The 10 Best Family-Friendly Destinations in Europe

Barcelona is one of the top kid-friendly cities in Europe, with its Tibidabo amusement park offering family fun
Barcelona is one of the top kid-friendly cities in Europe, with its Tibidabo amusement park offering family fun | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lani Seelinger
6 January 2021

Planning a family holiday in one of Europe’s cultural hotspots? Then you’ll want to stay somewhere with enough space for all your tribe, with child-friendly amenities, convenient transport links and self-catering facilities. Here are some of the most family-friendly places to stay, be it an eco-hostel in Copenhagen, a seaside resort in Dubrovnik or a city-centre apartment in Prague.

Vienna

Vienna, the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is full of grand buildings and dripping with history, and offers a treasure trove of kid-friendly destinations. Where else can you see a horse show (or a practice, at least) in a building resembling a wedding cake besides the Winter Riding School? How many castles have one of the world’s oldest zoos in their beautiful gardens besides Schönbrunn? Vienna’s ferris wheel at the Prater is perhaps less unique, but no less exciting. Night or day, you’ll get an excellent view of the city, and the ride’s entry hall even has a charming exhibit about the history of the city that’s perfectly tailored to a young audience.

Horsemen at the Winter Riding School | © Gary Calton / Alamy Stock Photo

Myplace Premium Apartments

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Courtesy of Myplace Premium Apartments / Expedia
Myplace offers modern apartments in the heart of Vienna, either just a five-minute walk from St Stephen’s Cathedral or by the riverside. Each building has a fitness lounge and roof terrace with 360-degree views over the city. The premium two- and three-bed apartments are ideal for families, featuring kitchens and living areas with comfy sofas and cable TV. Children up to two years old sleep free of charge, and baby cots are available.
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London

London has something for everyone, so it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s also an excellent place to take children. It’s chock-full of museums, many of which have kid-friendly sections where young ones can get their hands into history, science, technology and more. Would they like to try and lift a gold brick, or to explore the decks of a World War II warship? Both are possible – at the Bank of England Museum and the HMS Belfast, respectively. When it’s time to sit down for a while, why not check out a West End show? There are several that will be excellent for children and parents alike, such as The Lion King, Wicked, or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella.

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    The Rosebery ApartHotel

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    Courtesy of The Rosebery ApartHotel / Expedia
    Get all the convenience of a central London location combined with the comfort of your own apartment at the Rosebery. The family-run aparthotel is set in a refurbished Victorian brick building in Clerkenwell, just a few minutes from Farringdon and Chancery Lane tube stations. There are 58 studios or sophisticated apartments that come with kitchens, city-skyline views and lounges with Sky TV.
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    Copenhagen

    The Danish capital of Copenhagen isn’t all about fancy restaurants or hunting down marijuana in the self-proclaimed republic of Christiania. It’s also got a number of attractions that make it remarkably family-friendly. Tivoli Gardens, for example, the theme park in the center of the city, is the second oldest continually operating theme park in the world, and it’s just as exciting as — if not more than — one that was built in the last decade. Being the home of fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen is also a perfect destination for those captivated by his stories – particularly The Little Mermaid, whose statue you can find in the harbour.

    Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen | © Dylan Garcia ARPS / Alamy Stock Photo

    Danhostel Amager

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    Looking for a quiet hostel surrounded by countryside? Then opt for the eco-friendly Danhostel, set in Amager Faelled Nature Reserve, less than three miles (five kilometres) from Copenhagen. Stay in a family room with views of the surrounding fields and forest. There’s a communal TV room, library and hangout area with bright sofas and graffiti murals, as well as play areas for kids. Make the most of the organic local breakfast buffet in the dining room or wraparound terrace.

