Top 4 Family Destinations in Europe
Europe is steeped in history, unparalleled beauty and culture. The continent has long been a coveted destination for travelers around the world. Its diverse landscapes, from sun-kissed Mediterranean beaches to picturesque Alpine villages, offer a rich canvas of experiences that beckon families to create cherished memories together.
Europe provides a harmonious blend of education, relaxation, and adventure enchanting with joy and wonder in equal measure. And some European destinations are fabulous options for an escape with the children.
Four destinations stand out. These cities serve as a feast for the senses, pampering travelers with serene scenery, cobblestone streets lined with historic architecture, vibrant markets, and a multitude of cultural experiences and fun things to do for adults and youngsters.
1. Florence, Italy — A Renaissance Gem Where Family Bonds Blossom
Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, offers families a rich tapestry of history woven into every nook and cranny.
As you stroll through its cobbled alleys, the city unfolds like a living museum, presenting a delightful mix of art, culture, and culinary experiences that appeal to both kids and adults alike.
Where to Stay
When it comes to accommodation, Florence pleases with a range of options that cater to families. From luxury villas nestled amidst the rolling hills offering breathtaking views of the city to family-friendly hotels equipped with all the amenities to ensure a comfortable stay, Florence promises a home away from home.
Our recommendation? Properties like Casale La Spina, which provide an abundance of high-end amenities, ample space for the little ones to roam around, and even come with a security guard for your utmost safety.
- Uffizi Gallery — While this is a popular spot, families can opt for early morning visits to enjoy a quieter, more personal experience with the masterpieces.
- Boboli Gardens —Beyond the main trails, find secluded spots where the little ones can play freely, while enjoying a peaceful picnic.
- Piazza della Signoria — Early morning or late evening visits to the square offer a serene atmosphere to appreciate the sculptures and architecture.
- Stibbert Museum — A lesser-known treasure, this museum houses a fascinating collection of armor and weapons from different eras, captivating the imagination of young knights and princesses.
- Giardino della Rose (Rose Garden) — A gem tucked in a tranquil setting offering a peaceful retreat with stunning views of the city, a perfect spot for family photos.
Apart from the popular dishes, such as bistecca alla fiorentina (steak), ribollita (vegetable soup), and tagliatelle funghi porcini e tartufo (truffle mushrooms and pasta noodle with porcini), you can introduce your family to papa al pomodoro, a rustic tomato and bread soup, a true comfort food of the region. Some of the must-visit eateries for the most authentic culinary experience are:
- Mercate Centrale: Venture to the upper floor for a gastronomic journey where families can savor a range of local cuisines in a vibrant setting.
- Gelateria La Carraia: Step away from the touristy spots and treat the family to some of the best gelato in town at this local favorite.
- Trattoria Sabatino: A family-run eatery in the Oltrarno district, offering a taste of authentic Tuscan cuisine without the tourist crowds.
Things to Do
You can start by enrolling in a family-oriented artisan workshop where you can learn the art of Florentine mosaic or leather crafting, a wonderful opportunity to create souvenirs with a personal touch.
For adventure seekers, cycling in the Tuscan countryside is a fantastic option. Rent bicycles and explore the picturesque countryside, for a beautiful and bonding experience with the region’s natural allure in the background.
Alternatively, you may join a local cooking class where you can all be taught how to prepare traditional Tuscan dishes, a fun and educational venture that culminates in a delightful meal.
Finally, evening walks by the Arno River are not to be missed either, especially around sunset. Be prepared for a spectacular light show that illuminates the city’s landmarks in the soft glow of the evening lights.
2. Barcelona, Spain — A Vibrant Mosaic of Culture, Art, and Family Endeavors
Barcelona, a city where the vibrant hues of art and architecture blend seamlessly with the azure waters of the Mediterranean, invites families to embark on a journey of discovery and adventure.
From the bustling streets of La Rambla to the serene corners of local neighborhoods, Barcelona magnetizes with a diverse array of experiences that address the needs of every family member. In a city where tradition meets modernity, you will hardly have a dull moment.
Where to Stay
For families seeking a mixture of comfort and culture, consider staying in the historic district of El Born or Gràcia. These areas provide a range of accommodations, from charming boutique hotels to family-friendly apartments, serving as a cozy base to explore the myriad attractions that Barcelona has to offer.
- Park Güell — While the main section is quite crowded, venture to the lesser-known areas of the park where you can enjoy a peaceful stroll amid beautiful greenery and unique Gaudi creations.
- Gothic Quarter — Wander through the narrow alleys, discovering hidden squares and local artisan shops, a perfect setting for a family treasure hunt.
- Montjuic Castle — Take a cable car ride to this historic castle and soak in the panoramic views of the city and sea from up there.
- Hospital de Sant Pau — A modernist masterpiece, this site gives a generous glimpse into the architectural brilliance of Lluís Domènech i Montaner. A fantastic educational spot for families.
Be sure to try a Spanish classic, paella, and a popular treat that is a hit with children called churros con chocolate at places like Carrer de Petritxol and Granja Viader. Also worth visiting for a tasty caress of the palate are:
- La Boqueria Market: Step into this lively market to spoil yourself with a gastronomic feast starring a variety of local delicacies and fresh produce.
- Cerveseria Catalana: A local favorite, this restaurant serves a delightful array of tapas, providing a palate-pleasing experience that is both family-friendly and authentic.
