Spa Holidays Are A Family Tradition Across Europe - My Family Travels

Did you know that spa holidays are a family tradition in many of Europe’s top destinations? Pack an ETIAS visa waiver to easily travel between several European countries, choose wellness oriented hotels, and you’ll return home with cultural riches, incredible experiences and healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Headland Hotel overlooks Fistral Beach in Cornwall, U.K.
The Headland overlooks Fistral Beach, one of the U.K.’s top surfing spots, from the north Cornwall coast. Photo c. Headland Hotel

Here are five trending destinations for 2020 boasting some of Europe’s latest events, top attractions and wellness spa accommodations where you can eat well, feel fit and truly relax and refresh as a family.

Austria’s Music Attracts Families

Carriages tour Vienna's Old Town
Take a carriage ride in Vienna’s Old Town and visit the Beethoven sites. Photo c. Wien Tourismus/Peter Rigaud

Visiting Austria? Most families know Salzburg, home to the famous von Trapp family of “The Sound of Music” fame. There are guided bus tours of the major filming locations where your family can sing along with video clips and meet other fans.

This year Vienna is celebrating another musical celebrity, Ludwig van Beethoven, whose 250th birthday is being commemorated with some very cool activities and events. Check out a pair of Audio Augmented Reality Glasses from Bose at the Albertinaplatz branch of the Vienna Tourist office and you’ll be able to hear music and “Beethoven’s” voice on a walking tour of Vienna’s Old Town to five special landmarks. Then, have a Sacher torte!

Did you know that Austria is the fifth largest destination in the world for wellness travel? Stay fit in the Austrian Alps at AQUA DOME Tirol Therme, a modern resort with outdoor salt, sulphur and massage pools in the picturesque Ötztal mountains. There’s a toddler spa for ages 3 and up, a supervised kids’ play room and a two-story indoor thermal spa to introduce the benefits of hydrotherapy to teens.

Germany Family Spa Values

Paragliding over Baden-Baden and the surrounding Black Forest
Paragliding over Baden-Baden and the surrounding Black Forest is a popular sport for family adventurers and spectators. Photo. c. Ron Bozman/RKR Media.

Austria borders southern Germany, where the Black Forest or Schwarzwald is on the eastern border with Switzerland. The heavily wooded terrain is great for hiking and lake-bathing in summer, and skiing and snowboarding in winter. Wellness in nature pervades the traditional mountain towns, where it’s not unusual to go Kräuterwanderung or hiking for herbs on guided walks in places like Baiersbronn, whose small and casual farm-to-table restaurants boast a cumulative eight Michelin stars for their gastronomy.

A favorite family attraction is the Margen Clock Museum located in the very grand St. Margen Monastery in Margen, where the cuckoo clock was invented in 1660. Pay special attention to the ornately carved and painted “export” clocks that were commissioned by royalty around the world for centuries. Kids will love the constant chiming and chirping of displays.

For the ultimate in physical wellness, head to the charmingly posh town of Baden-Baden. In addition to world-famous and quite expensive spas like Brenner’s Park-Hotel, there are two public thermal baths, Caracalla Therme and the historic Friedrichsbad. Both are affordable and offer several pools, saunas and expert massages. The family-friendly Caracalla has children’s play pools, but Friedrichsbad is nude only, so make sure you’re all comfortable with that.

On the Move in Switzerland

Bernina Express sightseeing train runs past scenic Lake Poschiavo in Switzerland.
The famous Bernina Express sightseeing train runs past scenic Lago di Poschiavo in Switzerland. Photo c. Swiss Transport Systems

With Switzerland’s many cantons or regions heavily influenced by neighboring France, Germany and Italy, the kids can practice several languages and dine on three cuisines in just one country.

Wherever you decide to go, be sure to buy a Swiss Pass, good for trains, buses, funiculars — even antique cog railways — to get around. The Swiss Travel System Swiss Family Card allows all kids ages 6-16 to ride on any transport free of charge when accompanied by an adult passholder; if not, kids still get 50% off their tickets and everyone under 6 rides free.

We love the Engadine region where roaming cows stray from dairy farms and goat bells jingle on hiking trails. It’s known for fancy towns like St. Moritz but there are also tiny villages like Pontresina, which boasts the very grand Grand Hotel Kronenhof, a wellness escape for more than 165 years. Hit a hiking trail each day – we figure kids can go about a mile for every year of their age – and use the great public transportation to return to your starting point.

Italy is Ideal for Family Wellness

Children's yoga class at Adler Spa Thermae in Italy.
Outdoor yoga is just one of the programs offered by Adler Spa Thermae so that adults and children have their own ways to relax. Photo c. Adler Resorts

Head south to neighboring Italy. It’s easy to cross borders with the proper paperwork, so your first stop can be the family-owned Lefay Resort and Spa on the shores of Lake Garda. Wellness conscious families prefer it as a base when hiking in Alto Garda Park, mountain biking or horseback riding. Allow time to spend a thrilling day at Gardaland Park, with its thundering roller coasters, aquarium and Legoland themed water park.  

Tuscany is the region for food foraging tours, hikes and bike rides. The historic city of Lucca has a wide bike path atop its 40-feet-tall city walls where you can Instagram great views from the ramparts. Along the kid-friendly route are a café, gelato kiosk and water fountains.

Recover at the naturally fed thermal mud baths and pools of Adler Spa Resort Thermae, about two hours away. Parents will love that this wellness getaway has its own vineyard as well as supervised yoga for ages 4 and older at the AKI Kids Club. Relaxation time for adults and kids is guaranteed.

U.K. Holidays in the Countryside

Painted Otters seen in this gallery are part of a new outdoors arts trail in Cornwall, U.K.
Some of the “Painted Otters” in this gallery can be seen on the fun outdoors arts trail in Dartmoor National Park, U.K.

For a totally different vibe, head to the English countryside. On Britain’s south coast, tranquil Cornwall is bathed in the Gulf Stream’s mild microclimate year-round. At Dartmoor National Park, hike among ponies, sheep and unusual wildlife. Plus, 2020 is the year of the Moor Otters Arts Trail when 80 brightly painted otter and cub sculptures will be scattered across the moorlands to fundraise for local charities.

The park has free camping but for one last dose of family wellness, visit The Headland. This Victorian-era hotel and cottage complex, long visited by celebrities and royalty, is on Cornwall’s north coast at Newquay. The Aqua Club opens in May with five new swimming pools including a family pool, plus an oceanview terrace and restaurant.

Did we mention that it’s a great base for those who want to try surfing too, as the famous Fistral Beach is nearby.

Here’s to healthier family travels!

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