The Very Best Family Holiday Spots in Europe: An Expert Guide
Whisking the family away on holiday? Here are the best European destinations for a fuss-free trip
Whether you’re looking for a city break destination or a classic beach holiday, Europe offers a whole range of exciting places to take the family. There’s something for every type of family - think outdoor adventures for active folks, beach destinations for the laid-back type, or lively cities for those looking for a dose of culture. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a place to travel with kids, from attractions that won’t elicit feet dragging, to places where they can really let loose. Luckily, us travel pros here at Plum Guide have done the research on the best family holidays in Europe, and have the answers to all your burning questions. Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got it right here in our expert guide, so read on.
With countless golden beaches, blue waters, and an abundance of kid-friendly attractions, the Algarve offers some of the best family holidays in Europe. This region of Portugal enjoys a mild and sunny climate year-round, so there’s never a bad time to visit. There are numerous towns along the coast to explore, but we recommend basing yourself in Praia da Luz, Albufeira, or Almansil for the best family experience. The south coast beaches are ideal for water sports - spend time canoeing, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, or jet-skiing to get the heart racing. Meanwhile, the Atlantic beaches are more rugged and wild - these are better suited for adventurous families, or those with older kids who don’t mind trekking a bit to get to the beach. When you’re not hanging out in the sand and sea, join a dolphin watching boat tour, enjoy a Jeep safari, or explore the historic sites of Faro’s Old Town.
If you’re wondering where the best spot for a family holiday in Europe is, then look no further than Malta. With sun-drenched islands, this archipelago in the central Mediterranean is full of outdoor adventures for all ages. Malta offers endless fun for wannabe knights and explorers, with everything from Roman ruins and dramatic forts, to medieval castles and walled cities - often with colourful historical reenactments. Other kid-friendly days out include horse riding, boat tripping, cycling, and visiting Popeye Village, a purpose-built film set which has been converted into a small fun park. When you want a break from activity-filled days, there’s no better place to relax than Malta’s fantastic beaches. Golden Bay Beach is a great family-friendly option, with all the amenities you could ever need. Venturing further onto the island of Comino, you have the Blue Lagoon, with its crystal-clear waters and powdery white sands resembling a huge swimming pool - remember to bring your inflatables.
There are a number of European countries that are family-friendly, but England will always rank pretty high on the list - with good reason. Its capital city manages to captivate visitors of all ages, with iconic attractions including the London Eye, the Tower of London, and the Warner Bros Studio - follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter. When it comes to museums, you’re spoilt for choice, with over 170 to choose from. In the event that you get carried away with ancient artefacts and exhibitions, you may notice the kids start to drag their feet. Why not let them blow off some steam at one of London’s many green spaces? Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath are both great options for families, with ample space to run around, lidos to splash about in the summer months, and numerous picnic sites and playgrounds. You can even hire a rowboat or pedalo on the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park.
Prague, Czech Republic
With its red rooflines, cobblestone streets, and magnificent castle, Prague has a medieval fairytale feel to it which is sure to enchant children and adults alike. Beyond the must-see attractions, like Charles Bridge and the Old Town, the city offers endless fun for kids. From the optical illusion-filled Museum of Senses, to the giant Lego displays at Czech Repubrick, or the puppet shows at the National Marionette theatre, there’s little chance you run out of things to do. Prague is a surprisingly green city, with various parks and gardens to run around in - such as Stromovka Park, Petrín Hill, and Letná Gardens. Make your way to the Vltava River, and rent a pedalo or rowboat to discover the city’s river islands. Strelecký Ostrov island is home to summer open-air festivals and events, and Detský Ostrov (Children’s Island), has a children’s playground as well as several sports facilities.
Greece’s largest island is a playground for kids and adults alike. Along with fantastic beaches and incredible natural landscapes, Crete offers plenty of ancient wonders for history nerds. Discover Byzantine churches, Venetian castles, and Minoan palaces, being sure to take a tour of the Knossos Palace ruins in Heraklion. Once you and the kids are all tired out, unwind at the magical Elafonisi beach, famous for its crystal clear waters and pink sands. The shallow waters are perfect for kids to swim and snorkel in - you can even try out kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding here. For more fun, be sure to visit the Venetian Port in the pretty town of Chania. With plenty of cafes and shops along the water, it’s a great place to explore (and same delicious Cretan cuisine, of course).
