Why City Breaks are a Good Idea for Child and Parent Alike
City breaks are an underrated means of travel and adventure, especially when travelling with kids. In Europe we are blessed with many great cities that play host to a variety of refreshing cultures, all in a relatively dense and well connected region. City breaks are a fantastic way to travel the world that doesn’t require much investment in terms of time and preparation. With only a couple of days to pack in, you’ll often find it harder choosing – rather than finding – something fun and interesting to do, which makes keeping the little ones entertained easy. So here we are, check out MomAboard’s list of best European city breaks with kids.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was formed by the joining of Buda and Pest back in 1973. Resting on the banks of the River Danube, Budapest offers something for every traveler. The architecture is stunning, and families can enjoy a view of the city from the waters on a sunset cruise or just a lazy walk along the river bank. Many city streets are tree-lined with little cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious, unassuming meal. For children, the City Park is a wonderful day out, with playgrounds, trampolines and a little pond. And if you’re traveling with older kids, the hot baths are a wonderful cultural experience.
Paris is the quintessential city of culture. You may already feel familiar with it from its ever-present place on the world stage, but if you haven’t been with the kids, boost it up your ‘places to go’ list. There are obviously heritage sites such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph and Notre Dame to visit. On top of that there are famous shopping districts to blow some cash, or just window-shop if you’re feeling more retail minded. The city is meticulously well planned with beautiful buildings adorning straight and symmetrical streets. Children are exposed to street art, gourmet food, and world-famous museums. What’s not to love?
Best enjoyed in the summer, Helsinki has a rather personal small-town feel which is a difficult trick to pull off for a sprawling city. Bus stations, ferries, a train station in the centre of the city, and a busy airport 18km out of the centre of Helsinki provide ample accessibility. There is even a useful tram network – perfect for tourists – that runs a figure of eight around the city. Known for impressive churches like Lutheran Cathedral and museums such as the Ateneum Art Museum, there is also a superb coastline to amble along when the kids need a break from art and culture. Helsinki is also host to an archipelago of small islands that are found just off-shore, boat tours run to these islands if you fancy exploring a bit during your stay. Not bad for a weekend away!
People genuinely seem to fall in love with Barcelona overnight. The weather is more than usually glorious, and the city is full of art and quirky sights. There’s a lively street culture here with plenty of local cuisine to try, perhaps from the numerous tapas bars. It’s common for children to dine late here with their parents, especially in the summer months. The Catalonia region of Spain has a fiercely liberal streak most notably demonstrated by their political will for independence from the rest of Spain. This says a lot about Barcelona and the region since its buried deep within Spain, and a rich history has left its mark on the area until this day. If there are football fans in your travelling party they will no doubt be intrigued by the Camp Nou and the huge footballing pedigree that lives here, regular stadium tours are on offer for the little ones if this is the order of the day. If not, there’s always the beach.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located near the Southern tip of Spain. It’s a curious place with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. Tunnel networks and cave systems stretch through Gibraltar rock – easily the most iconic feature of the city – some are well-trodden and others, a lot less so. Gibraltar gained prominence for its strategic location and even has a strong military capacity to this day, although you wouldn’t know it. Only 7 square kilometres, Gibraltar can mostly be explored on foot; however there are some very steep parts. For this there are taxis which double as tour-guides and who seem to know the entire Macaque population of the island. If you’re a dolphin lover you stand a good chance of seeing them play off shore, particularly if you opt to go on a dolphin safari boat tour. As an off-the-beaten path break Gibraltar is one of the best holiday destinations for the nature-loving family.
Florence: the home of renaissance art, but still small enough to cover substantially over a short break. This city is a honeypot to those who celebrate fine art, classical music and architecture. Don’t fear though, Florence isn’t stuffy, and since it’s located in the Italian region of Tuscany, there is plenty of focus on the food, wine and culinary experiences. The Uffizi Gallery is perhaps Florence’s best known asset and where you will find the work of masters gone by such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo. A fun game to play with the kids: Guess which is the real statue of David!
Greece is always beautiful, the weather is burning hot and the seas are gorgeous and blue. When people fly to Greece they often stay on one of its many islands, but why not try the mainland. Why fly anyway? They have one of the largest cruise ports in the world. A 2.5 mile long archaeological promenade built in 2004 connects the city’s key archaeological sites and is strictly for pedestrians which make touring the sights eminently manageable so long as it isn’t during the peak of summer. Aside from the obvious charms of the ruins of Acropolis and Delphi, Athens has a charming street culture, with many cafes and eateries between Syntagma and Monastiraki. Metaxourgiou is also known for its restaurants and art galleries.
Not just the headquarters of the EU, but a wonderful city in its own right. The green spaces, fountains and statues Cinquantenaire Park offer are conveniently on the doorstep of the Royal Art and History museum as well as other attractions, so it’s a good place to start discovering Brussels. Grand Place is a further tourist trap and lives up to its name with great effect. Belgium is known for its food and drink, and Brussels is no different. City breaks don’t come much more more indulgent than Brussels, since sampling the artisan cholocate and beer on offer here is a must.
What makes a good city break? One way of measuring the quality of city breaks is the feeling of longing you get at the end of your stay, where you just wish you could stay for longer. How about if you wanted to stay there indefinitely? Well Vienna should achieve top marks then, voted ‘most livable city in the world’ for the seventh consecutive time by the consultancy firm Mercer (http://www.mercer.com/newsroom/western-european-cities-top-quality-of-living-ranking-mercer.html). No doubt an impressive title to have maintained for so long, but of course that includes much more than mere tourism. Vienna has born brilliant minds from Mozart, to Beethoven, to Freud. As such it is once again a highly cultured experience, sporting great galleries, museums, restaurants and events. Vienna hosts the Donauinselfest, the largest open air party in Europe, what more reason do you need to spend some time here?