The UK’s favourite family holiday continent is unrivalled for range, quality and convenience.
There are astonishing cities like Prague and Budapest, marvellous Mediterranean coastlines with year-round sunshine and an endless variety of outdoor activities, historic sights, outstanding museums and world-class excitement.
Most UK airports have regular flights to Europe and several countries are as easy to reach by sea as air.
Almost everywhere works well for kids and there are even some places where parents are side lined in favour of younger family members.
So where to go on the continent we think we know, but never fails to surprise?
Teenagers love Austria’s capital Vienna for the best vintage markets in the world, chocolate with everything, dancing horses and ice skating all round the city all winter. Austrian Tyrol is now one of the best value ski destinations in Europe, has the earliest snow and the most Christmassy, family resorts – the area’s packed with spring and summer activities too. And, if you really want lit-up kid’s faces and magical memories, head for Salzburg in December and just stand back and watch.Take me to Austria
With a Black Sea coastline, dense pine forests and bear-filled mountainous terrain, Bulgaria is a country for the traveller that enjoys variety. Its culture stems from a vibrant blend of Ottoman, Greek and Persian ancestors, which along with its five national borders creates a unique melting pot of tradition and beliefs. The currency is still Bulgarian lev, making it a popular destination with budget travellers trying to avoid the Euro zone. In the winter snow lovers flock to Borovets and Bansk for some of Europe’s best value ski holidays, enjoying over 120 km of runs. The coast is increasingly popular for summer holidays and there are family friendly all-inclusive resorts springing up, making it an ideal budget destination for the school holidays. If traditional culture is more your thing, visit one of the cities or rural villages where you will see examples of heritage from ancient civilisations such as the Romans and Ancient Greeks including several UNESCO sites. Rustic, simple food is the standard fare, with popular dishes including hearty meat stews, vegetable soups and fresh sausages or meatballs cooked over open fires. Sofia airport is well serviced and taxis or pre-arranged coaches are easy to come by, making travel in the main tourist hotspots a stress-free affair.Take me to Bulgaria
For the past few years Croatia’s offered some of the best value holidays in Europe. The country didn’t stand a chance against an invasion of kids after Dubrovnik became the go-to location for Game of Thrones. But beyond the stand in for King’s Landing, you’ll find white pebble beaches on the Makarska Riviera, gorgeous Adriatic islands and cities like historic Split, where the centre’s built into an Ancient Roman palace. But surprisingly, Croatia is still uncrowded, easy-going and as wonderful for toddlers as it is for teenagers.Take me to Croatia
This palm-fringed island is the third largest and most populous in the Mediterranean sea. The two main national influences, Greek and Turkish, are some of the most child friendly in the world, making this an ideal place to holiday with family. Foodies will be particularly impressed with the island’s staples of grilled lamb with almonds, seafood, zucchini flowers and halloumi, which hails from Cyprus. Harbour towns like Paphos provide a quiet retreat for families wanting a more chilled out break, as well as being the perfect place to get a taste of local island life. Animals lovers can visit Salt Lake with its famous pink flamingos and enjoy the sight of tiny geckos skittering up walls to seek some shade. Sun worshippers will be pleased to know that Cyprus gets a whopping 326 days of blazing sunshine a year and thankfully has the beaches to match! From white sand to pebble laced rock-pooling coves, there is a beach for everyone and crystal clear turquoise water in which to cool off. Buses are the cheapest way to get around the island and are a great opportunity to meet locals; bike and car hire are also widely available.
An all-season family destination, the Czech Republic is known for its beer and castles but has plenty more to offer. Flights from the UK to Prague take less than two hours; absolute bliss when travelling with little ones! Unlike some other European countries, the temperature in the Czech Republic tends to stay between 19C and 25C from May through to September, which is much more appealing that battling the blazing heat with kids in tow. Try a family city break; the entire city centre of Prague is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site, with some of the prettiest squares in Europe. Take in a puppet show or a river cruise or make it a multi-stop holiday with a trip to one of the four national parks in the country. One of the best things about visiting the Czech Republic with kids is that it is a third of the size of the UK, so there is less time stuck in a car and more time for adventure!
Nothing says ‘child friendly destination’ quite like the home of LEGO. Denmark is renowned for its wholesome, outdoorsy approach to family life and it is no surprise that there is plenty for families to do. A mere two hour flight from London across the Baltic sea, Denmark boasts some of the most coveted status for its citizens, including highest social mobility and highest levels of personal income in Europe. This enjoyable lifestyle is evident to visitors, who benefit from exceptionally low crime and corruption levels. Visit Billund, home to the inventor of Lego and its own Legoland; go wild in Bakken, the world’s oldest theme park or dive deep with a trip to The Blue Plant, Europe’s largest aquarium. If you like more of an unplugged holiday, why not take a break in the countryside? Rich in Viking heritage, kids can explore plenty of castle ruins as well as breathtaking nature and the scenic coastline; don’t forget to look out for seals!
