children easy and affordable – whether you have teenagers or toddlers.
Get the inside scoop on 5 of our favorite family-friendly cities in Europe:
Don’t let the reputation of the Red Light District and “coffee shops” fool you; Amsterdam is full of endless entertainment and adventure when it comes to children. The city can be navigated almost entirely by bike, making exploring the shops, canals and rows of colorful houses even more enjoyable for the little ones. Boat tours with English commentary are also a popular method for families seeking a less active way to explore the city’s beauty.
Anne Frank House: Whether your children have started learning about the Holocaust or not, you can’t take them to Amsterdam without touring the Anne Frank House. This museum not only houses the actual building in which Anne Frank hid while writing her diary, but contains a variety of personal photographs and artifacts that will move visitors of all ages.
Artis Royal Zoo: Easily one of the prettiest zoos in the world, Amsterdam’s animal kingdom allows you to stroll under shady trees while getting close to your favorite furry and scaly friends. The zoo also features a butterfly pavilion, aquarium and planetarium, creating hours of exploration and excitement.
Vondelpark: While fun for all ages, Vondelpark was designed with children in mind. The urban park is home to a variety of unique playgrounds that put the typical plastic-slide structures to shame. From ultra-modern to tree-house style, these jungle gyms make it easy for kiddos to let out their energy while making memories.
There’s more to Dublin than just beer and pub crawls. As one of the most walkable cities in Europe, Dublin provides a stress-free experience for families with little ones to see it all – from the free museums to the exciting sightseeing tours. And with a reputation for its friendly locals and youthful population, your little ones will feel right at home.
Viking Splash Tour: See the best of the capital city by land and water on this informative and entertaining tour. The guides specialize in accommodating children and adults, so all ages can have a few laughs and learn something new while wearing a classic Viking helmet.
The Ark: See a performance your little ones won’t want to fall asleep through. The theater and exhibition space were specially designed for children and host live music and theater and dance performances throughout the year, as well as creative workshops.
Phoenix Park: As one of the largest enclosed parks in Europe, Phoenix Park offers a lot more than just beautiful greenery. The 354-year-old plot features everything from castles and monuments to motor racing and the famous Dublin Zoo, promising an exciting experience for all ages and interests.
As the setting for classics such as “Harry Potter,” “Mary Poppins” and “Peter Pan,” it’s no wonder this English-speaking city is a favorite among adults and children alike. Whether you follow in the footsteps of your favorite Hogwarts wizard or take a double-decker bus tour by the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, London promises an adventure your family will remember long after you’ve returned home. With safe and easy-to-use bus and train systems (aka the London Tube), the only trouble you’ll have is deciding where to go first.
London Eye: All ages will find themselves in awe while taking in views on this giant Ferris wheel. As one of the city’s top attractions, the London Eye allows you to see the sights and hear the sounds of the city from a new perspective while resting comfortably in a passenger capsule.
London Dungeon: If your family likes haunted houses during Halloween, you won’t want to miss a trip to the London Dungeon. This one-of-a-kind attraction recreates some of history’s most gory events in a humorous fashion through live shows, interactive exhibits and wild rides.
Watch Changing of the Guard: While tickets for the whole family to step inside of Buckingham Palace can be pricey, watching the changing of the guard won’t cost you a penny. The famous 45-minute ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. daily during the summer and several times a week the rest of the year.
The City of Lights is not just for lovers anymore. While a trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, the capital city is also home to a variety of attractions designed specifically with children in mind. Pair that with its beautiful parks, mouthwatering desserts and fairytale architecture, and Paris is the perfect match for your next family vacation.
Musee de la Magie: Have an amateur magician in the family? This unique museum focuses on the art of magic, optical illusions and surprising tricks, becoming an instant treat for all who wander around its mysterious exhibits.
Pompidou Centre: Even the pickiest of children will be intrigued the second they see this museum. A building turned inside out, Pompidou Centre showcases its pipes and escalators to the outside world, while the inside is occupied by beautiful modern art exhibits. The museum also features special workshops for children and teens.
Attend a cooking class: Dream of taking a cooking class in Paris? Having the kiddos with you won’t hold you back. With a variety of restaurants and culinary schools offering English-taught cooking classes specifically for little chefs, you can turn your dream of bread making and tiramisu baking into a reality while your kids learn basic kitchen techniques.
Bustling with exciting historical attractions, Rome is the perfect place for kids who like to learn without it actually feeling like learning. And with a variety of its acclaimed attractions free to the public – we’re looking at you, Trevi Fountain and the Roman Forum – it’s no wonder Rome was voted one of the most affordable cities to visit, perfect for families wanting to see it all without breaking the bank.
The Pantheon: This Roman temple is not only an important Rome attraction by its historical nature, but it also makes for a relatively quick and easy visit, perfect for little ones with limited attention spans.
Villa Borghese: Take a break from the crowded city and let your kids get their energy out as they roam around this scenic park and green space. Villa Borghese is also home to numerous museums, statues, fountains and an amphitheater.
Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour: While filled with family-friendly monuments and attractions, Rome’s sloping nature can get tiring if you’re pushing a stroller or holding a baby. The hop-on hop-off bus tours allow all ages to sit back and relax while taking in views of the city’s most famous sites, hop off for a gelato break, and hop back on another bus a few minutes later.
Ready to book your family getaway to Europe? Get exclusive rates on your flights and accommodations when you book a package through Vacations by Marriott.