11 Best family vacation cities in Europe
Even if you've been to Europe on your own in the past, planning a vacation to Europe with a family for the first time can be daunting. Some cities have an abundance of attractions that appeal to kids of all ages, while others have surprisingly few. The good news is that most of Europe's most popular tourist cities are also great choices for family trips.
Europe's trains and public transportation systems are all suited for families because they are used by local families on a daily basis. Safety is another issue that parents don't have to worry much about as nearly all of Europe's big cities are notoriously low in crime. Still, some cities are much easier to get around in and the list below should help you choose one or more places to visit on your own family vacation in Europe.
Europe's infrastructure is very family-oriented and its cities are safe
If you are planning your first trip to Europe you might be unsure what to expect when it comes to public transportation and facilities. One important thing to consider is that car ownership in Europe is quite low and families and children riding trains and buses and trams are very common. As a result, you'll find that the whole infrastructure is well suited to family travel.
It's also worth mentioning that Europe's big cities are among the safest in the world, and the smaller towns are even safer still. Some petty crimes like pickpockteting are common in some larger cities (mostly in southern Europe), but violence is extremely rare so you can confidently bring children to Europe with no special worries.
11 of Europe's best family destinations
Some European cities will feel interchangeable to younger children, but Paris is anything but generic. When you see the Eiffel Tower with your own eyes you'll never forget it, and that is only the beginning. Disneyland Paris is a short train ride outside of town and easy to reach, but the city itself is loaded with sights for almost all ages.
Paris's Metro system is efficient and you are never far from a station so it's a good option with kids. The historic center of the city is nearly flat as well, which makes walking that much easier. The 3-hour hop-on, hop-off bus tour might be too long for younger kids, but overall it's so entertaining that it's worthwhile, and you can always hop off at the next stop.
Where to stay in Paris with kids
Paris hotel rooms are notoriously small so renting an Airbnb is a great option here. Family hotel rooms with 4 or 5 beds can be found, although they will be quite pricey in convenient neighborhoods.
Paris attractions that might interest kids and teens
- Disneyland Paris: About 40 minutes away by train right to the front gate
- Eiffel Tower: The sight of it will amaze, and you can climb or take a lift up
- Seine River Cruise: This one-hour cruise is best just after sunset
- Paris Catacombs: These tunnels contain the bones of 6 million people
- Jardin d'Acclimation: Historic amusement park with rides suited for younger kids
Among the many advantages of a London visit with kids is that they'll be able to speak to anyone they encounter and read the signs, which isn't true in most of Europe. London, like Paris, is a classic destination with sights like Big Ben and the London Eye Ferris wheel that burn into your memory. This city is also totally flat with a great public transportation system, so getting around as a family unit is easy.
Many kids will enjoy the Tower of London and Beefeater guards, while others will love to explore the various Harry Potter references and filming locations around London. The music scene and street performers will appeal to even older children, and the Natural History Museum and its dinosaurs will appeal to most of the younger ones. London might be the easiest city in the world to keep kids happy and occupied, and there is always something new going on.
Where to stay in London with kids
Typical London hotel rooms are some of the smallest in the world, so this is another city where an Airbnb rental is often the best choice for families. Hotels and rentals get cheaper as you go farther from the Thames and main attractions, so be careful about booking a place too far out.
London attractions that might interest kids and teens
- London Eye: Ferris wheel overlooking the Thames
- Madam Tussauds Wax Museum: Better than you are expecting with stars of all ages
- Harry Potter locations: Some are in nearby Oxford, but references are all over
- Natural History Museum: Dinosaurs and many interactive exhibits (free)
- Covent Garden street performers: Some of the world's finest buskers are always performing
Unlike most other destinations on this list, Ireland is perfectly suited for family road trips. You'll be driving on the left, but mostly on rural roads and it's easy after a short time. A day or two in Dublin is worthwhile on the way in or out of the country, but the real magic of Ireland is the scenery and small towns.
Toddlers obviously aren't big on road trips, but most older children should enjoy the chance to get out of the car frequently to stop at castles and in tiny villages that look nothing like anything they've seen before. Most Irish pubs are actually kid-friendly so the family can enjoy the live music that the country is so famous for.
Where to stay in Ireland with kids
One advantage of a road-trip holiday is that you can stay in small country inns where rooms are surprisingly cheap. You might also find good deals on Airbnb rentals, but actual bed & breakfasts usually offer good value for family rooms or multiple rooms.