Best known as the home of Lapland and Father Christmas’ workshop, Finland borders Sweden, Norway and Russia in northern Europe. An ideal destination for nature lovers, Finland is one of the most popular places in which to witness the Aurora Borealis (‘Northern Lights’). Once in a lifetime experiences include sleeping in a glass igloo under the stars; taking a night-time snow safari and meeting the indigenous Sami tribe to learn about their traditional way of life. Endless sunshine during summer nights is also one of the incredible natural phenomenon that visitors to Finland can witness, with travellers trekking north to seek out the famous Midnight Sun. Parents will be pleased to learn that Finland boasts an average of one sauna per household; the ideal way to unwind during child-free time! During your stay be sure to try national specialities such as hot lingonberry porridge, warming blueberry pie and the freshest salmon straight from the icy waters. Flying from London to Helsinki takes under three hours directly, with other airports accessible via European stopovers.Take me to Finland
France has everything for family holidays, from year round Riviera sunshine to Alpine skiing in winter, accessible wilderness landscapes, Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches and some of the world’s most legendary cities. It also keeps a different school calendar from the UK which makes it a good choice for inexpensive mid-term breaks. And, the French love cycling, camping, walking, climbing and sailing. So their home country is difficult to better when it comes to safe, comfortable and well-managed outdoor adventure, whether you’re on the coast of Brittany or in the magnificent Pyrenees.Take me to France
The islands of Greece are outstanding: warm and welcoming to children, easy-going, fascinating and with some of the world’s loveliest beaches, for good measure. Many of the larger islands also have their own airports so don’t involve long ferry journeys. But Greece isn’t limited to remote holiday options. Visit Athens for the Acropolis and, you have the gorgeous Balcánica Peninsula to the east and the Peloponnese, a doable drive west. So amazing your kids with ancient history and giving them a beach break is easily done, even in the busier parts of Greece.Take me to Greece
Germany is an enormous country with unlimited family holiday potential. Berlin has children’s festivals all summer, actively encourages young visitors at events like Lollapalooza and has turned an entire airfield into a giant, family-friendly playground (kids can skateboard down the immense runway at Tempelhof). Children enjoy spa breaks in the Black Forest, ski all over Bavaria, stargaze in Saxony and cruise down the Rhine. Don’t forget this is the land of the Brothers Grimm, so myths and legends are everywhere. And when you want to mix it up a little, you’ll even find Munich’s Oktoberfest is great fun for families.Take me to Germany
With direct flights all year round from the UK to Reykjavik, Iceland has transformed into one of Europe’s easiest countries for short breaks. The island of volcanos, glaciers, lagoons, geothermal lakes, mountains, waterfalls and charming cities, is an unforgettable experience for kids. And Icelanders believe: if children are old enough to walk, they’re the right age to enjoy their unique and rugged homeland. So you won’t find any shortage of learning opportunities mixed in with the fun here.Take me to Iceland
Home to a people fiercely proud of their national heritage, Ireland is a place of stunning natural beauty and ancient culture. As well as the rich accents, hearty food and irresistible music, there is plenty to love about this country. There are plenty of child focused attractions such as water-parks, zoos and indoor play centres, as well as ancient castles with family friendly playgrounds and facilities. Make sure you have time to dig into the cultural roots of Ireland while you’re here; a self-drive tour of some of the country’s most precious archeological and historical sites is a great way to balance educational trips and flexibility. At dinner time enjoy Irish stew, a filling mix of meat and root vegetables, and a pint of the much-loved Guinness (or better yet, visit the factory in Dublin!). For entertainment catch an Irish dancing show for some seriously impressive moves, or get foot-tapping with traditional folk music in a local pub. With flight time from London standing at less than an hour, this is one of the easiest flights to take with children!Take me to Ireland
Visit Rome with kids and seeing the eternal city through their eyes is astonishing. The same can be said of Florence and no child fails to be enchanted by Venice. Italy is astounding from end to end, whether you’re skiing in the Dolomites or discovering the Amalfi Coast, braving Umbria and Tuscany in high summer or taking a quick spring break by the Italian Lakes. And there are few places, even on the Mediterranean, where children are more adored, spoiled and generally indulged than they are in this warm and passionate country.Take me to Italy
