The Ultimate Family-Friendly Cities in Europe that Won't Bore Your Kids
Forget the red light district — Amsterdam has much to offer families. (Photo: Swisshippo/Dreamstime.com)
By Kerry Lyons
If your motto is “Have family, will travel,” you’ll be glad to know that Europe is within your reach; in fact, these 10 cities will greet you with open arms. To save on sightseeing, book in advance and consider buying the multi-attraction discount passes most cities offer. If a traditional hotel room is too pricey (or small!) for your brood, or leaves you wanting for the comforts of home, rent an apartment through airbnb; owners typically leave their “must-see” list and restaurant recommendations so you’ll have a truly local experience—especially if you download a few local apps before departure. Ready? Set? Go!
There’s more—a lot more—to Amsterdam than the red light district. In fact, with paddle boats and bike paths galore, you can—and should—give it the green light for your next family adventure. Eating is easy and photo ops abound in this walkable, bikeable, boat-able city. Patat met (French fries with mayo) will keep hunger at bay as you take in the sights, possibly stopping to smile in an oversize Dutch clog—or perhaps with the pair you plan to bring home.
What to do
Everything is more fun when you arrive on a boat or a bike, and in Amsterdam, that’s the way to go. Be sure to swing by the NEMO Science Museum for hands-on exhibits that include a chemistry lab with experiments for young scientists and a bubble display for those that can’t resist getting their hands wet. Older kids will appreciate the history of the Anne Frank Museum while kids of all ages will find something of interest at the Van Gogh Museum; just be sure to buy your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. If you visit in the spring, a day trip to Keukenhof to see the tulips in bloom—hundreds of thousands of them—should top your list. Consider a Holland Pass to save time and entry frees to major attractions.
It’s not just the Irish eyes that will be smiling when you touch down in Dublin; the welcoming locals will have everyone smiling from the top ‘o the morning till the rise of the moon. With relatively short direct flights and no language barrier, Dublin is the perfect starter-city for a family of aspiring adventurers.
What to do
Admire the “doors of Dublin” as you stroll over to St. Stephen’s Green. Pack a picnic lunch, romp at the newly renovated playground and feed the ducks before you depart to see ducks of a different sort at the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History. A taxidermy tribute to Ireland’s wildlife is artfully displayed over two manageable floors. Assuming you have some animal lovers in your midst, they’ll be pleased to know they can see the real thing at the delightful Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park. For a bit of (dark) Irish history, plan a visit to Kilmainham Goal; Gaol is Gaelic for jail and this one housed almost every notable Irish rebel.
If day trips are your thing, consider taking the train south to Bray to visit the aquarium, stroll along the sea or hike up to Brayhead; you might even pick some blueberries along the way, depending on the season. If mountains are more your style, head to County Wicklow, where you’ll be dazzled by the gardens at Powerscourt and awed by the scenery and history at Glendalough.