Ireland attractions that might interest kids and teens
Castles and more castles: The Blarney Castle is one of hundreds you can visit
Dublin Duck Boat tour: This city tour is a huge highlight for kids and adults
Cliffs of Moher: One of Ireland's most stunning views with room to run around
Lighthouses and scenery: Rural Ireland is packed with interesting sights
Giant's Causeway: In Northern Ireland, this rock formation is fun and great for photos
In spite of Amsterdam's reputation of the past, it's now a very family-friendly destination with far fewer “distractions” than before. Amsterdam is also a stunning city with canals and bikes and almost no cars, so it really stands as a fascinating contrast to where most of us live.
This city is also totally flat and has great public transportation, and most things are walking distance from each other. The 17th Century architecture will make an impression on everyone, and there is a castle and some windmills not far out of town.
Amsterdam attractions that might interest kids and teens
Anne Frank House: Most young people are still required to read her diary
NEMO Science Museum: Waterfront museum with interactive displays for young people
Canal cruise: A one-hour cruise through the center is mandatory
Windmills: Not far outside of Amsterdam you can visit huge windmills on canals
Vondelpark: The “central park” of Amsterdam has playgrounds and activities
Where to stay in Amsterdam with kids
Hotel rooms in Amsterdam's canal zone are small and expensive so rentals are worth a look. If you prefer a hotel a bit out of town it's important to check the transport connections because some are much more convenient than others. Houseboats usually have 2 or 3 bedrooms and can be a great family option.
For families who want to enjoy the great outdoors there is no better option in Europe than the Interlaken area of Switzerland. Europe's most amazing views don't come cheap, however, so this won't be one of the cheaper vacation ideas on this list. The splurge is worth it at least once in your life if you can manage though.
You've got cable car rides and mountain trains and waterfalls and even a couple chocolate museums to duck into if the weather turns bad. The area around the Lauterbrunnen Valley is dotted with many small villages including Gimmelwald, Murren, Wengen, and Grindelwald, and each seems like the most charming place you've ever seen. The Interlaken area is also loaded with adventure activities such as hang gliding, river rafting, and bungy jumping for the older ones.
Interlaken attractions that might interest kids and teens
- Schilthorn cable car and observation deck: A one-hour cable car ride to the top
- Jungfraujoch mountain train: Historic train to Europe's highest station with snow
- Waterfalls: Several gorgeous waterfalls are in the area
- Lake cruises: Take a scenic boat ride on one of the lakes
- Downhill bike tour: Rent a bike and return it down below
Where to stay in Switzerland with kids
Interlaken is a great family destination and you can find hotels with multi-bed rooms pretty easily. As long as you are close to one of the train stations you can get anywhere, and a rental car can be a good idea here, which will give you more accommodation options.
Italy in general does a great job with tourism and Rome and Florence are the two best choices for families, while Venice doesn't offer quite as much. The iconic sights such as the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain are popular with all ages, but it's the ubiquitous gelato shops that are the real hit for many. Unlike many European countries, kids tend to like Italian food so that makes things easier as well.
Rome and Florence are somewhat hectic, but both have plenty of public squares where it's just pedestrians and some street performers. The public transportation in these cities isn't the greatest, but the hop-on, hop-off bus tours are fun and do a good job of getting families between attractions.
Rome and Florence attractions that might interest kids and teens
Gelato!: Italian ice cream is a daily highlight for kids
Colosseum & Ancient Rome: These fascinating spots are entertaining even for young ones
Trevi Fountain: This magical fountain is a family favorite
Pizza and pasta: Most kids actually will like the local food
Antique Carousel (Florence): One of the world's most beautiful merry-go-rounds
Where to stay in Italy with kids
Rome and Florence both offer an abundance of hotel choices and rooms with more than two beds are fairly common. Typical rooms are small so rentals are also worth a look, especially if you prefer something for breakfast more than a small roll.
Spain's best city for families has much more going for it than a great climate and nice beaches. Barcelona has Europe's most interesting architecture that will also appeal to young people, especially the Sagrada Familia church with its cartoon-like spires. The Rambla is the main pedestrian street and it's lined with performers and interesting little shops that are always entertaining.
The hop-on, hop-off bus tour is a great way to take in the fascinating architecture that can be found all over the city. The harbor area is also packed with interesting sights and attractions that are good for families, including the cable car that stretches over the whole thing.
- Barcelona beaches: Actual nice beaches are near the tourist center
- Cable car ride: The cable car over the port will be a highlight
- Chocolate Museum: One of Europe's best chocolate museums
- Park Guell: This whimsical Guidi-designed park is unlike anything you've seen
- Camp Nou Stadium tour: Older kids who like soccer/football will insist on visiting
Where to stay in Barcelona with kids
Hotel rooms near the water tend to be quite small, but rooms are larger as you get more inland and the public transportation system here is good. This is a very family oriented city so you should have little trouble finding rooms with more than two beds as well as reasonably priced Airbnbs.
