News inspiration Dream European city breaks for families in 2021

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Dream European city breaks for families in 2021

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Desperate to take your family on a city break? Much of Europe is still subject to COVID travel restrictions, but as we wait to find out which destinations will be green listed this summer, this list will give you some ideas on the best city breaks for families in Europe. We’ve noted down any current travel restrictions for these cities at the time of writing, but you can also check our travel restrictions page for the latest information on COVID-related travel. And if you’re worried about last-minute cancellations, don’t forget to search for fares covered by a flexible booking option.

The UK’s current roadmap out of lockdown suggests that international leisure travel could be allowed again from 17 May. This could be subject to change and there might be restrictions on incoming travellers in other countries, so keep an eye on our weekly travel briefing for travel news updates.

This page was last updated on 15 April 2021. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. Before you travel, make sure to check the government’s latest advice and recommendations.

1. Athens, Greece

Athens is home to the stunning Acropolis, perfect for educational city breaks for families.

If you’re craving sunshine after a bleak winter, then Athens offers one of the best European city breaks for families. The Greek capital regularly sees highs above 30 degrees centigrade over the summer months, with barely any rainfall, so it’s an ideal destination for topping up your vitamin D after a long British winter.

The most famous attraction is of course the Acropolis, a fantastically ancient hilltop citadel, where you’ll find the Parthenon, a columned temple to the goddess Athena completed in 438 BC. And you’ll see all sorts of other spectacular ancient ruins in and around the city, like the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, with its gigantic six-metre-high columns perched 60 metres above the sea.

There are plenty of beautiful beaches a short distance from the city as well. Mati Beach is a 45-minute drive from Athens, while the sandy beaches of Costa Navorino are a few hours to the southwest.

Greece has said that it will open its borders to tourists who have been vaccinated or can produce a negative COVID test from 14 May. Its current lockdown measures are starting to ease, although at the time of writing mask wearing is compulsory in all public places.

2. Lisbon, Portugal

City breaks for families in Lisbon: Lisbon has some stunning views and plenty of picturesque, twisting streets to explore

Simply getting around in Lisbon can be a fun family activity: the distinctive red trams shunt their way past all of the major historical sights, and a day ticket will let you hop on and off anywhere you like for 24 hours. But even more fun is a ride on one of the amphibious vehicles operated by Hippotrip. The aquatic bus tours the city’s landmarks before taking a dramatic plunge into the waters of the River Tagus.

Up on the hill above Lisbon, the 11th-century Castelo de São Jorge provides some excellent views over the city. Kids will love trying out the 360-degree camera obscura in the Ulysses Tower, and there are several galleries showcasing relics from the castle’s past, including traces of Moorish occupation from 1,000 years ago.

Portugal began easing its lockdown measures from 15 March with the reopening of schools and some businesses. Currently, shops are set to reopen from 19 April, while restaurants are set to fully reopen from 5 May. The country has said it is aiming to welcome tourists who can produce proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from 17 May.

3. Valletta, Malta

Malta’s capital Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Malta’s capital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at just 80 hectares, it’s an easy city to explore for families. The beautiful Upper Barrakka Gardens offer fantastic views of Valletta’s Grand Harbour, while the 16th-century St John’s Co-Cathedral is a riot of gold.

The Rolling Geeks are a fun way to start a family city break – these self-driving electric cars take you on pre-programmed tour of the Maltese capital from the marina right through the narrow medieval streets of The Three Cities. And Malta provides ample opportunities for scuba diving, snorkelling, mountain biking and various other adventurous activities, along with miles of fantastic beaches.

Malta has said it will begin welcoming back UK tourists from 14 May, as long as they can provide evidence of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test.

4. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona has some wonderfully bizarre Gaudi buildings.

The Antoní Gaudi-designed Park Guell in Barcelona is a great place for kids to explore thanks to its colourful mosaics and fanciful lizard statues, and it provides great views across the city, too. Gaudi was also behind the utterly fantastical Sagrada Familia cathedral, a souring, almost organic-looking building that was begun in the late 19th century and is still being constructed. By the time it’s finished, it will be around 170 metres high.

Barcelona also has an excellent series of beaches, including Barceloneta, Mar Bella, Nova Icaria and Bogatell. And just along the coast you’ll find the bustling seaside town of Sitges, which has a grand total of 17 sandy beaches.

Spain is still under several lockdown measures, including a curfew from 11pm to 6am, and mask wearing is mandatory in public. But the country’s tourism minister has suggested that the country could begin to reopen to tourists once 30-40% of the Spanish population has been vaccinated.

5. Dubrovnik, Croatia

City breaks for families: Go to Dubrovnik which looks almost like a medieval fantasy city

This beautiful city boasts a clutch of fantastic beaches and a plethora of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages. In fact, you may have seen the city’s medieval walls already – they appear on TV’s Game of Thrones from season two onwards as the fictional city of King’s Landing.

You can get a feel for the layout of the city and its famous walls by heading up Mount Srd on the cable car. Once you’ve got your bearings, head down to Copacabana Beach for a bit of relaxation while the kids enjoy riding pedaloes and banana boats. And if you’re feeling active, Adventure Dubrovnik offers kayaking trips that head out to the nearby Lokrum Island, as well as giving you a great view of the city walls.

