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Top 5 Family Holiday Destinations in Europe

Top 5 Family Holiday Destinations in Europe

Spinalonga

My world prior to children revolved around ‘pin the airplane on the world map and see where we end up’. Fast forward a few years and I’m happy to say we still play that game. Of course, the difference being that my offspring now put the kibosh on certain destinations.

Drawing on my experiences of child-friendly hotels and holidays, then… Here is a round-up of my top five favourite family holiday destinations in Europe with little ones in tow.

European Family Holiday Destinations

Family holiday destinations in Europe

1. Puglia, Italy

Puglia, or Apulia is the heel of Italy’s boot. This southern region is often overlooked by travellers. Full of rustic charm, pristine beaches, olive groves and miles of glistening Adriatic coastline, it’s the perfect playground for the family.

Where to stay in Italy with children?

Our home was at Borgo Egnazia, a gigantic recreated Italian village. Sounds odd, right? Wrong! It’s more like being on an epic Game of Thrones film set. Minus, you know the dragons and decapitations and stuff. Think sandstone buildings, olive groves, clock towers, piazzas and narrow alleyways, all complete with quirky interior design details – a little slice of heaven! The Scott Dunn kids club is amazing, complimentary hire bikes, luxurious spa, cigar and whiskey room, plus several different restaurants offering tantalising food options adds to the five-star experience. The Timberlake and Biel nuptials famously took place at this fabulous hotel too. We were obviously there well before they put it on map.

Click for availability at Borgo Egnazia

Things to do in Italy with children

The village of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must see. Famous for it’s ‘Trulli’, tiny homes with cone-shaped roofs, decorated with magical symbols and held together with no concrete. They look like they’re designed for fairy folk and I almost expected a hobbit to walk out of the tiny doors any minute. It’s a magical town which fascinates people of all ages.

Polignano a Mare, a tiny fishing village famous for its caves and blue lagoons is perched on top of a 20 metre high limestone cliff above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. Famous for three things – Cliff diving, which granted is slightly difficult to experience. The second is much easier their and cannot be missed – their super ice cream! Finally the most famous export is Domenico Modugno (who?) he wrote the massive international hit and hollywood mafia wedding singer’s favourite: Volare! Still not ringing a bell? YouTube it and you’ll recognise it!

What to eat in Italy?

Your tastebuds can’t leave Puglia without sampling orecchiette. Literally meaning ‘small ears‘ in Italian, this ear shaped pasta is served with garlic, fresh tomatoes and ricotta cheese. Simple, delicious and oh so Puglian. One of the best places to try this dish is at La Cantina in Alberobello. Established in 1958, it’s a small trattoria with a few small tables, open kitchen and a menu full of yummy traditional dishes.

For the ice cream! Bella Blu is the place to be, a small artisan gelateria with the best homemade ice creams bursting with flavours.

How to get to Italy from the UK?

The flying time from the UK is 2 hours and 40 minutes to Brindisi or Bari airports followed by a 50 minute transfer from the airport, with either British Airways, Easyjet or RyanAir.

2. Vienna, Austria

Most people don’t put city breaks and young children together, but this city has something for everyone. For a city steeped in tradition, classical music and architectural history, you’ll be surprised at how child-friendly Vienna is.

Where to stay in Austria with children?

We laid our heads at the Radisson Blue Style hotel. It’s beautifully designed and located in Vienna’s historical city centre. A big plus being it’s walking distance to a number of must-see attractions. We stayed in a junior suite, with the bedroom separated from the living area by a sliding door and large enough for two adults and two children.

Click for availability at Radisson Blu Style

Things to do in Austria with kids.

The legendary Wiener Prater theme park is the oldest amusement park in the world. It’s origins date back to 1162 AD! Entry into Prater is free, but the individual attractions charge. Don’t miss a ride on the giant ferris wheel Wiener Riesenard. Spectacular views of the city from nearly 200 metres up.

Schönbrunn Palace has extensive gardens for little tikes to let off steam,  and a children’s museum too. They can experience royal life, dress up as imperial children, try on wigs, set up banquet tables and play with imperial toys. There is even a zoo on the outskirts of the palace grounds.

Inspire your mini musicians by immersing yourself in the life and music of Wolfgang Mozart at Mozart House. They offer family audio guided tours of his Viennese residence and the children guides are available in 11 different languages. Or for a dose of Princess, go see a performance at the Spanish Riding School – or simply take a horse & cart ride just outside.