Germany's capital is also huge and filled with impressive family-oriented attractions. Now one of Europe's most visited cities, Berlin isn't quite as memorable as Paris, London, or Rome, but it's got plenty going for it including a variety of excellent youth-focused sights all within a small area in the city center.
Many of Berlin's museums are popular with young ones including the Anne Frank Museum and the Technical Museum featuring planes, trains, computers, and much more. Even Berlin's beer gardens are suitable for children as some even have playgrounds attached. This is a welcoming place that is also among the more affordable destinations on this list.
Berlin attractions that might interest kids and teens
- AquaDom & Sea Life Berlin: Impressive aquarium attraction
- TV Tower observation deck: The best views of Berlin on a clear day
- Berlin Dungeon: A haunted house attraction
- Legoland Discovery Centre: Attraction for all LEGO fans
- River cruise: The scenic one-hour cruise on the Spree is recommended
Where to stay in Berlin with kids
Hotel rooms in Berlin tend to be a bit larger than in most other European capitals, and room rates tend to be quite a bit lower as well. You can also look for affordable Airbnbs, but finding reasonably priced family hotel rooms in Berlin should be fairly easy.
Famous for Oktoberfest and its amusement park for a few weeks each autumn, Munich is actually popular with families all year round. Considered Germany's most livable city, Munich has beautiful town squares and an abundance of park area near the city center with plenty to entertain the kids.
Day trips to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are highlights of many trips, but within Munich itself you'll find a huge and famous toy store and a large zoo among other things. As elsewhere in Germany, even the beer gardens are family friendly with play areas and treats for children.
Munich attractions that might interest kids and teens
- Neuschwanstein Castle (nearby): The Sleeping Beauty castle is a popular day trip by train
- BMW Museum: Car lovers have plenty to see in the BMW complex
- Watch surfers in the park: A permanent surfing wave in a city river is worth a look
- Glockenspiel: This famous moving clock puts on an impressive show 2 or 3 times a day
- Olympic Tower and Park: The site of the 1972 Olympics has many family attractions
Where to stay in Munich with kids
Hotels near the main city square in Munich are fairly expensive and the rooms tend to be small, but the public transportation system is good so you can easily find an affordable family room or rental a few stops away and still have a great time.
Salzburg attractions that might interest kids and teens
Nestled at the base of the Austrian Alps, Salzburg is a fairy-tale town that combines old-world charm and stunning scenery in every direction. The city is extremely proud of being Mozart's birthplace and there are several attractions and concerts reflecting that, but there is plenty for kids who aren't classical music fans as well.
It's better to watch the Sound of Music movie before you come, but even if you don't you'll enjoy the popular bus tours that show all of the filming locations and the most beautiful scenery in the area. The pastries and desserts in Salzburg will also be popular with young and old.
- Hohensalzburg fortress: This structure sits on top of the city and is a must-see
- Old city tour: Salzburg's historic center is compact and endlessly charmging
- Sound of Music Bus Tour: Even if you haven't seen the movie these tours are very worthwhile
- Hangar 7 Aircraft Museum: Kids who like planes will love this place
- Schloss Hellbrunn: This Baroque palace in town is famous for its trick fountains
Where to stay in Salzburg with kids
Hotels in the historic center of Salzburg are small and expensive so it's better to look for places closer to the train station, which is still within walking distance.
Bergen attractions that might interest kids and teens
For something a bit different a trip to Norway's most scenic city is something to consider. Excluding perhaps the scenery in the Alps, Norway's west coast is the most dramatic in all of Europe. You can either fly straight into Bergen, or fly into Oslo and then take the Norway in a Nutshell tour to Bergen to experience what all the fuss is about on the way.
Central Bergen is a scenic harbor surrounded by mountains, several of which can be visited by funicular or cable car. The boat tours leaving from the harbor to the nearby fjords are the main reason for coming, and they are very popular with kids. Norway is fairly expensive, but it's a very special place.
- Bryggen waterfront village: Historic and fun area showing how life was long ago
- Fløyen Funicular: This funicular near the city center takes you to a fine view
- Ulriken Cable Car: A bit out of town, this cable car takes you for amazing views of the whole area
- Norway in a Nutshell tour: A train, bus, and boat tour connecting Oslo and Bergen
- Fjord cruise: See the stunning fjords on a day trip from the harbor
Where to stay in Bergen with kids
Considering how expensive food is in Norway, hotels are a pretty good bargain. There are many large chain hotels in the city center with large rooms and high standards at reasonable prices.