The vast majority of Europe's 44 countries would make for the perfect destination for parents travelling with young children, or for that first big family holiday abroad. The logistics of holidaying here are pretty simple: local supermarkets will probably sell the brands you use at home, most people speak English, and in terms of administration, transiting between different countries is relatively easy and stress-free.
Europe also packs an incredible amount of tradition and history into small spaces, and most cities tend to have excellent local transport from which to take it all in. If you're a novice travelling here, think of it as your children's first introduction to foreign cultures, set against the backdrop of a familiar, child-friendly environment. If you're a frequent or return traveller, rest assured, Europe contains a plethora of hidden gems to uncover.
1. Albania: A pocket-sized land of adventure
A land of sweeping snow-capped mountains, from the Albanian Alps in the north to the Acroceraunian Mountains in the south, Albania is the perfect destination for a family adventure. Serene valleys like those found in Valbona National Park are ideal for family treks, with the tiny villages located at the bottom of the valley as a perfect starting point. In fact, many of Albania’s mountain villages and hamlets feel like time capsules from another era: the beautifully preserved Ottoman merchant town of Gjirokastra and the alpine village of Theth, are just two of our favourites!
For something slower-paced, round off your trip by relaxing on the white sand beaches of Albania’s Riviera. This part of the country is home to interesting history too — Vlora, once an ancient Greek colony, is also the site where Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman empire.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Albania thanks to its medieval fortified cities like Gjirokastra, its odd-looking tower gates to explore, and its character-filled alleyways.
Need more information or advice? Ask Ed, our local family specialist in Albania.
2. Baltic States: Historical and natural splendour
It's somewhat baffling that the natural beauty and cultural prestige of the Baltic States still fly under the radar today. Gauja National Park in Latvia is a timber-wood fairytale forest, for example, with the silvery Gauja River winding through it and the magnificent Turaida Castle hidden in the centre of all the wilderness. Alternatively, the Curonian Spit in Lithuania is a dreamscape of shifting sand dunes - the perfect backdrop for lazy beach afternoons with the family!
When it comes to cultural heritage, the lore and folk tales of the Baltics make bedtime stories pale in comparison. Estonia is home to the most stunning gothic cathedrals and castles in the world. The medieval fortress of Rakvere even gives children the opportunity to dress up as knights, friars, and princesses, and watch alchemists at work! Continue on to Tallinn’s Old Town, where onion-domed churches nestle against ancient wooden dockyards and red-tiled castle towers.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to The Baltics thanks to its breath-taking scenery. Taking a hot air balloon ride over the red-tiled roofs of Trakai Castle is an unforgettable experience for any little adventurer.
Need more information or advice? Ask Evdinas, our local family specialist in The Baltics.
3. Iceland: 'Land of Ice and Fire'
Home to the celestial Northern Lights, Iceland is truly nature’s great laboratory. With a landscape full of spouting geysers, cascading waterfalls, and shifting volcanoes, it’s bound to capture the imaginations of children and teenagers alike. Families with young children will especially enjoy our self-drive itineraries in Iceland — ensuring that schedules can stay flexible, and that you can take as many breaks as you want while you take in the scenery.
Young wildlife enthusiasts won't want to miss out on Iceland's bird-watching and whale-watching opportunities. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland is the perfect spot for both these activities, with migrating pods of orcas and sperm whales right off the shore, and colonies of puffins on the surrounding islands. The nearby region of Dalir is a great spot to see herds of sunbathing seals or catch up on ancient Icelandic history, it being the place where explorer Leif Erikson is said to have been born.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Iceland thanks to its rugged nature and unique geographical features. Oh, and an afternoon relaxing in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon can't hurt!
Need more information or travel advice? Ask Gunnar, our local family specialist in Iceland.
4. Norway: A winter wonderland
The original winter wonderland that inspired the creators of Disney's Frozen, Norway will enchant children and adults alike. The best way to travel around as a family is by renting a car and taking in Norway's natural sites along the way; majestic fjords, scenic mountain passes, ancient glaciers, and mirror-surfaced lakes to name a few.
The key to shaking off complaints of boredom is to break up long car drives or cruises along the fjords with stops and excursions. Spend an entire day at one fjord, like Geirangerfjord, and go kayaking across its surface or hiking in the surrounding mountains, before learning how to fish for your dinner with instruction from a local guide. In Bergen, take a stroll along the historic quarter of Bryggen, with its colourful waterfront houses. Or, take a cable car to the top of Mount Floyen, enjoying the scenic views along the way. At the top, you will find several ‘troll-themed’ trekking paths, sure to be a hit with fans of Frozen.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Norway thanks to its abundance of fun outdoor activities, no matter the season. In winter, try dog sledding in Alta, and in summer, set off swimming or kayaking in any of the country’s spectacular fjords.