- Chok-The Chocolate Kitchen: Treat the family to a sweet indulgence at this local chocolatier, where you can find a variety of innovative chocolate creations.
Things to Do
Witness the mesmerizing light and music show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, a spectacle that promises to captivate the entire family. Another great idea is to savor a picnic at Ciutadella Park, where the children can play freely and even enjoy a boat ride on the lake.
For a creative injection to your ventures, we suggest enrolling in a mosaic workshop where you can all create your own mosaic artworks. Or perhaps you’d rather spend a day at Barcelona Beach and engage in a fun game of beach volleyball.
3. Siena, Italy — Step Back in Time to a Medieval Wonderland
In the heart of Tuscany lies Siena, a city that seems to have frozen in time, granting families a unique opportunity to step back into the medieval era.
With its well-preserved historic center, cobblestone streets, and vibrant local culture, this UNESCO World Heritage Site promises an enriching and authentic Italian experience, unveiling a piece of history with every turn.
Where to Stay
For a truly immersive experience, consider staying in one of the historic residences or agriturismos in the surrounding countryside that comes loaded with world-class facilities for families to enjoy their stay. These accommodations introduce a fascinating blend of traditional charm and modern comfort, providing a serene retreat after a day of exploration.
- Piazza del Campo — Beyond the popular Palio horse race, this square offers a lively atmosphere year-round, where you can enjoy local events and festivals.
- Siena Cathedral — While this is a well-visited site, venture to the Piccolomini Library inside the cathedral for an off-the-beaten-track gem adorned with vibrant frescoes.
- San Gimignano — Take a short drive to this nearby medieval town, known for its towering stone skyscrapers, which will steal your heart with the picturesque panoramas spreading below your feet.
- Botanical Garden of Siena — A quiet retreat in the city, this garden serves as a peaceful space for families to relax and take in the beauty of native plants and trees.
One of the most explosive local tastes is pici, a type of hand-rolled pasta, alongside panforte, a traditional Sienese dessert that promises to delight your taste buds. Among the myriad of exceptional trattorias and eateries, you can step away from the tourist trails and enjoy a meal at Osteria La Mossa. Its menu will certainly please your sense of taste.
For artisanal gelato, we recommend Gelateria Kopakabana, a popular local spot known for its creative flavors and fresh ingredients. Paticceria Bini is another must-visit, especially if you have a sweet tooth. This family-run bakery is the perfect spot to enjoy a morning coffee with pastries.
Things to Do
One of the most exciting activities for the entire family is a hot air balloon ride over the Tuscan countryside. Expect to be mind-blown by the breathtaking views as you take to the cloudless skies of the gorgeous Italian region.
Horseback riding is yet another fantastic adventure to embark on and a great way to explore the scenic trails surrounding Siena and admire the natural beauty of the region.
Have a flair for all things related to the universe around us? The Astronomical Observatory of Siena is the dreamiest place to be for stargazing. Budding astronomers in the family will definitely love it.
Want to give your family escape at Siena a unique flavor? Why not organize a DIY pizza night at your elegant accommodation and create your own pizza masterpieces?
4. Lucca, Italy — A Picture-Perfect Retreat Nestled in the Lap of the Lush Tuscan Hills
Lucca sits amidst the rolling hills and verdant vineyards of Tuscany and invites you to its lands, where the beauty of the Italian countryside meets the charm of medieval architecture.
As you step through the ancient gates, you are welcomed by narrow cobblestone streets lined with historic residences, their facades adorned with blossoms that add a splash of color to the golden hues of the stone walls.
Here, you can delight in things like leisurely strolls along the well-preserved Renaissance walls and encountering the local artisans who bring the spirit of Lucca to life through their crafts.
When the sun sets, the place is transformed by the gentle melodies of street musicians who fill the air with a sense of romance and nostalgia.
Where to Stay
For an enchanting blend of traditional charm and modern comforts, you can consider staying in a historic residence or palace-like villa, such as Villa San Tommaso, either within or outside the city walls, especially if looking for a serene base for your explorations.
Climb up this historic tower with the kids to enjoy panoramic views of the city and start your Lucca adventure on the right foot. The city walls, on the other hand, provide a superb opportunity for a leisurely bike ride or walk. It is one of the most alluring vantage points in Tuscany to appreciate the city’s historic charm.
A short drive to Villa Reale di Marlia (not far from the city center) will give you the chance to lay eyes on magnetic gardens featuring artistic fountains and greenery like nowhere else.
Finally, the Botanical Garden of Lucca is a quiet oasis offering a tranquil space to relax and learn about the native plants and trees.
Your palate will thank you for trying tordelli lucchesi, a type of stuffed pasta, and buccellato, a sweet bread that is a local specialty. While in the area, do not leave without tasting traditional Lucchese cuisine at Trattoria Da Leo (the dining experience is way beyond warm and inviting).
Pasticceria Taddeucci is another local favorite to pamper yourself with sweets made the traditional Lucchese way. Or you may want to spoil your taste buds with delicious ice cream from Gelateria De’ Coltelli, known for its natural ingredients and innovative flavors.
Things to Do
From renting bikes and taking a cycling tour of the city walls to organizing a botanical scavenger hunt in the Botanical Garden of Lucca, your options are limitless and undeniably exciting here.
Do not miss visiting the Paper Mill Museum to learn about the traditional art of paper-making.
We also recommend setting up an outdoor movie night at your accommodation and enjoying a family movie under the Tuscan stars.
This article is a partnership with Sinnerman Limited.