Although Vienna may seem like the perfect place for a romantic getaway, you’ll be surprised at just how family-friendly this city is. There is a real array of things to see and do - you won't hear a single “I’m bored” the entire time you’re there. If the kids haven’t already noticed the giant ferris wheel, make sure you add Prater to your itinerary. One of the oldest amusement parks in Europe and a Viennese icon, there are hours of fun to be had for thrill-seekers. Once you’ve answered all cries of hunger at the famous Demel cake shop, continue the fun at the hands-on ZOOM Kindermuseum (Children’s Museum), catch a puppet show at Schönbrunn Palace Marionette Theater, see the butterflies at the Schmetterling Haus (Butterfly House), or dress up as royalty at the Schönbrunn Palace. You may well have a hard time dragging the kids away from a city like Vienna.
Quieter than its neighbours Ibiza and Majorca, the island of Menorca offers families the chance to slow down and get in touch with nature. No doubt you’ll be spending most of your holiday on the island’s sandy beaches, from Cala Galdana with its soft white sands and family amenities, to Son Saura with its shallow, turquoise waters. If you have older kids, think about joining a boat trip, and snorkel in hidden coves or explore caves by kayak. Away from the coast, Menorca’s landscape is made up of rolling hills, farmland, and ancient settlements. Hike or horse-ride your way through the countryside, or take a Jeep safari if little legs are tired. To switch things up, the port city of Ciutadella de Menorca is well worth a visit for its medieval cobbled streets and historic buildings. Try local food at the many restaurants, before wandering along the harbour with a well-deserved ice cream.
From its food (meatballs and open-faced sandwiches) to its museums (computer games, science, and technology), Sweden’s capital city is extremely family friendly. Made up of fourteen islands, most of Stockholm’s family attractions are located on the island of Djurgården, but the city’s excellent public transport system makes it very easy to get around. For those of you looking for a thrill, Gröna Lund is a vintage theme park with over thirty rides, including a walk-through haunted house for its bravest visitors. Fans of Pippi Longstocking will love Junibacken, one of the most popular children’s attractions, where famous Swedish literary characters come to life. There’s live theatre, and even a train that takes you through Astrid Lindgren’s world. Attraction after attraction can get tiring, but luckily there are plenty of opportunities to relax and take a breather, too. Check out the beach at Tanto strandbad, or head to Eriksdalsbadet for indoor and outdoor heated swimming baths.
Puglia (or Apulia) is a popular destination with Italian families, and it’s not hard to see why. With amazing weather, unique landscapes, sandy beaches, and child-friendly towns, there are countless things for the whole family to enjoy. If you’re up for an adventure, venture underground at Grotte di Castellana, one of Puglia’s best-known natural wonders - discover 90 million years of spiky stalactites and stalagmites, ancient fossils, and deep canyons. With over 800 kilometres of coastline, there is also no shortage of beaches to visit in Puglia. Some of the most kid-friendly beaches are Torre Guaceto (which is amazing for snorkelling), and Pescoluse, with its sand dunes and turquoise waters. We won’t blame you if you spend all your time on the beach, but if you only end up doing one day trip, make sure it's to Alberobello. One of the prettiest towns in Puglia, kids will love exploring the traditional trulli - whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs that resemble fairy houses.
If you’re looking for the best family holidays in Europe, it doesn’t get much better than Iceland. This is a truly epic destination, packed with outdoor adventures in some of the most spectacular natural landscapes on earth. It’s a very family-friendly destination, where you’ll enjoy discovering jaw-dropping waterfalls, geothermal baths, black sand beaches, rolling green hills, and skies that dance with colour. When travelling with little ones, the best way to explore Iceland is via a self-drive tour, allowing you to go at your own pace and stop off at the many attractions - such as the world-famous Blue Lagoon, or the Skálafellsjökull Glacier. Take a break from driving and join a whale-watching boat tour, where you can spot acrobatic humpbacks, friendly dolphins, and majestic orcas in the wild. Alternatively, traverse the breathtaking countryside and beaches on horseback, a once in a lifetime experience on the famously gentle Icelandic horses.