Need more information or advice? Ask our local family specialist in Norway.
5. Greece: Where ancient mythology comes to life
Travelling to Greece is like going back in time by several millennia. Bedtime stories and classroom lessons about the heroic Greek gods and goddesses of legend come to life as you stroll the plazas of Athens, visit the navel of the earth at Delphi, and voyage to dreamy Greek islands like Naxos and Paros. Best of all, Greece enjoys a refreshingly balmy Mediterranean climate for most part of the year, so late autumn or early spring trips are certainly on the cards.
Parents will love the convenience of travelling to Greece: you can go from dreary British skies to sitting on a beach within six hours. For something different, travel to Rhodes island, a place that's sure to delight the entire family. With an Old Town steeped in so much history, it’s nearly impossible to tell the Byzantine and Ottoman influences apart from far older structures.
Take it from our local experts: beach activities aside, kids will love a family holiday to Greece thanks to its crumbling ruins and fascinating history. Get off-the-beaten-track by visiting the breathtaking monastery at Meteora, for example, perched precariously atop a towering sandstone hill.
Need more information or advice? Ask Albert our local family specialist in Greece.
6. Italy: Gondolas, gladiators and gelato
There is possibly no destination that's as hassle-free for families as Italy. It's one of the world's best examples of an all-round crowd-pleaser for kids, from its sensational cuisine to its modern-meets-ancient cities and glistening coastlines. Meanwhile, parents will love the historical and cultural draws of the country, the pleasures of al fresco dining, and of course, the quality of Italian wine!
If it’s your first time in the country, you'll have plenty to do just sticking to the ‘big three’ cities: whether it be joining a glass-blowing workshop in Venice, pretending to be a gladiator in Rome, or climbing up the historic Duomo in Florence. Interested in venturing further afield? The Cinque Terre region is sure to be a treat for families with older children — climb up the winding cliff-side towns, explore the verdant vineyards of Manarola, and eat delicious, deep-fried calamari out of a cone.
Take it from our local experts: fussy little eaters will love a family holiday to Italy thanks to its simple yet delicious food. Adventure enthusiasts can set their sights on the Dolomites for a spot of cycling, and those looking to experience farniente will have ample opportunities to do so, lying back on a white-sand beach on the dreamy Amalfi Coast.
Need more information or advice? Ask Ilaria, our local family specialist in Italy.
7. Portugal: Sun, surf, and golden beaches
The unsung hero of southern Europe, Portugal is the perfect destination for young families, with its mild sunny climate, and incredible cuisine and wines (for parents in need of a holiday too!). Best of all, it's even more affordable than its more touristy neighbour, Spain, and just so happens to be one of the world's greatest spots for surfing!
Lisbon, spread over seven hills, with its colourful azulejo-tiled buildings and laid-back family-friendly environment is a great adventure in itself. Porto is another must-visit city, with well-preserved historic heritage in the form of neoclassical palaces and mansions. The real old-world charm of Portugal lies in its countryside, however: go on a self-drive trip with your family through the schist stone villages in the centre of the country, or spend some idyllic beach days on the picturesque coast of the Algarve.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Portugal thanks to its blissful beaches. You can spend your time exploring the beautiful seaside towns of Tavira or Silves, learn to surf, take a kayak out to sea, and so much more!
Need more information or advice? Ask Tiago, our local family specialist in Portugal.
8. Croatia: Family adventure on the Mediterranean
Croatia is an ideal destination for adventurous families, offering plenty of outdoor activities within a safe, child-friendly environment. Start off your tour in Dubrovnik, whose Old Town you might be familiar with if you’re a Game of Thrones fan. Rest assured, this port city is even more beautiful in person, with its towering fortified walls, narrow cobbled streets, and dazzling marble-paved plazas.
If you're planning to head out from the cities, you’ll be spoilt for choice on where to visit first. Discover the cerulean blue Plitvice Lakes, high up in the mountainous regions bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, or set off on a hiking excursion in Paklenica, before rounding up your active holiday with some sea sports off the Adriatic Coast. The heavenly islands of Solta and Vis, in particular, are emblematic of the charm of this part of the world.
Take it from our local experts: older kids and teenagers will love a family holiday to Croatia thanks to its water sports. Snorkelling and diving can be done pretty much everywhere, but windsurfing is an extremely popular watersport on the Croatian island of Brac, and there's nowhere better to try it out for the first time.
Need more information or advice? Ask Jelena, our local family specialist in Croatia.
Looking for more inspiration?
Still haven't found what you're looking for? Head to our dedicated Family Travel Page to browse the best child-friendly destinations, tours, and experiences curated by our carefully-selected local agencies around the world.
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