A cosy archipelago nestled between Sicily and the North African coast, Malta has a colourful history of rulers including the French, British and Romans among others. The island has a laidback vibe yet has enough to keep even the most adventurous families happy, with a thriving watersports community on the northern coast. Malta enjoys one of the highest numbers of sunshine hours in Europe, clocking up over 3000 a year with 12 hour sunny days in mid-summer. With a flight time of around three hours from London it is a good option for a short-haul beachside family holiday, with everything from private resort beaches to secluded coves. There is a wealth of history to be uncovered, too- the Old Capital and Silent City are worth a visit, and there are some stunning architectural designs among the palaces of Mdina. Flights and accommodation in Malta are often cheaper than its mainland European counterparts, making it a great option for a budget family break.Take me to Malta
Known as the Pearl of the Mediterranean, Montenegro has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the go-to destinations for 2017. Still relatively untouched by tourism, Montenegro is the place to go if you want to see unspoilt traditional culture. One of the best parts of family holiday to Montenegro is the low cost; food and accommodation is cheaper, if a little simpler, than other European countries. Another draw for families is the child focused culture and warmth of the people; don’t be surprised if you children are offered biscuits or a playful cheek-pinch by friendly locals. The UNESCO world heritage site of Kotor is a must-see for families visiting Montenegro with its tiny cobbled streets, good value cafes and atmospheric antique shops. The Bay of Kotor is another must-visit, with boat trips widely available. Architecture fans will be more than pleased with Montenegro’s offerings, with buildings from Venetian to Ottoman palaces shining like treasures in the hillsides.Take me to Montenegro
Every April, kids in Amsterdam are allowed to turn Vondelpark (the largest park in the city centre) into their own used toy market. It’s one the highlights of the annual King’s Day celebrations and just a hint at The Netherland’s tolerant, child-friendly nature. It’s a country of fairy tale windmills and magical theme parks, flat roads for bike trips and canals to drift down, wonderful southern beaches where kids can run wild and cities with squares named after Miffy the rabbit. Visit at Easter for the tulips and treasure hunts, go in summer and enjoy the sun or spend Christmas in Amsterdam and buy a tree from the world’s only floating flower market.Take me to Netherlands
Whether it is rolling hills or shimmering glaciers you’re looking for, Norway has it all. This Scandinavian country is known for its clean and safe towns and outdoor-loving lifestyle. Dive into Viking history with a visit to Oslo’s Viking ship museum or take to the seas yourself with a Norwegian fjords cruise. Bergen, with its colourful houses, is Insta-famous and one of the many fantastic spots for visitors who enjoy their photography. Visit in the summer for hills blanketed with carpets of green, or take a trip in the winter for ice-fishing and skating on frozen lakes. Open sandwiches, peasant flat-bread and even roast reindeer are on the menu for visitors keen to sample local food. Norway covers nearly 400,000 square km so it is a good idea to pick one or two destinations when travelling with children, to avoid long journeys. Flight time from London can be as little as under two hours!Take me to Norway
Portugal goes far beyond the stunning Algarve to tempt families. The dramatic west coast is trimmed with stunning beach resorts, seaside towns that seem more Venetian than Portuguese and World Heritage masterpieces like Porto and Sintra. Lisbon is a natural romantic but from the mighty Torre de Belem to mountainous city parks, cycle routes to the sea, colourful festivals and marvellous customs, it works beautifully for kids too. And down in the south, the Algarve can still amaze even the most well-travelled families. If that seems unlikely, take the kids exploring for a few days in the region’s Sudoeste Alentejano National Park.Take me to Portugal
This landlocked Balkan country is nestled between central and southeast Europe and is highly underrated as a family holiday destination. The sprawling hills and mountains make it a prime location for nature lovers, as do as the fertile plains and farmsteads. Traditional farming culture continues often almost untouched by modern inventions, as if frozen in time centuries ago. There are abundant monasteries and churches, many of them awarded protection from UNESCO and these give an insight into the country’s history, the civilisation of which dates back over 40,000 years. Orthodox religion can be a fascinating and educational experience for visitors, as well as trips to the Communist buildings that still stand today. The capital, Belgrade, provides a more contemporary base for families with kids and there is plenty to do, from cruising along the river Danube to visiting the man-made lake for cooling off on a hot day. A non-stop flight from London will have you touching down in Belgrade in under three hours.Take me to Serbia
Away from the famous Costas, Spain has too many holiday options to fit into one childhood. Consider the rugged and mysterious north coast for Basque tradition, fantastic family feria, otherworldly Galicia and the thrill of Santiago de Compostela at Easter. Madrid’s in the centre, of course, but trimmed by La Mancha, amazing Toledo and a fast train journey from Valencia – wonderful in its own right or as a gateway to the Balearics. And from the Costa de la Luz to the Costa Brava, fabulous beaches are well paired with child-friendly cities like Seville, Valencia, Cadiz, Granada and remarkable Barcelona.Take me to Spain
