City breaks

7 of the best child-friendly city breaks

By Rebecca Gamble

15 April 20195 min read

Skyline view of New York City, USA

If you’re looking for a destination where you can pack loads of attractions your children will love into a short trip, then a family-friendly city break could be the perfect choice. Here are our top picks.

1. New York

Start your family city break in New York with a visit to the One World Observatory, at the top of One World Trade Centre. The viewing platform on the 102nd floor gives spectacular views of the iconic Empire State Building – the kids will probably recognise some of the city’s iconic skyline from their favourite movies, too.

Next, take a tour around Manhattan by boat and see the brightest lights of the big city in Times Square. Entertain kids at one of the many brilliant attractions such as the American Museum of Natural History or the free Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty.

If you need a place to let the kids blow off some steam, let them loose in Central Park or The Highline, a park built on an elevated former railway line. For more child-friendly ideas, check out NYCgo, the official guide to the city.

2. Rome

Italy is renowned for being a child-friendly destination and its capital Rome is no exception. Bring the past to life by enrolling your kids in ‘Gladiator School’ where they’ll get to dress up in traditional clothing and learn ancient fighting techniques. Then, why not keep the history lesson going with a family-friendly tour of the Colosseum?

Family city breaks in Rome can also include wandering through the sprawling Villa Borghese gardens, with its merry-go-round, a small zoo and a boating lake.

Make sure you throw coins into Trevi Fountain, too – legend says you’ll return to Rome if you do. And with all the pizza and gelato on offer you can be sure your kids will want to!

3. Barcelona

Head to the charming Spanish city of Barcelona with your kids and enjoy its seemingly endless months of sunshine and relaxed vibe.

Wander down the tree-lined La Rambla and watch street performers – expect everything from dramatic flamenco dancers to death-defying fire-eaters – and dine on delicious tapas in one of the many family-friendly restaurants – El Quim de la Boqueria in the famous Boqueria Market is our pick.

Don’t miss Gaudi’s spectacular Park Güell, with its brightly-coloured ceramic sculptures and fabulous views of the city.

Budding footballers in tow? Head to FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou Experience and learn about the club’s history – you’ll even get to step onto the hallowed turf!

And if little legs begin to tire, you can break up your sight-seeing with a day on the beach. Barcelona has one of best city beaches in Europe, after all.

4. Munich

From the Toy Museum to its brilliant science museum, the Deutsches Museum, you’ll find plenty to entertain the kids on a family city break to Munich.

Grab a place in front of Neues Rathaus, the New Town Hall, to see the famous Glockenspiel chime daily at 11am and 12pm. The songs performed change monthly.

You’ve also got Munich Zoo, TierparkHellabrunn, which also offers pony and camel rides in the summer, and nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, said to be the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

5. Copenhagen

With its fairy-tale buildings, child-friendly museums and compact size, the Danish capital is one of the best family city breaks in Europe. It’s home to Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest theme park in the world; its heady mix of high-adrenaline rides, pretty flower gardens and fun fair make it a winner with all ages.

To get your bearings, take a boat tour of the city – you’ll see the fabulous Amalienborg Palace, home to the royal family, the famous sculpture of The Little Mermaid and enjoy views of the waterfront, which is lined with brightly coloured houses.

Don’t miss the Children’s Museum at the National Museum and spend an afternoon at the National Aquarium Denmark, Den Blå Planet - it all adds up to a fabulous family-friendly city break.

6. Reykjavik

Colourful and quaint Reykjavik is the perfect combo city break for kids. Its compact centre is packed with quirky museums and fun cafes, while the natural surroundings offer up some of Iceland’s most spectacular scenery within easy day-trip distance.

Visit the fantastic museum Perlan for its 100-metre long ice cave walkway and the Northern Lights show at its planetarium. Make your way to Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach, which has steam rooms, geothermal hot-tubs and a heated children’s pool. Then, take your kids on a boat trip to spot wildlife. If you’re lucky you’ll see puffins, minke whales and humpback whales.

Family city breaks in Reykjavik can also be used as a base to explore the country more widely – rent a car and drive around the Ring Road, a circular route that fringes the majority of the island.

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  • Reykjavik, Reykjavik Area, Iceland
  • 16 December 2024
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  • From Luton

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7. Cape Town

You can tag a trip to South Africa’s buzzy Cape Town onto a longer holiday, but it’s a fantastic city break destination to visit in its own right, too – especially with the kids.

Head down to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront and watch the seals sunning themselves. For more sea creatures, including ragged tooth sharks, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Make the easy journey to the top of Table Mountain via Aerial Cableway, then take a trip to Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens with its treetop canopy walkway. And don’t miss out on a history lesson by taking a boat trip to Robben Island Museum – a must for older kids.

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