Top City Breaks with Kids
While most consider the ideal family trip to be beach-based or in bucolic country surrounds, the charms of a city break should not be undersold!
Travel to the city is usually straightforward. There is no need to hire a car as public transport and taxi do the job far better. There is always so much to see, you have a choice of eateries on your doorstep, and it is easy to self-cater and live like a local.
Hip hideaways and boutique hotels specialists i-escape have a dynamic Kids collection of over 900 stylish family hideaways worldwide. Including delightful boltholes in urban centres. Their Kids Editor, Nadine Mellor, selects some favourite cities which work really brilliantly for families. With suggestions for places to stay in each to suit all budgets and requirements:
Spain’s 3rd largest city has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Especially for its sunny weather and proximity to beaches. The easily strollable historic centre gives you sights – the Cathedral and UNESCO-listed World Heritage mercantile silk exchange are both extremely impressive. And paella is always a crowd-pleaser (kids will also like its seafood-and-noodles cousin fideua and sweet bunyol fritters). There’s a terrific park running along the former Rio Turia riverbed (the water course was diverted in the 1960s) which flanks the old town. Spain’s most famous modernist architect Santiago Calatrava designed the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences which houses an IMAX, a planetarium, a laserium, a science museum and Europe’s largest oceanographic aquarium. And the beach is a 20-minute tram ride away.
Hotel: Hospes Palau de la Mar is a 19th-century mansion turned sleek boutique hotel with a spa, pleasant terrace and courtyard to the rear. And is on the edge of the old town, close to the Turia Gardens. There are connecting rooms, a kids menu in the excellent restaurant, and kids are free up to 4 years old, and half-price up to 12.
Apartments: Valencia Boutique Apartments are found in a couple of buildings. Both within 5 minutes of all Valencia’s top historic sights, restaurants, and shops in the old town. Comfort and contemporary cool are the style watchwords, the smallest sleep up to 3, the largest up to 6.
This world’s most northerly capital city is absolutely fascinating for children. It’s small so easily navigable. There’s a large harbour, from which you can go on puffin- and whale-spotting cruises (April-September). The interactive Viking Maritime Museum is right next to a cool adventure playground made up of real flotsam and jetsam. You can do a tour of the Golden Circle taking in geysers, glaciers and waterfalls. And ride on Icelandic ponies and swim in the geothermal Blue Lagoon (if older than 2) either en route to or away from the airport. There’s a lake downtown too which is great for picnics and birding. If you’re here in the winter, you could catch the Northern Lights, and the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Hotel: minimalist 101 Hotel is beside all the best restaurants, shops and the harbour, and extra beds can be added to the larger rooms. A Family Suite can be created at the top, which has amazing sea views. The restaurant serves kid-friendly fare such as mini-burgers and small plates.
Cottage: cosy wood-walled Reykjavik Hideaway has two bedrooms on the ground floor plus bathroom and laundry, a wrap-around garden. And the top floor is an open-plan living/dining/kitchen space. It’s 20 metres from the harbour and 5-10 minutes to all shops and sights.
Although not recommended for pushchairs due to its cobbles and switchback hills, families with babies in carriers and school-age children will have the best time in this city of villages. Take rackety trams up and down, visit the Moorish-era Sao Jorge castle for views and peacocks. Devour custard tarts, and head down to Belem to stroll along the shore of the River Tagus. There’s Europe’s largest indoor aquarium and Lisbon Zoo has a petting corner for youngsters. And the puppet museum has marionettes from all over the world. Monsanto has a giant playground and outdoor swimming pool, and the beach is within reach.
Hotel: Martinhal Lisbon Chiado is conceived especially for families with large bright apartment-style hotel rooms, bunk-beds, evening pyjama parties allowing parents a night out a deux. Plus the complimentary well-equipped kids club and creche, and even a climbing wall. The cafe serves simple kid-friendly meals and has a Kids Corner during breakfast.
Apartments: In the heart of old Lisbon are these 1-2-bed designer apartments in the vibrant Baixa neighbourhood within walking distance to the main sights. The Lisboans come with breakfast included in the rates, kids books and toys, neat kitchenettes, and welcoming maps and mini-guides to the city.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
So much to do, so little time! Should you head straight for Anne Frank’s house, the compelling Van Gogh Museum, or large green Vondelpark with its playgrounds and lakes? Hire bicycles and explore the canals? Check out the Houseboat Museum or the Renzo Piano-designed Museum of Science and Technology? There are cool street markets, canal cruises and working windmills to discover too.
Hotel: Friendly Lloyd Hotel in the up and coming docklands area is a true one-off: interiors are redolent of a design gallery, bedrooms come in all shapes and sizes (the largest ones could have a concert piano or a swing in them!), there’s a play space with games and toys, and the buzzy restaurant has child-friendly dishes.
Boat: No better way to experience the essence of Amsterdam than by staying in a comfy Dutch canal boat. Water Home is moored in the Oud West residential quarter, has a waterside deck, two bedrooms and a piano in the living room.
And how about a bit further away? New York with kids is awesome and perfect for all ages!