FTF staff and contributors pool their experiences to come up with 20 must-see attractions for families traveling to Europe with children under 16.
First trip to Europe with the kids? Overwhelmed by the prospect of planning an itinerary and unsure where to begin? Here is a totally personal, unobjective, filled with bias list of our favorite 20 places to go with kids in Europe, because kids love that “in your face” quality of iconic attractions and original architecture. We’ve arranged them alphabetically by city from A-Z (actually Amsterdam to Vienna) to give you a starting point. Keep in mind that with today’s low cost carriers, it’s possible to make a Grand Tour of Europe by country-hopping, though we think you’d be missing a lot along the way.
Don’t agree with our picks? Get in touch and share your thoughts!
1. Amsterdam, Holland
Canal boat tours show off the city’s unusual lifestyle and architecture, but don’t miss the interior of the Anne Frankhuis with its stories of one child’s incredible bravery.
2. Athens, Greece
Still a Wonder of the World, the Acropolis, its monuments and museums deliver a dose of culture within walking distance of the fun, outdoor cafÃ©s of the Plaka district.
3. Barcelona, Spain
In the morning, get lost in the Bari GÃ²tic’s Gothic homes, Roman walls and street life, then spend the afternoon letting off steam in Gaudi’s fantastical Parc GÃ¼ell.
4. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Interrupt your round-the-island touring to dunk the family in this geothermal lake, whose warmth and silica-blue water are said to cure all ailments.
5. Bruges, Belgium
At day’s end, families can relax at a cafÃ© on the cobblestoned, medieval Town Hall Square and watch the city – old and new – wind down.
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
At the flower-filled Tivoli Gardens, adults can sample an authentic Carlsberg beer while children enjoy a carousel of little Viking ships, pinball, brass band concerts and other diversions.
7. Frankfurt, Germany
The “German Fairy Tale Road,” which runs north from the hometown of the Brothers Grimm (outside Frankfurt) to Bremen, highlights the traditional villages, folk museums, markets and forest trails they chronicled in their tales.
8. Grindelwald, Switzerland
From this picturesque alpine village at 3,400 feet above sea level, you can sightsee on the Jungfraubahn, Europe’s highest train station at 2.1 miles in the sky, as well as oldest steam train in the region, then hike back through flowering meadows to a traditional B&B.
9. Limerick, Ireland
The Bunratty Folk Park, on the grounds of a 15th-century country castle, is a recreated 19th- century farming village with costumed interpreters and craftspeople who exemplify Irish charm.
10. Istanbul, Turkey
The fascinating Grand Bazar’s nooks, alleys and persistent vendors welcome families to learn about Turkish crafts, kilim rugs, ancient handicrafts and the history of the Ottoman Empire.
11. Kemi, Finland
After a day ‘cruise’ and Baltic Sea swim on the icebreaker Sampo, this Lapland village offers a winter-season Ice Hotel with frosty family rooms.
12. London, England
Children who have absorbed Britain’s colorful history from the terrific guides at the Tower of London can catch the BA London Eye, a stunning observation wheel, for a contemporary view of the capital.
The Museo Nacional Reina Sofia houses Picasso’s huge “Guernica,” an abstract yet painful mural about war which will spark hours of family conversation, over tapas or at the bullfighting arena.
14. Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower’s hometown still exudes the magnetic appeal it had before the Rugrats arrived, with museums offering great art, stroller-friendly public spaces, cafeterias with wonderful views, and an active street scene.
15. Prague, Czech Republic
Innovative street performers, portrait artists and craftspeople thrive along the historic King Charles Bridge as a cultural complement to the free classic music concerts given daily in many Baroque churches.
16. Salzburg, Austria
Mozart’s home and museum, the classical performers around Mozartplatz, and the day tours to visit film locations for “The Sound of Music” encourage children to appreciate music as well as the sacher torte.
17. San Gimignano, Italy
Climb this medieval village’s tower for a bird’s eye view of the quiet, pedestrian-only Piazza Cisterna, site of horse races, summer festivals and a unique Museo della Tortura, whose instruments seem to mystify children and fascinate adults.
18. Sintra, Portugal
This cool and lovely hill town, a fun outing by train from Lisbon, offers families a chance to stroll through the PalÃ¡cio Nacional’s chambers and visit the gardens of the Pena Castle at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
19. Stockholm, Sweden
The large and tranquil Skansen park hosts transplanted Swedish homes and farm buildings and a collection of friendly animals (many to be petted) from throughout Scandinavia.
20. Vienna, Austria
Alternate a morning mass by the Vienna Boys Choir or a rehearsal of the Spanish Riding School’s Lipizzaner stallions with a visit to the Prater’s 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel and delightful, old-fashioned rides, all right in the heart of town.
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