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Best European cities for families

Best European cities for families

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Our girls have been lucky to visit a lot of European cities during our travels, including what we think are some of the best European cities for families.

We’ve got a few under out hats now including super popular Italian cities that have amazing symbology for kids to spot and Spainish places that could not be more family-friendly if it tried. However, we’ve also tried and tested some less obvious destinations like Budapest.

In this post I’m sharing our experiences of what we think are the best city breaks for families in Europe.

*This post may contain compensated and affiliate links*

Budapest with kids

Our multi-generation group in a swimming pool at Széchenyi Thermal Bath which is the largest thermal bath complex in Europe

Our most recent European city visited was the capital of Hungary. Now, if you know anything about Budapest you might think of it more as a destination for hen and stag dos or couples’ getaways.

I get it. The famous Ruin Bars and heavy post-Second World War history might not scream ‘family-friendly’, but hear me out!

We had a brilliant multi-generation holiday in Budapest spending a full week seeking out its best view points, visiting attractions and enjoying its cafe culture.

We loved relaxing at Széchenyi Thermal Bath, shopping at Central Market Hall, climbing St Stephen’s Basilica and a walking around the Parliament and Jewish Quarters.

It’s also really easy to get around either on foot or by Bolt taxi

Take a look at out full seven day Budapest itinerary to find out more about what we did, where we stayed and our top tips for city breaks in Budapest.

Or skip to the best parts in my guide to fun things to do in Budapest with kids.

London with kids

Lego Store - Leicester Square, London

Good old London. We’ve now been a few times with the kids but I always leave wanting more.

Aside from the famous sights like the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Tower of London, there’s so much more to see with kids.

The Cutty Sark at Greenwich is an excellent family-friendly attraction and we’ve loved visiting the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the parks for free.

Here’s what we got up to during our first London city break with kids and an easy London weekend itinerary that we did a few years later.

And if you are looking for more free things to do in London (albeit you’re bound to be stung with some souvenir shopping) Leicester Square is a brilliant place to head with the largest LEGO Store on the planet and Europe’s biggest sweet shop, M&M’s World.

You can also catch a West End show on a budget if you plan ahead. If you’re after a thoroughly British treat while in London then I can recommend afternoon tea at The Waldorf Hilton Hotel. They even do kids teas.

Here’s some more inspiration on how to see London and things to do in London with kids.


Weekend breaks: Bath

Pulteney Bridge and weir - city break in Bath

I can’t let London get all the UK city break glory as there are many more worth a mention among our best European cities for families.

We love visiting Bath in Somerset. It’s very close to us in the South West of England and there are good transport links from London and the north.

Bath is a UNESCO city famous for its Roman Baths, hence the name.

But there is so much more to see here than the impressive spa complex left behind by the Romans.

We can also recommend a visit to the American Museum – the biggest collection of American cultural artefacts outside the US.

Other things to do in Bath with kids include the city farm, a visit to Royal Victoria Gardens and The Fashion Museum.

Check out more things to do in Bath including free days out.

Here’s more of the best UK city breaks with kids.

Family city breaks: Venice

Tin Box family on Ponte della'Accademia - Lake Garda to Venice with kids

This is not a European city break for the faint hearted as Venice never has an off season. Expect crowds and very few budget accommodation or dining options. However, this is Venice, so we will let it off.

We spent a day visiting Venice as part of a summer holiday in the Italian Lakes.

In seven whirlwind hours it was possible to see St Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge, go for a ride on the Vaporetto and take a family-friendly guided tour the Santa Croce residential area of the city.

The girls still chatter about their day in the floating city – it really captured their imaginations.

Read my tips for visiting Venice with kids.

Florence with kids

Florence - Booking holidays makes you happy

Florence is a city brimming with art, architecture and Renaissance atmosphere. I’ve now been four times – twice with the kids.

So what can I recommend doing in Florence with children? Our girls were one and three when we first took them to Florence.

Wandering the streets at our own pace was the ideal way to see sights like the Duomo, Pont Vecchio and Pizza Signora.

When we returned in 2019 we took a family-friendly guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery.

If you’re a fan of Italian food, it’s also possible to tour the city’s markets and learn how the very best gelato is made here. Here’s the Florence gelato and sightseeing tour I went on last time I was in the city solo.

Take a look at my full guide to visiting Florence with kids including what to see and lots of options for places to stay.


Visiting Lisbon with children

Tin Box family on Tuk Tuk in Lisbon - Back to the 80s cruise Navigator of the Seas

Lisbon is a truly family-friendly city with play equipment in open spaces and an urban beach across the road from Commerce Square and the statue of Dom José I.