Vienna nurtures musical theatre and opera for children. The Vienna State Opera offers children’s operas nearly year-round from a big tent on top of the Opera House. Lasting about an hour, tickets sell out months in advance, so pre-booking is essential. The kids weren’t lucky enough to go but the adults were! We booked a qualified babysitter via the hotel for a child-free evening watching a mesmerising performance of ‘The Barber of Seville. I highly recommend an evening at the Vienna State Opera – it’s seriously special!

What to eat in Austria?

Without a doubt a Sachertorte, essentially a chocolate sponge cake with a thin layer of apricot filling and dark chocolate icing. Where best to eat it than Hotel Sacher, famed for creating the original Sachertorte back in 1832.

How to get to Austria from the UK?

Flight time from the UK is 2 hours and 15 minutes. Vienna International airport is only a 20 minutes from the city centre. With services from British Airways and Easyjet.

3. Cotswolds, United Kingdom

One of the UK’s area of natural outstanding beauty, people come from all over the world to experience this picturesque place. With its postcard perfect villages and landscapes, the Cotswold has more than natural beauty to offer.

Where to stay in the Cotswolds?

Calcot Manor a 14th century farmhouse, three miles from Tetbury. The weathered stone farmhouse houses 35 guest rooms. You also get an amazing spa, an Ofsted-registered crèche in the kids’ Playzone (where you can leave little ones for a couple of hours at a time) and two restaurants. The hotel’s baby listening service means you can also enjoy a romantic meal whilst the kids sleep soundly (hopefully!).

The Manor’s 220 acres of grounds feature cycling trails, walking paths, tennis courts and during the summer, a maize maze. You can borrow bikes with child seats, children’s bicycles and helmets free from the spa for your own little tour des Cotswolds adventures. Read a full review of our New Year’s Eve stay here.

Click for availability at Calcot Manor

Things to do in the Cotswolds with kids.

The gorgeous landscapes – There are plenty of easy strolls you can do with small people. One of the best is the mile long walk between two of the area’s prettiest villages: Upper and Lower Slaughter (names can be very deceiving!). You can reward yourselves with handmade organic ice cream from the Old Mill tea rooms at the end!

If visiting between June and September, don’t miss Cotswold Lavender in Snowshill. From about mid July, the lavender is in the most breathtaking bloom. We arrived a bit early for the full bloom, but the aromas nonetheless were intoxicating.

Castle Combe is a chocolate box village and a firm favourite with Hollywood film and TV companies. Little has changed, architecturally since the 15th century, there are still no street lights or TV aerials. It has won the coveted ‘Prettiest Village in England’ award so many times. You’d be foolish not to go and see what the fuss is about. Or at least watch Stardust and War Horse again just for the scenery.

Where to eat in the Cotswolds?

When in the Cotswolds it’s all about the cream tea – you’ll find them everywhere. One of my favourites was at Cotswold Lavender, where I fell in love with their heavenly lavender scones and still crave them.

How to get to the Cotswolds?

The glorious region touches five counties – Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. From London it’s a 1.5 hour drive. The fact that there is no airport check-in is a huge bonus! So, depending on where you live it’s only a few hours drive or relaxing train journey away.

4. Paphos, Cyprus

The incredible island of Cyprus is located in the warmth of the Southern Mediterranean. With influences from Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East, it’s a fascinating country to visit. Offering superb beaches, secluded villages, cosmopolitan resorts and unique historic attractions.

Where to stay in Cyprus with children?

There was only one hotel for us – The Almyra. This hip, minimalist hotel is the answer for all relaxation craving parents. The large black slate-lined outdoor freshwater swimming pool overlooking the sea is a winner, along with the shallow, shaded splash pool for babies and toddlers. The adults only award-winning Almyra Spa, with its Vichy showers, yoga deck and outdoor infinity pool was an instant hit. Add to this the Scott Dunn kids club and Baby Go-Lightly service the hotel offers (pre-order infant essentials before you leave and they’ll be waiting for you on arrival) we were in heaven.

Click for availability at The Almyra

Things to do in Paphos with children.

Down the road from the hotel, next to Paphos harbour is Kato Paphos Archaeological Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to prehistoric times and contains impressive Roman architecture and stunningly preserved mosaics.

The Tomb of the Kings is full of amazing underground tombs dating back to the 4th century BC. Go and release your inner Tombraider! You can also visit the famous mythological site Baths of Aphrodite located on the Akamas peninsula. It’s a small grotto shaded by an old fig tree, in the waters of which, legend has it, the goddess Aphrodite herself used to bathe.

Where to eat in Cyprus?