Croatia is offering entry to UK tourists who can prove they have been vaccinated against COVID or who can produce a negative PCR test result. Tourists must show confirmation of booked accommodation before travelling, and must fill out an online form before departure.

6. Dublin, Ireland

The Ha'penny Bridge is one of Dublin's most famous sights.

Dublin’s stunning castle is one of its main attractions. The building was originally constructed in the 13th century, although the current structure is around 300 years old, as a devastating fire swept through the castle in 1684.

A boat tour along the River Liffey is a fun way to see Dublin’s beautiful riverfront buildings, as well as the iconic iron Ha’penny Bridge, which dates back to 1816. And just northeast of the capital you’ll find the idyllic fishing village of Howth, with its resident population of seals and guillemots. There are plenty of excellent coastal walks to be found in the area, as well as a handicraft market and numerous seafood restaurants.

Ireland is gradually easing its lockdown measures, and from 12 April Irish people have been allowed to travel anywhere within their own country. However, there are still restrictions on meeting other households, and currently non-essential travel to the country is not permitted.

7. Copenhagen, Denmark

Nyhavn is a beautiful waterfront area in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen has not one but two amusement parks, making it a great choice for city breaks for families. Tivoli Gardens in the centre of Copenhagen is one of the city’s most famous attractions, and stretches over 15 acres packed with pagodas, roller coasters and fairground rides, including the world’s tallest carousel. Meanwhile, just outside the city, you’ll find Bakken, the world’s oldest amusement park. It dates back to 1583, and its main attraction is an 82-year-old wooden rollercoaster, but the park’s location in the Dyrehaven woods also offers some relaxing strolls along with thrill rides.

Copenhagen is also home to the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, as well as the wonderfully colourful district of Nyhavn, with its 18th-century waterfront buildings. There are tons of interesting places to take the kids, too, like the Botanical Gardens and Copenhagen Zoo.

Denmark is loosening some of its lockdown restrictions, and outdoor eating at cafes could be allowed from 21 April, while indoor dining might resume from 6 May. Tivoli Gardens reopened on 9 April, but visitors over 15 must prove they have had a negative COVID test or received a full vaccine dose before entering. Denmark is currently closed to all non-essential travel.

8. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague can look like something out of a fairy tale.

Prague offers superb city breaks for families thanks to its fairy-tale architecture. Visiting is almost like stepping into the pages of a picture book.

Prague’s enormous 570-metre-long castle is a wonder to behold, perched on a hill overlooking the city. Construction on it began over 1,000 years ago and various parts have been added in the ensuing millennium, making it a delightful mishmash of outlandish architectural styles. And to reach it, you’ll more than likely cross the beautiful 14th-century Charles Bridge with its astonishingly detailed Gothic towers and parade of statues.

Head to the Old Town Square and you’ll find Prague’s fantasical astronomical clock, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter movie. The clock dates back to 1410 and is the oldest, functional astronomical clock in the world. And if that’s not magic enough, head outside the city to discover the remarkable town of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was the filming location for the 1996 movie The Adventures of Pinocchio.

Prague's astronomical clock looks like something from the Harry Potter movies - what could be better for city breaks for families?

The Czech Republic is still subject to lockdown measures, with restaurants, hotels and most shops closed, although primary schools reopened on 12 April.

9. Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is one of Europe's less frantic cities to explore.

Thanks to its relatively small population of just under 600,000 people, Gothenburg is one of Europe’s less frantic major cities, making it ideal for relaxed city breaks for families. The city is famed for its buzzing café culture and gorgeous green spaces, and the narrow cobbled streets and squares of the city can easily be explored on foot.

Trädgårdsföreningen Park is an elegant botanical garden that features a 19th-century palm house. It makes an ideal place for a family picnic. But if the kids are looking for a bit more excitement, Gothenburg’s Universeum is like a science museum and a nature park in one. In one area you can wander through the rainforest, encountering animals like marmosets and toucans. In another you can see sharks in 1.4-million-litre tank, and in yet another section you can take part in experiments and learn about space travel.

Shops and restaurants are currently open in Sweden, but with limited numbers of people allowed to enter, and a maximum of eight people are allowed to gather in public. An entry ban for travel to Sweden from other countries is in effect until at least 31 May.

10. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Explore the canals of Amsterdam by bike, great for city breaks for families

Its lack of traffic and winding waterways makes Amsterdam ideal for city breaks for families. It’s one of the most cycle-friendly cities in Europe, so hiring bikes is one of the best ways to explore the city. You can find bicycle rental shops scattered right across Amsterdam, with the most famous probably being Yellow Bike.

The serene canals with their beautiful waterfront buildings are best explored by boat, and the Canal Bus is a hop-on/hop-off service that stops at 20 tourist destinations across the city, like the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. But there are also numerous guided boat tours, and Splashtours even offers the chance to ride on an amphibious bus.

The Netherlands is currently in lockdown until at least 20 April, and bars, restaurants and non-essential shops remain closed.

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