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    Dubrovnik

    The Adriatic gem of Dubrovnik is filled to the brim with activity, so it’s a great place to come with kids who need to blow off some steam. One of the top things to do is to take a walk around the walls of the inner city, which will be a treat for all members of the family – especially if someone fancies herself to be a photographer. Swimming is also possible at numerous points around the city, so braving the on-season to take advantage of the warmth is well worth it. Getting out of the centre for hikes around the area is another good thing to do, and if people tend to get hungry, no fear – there are numerous roadside stands selling hot and fresh Balkan specialties all over the place.

    Swimming and cliff diving from the city walls in Dubrovnik | © Christopher Hill Photographic / Alamy Stock Photo

    Valamar Club Dubrovnik

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    Courtesy of Valamar Club Dubrovnik / Expedia
    Valamar Club is one of Dubrovnik’s top child-friendly resorts, known for its Maro Kids’ Club. There’s also a separate teen lounge and programme of sports and evening entertainment. Kids will love the outdoor pools and playground, as well as three nearby beaches. Valamar offers family rooms with connecting doors, a babysitting service and a children’s corner in the buffet restaurant. Thanks to its location on the Babin Kuk Peninsula, you’re just a few minutes from historic Dubrovnik’s city centre.
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    Prague

    Prague is a city that loves its parks, and that’s one of the features that makes it such a great place to bring kids. Of particular interest will be Petrin Hill, on the west side of the Vltava river that has an excellent garden at the top, including a mirror maze and a mini Eiffel Tower with a viewpoint. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the little ones when you’re in the most tourist-heavy areas in the centre, but braving the crowds will bring rewards like medieval-themed restaurants and kid-friendly museums, such as the Museum of Chocolate. Plus, the zoo was recently voted the seventh best in the world.

    Ruzovy Sady on Petrin Hill, Prague | © Peter Erik Forsberg/Prague / Alamy Stock Photo

    James Hotel

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    Courtesy of James Hotel / Expedia
    If you’re looking for somewhere in central Prague, James Hotel in the old town overlooks Petrin Hill and puts you within walking distance of Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge. The contemporary units are set in a building with a hotel reception and concierge, secure parking and an on-site café. Each of the 14 apartments has kitchens, a terrace and a balcony, but the three-bed options are ideal for bigger families and can accommodate six people.
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    Barcelona

    The practically endless good weather in Barcelona is one of many reasons why you should consider it for your next family trip. The Gaudí architecture, one of the foremost features of the city, is whimsical and colourful enough to be enjoyable to everyone. The beach is always a good retreat, or for a little more excitement, you can take a walk down La Rambla to take a look at the myriad street performers. Let’s not forget another of the world’s most distinguished amusement parks – Tibidabo – which offers numerous old-fashioned attractions and fun for the whole family.

    Tibidabo amusement park in Barcelona | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

    Arai Aparthotel

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    Courtesy of Arai Aparthotel / Expedia
    Soak up Barcelona’s history in this 18th-century manor house set in the Gothic Quarter. The building has been restored and retains original features including marble floors, a wrought-iron entrance arch and main staircase with swirling bannisters. The ornate facade is decorated with carvings personifying the Danube, Nile, Ganges and Plate, giving the building its name: House of Four Rivers. Arai’s family apartment has room for four people with high, wood-beamed ceilings, stone walls and large windows, and there’s also a pool terrace.
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    Reykjavík

    There’s nothing like the great outdoors to keep your family happy, active and, by the end of the day, thoroughly exhausted – and Reykjavík has outdoor wonders in spades. Public pools fed by thermal hot springs are a huge part of Icelandic culture, and they range in style from expensive and touristy to quiet and local. Catching the northern lights will be an experience that no one will ever forget, and seeing a whale on a boat trip will be similarly memorable. There’s plenty of hiking nearby, or spice things up and go horse riding instead. Best of all, Reykjavík is incredibly safe for a capital city.

