1. Algarve, Portugal
You could easily spend your whole holiday in the Algarve soaking up the sun on beach or by the pool, but if the kids need some excitement in their lives, they’ll be satisfied with a day at Aqualand, near Alcantarilha, one of the largest water parks in Europe. One of its star attractions is ‘Banzai’, which involves a 23-metre slide and what looks like a tray with handles on top. Excited youngsters can enjoy the thrill of precariously skimming across the water on said tray before plunging merrily into the depths. But if all of that sounds far too exhausting, you could always head to the relatively uncrowded beach of Praia da Rocha near Portimao instead, and simply let the kids build sandcastles while you doze in the sun. Want more praias then you can shake an ice pop at? Head this way for the 10 best beaches in Portugal in pictures.
2. Menorca, Spain
Menorca has a well-deserved reputation for family-friendly sun, sea and sand holidays. It’s far quieter than neighbouring Ibiza and Majorca, meaning you’re less likely to be disturbed by all-night discos. It’s only two hours from the UK, and shorter is better when it comes to flying with kids! Make sure you have a paddle at Binibeca Nou, one of the loveliest beaches on the island. Or alternatively, visit the small but beautiful Cala Macarelleta, with its clean sands and beginners body-boarding size waves. If your children are a bit older then a great way to visit the more secluded beaches is by paddling a kayak along the coast. Rent sea kayaks from Menorca en Kayak, who also offer tours. Still not 100% sold on Menorca? Don’t worry, we’ve got 16 other stunning summer holiday destinations in the Balearics for you to choose from.
3. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is brilliant for a first family city break. The children will be fascinated with the weird and wonderful buildings designed by famed architect Antonio Gaudí. The wonderfully colourful Parc Guell, situated on a hill overlooking the city, is sure to capture the imaginations of young children with its curving mosaics and giant lizards. Then there’s Gaudí joyously odd apartment building, La Pedrera, complete with jumbled, curving chimneys that look like they come straight from the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Aside from the Gaudí marvels, there’s the huge Parc de Ciutadella, which is perfect for a family picnic and even has a zoo in the middle. And if weird creatures fascinate the kids, the aquarium at Port Vell offersa chance to gape at seahorses and sharks – and it even features a children’s area with 50 activities to explore. The market on Las Ramblas – La Boqueria – is fantastic for people watching and is a great place for the kids to sample some authentic tapas. If all else fails, hit the beach at Barceloneta. Before you go, here are 10 of the best things to do in Barcelona from a local’s point of view to get your holiday hitlist started.
4. Brittany, France
Brittany is ideal if you want to take the kids abroad but not somewhere too hot – peak summer months are July-August and temperatures are usually about 18°C. There are many child-friendly resorts around France’s western coast, from Saint Malo to La Baule, with sandy beaches big enough for a city of sandcastles. Fly to Dinard from the UK: the traditional seaside resort of Dinard is especially convenient as it’s got its own airport. Make sure you visit the awe-inspiring Mont Saint Michel (Saint Michael’s Mount), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features a beautiful abbey which is linked to the mainland by a spindly causeway. It was featured in the video game Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – make sure to casually drop that into the conversation when informing potentially difficult teenagers about the trip and they’ll be clamouring to go… Need more inspiration? Take a look at this photo gallery of 14 fabulous places in France.
5. Edinburgh, Scotland
Summer is festival time in Edinburgh: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (which takes place throughout August) has hundreds of shows especially for kids, including stand-up comedy for younger audiences, so no swearing, and only jokes about Ben 10. Comedy Club 4 Kids offers children a chance to have a go at stand-up for themselves. Then there are the many street theatre shows, which are guaranteed to include fire juggling and audience participation, two things that are sure to put a smile on kids’ faces. Away from the Fringe, older family members will love the creepy Edinburgh Dungeon, and Deep Sea World where you can see cute seals and sharks up close. But that’s by no means all of the family fun you could be having in Edinburgh: here’s a selection of beautiful places to visit that won’t cost a fortune for a whole bunch of you.
6. Disneyland Paris, France
Ah Paris, city of culture, romance, fine food…and Disneyland! If Disney World in Orlando is too far to travel with offspring, Paris is only a short flight away, which makes it easier, and of course the kids will love it. Pluck up the courage to go on Space Mountain, take a swashbuckling ride with the Pirates of the Caribbean, and meet your (sorry, your kids’) fave Disney characters. And since 2002, Disneyland Paris has been joined by Walt Disney Studios Park, which houses rides based on animated films like Toy Story and Ratatouille, plus there’s even an entertainment district called Disney Village, featuring Disney-fied shops restaurants and bars. You’ll never have to leave! But if you DO get tired of the endless happiness, the surly waiters of Paris are merely an hour’s drive away from the resort. And once you’ve made it out, here are some top tips on things to do.
7. Europa Park, Germany
If you’ve already been to see Mickey and the gang, take the kids to meet Euromaus (yes, that’s actually a thing and Disney’s lawyers have been informed) at Europa Park near Baden-Baden in southern Germany. One of Europe’s biggest theme parks, Europa boasts exhilarating rollercoasters and loads of other attractions spread over European country-themed areas. So take a crazy taxi ride around London, a gondola ride through Venice and an Elf Ride(!) in Germany. For more of an adrenaline thrill – if your blood isn’t already pumping from the Elf Ride – try the Blue Fire Megacoaster, which rockets to 100km/h in 2.5 seconds, or attempt to keep your lunch down on the Silver Star, a roller coaster that pulls 4g and reaches heights of 73metres. Yikes. But Germany isn’t all theme parks and dodgy mice: here are the 10 places you have to visit in the country of the currywurst.
8. Corfu, Greece
Corfu attracts over a million visitors every year, most of them in the summer holidays, and mostly to a few resorts on the island’s north and west coasts. If you would prefer a little peace and quiet, rent a villa in a village on Corfu’s east coast. The peaceful village of Kalami is a great place to unwind with the family, with its secluded bay and scenic walks. However, if the kids are hankering for something to do, try Avlaki beach in the north, where they can learn to windsurf or even ride horses courtesy of Dimitri’s Horse Riding. Flights are cheap, as is the wine (good news for parents), but if Corfu doesn’t check all of the boxes and you fancy a spot of Greek island-hopping, here’s a whistle-stop tour of all of the best islands for families.
9. Lopud, Croatia
Croatia’s islands aren’t the preserve of millennials hanging out in cool bars and posing with Prosecco bellinis. The car-free island of Lopud is popular with families and boasts some cracking beaches, like Sunj bay, one of Croatia’s best, complete with small child-friendly shallow water. Lopud is a short ferry trip from Dubrovnik which is also the nearest airport, itself a cheap flight away from the UK. Don’t forget to mention to the kids that Game of Thrones was filmed in Dubrovnik – the walls are those of King’s Landing in the series. Oh, and here’s a few more things to do in Croatia in case you’re not a GOT fan or get bored on beaches easily.
10. Marrakech, Morocco
If you think that the kids should have more cultural excitement from their summer holiday then how about Morocco? It may seem like a far-away land, but you can get a return flight to Marrakech for just over £100*. Bustling bazaars, snake charmers, camel rides; they’ll certainly have lots of tales to tell their classmates, as long as you don’t lose them in the souk, that is. If you fancy a less fraught trip, try heading into the Atlas Mountains. The village of Imlil is only around an hour and a quarter away by road and is an ideal base for trekking. Let us be your guide to Marrakech’s mysteries: here are the top 9 things to do in the city.
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*Published February 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.