One of the most alluring things about Europe is its diversity. The continent has a wealth of fun-filled, family-friendly destinations from the Algarve’s cliff-backed beaches to the Pyrénées’ towering peaks.
Whether you prefer to soak up the sun, immerse yourself in culture or head out on an action-packed adventure, here are our top picks for the perfect family holiday in Europe.
For relaxing by the sea: The Algarve, Portugal
Portugal’s Algarve offers scenic family summer holidays with its golden beaches, deep blue ocean and orange-tinged cliffs. The sheltered coves along the shoreline and calm waters suit young swimmers, with warm temperatures all year round. The region gets more sunshine per year than California, plus it’s one of the cheapest family holiday destinations in Europe.
As well as beaches, there are plenty of water parks for the kids, including the sprawling Slide & Splash near Estombar, which offers immersive falconry displays and epic wave pools. Don’t miss the striking Benagil sea cave, only accessible by boat, kayak or paddleboard.
Get inspired at visitportugal.com
For wildlife spotting: Sandviken and Skinnskatteberg, Sweden
It’s easy to forget that much of Europe is home to interesting and impressive animals, so there’s no need to travel far for a wildlife holiday. One destination sure to excite the whole family is Sweden. The forest-covered regions of Sandviken and Skinnskatteberg are home to beavers, golden eagles, moose, brown bears and even wolves.
The safest and most convenient way to look for wildlife is with an experienced guide. Most tours are best for families with slightly older children, as some degree of patience is usually necessary! Overnight trips also offer the memorable opportunity to stargaze in the wilderness, far from light-polluting cities.
See what’s available at wildsweden.com
For epic adventures: The Pyrénées, France
For an adrenaline-fuelled family holiday in Europe, head to the Pyrénées. Running 430 km along the border between France and Spain, this towering mountain range is ideal for young adventurers.
From horse riding to ziplining, there are plenty of activities for all ages. Climb among tall pine trees, mountain bike through the grassy countryside, or cool off in a crystal-clear mountain lake. To really get the whole family’s hearts racing, check out the Exterieur Nature multi-activity adventure park in Marquixanes, which offers canyoning, rafting and rock climbing.
Start exploring at responsibletravel.com
For peace and quiet: The Hebrides, Scotland
Few places can beat Scotland’s Outer Hebrides when it comes to solitude. Lying off the northwest coast, this chain of interconnected islands is nothing short of magical. With so much unspoilt nature, ranging from white-sand beaches to rugged hillsides, kids have plenty of room to play. This isolation also attracts an abundance of wildlife, including otters, deer, eagles and dolphins.
A little closer to civilisation are the Inner Hebrides – your kids might recognise the brightly coloured houses of Tobermory on Mull from the Balamory TV series, while Jurassic World™ fans can search for dinosaur footprints on the Isle of Skye.
Organise your visit at visitouterhebrides.co.uk
For a playful city break: Copenhagen, Denmark
Where better to take kids than the country that created LEGO®? Denmark’s capital is built with young visitors in mind, starting at the central Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Located opposite the train station, this wonderland is bursting with fun-filled rides, from thrilling rollercoasters to a magical journey through Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales.
For something more educational, head to the world-class Experimentarium science centre, which boasts three floors of interactive exhibits to explore. Kids can step inside a soap bubble in the Bubblearium, play a laser harp in the Labyrinth of Light, or feel the power of a storm at sea in The Port.
Plan your trip at visitcopenhagen.com
For a winter wonderland: Lapland, Finland
Nothing will get the kids more excited around Christmas than a visit to the home of Santa Claus. With activities ranging from husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides to private meetings with Santa himself, it’s a perfect festive getaway.
Located deep inside the Arctic Circle, you’re guaranteed to get a white Christmas here! In addition to creating a magical atmosphere, this opens up plenty of possibilities for winter sports, including ice skating, skiing, tobogganing and snowmobiling. If you’re lucky, you may even get to marvel at the colours of the Northern Lights dancing through the sky.
Find out more at santaslapland.com
For some history and culture: Vienna, Austria
Austria’s capital may be better known for romance, but it’s also a very family-friendly destination. Kids will love playing dress-up in wigs and period costumes at the Schönbrunn Palace and pretending to be princes and princesses for the day. For something more lively, the Prater amusement park has a giant Ferris wheel plus 250 different stands, rides and attractions to discover.
Meanwhile, animal lovers will enjoy exploring the Schönbrunn Zoo, which is home to tigers, pandas, koalas, orangutans and many other exciting species, or the House of the Sea aquarium, with its captivating hammerhead sharks.
Discover Vienna at wien.info
Please note that there are currently travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19. Depending on which country you visit, restaurants, bars and activity centres may be closed. Always check government advice before making any bookings.