    Thermal springs in Reykjavík, Iceland | © Niels Poulsen DK / Alamy Stock Photo

    Reykjavík Residence Hotel

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    Courtesy of Reykjavik Residence Hotel / Expedia
    Reykjavík Residence describes itself as a home away from home. Its aparthotels are set inside two fully-renovated period houses located downtown. There’s a 24-hour reception and guest parking, as well as a choice of up to three-bed apartments, each stocked daily with milk and juice. The six-berth family suites have kitchenettes and flat-screen TVs with PlayStations. Interiors are homely with plump sofas, and baby cots are available for a fee.
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    Munich

    We know, we know – the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Munich is beer, and a lot of it. But why should having a family along with you stop you from enjoying that pleasure? The beer gardens in Bavaria’s capital all welcome children, and of course they offer plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks for their younger patrons. Besides that, there are also museums like BMW World, which has a lot of technologically advanced exhibits that will be sure to fascinate visitors of all ages. It might be best to avoid the city during the three weeks of Oktoberfest, but that leaves 49 other weeks to enjoy.

    An old tram on a Munich street | © RossHelen editorial / Alamy Stock Photo

    Cocoon Hauptbahnhof

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    Courtesy of Cocoon Hauptbahnhof / Expedia
    When you check into Cocoon Hauptbahnhof, you’ll be transported to an alpine lodge. Think wood panelling and mountain murals, gondola artwork, a fireplace in the lobby and antlers hanging from the ceiling. Rooms are just as unusual, with cow photos and farmer tubs, as well as bathrooms designed like train compartments. Book the Chill Out Alm or two-level Cocoon Chalet for the perfect family holiday. This eccentric concept hotel lies in Ludwigsvorstadt, a short walk from Munich’s train station.
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    Amsterdam

    Amsterdam is similar to Munich in that the attractions tourists know it for are not exactly the most family friendly. However, it’s also absolutely bursting at the seams with activities that don’t involve checking out certain legal substances. How about renting a bicycle or going on a canal tour? If you go in the summer, definitely swing by the Tropenmuseum, the roof of which becomes a beach. The food is also something that children will love – how many places have French fries and waffles as the ultimate must-try treats?

    Child-friendly transport in Amsterdam | © Renato Granieri / Alamy Stock Photo

    Lloyd Hotel

    Boutique Hotel, Budget Hotel
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    Courtesy of Lloyd Hotel / Expedia
    Experience the world’s first 1-to-5-star hotel, located on the IJ River, 10 minutes by tram to Amsterdam Central Station. The property was built in the 1920s as a hostel for migrants and later became a prison before it was converted into a hotel. Each of the 117 rooms has been individually created by Dutch designers and come in various shapes and sizes, some sleeping up to seven. You can pick your star grading, but the exact room you’ll receive is a surprise.
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    Lisbon

    For a warmer and far more natural beach, head to Lisbon, where the city’s natural exuberance will lead to one of the most fun vacations you can imagine. Don’t miss the aquarium, one of the biggest in Europe, which has plenty of exhibits specially set up for younger viewers. A short train trip to the nearby village of Sintra offers castles galore (plus a train trip!), or if you’re set on staying in the city, you can just use the charming tram system to get around. Perhaps best of all, many Lisbon restaurants have special kids’ zones where they can keep themselves occupied while the parents enjoy a quiet meal.

    The Oceanario aquarium in Lisbon | © Paulo Amorim / VWPics / Alamy Stock Photo

    Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites

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    Courtesy of Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites / Expedia
    Martinhal is a speciality family hotel in the centre of Lisbon. The kids’ clubs include a creche with a tented ceiling and activity rooms for older kids complete with a climbing wall, arts and crafts, and games consoles. Take advantage of the baby concierge and pyjama club which runs until 10pm so adults can have a meal out in Lisbon. Self-catering suites and apartments often come with bunk beds and are decorated in bold colours with kid-friendly touches like Tintin posters and high chairs.
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    Amy Blyth contributed additional reporting to this article.

    These recommendations were updated on January 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.