An endearingly wholesome and healthy country, Sweden is where outdoor-loving families head if they want guaranteed ‘proper weather’ all year round. Join children skating on frozen lakes in the winter; bask on the edge of a pristine lake in the midsummer sunshine; kick up flurries of crunchy leaves in the autumn or picnic in fields of wildflowers during springtime. The increasingly popular forest schools originated in Sweden and the citizens certainly live an outdoorsy life that is ideal for children. It is a very safe and clean country with efficient transport and education is seen as a lifelong pursuit, so museums, castles and other attractions usually have reduced prices for under-18s and plenty of hands-on activities for little ones. There are open-air museums that show the traditional farming way of life; exhilarating theme parks to suit all ages and quaint manor houses with manicured gardens. There is a wide range of accommodation, from campsites to the budget traveller to luxury hotels in the cities.Take me to Sweden
What Switzerland lacks in size it makes up for in majesty; with over half of the land covered in the Swiss Alps it is certainly not a country that will leave your memory quickly. Efficiency is the name of the game, with exceptionally punctual transport and very polite citizens. French, German and Italian are the three languages usually spoken; great for linguistic immersion for the kids! Take a trip to the mountains and enjoy the national speciality of Swiss cheese or a giant fondue; don’t forget to finish with some of the famous chocolate (this is the home of Toblerone after all)! Lake Geneva is a popular destination for families looking for an active break, with plenty of watersports and boat tours available as well as water parks, museums and the like in nearby towns. Getting to Switzerland by plane from London takes a mere hour and a half; the kids will barely have had time to plug in their headphones before you touch down for your holiday!Take me to Switzerland
This Central European country has become increasingly popular in recent years as a mainstream tourist destination. A sub-mediterranean climate in the coastal areas makes it a pleasant place for beachside family breaks, and the natural beauty of locations like Lake Bled have drawn photographers and romantics from around Europe and beyond. In summer, clean swimming lakes as well as caves, walking trails and water-parks are what draw families. Despite the Euro, the relatively low prices of food and accommodation make it a good option for those wanting to watch the purse strings. Visit the cities with their medieval churches and picturesque cottages or visit the oldest still-fruiting vine in the world (it’s over 400 years old!) with a trip to Maribor. Traditional inns will give you a taste of authentic Slovenian history with folk music, rustic peasant food such as potato dumplings and goulash, and local wines. The journey time from London is just over two hours, making Slovenia a more than accessible family holiday destination.Take me to Slovenia
Undoubtedly one of the most child friendly countries in the world, Turkey offers everything you could want, from an active sports holiday with older children to pure relaxation with littles. Visit the popular beach resorts of Marmaris and Bodrum for family resorts, sunny weather and fun boat trips or take a trip to Oludeniz for a little more chilled-out luxury. Strolling along the promenade in the evening is a must-do for visitors to the coast; friendly banter with the local restaurant owners as they jostle for your custom is tradition and adds to the warm, light-hearted vibe of the country. If history, nature and culture are more up your street, Turkey has much to offer. Visit the Blue Lagoon for Instagram-worthy snaps of the turquoise water, explore the ruins of Ephesus city or experience the ‘golden triangle’ of ruins with Miletus, Priene and the Apollo Temple. While you’re there make sure you try the ice-cream (said to rival the Italians’), sweet baklava and the thick Turkish coffee poured from ornate silver pots. Flights take around four hours from London and the weather does become scorching during the summer so this might be a trip to save for older children.Take me to Turkey
Made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK packs a punch for such a relatively small geographical area. Transport is simple and regular and there is plenty of choice- from buses and trains to the more expensive iconic black cabs. There is such a huge variety of terrain and culture that there is something for everyone, from toddler to teen and city dweller to nature lover. Get lost in the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands and explore the lochs and their myths as well as the majestic mountains rising from the mist. Soak up the buzz of London town, taking a spin on the London Eye or getting a bird’s-eye view of the city from the Shard. Dig for fossils on the Jurassic Coast, where the prehistoric remains of dinosaurs are still being unearthed today, or hop over to Wales or Northern Ireland for a taste of traditional Celtic culture. There are many large airports throughout the UK and transfers are straightforward, often with train stations at the airports themselves.Take me to UK