Don’t put off that long-awaited European vacation for after the kids are grown and gone. Major European cities like London and Paris have elements of appeal for traveling families. You’ll find world-class zoos and aquariums, spacious parks, plazas, and amusement centers galore. But dig deeper with your travel plans and you’ll discover destinations with day trips that balance the feel of city and country.
Look for wayside castles and palaces, and places with tales and legends to spark the imagination. UNESCO sites are guaranteed to provide lots of interest, and national parks are the perfect places to experience different landscapes and wildlife. This list of the best kid-friendly places in Europe suggests destinations with hidden gems to learn world history and geography and to understand cultural differences and commonalities.
This week our Guest Blogger is Anna from Expert World Travel. Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and has provided us with the ins and outs of exploring Kid-Friendly Destinations in Europe! You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Copenhagen for Kids:
Historic yet youthful, Copenhagen is home to two centuries-old amusement park, historical sites, and museums filled with Viking and Bronze Age treasures. Below you will find the Best Places for kids in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The city gets many visitors for the sole purpose of visiting Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest of its kind. Besides a carousel called the Star Flyer that rises 80 metres above the ground and an unforgettable roller coaster, the whole family will be amazed at the 19th-century representations of the Orient. Also visit Bakken, the second most popular attraction, and the world’s oldest operating amusement park existing since 1583. These are great attractions when visiting Copenhagen with Kids.
Copenhagen is flat and has broad bicycle lanes. Rental bikes with a touch screen tablet and built-in GPS to tour the town. The historic waterfront is adjacent to a 17th-century canal. Kids will find it interesting to learn that fairytale author Hans Christian Anderson once lived in this district.
Get lost in Copenhagen’s National Museum with its remarkable collection of artifacts. Tour the Rosenborg Castle and admire the lavish interior of the palace built by Christian IV at the beginning of the 17th-century. At the Christianborg Palace, you’ll see a Riding School and a little court theatre built in 1767.
Plan a day trip using Denmark’s superior public transit to visit Kronborg Castle, the setting for William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, and Fredriksborg Castle with its stunning surrounding gardens. You can even cross the Oresund Bridge into Sweden.
Gothenburg, Sweden – Sweden Vacation with Kids
Lodging and amenities are less costly in Gothenburg than in Stockholm. Families can save money and still experience the culture and history of Sweden. You’ll have access to top-rated museums, green spaces, and amusement parks. Sweden offers may things to do with kids, including Slottsskogn which is the largest park in the city. It includes a zoo filled with Nordic animals like Gute sheep and elk. Kids get a chance to ride the Gotland ponies. Admission to the park is free!
For bumper cars, roller coasters, and lots of other amusement rides, kids love Lisenberg Park. This park actually has more acreage and flowers than Tivoli. Some rides, like the pony merry-go-rode and boats, are free for tots. The park also has a hotel on the property for lodging.
At Universeum, the largest of its kind in Scandinavia, kids can see creatures from the North Sea, conduct experiments in the chemistry lab, and walk through a simulated rain forest. For more nature, visit the Naturhistoriska museum boasting the world’s largest mounted blue whale.
Take a day in Gothenburg to head out of the city and ride the ferry out to Carlsten’s Fastening, a 17th-century reenactment fortress.
Prague, Czech Republic – Prague with kids
The Czech Republic’s capital and largest city has a number of activities families with children will enjoy. The kids will have a blast on a steamship ride to the fabulous Prague Zoo, said to be one of the world’s most beautiful zoos.
The National Tech Museum at Letna has exhibits of high interest to children with an old steam locomotive and antique cars, motorcycles, and planes.
Be sure to sample the fresh pastries sold around town at shops like the Erhart Pastry Shop and the Mysak Cake Shop on Vodickova street. After riding a historic tram and visiting the Zizkov TV tower’s observation deck, plan some exciting day trips outside the city.
Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage site located 106 miles south of Prague. The picturesque town with cobblestone streets is nestled in the bend of the Vltava River. It’s home to the Krumlov, a hilltop castle from 1302 featuring a marble chapel, tower views, and a Baroque theater. Kids can learn to write with a quill along with other medieval skills on a tour of the monastery.
Thirty miles north of Cesky Krumlov, the Sumvara National Park has hiking trails that wind through a forest with centuries-old trees, lakes, and waterfalls.
Krakow, Poland: Best Places to Visit with Kids in Poland
The whole family will love the fairy tale look of historic Krakow with its pastel-painted buildings, large market square, and hilltop castle. Wawel Castle, once the home of Polish kings, sits on a hill squarely in the middle of Krakow. It’s been a museum since 2019 and features wonderful old tapestries sewn with threads of pure gold and an important collection of Renaissance artwork.