Meze, the Cypriot equivalent to tapas – Hummus, tzatziki, tahini, all mopped up with hot and cold appetiziers. Oh and not to forget their national cheese halloumi, I can eat buckets of the salty chewy delight made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk.

One of the best restaurants in Paphos is Seven St Georges Tavern, a family run meze bar with a twist. There is no menu, just a prix-fixe offering of meze consisting of fresh dishes in season. Everyone from locals to tourists in the know come to experience owner George’s inventive Cypriot cooking, which includes plenty of vegetarian options. And the best bit – the waiters will keeping bringing the exquisite small plates until you tell them stop.

How to get to Cyprus from the UK.

Flying from the UK it takes 4.5 hours to Cyprus. There is a regular service with British Airways year round to Larnaca Airport. There are a number of low cost carriers that fly to Paphos airport, which is only a 20 minute transfer to the city centre.

5. Crete, Greece

Crete the southernmost island in Europe and one of the largest of the Greek islands, it was once home to the Minoan civilization. Full of heritage and historic sites, it’s also a haven for family holidays with its golden sands, mountainous terrain and glorious greenery.

Where to stay in Crete with children?

The luxe resort Daios Cove is set within its own private bay overlooking the dazzling blue sea. With its sandy beach, trio of restaurants, luxurious spa, superb Scott Dunn kids club, funicular lift (for access to the beach and rooms) and guest rooms and villas cut into the craggy cliff makes it a superb family hotel.

Click for availability at Daios Cove

Things to do in Crete with children

The miles of beautiful sandy coastlines is more than enough to keep the kids happy. To break up the sand filled days, a day trip to the small island of Spinalonga can be just the ticket. The famous spot, north of Crete is sometimes called the ‘island of tears’ due to its past as a leper colony. Kids love to explore the fortress and find the place fascinating and spooky as all the buildings and streets are empty and abandoned.

What to eat in Greece?

Traditional Cretan cheeses. And don’t forget the anise flavoured apéritif ouzo! Really its all about the fish though.

One of the best restaurants is in the nearby town Agios Nikolaos. Pelagos serves seafood specialities in a stylish old-fashioned taverna close to the harbour and also has a pretty, shady garden terrace for outdoor summer dining. This vegetarian had no problems either as there was plenty to choose from the menu.

How to get to Crete from the UK?

Flying time from the UK to Heraklion is 4 hours and the hotel is a 1 hour transfer.  There a number of low cost and charter airlines that fly from the UK. British Airways now fly direct to Heraklion too now. Spoilt for choice.

Do you have any favourite family holiday destinations in Europe? Let me know in the comments box below.

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Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links whereby I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support! See my full disclosure here.

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40 Comments

  • Ivana J 5th June 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Cypreus and Greece looks so amazing, what a photos..definitely great places to visit xoxo

    https://theninebyivana.blogspot.com/

    • Sima Sthanakiya 6th June 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Definitely need to put it on your list Ivana x

  • Fashion Du Jour LDN 5th June 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Goodness! Your holiday posts fill me with utter wanderlust always. These places look amazing, with or without the little ones. Adding to my ever growing travel list!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN HQ x
    http://www.fashiondujour.co.uk

    • Sima Sthanakiya 6th June 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Ahh thank you Leigh fro your lovely words. Glad I’m helping to expand your wanderlust list! x

  • Shelley Zurek (@stillblondeaaty) 6th June 2016 at 12:46 am

    oh man, I pinned this and we don’t even have kids. Your suggestions are spectacular.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 6th June 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the read Shelly. Thanks x

  • fashionmommywm 6th June 2016 at 10:33 am

    Very exciting, my brother is getting married in Paphos next year so we are already booked up for next Summer, and it looks amazing.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 6th June 2016 at 1:32 pm

      You’re going to have an amazing time, it’s such beautiful place x

  • Megan Indoe 7th June 2016 at 9:22 am

    I love seeing more and more families with young kids traveling and show it’s still possible to do with kids! We hope to have kids in the future and still live a life of travel, so this is super inspiring! We will save these ideas for the future! Thanks for sharing!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 7th June 2016 at 8:51 pm

      I was a big traveller prior to kids and certainly didn’t want my mini-me’s to put a stop to it. Yes things become slightly complicated when traveling with kids, but there is always a way.
      I’m sure when it’s your time you’ll be the same xx

  • Ana De Jesus 7th June 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Oh wow Puglia looks amazing and like you said the recreated village really does remind me of the awesome Game of Thrones set!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 7th June 2016 at 8:58 pm

      It’s a beautiful part of Italy and well worth a visit.

