Planning a European vacation with kids in tow? These four cities offer sights and activities that both children and their parents will enjoy.
Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is a bustling port city in southern France that offers tons to do year-round. Start your trip at Fort Saint-Jean, a 17th-century maze of walkways and hiding places that kids will love exploring. Take the scenic bridge that overlooks the city and the sea to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, a gorgeous new building built after the city was named the 2013 European Capital of Culture. You also shouldnt miss a trip to the Panier, Marseilles oldest neighborhood, for the best ice cream at Le Glacier du Roi. The quick ferry ride to the Iles du Frioul is another must. Go in the late afternoon for a scenic walk before catching the sunset. Aix-en-Provence, just a half-hour bus ride from Marseille, is an excellent day trip. Young ones will be mesmerized by the markets full of colorful produce, mounds of olives, and bouquets of lavender. Stop for a photo in front of the impressive fountain on the Cours Mirabeau.
The gem of Catalonia, Barcelona offers a cosmopolitan experience that’s very different from the rest of Spain. The longtime home of visionary architect Antoni Gaudi, the city puts a premium on art, evidenced by the galleries, museums, and public works spread across the city. Make sure your kids experience Park Güell, one of Gaudis masterpieces, where they can romp around in a what looks like a Spanish Alice in Wonderland. But the crown jewel of Gaudis work is the Sagrada Familia. The church, though still unfinished, is an enormous ode to architecture that boasts beautiful stained glass, unique geometry, and soaring spires. Afterward you can teach your little ones about cubism at the Museu Picasso, which highlights the iconic artists long career. For a decadent breakfast or snack, stop by a street stand for cinnamon-dusted churros and hot chocolate as thick as a melted Hersheys bar! You can always work off the calories at the beach with a swim in the warm Mediterranean.
Though Lisbon is the biggest city in Portugal, it doesn’t have the same hustle and bustle of other major European destinations. Life moves at a slower pace in Alfama, a great neighborhood to get lost on winding streets and listen for the traditional fado music. For a fun, kid-friendly adventure, hop on one of the citys iconic yellow trams. Take line 28 to ride past many top attractions, including St. Georges Castle. For an afternoon indulgence, buy a box of pastels de nata, a small traditional custard tart. One of the best spots to try the treat is Pastéis de Belém, where its often still warm from the oven. While youre in the area, check out Belém Tower. Take the elevator to the top of the Monument to the Discoveries for sweeping views of the Tagus River and the 25 de Abril Bridge, modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge. The nearby town of Sintra is a worthwhile day trip that has stunning palaces and, most importantly for the kids, the Toy Museum, which has an impressive 60,000-piece collection!
As Scotlands capital, Edinburgh is steeped in the countrys rich history. Wander up to Edinburgh Castle, which is perched atop a hill and offers amazing city views. Highlights include the Stone of Destiny, the royal palace, and the One Oclock Gun (fired every day except Sunday). Harry Potter fans must stop at the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote her best-selling series. Then, head to the National Museum of Scotland to check out a giant T. Rex, the millennium clock tower, and Dolly the sheep. The museum is huge and, best of all, free! For a satisfying lunch or dinner, head to one of the many fish n chips shops that dot the city for a newspaper-wrapped taste of the UK. You can also treat your kids to afternoon tea at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh for freshly baked scones, mini desserts, and finger sandwiches. In November and December, the European Christmas Market boasts a large ice rink, and festive rows of stalls hawking gifts and treats.
Contributed by travel writer Lara Takenaga. Based in New York, she is a freelance writer and editor who likes to speak français whenever she can, plan new adventures, and eat her way through city streets.