Krakow is a great town for foodies to visit. In 2019, it was given the title of European Capital of Gastronomic Culture. Sampling the local bagels called Obwarzanki is a must, and kids can learn to make their own at the Muzeum Obwarzanka.
Take a break from walking with an hour-long cruise on the Vistula River with scenic views before touring the underground tunnels at the Wieliczka salt mine. It’s sure to be a unique experience for youngsters of all ages as they walk through rooms and chapels with sculptures carved from solid salt.
Spend a day exploring the Tatra mountains with a trip to Zakopane, a ski and hiking tourist town where snow-capped peaks form the Slavokian border.
Dubrovnik, Croatia – The Best Places to Visit with Kids
Less than a day’s drive from Krakow, Dubrovnik is Croatia’s favorite tourist destination. If you’re traveling with a gaggle of Game of Thrones fans, you’ll want to see a few of the 19 sites around the city used as sets. Begin with the Pile Gate and Fort Bokar. Both are part of the city’s medieval walls. Walk the path atop all the way around for a view of the Adriatic Sea and Dubrovnik’s red-tiled roofs, some dating back to medieval times.
The kids will enjoy touring the Old Town with street performers and delicious treats like arancini, sugared orange grinds, and makaroni, a macaroni cake. If you’re here from mid-July to mid-August, the town hosts a spirited summer festival with music, theatre, and dance.
Don’t leave Dubrovnik before spending a day or two on the beaches. Copacabana Beach on Babin Kuk Peninsula is a good choice. It’s a pebbly beach, but good for playing and kayaking. For a sandier beach, try Sunj Beach at Lopud Island, a 50-minute boat ride away.
Munich, Germany: Things to do in Munich with kids
Munich has impressive museums, squares, and green spaces, but the best thing about making it your family vacation destination is the location. As the capital city of Bavaria, Munich gives you easy access to day trips among majestic lakes, forests, mountains, and castles.
Expose the kids to world-class museums in Munich. Even young children will grow up appreciating that they have had the chance to see masterpieces by great artists such as da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Reubens. See them at Munich’s Alte Pinakothek museum, and view more modern art at the Pinakothek der Moderne.
Older kids, teens, and car enthusiasts will be amused at BMW World. Part museum and part showroom, it’s a unique experience. Take selfies with classic cars and motorcycles, and “drive” using gaming consoles. Adults will find the documents tracing the rise and fall of Nazis and Hitler interesting.
Just out of town, kids will find the 17-century Schloss Neuschwanstein jaw-dropping. Said to be the picture-perfect castle, it was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Almost as impressive is the Schloss Elmau, a 20th-century castle about an hour south of Munich. Adding to its charm is the 1600 acres it sits on in the Bavarian Alps, a place for luxury lodging with spas and planned children’s activities.
Zurich, Switzerland: Best Places to Visit with Kids
Switzerland’s largest city is both walk-friendly and kid-friendly. Walking the famous waterside promenade along Lake Zurich and the Limmat River is a must. You’ll find places that open into lush gardens to rest or perhaps go for a swim. At the end, the Blatterwiese has a Chinese garden and a playground. Even if your kids are young, you can just carry them in a comfy child carrier! So, don’t worry about that.
Catch the ferry back to town to stroll around Zurich’s Old Town and then visit the popular Toy Museum. Or, if you children are into things more technical, it might be worth a stop at the Beyer Watch Museum to explore the watch history that is unique to Switzerland. Then, make a stop at Lindenhof city park for fantastic views and room to play.
And if you have more time don’t miss out on the mountains, lakes, and city of Lucerne. It’s only a 30-mile day trip to the south. Plan on spending at least one night in one of the kid-friendly accommodations. The Swiss Transport Museum is a favorite for children featuring spaceships, planes, and an adventure ride as a “train driver.” Be sure to take a boat excursion on Lake Lucerne aboard a lake steamer.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Things to do in Amsterdam with Kids
Once in town, you’ll see why Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular cities to visit with children. It begins with several Speeltuinen, whimsical playgrounds scattered around the city, each with its own unique flavor. Kids will be delighted to discover the “hidden” playgrounds.
Consider purchasing a Museumkaart for access to Amsterdam’s museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum without standing in long lines. Take in all the delights of the Netherlands at Madurodam, a theme park that’s like a shrunken replica of the whole country.
Be sure to check out the ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo centrally located in the city. It features over 750 different kinds of animals and emphasizes animal protection and conservation.
You’ll find so much to do within the city of Amsterdam, but don’t leave before spending an afternoon in the Amstelpark outside of town. It features a huge playground, petting zoo, and a theme park with rides.
With so many great cities in Europe that cater to kids, choosing one to visit can be daunting. Of course, there are more prominent cities like London and Paris, but this list was created for a more unique European experience.