Holiday Destinations for Families in Europe

by Niamh Byrne

Growing up, holidays were always my favourite adventure. As I get older I realise how stressful it must have been for my parents bringing three young kids, through a packed airport, boarding the plane and getting us to our resort. Spain was the destination of choice back then, as not only did we have fun things to do but they could relax too. Tiring of Spain eventually and with us getting older, we branched out and found other family-friendly places in Europe. If you’re in need of a family holiday and want something different, here are some alternatives where you can go and soak up the sun:

Italy: Lake Garda

With a perimeter of just under 160 km, and enclosed by majestic mountains, Lake Garda is one of the most sought after holiday destinations. The blue/green lake is surrounded by many picturesque towns,
such as Riva, Malcesine, and Sirimione with its crenellated castle. With palm, citrus and olive trees in abundance everywhere, this is truly a beautiful lake. Staying at a family resort the activities for kids during the day were endless. We chose to stay at the Bella Italia family resort as it was a cheap option and it looked like the most fun! From clubs to swimming lessons there’s lots to do, including a water park inside, so you don’t even have to see your kids if you don’t want to! It also has pubs inside for adults who want a drink or two while they’re relaxing at the pool. Or if you’re feeling adventurous you can even take a cable car up to the top of Mount Baldoor.

Sirimione, Italy

Only a bus ride away in Lazise you’ll find Lake Garda’s Medieval Times (a theme-park castle, with elaborate shows featuring knights and horses). Upon entering you are given a specific colour and you then cheer for the horse with that colour. The knight who receives the loudest cheers wins, so it can get a bit raucous! Everyone gets a whole chicken to eat to themselves for dinner while the waiters keep refilling the alcoholic beverages all night! Still, it’s a show for the whole family, and one not to miss if you’re looking to do something fun. The city of Verona is not far away and boasts a natural amphitheatre dating back to Roman times, and even predates the Colosseum in Rome. Verona is also a perfect spot for those of you who love to shop! There are unique shops here that are Italian specific but also designer shops such as Dolce and Gabbana. Milan and Venice are also both relatively close.

Paris: Disneyland

Disneyland Paris is not only a good option for kids but great for the whole family, sometimes better when you’re older! The fun never stops at these theme parks which will have you feeling like a little kid again. From Peter Pan to Pirates of the Caribbean rides to the Alice in Wonderland maze, you will never get bored of the endless attractions here. Not only that, their selection of hotels are all themed, giving the illusion that you’re actually in a movie. There are also lots of restaurants to choose from, some of which are also themed. If you decide to visit I would recommend eating at the rainforest cafe. This cafe has a jungle theme with thunder effects approximately every half hour, making it very atmospheric. Buses go to and from the theme parks regularly every day, making it impossible to get lost, and easy to get back to your hotel. Although Disneyland Paris is on the upper range price wise, it is worth every penny, as there is so much to do and it can be embarked upon at any time of the year!

Greece: Mykonos

This is perfect for families who want to get away to just relax. There is a beautiful selection of white washed hotels/apartments to choose from (some even including private swimming pools, but these, as you would expect, are on the pricey side!). It’s also the perfect place to take up water sports such as kayaking and jet skiing, or for those who like the water but in a more relaxed environment there are some amazing boat tours which show you all the beautiful sites of Greece. Mykonos also boasts some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches, such as Platys Gialos which is known for its crystal waters and sandy beaches. If you want to paddle or just sunbathe this beach is the perfect place. You can also rent bikes to cycle around the island, which is another great way to see Mykonos and to go where you want. Just remember, temperatures are in the 40s (at time of writing) in Greece so do be careful if you’re going now.

Portugal: Albufeira

Want something classy and with sun? Then why not try beautiful Albufeira in the southern Algarve of Portugal. Many of the hotels here have a diverse range of daily activities designed specifically for children, so you won’t even have to leave your hotel!

Albufeira, Portugal

Right in the centre of Albufeira is The Strip, with the New Town, packed with hedonistic bars, clubs and every kind of revelry you could get up to, at one end, while situated at the other is the Old Town, with its Portuguese fashion markets, along with cafe bars and restaurants, that sweeps down to Fisherman’s Beach. For those looking to partake in more water activities Albufeira’s Marina is just a short taxi drive away. Here you can get all different types of boat tours that will bring you to places like the old caves of Albufeira. The boat makes a pit stop mid sea and gives you the choice to jump into the ocean for a swim.

UK: London

You might think this is not as exotic as some of the others. However, If you’re not so bothered about pool/beach holidays, London is a great spot for sightseeing. Big Ben, The Tower of London and Piccadilly Circus are among London’s myriad of sight-seeing attractions. In fact there’s so much to see here you won’t be able to fit it all in in a week! For example, if you’re into theatre, London’s West End is the place to go for the best plays, theatre, musical extravaganzas and alternative art shows in the world. From The Lion King to Phantom of the Opera, there really is something for everyone, but the one I would recommend is Blood Brothers. London also is home of Warner Brothers Studios’ famous Harry Potter Tour. Since I am a huge fan of the franchise, I had to check this out for myself. To say it was a magical experience would be an understatement; the set pieces, the lighting, the music, the atmosphere, everything about it makes you feel like you’re physically walking through the films. First up, when you go in the first thing you encounter is the cupboard under the stairs where Harry spent his wayward childhood. Then there are a wide range of props and sets from the movie including the Gryffindor common room. In the outdoor arena next to Dursleys house there’s a stand where you can enjoy a nice cold butterbeer, before going back inside to walk through the famous Diagon Alley! If this doesn’t get you to go, I don’t know what will! The entire tour takes around three hours and costs approximately £70 per adult. But if you’re a Potterhead it’s worth it.

To wrap it up, I hope you all enjoyed my top family destinations and hope some of you will try one in the near future.