  • Rhian Westbury 7th June 2016 at 8:43 pm

    I used to go to Paphos every single year when I was a kid (I think i’ve been about 13 times) but I haven’t been back in 10 years. I’m a little worried at how much it might have changed x

    • Sima Sthanakiya 7th June 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Oh wow, lucky you! You’ll have to go back to check. I thought it was a beautiful part of the country.

  • EG III 8th June 2016 at 4:20 am

    I agree with Shelley, these locations look amazing for families and solo travelers as well. Cyprus has just jumped a few places higher on my travel destinations list!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 8th June 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post and that its had an effect on your wanderlust list.

  • Louisa Mercado 8th June 2016 at 8:09 am

    My top choice would have to be Puglia, Italy and then Greece. Two of my dream destinations!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 8th June 2016 at 3:53 pm

      I agree Louisa, Puglia was my all time favourite.

  • Katrine 8th June 2016 at 9:30 am

    These are so definitely going on my list! Especially Puglia – have heard so much good about it and your post just put the cherry on top!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 8th June 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Puglia is amazing. Its been off the tourist trail for a long while (not now though!) so quite rustic in its charm.

  • Lubka Henry 8th June 2016 at 11:42 am

    These are really brilliant holiday ideas. It’s so good that you travel a lot as a family, especially with your little ones, so you bring them up with wide vision for the world :))

    • Sima Sthanakiya 8th June 2016 at 3:56 pm

      Lubka that’s the plan and hopefully to instil the travel and adventure bug in them.

  • Euge Nia 10th June 2016 at 12:58 pm

    I love Italy so Puglia seems like a perfect place for me to visit, especially Alberobello! I read a lot about trulli, it would be great to see them with my own eyes! Pinned your post for the future vocations!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 10th June 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Ahh thank you! Yes, the trulli are beautiful and so unique. Italy has to be my favourite country too and don’t start me on the food 😉

  • The Purley Girly 1st May 2019 at 9:55 am

    Wow, you guys have had some amazing adventures together, and I am now feeling a bit more confident that travel with mini-beasts can be done! I know that mine would LOVE the food in Italy, he’s all about that pasta and ice cream life.

    • the Curious Pixie 2nd May 2019 at 10:29 am

      Italy is one of the best places to go with little. Not on the list but my first flight as a mum with a 8 month old was Dubrovnik, Croatia. Again short flight and the yummiest of Italian cuisine!

  • Angie SilverSpoon 2nd May 2019 at 8:29 am

    Sima, you are definitely my luxury family travel guru! Borgo Egnazia has actually been on my wish list for a while. And I’d already noted Daios Cove for a future family travel hotel.

    • the Curious Pixie 2nd May 2019 at 10:29 am

      When the time comes Angie, I have all the luxe family holiday hotspots! Borgo is one of my favourites!

  • travelsavings addict 5th May 2019 at 12:39 am

    Such a lovely post and super cute destinations. I love all your pictures and your kids are adorable. Thanks for sharing these little unknown gems of Italy. Definitely saving this for later. 🙂

    • the Curious Pixie 5th May 2019 at 11:15 pm

      Aww thank you so much. Glad you enjoyed it and hope it provided some good inspo for you.

  • Scarlett Roitman 14th May 2019 at 6:13 am

    Austria does it for me! Schönbrunn Palace, Mozart and the Opera – I might need to leave the kids behind! #CULTUREDKIDS

  • Catherine'sCulturalWednesdays 14th May 2019 at 8:34 pm

    I really fancy staying in a Trulli in Puglia, but I would settle for all the others too!

  • Kidsofthewild 17th May 2019 at 7:04 am

    Some excellent destinations here and loads of travel info for families. Lovely to see the Cotswolds in there too. Your photography is stunning #CulturedKids

    • the Curious Pixie 19th May 2019 at 10:16 am

      Thank you so much….I had to get a staycation in there. I adore the Cotswolds.

  • Morrison Clan 20th May 2019 at 10:07 am

    You have chosen some wonderful places. Being a large family, holidays are very expensive so we tend to stay in the UK, the Cotswolds is a lovely place. #CulturedKids

  • Emma Raphael 20th May 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I have been to all of them apart from Paphos and agree with everything you’ve said. In fact I love Vienna so much I keep looking for a job for Mr R there, it’s so gorgeous! 🙂 Thanks for joining in with #CulturedKids

    • the Curious Pixie 21st May 2019 at 1:38 pm

      Ahh thanks…looks like you’re next holiday should be Paphos! Fingers crossed your master plan works on Mr R x

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