In terms of things to do in Lisbon, there’s an aquarium, the iconic trams, a cable car and zoo to enjoy as a family.

If you are short on time I can recommend hiring a tuk tuk for a whistle-stop city tour – my kids loved this.

Here’s a bit about our day in Lisbon as part of a Western Europe cruise.

If you have more time than us you’ll want to check out these things to do in Lisbon with kids.


Siena with kids

Siena Italy with kids

A visit to Siena is a must when you are in the Tuscan region of Italy. It’s particularly good with kids as you’ll find it has a lot of the charm of neighbouring Florence with fewer crowds.

During my visit last year I was wowed by the medieval architecture, its incredible yet unfinished Cathedral and the symbology on every street corner which speaks of the fierce neighbourhood rivalry that continues today.

Siena is easy to wander with kids as the city centre streets are pedestrianised.

I’d recommend visiting the beautiful unfinished Duomo and Piazza del Campo, where the famous horse race Il Palio takes place each July and August. 

Read more about my top things to do with kids in Siena.

Barcelona city breaks with children

Barcelona beach - Barcelona with a buggy

Barcelona is a place that offers plenty of historic attractions families will love. We visited with our two pre-school girls in 2016. It really is a great place for a city break with babies and toddlers.

It’s very easy to get around on foot or by the Metro, and there are plenty of free things to do in Barcelona.

Our favourites were visiting the urban beach and Park Güell (not the inner garden, which you must pay to visit and book in advance* for guaranteed entry).

Other things to do in Barcelona with kids include the Aquarium, which was a big hit with my girls, Spain’s oldest amusement park, Tibidabo Amusement Park, and the Montjuïc Magic Fountain.

Mr Tin Box and I saw the fountains in Barcelona before having kids and I’d love to take them to see it now they are old enough to stay up a bit later.

Read about more things to do in Barcelona with kids and if you have time to explore outside the city the Costa Barcelona is a brilliant European family holiday destination.


More of the best European cities for families

We really can’t get enough of Europe and still have plenty of places we want to explore.

Paris with kids

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that we haven’t made it to Paris with the girls yet, but I’ve adored visiting with Mr Tin Box and on my own.

As well as being packed full of famous sights, like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, there are plenty of parks to explore and free things to do.

Here’s my tips for visiting Paris with kids.


Other cities on our bucket list include Budapest in Hungary and Copenhagen in Denmark, particularly as there’s so many things to do in Copenhagen however many days you have to explore.

What to pack for a European city break with kids

I always try to pack light for city breaks with kids as there’s inevitably a point when you have to negotiate public transport with your luggage.

The thought of juggling multiple bags, paying for tickets and keeping an eye on little ones makes me break out in a cold sweat.

During our most recent two-night short break in Bath, I packed a LittleLife wheelie suitcase with the girls’ essentials (see below), another hand luggage-sized suitcase for myself, plus a large handbag and two small ruck sacks for the girls.

These smaller bags contained our travel snacks and entertainment.

Kid essentials for a city break

Here’s what I’d recommend packing per-child for a two-day family city break:

  • x1 pair of practical shoes for walking
  • x1 pair of trousers or shorts
  • x2 t-shirts
  • x1 long sleeved jumper/cardigan
  • x1 light rain coat
  • underwear and socks
  • sun hat
  • toiletries and sun cream
  • a paperback book
  • Kindle or iPad
  • Favourite cuddly toy

Top tips for city breaks for children

We haven’t always had successful city breaks with our children. Our first trip to London was a bit on the stressful side. However, it taught us lots of lessons.

Have a read of our tips for visiting London with toddlers and babies, which can be applied across numerous city destinations.

Here’s my top tips for stress-free city breaks with kids.

Read more of our tips for travelling with kids to help make more happy memories than drama.

Disclosure: This post may contain compensated links. It contains affiliate links marked with a * which means if you click on one and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.

Planning a city break with kids in Europe? Pin this post about the best European cities for families for inspiration.

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Stelian Mirghes

Friday 24th of April 2020

Hey Claire, I think many cities in Europe and specially the major European capitals have something for families with children. It all depends how big the children are. Obviously, the older they are the better will understand any attraction and the more enjoyable will be for the whole family. All in all, this is a great post and I must thank you for sharing with us your lovely experience in the 8 cities you mentioned in your article. At World Lifetime Journeys we try and organise something for everyone and families are our favorites. As about the cities you mentioned, Barcelona, Florence and Venice are a must see. Talking about families, children love to go out and see new things and they love theme parks and other attractions for children We can help with any family friendly destination in Europe. Good luck in your next trips!

Stelian at World Lifetime Journeys

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