10 Most Family-Friendly Cities in Europe
From peerless parks to hands-on-museums and refreshingly affordable food, these major European cities all say "welcome!" to families with children.
With the works of Gaudí around every corner, you'll be in a state of architectural bliss while the kids will think they've landed in the land of Seuss. If that's not enough, you can amble along Las Ramblas or stroll by the sea in the city that gave the world tapas. Bueno!
WHAT TO DO
Barcelona's Boqueria is a market like no other with flowers, fruit, and local fare to dazzle all five senses. Grab some goods to go and then get your Gaudí on at the famous Sagrada Familla. From there, hike uphill to Parc Güell where you'll be greeted by "el drac", a multicolored mosaic salamander perfect for photo ops.
For a sweet treat, visit The Chocolate Museum, featuring chocolate monument replicas and tasty souvenirs. CosmoCaixa is an interactive science museum with a mini rain forest and crowd-pleasing planetarium. If you have a little inventor along for the ride, don't miss the Museum of Ideas and Inventions, which will spark their imagination and yours too.
If you're feeling adventurous, go shark cave diving in the Oceanarium at the aquarium near the Marina in Port Vell. Afterward, enjoy the view of the Mediterranean while nibbling on prawns and jamon at Martina's Brasserie & Cocteleria. As the sun sets, stroll over to the Fountain of Montjuic for an unforgettable display of illuminated dancing "magic" fountains.
WHERE TO STAY
The Petit Palace Hotel Opera Garden is well situated near Las Ramblas and offers an inclusive breakfast buffet.
WHAT TO EAT
Tapas, tapas, and more tapas. Barcelona's kid-friendly specialties include fresh fish, fried potatoes, and bread rubbed with garlic, oil and tomatoes. Try them all at El Jardi Terrace & Tapas Bar, nestled away from the noise of the city in a courtyard surrounded by olive trees.
Okay, Halkidiki is not a city but a region of Greece. Why is it on our list? Because not every family vacation needs history and sightseeing; sometimes you just want to soak up the sun. Here, you can actually do both and go home boasting that you've been to the birthplace of Aristotle and bathed in the clear blue Aegean Sea.
WHAT TO DO
Situated in northern Greece, the Halkidiki region is comprised of three peninsulas, known as thethree fingers of Halkidiki. The first and most populated is Kassandra, the second, with fewer resorts and more secluded coves, is Sithonia, and the third is Mount Athos, a monastic community closed to the masses.
Begin your journey in Kassandra and avoid the crowds with a hillside hike. Try the Koutsoupia-Sivri trail; as you walk the sea cliff from Sani Resort to Sivri village, you'll pass by Roman ruins including a villa and early Christian temple. Spend an afternoon in Athitos, a picturesque village dating from 3000 BC. Stop for coffee and take in the old stone houses, cobblestone alleys, and breathtaking views of the Toroneos Gulf. If you need a break from the sun, visit Petralona Cave at the foot of Mount Katsika, famous for its stalactites and stalagmites.
In Sithonia, the luscious green landscape meets the cerulean water of Aegean Sea; settle in on a secluded beach and then go explore the fish tavernas in Vourvourou where you can watch the fisherman bring in their bounty.
To see the only monastic republic in Europe, take a boat from Ormos Panagias in Athonia and head toward Mount Athos. No tourists (or women) are allowed, but you won't want to miss the view of the 20 monastaries dotting the coast or the abundant sea life that surrounds you.