23 (Best) European Family Vacation Ideas For A Family Of 3-5
When planning a European family vacation for five, it is sometimes hard to get good ideas on unique places to visit instead of the same old tourist traps.
It can also be difficult trying to please everyone, especially when you are bringing people of different ages and preferences along on the same ride.
But Europe is one of the most diverse continents on the planet, with no shortage of fun and exciting things to do. Whether you're wanting to see the most iconic landmarks or visit some countries off the beaten path, there are plenty of things for a family of intrepid nomads to do.
Read on to learn about 23 of the most family-friendly travel destinations in all of Europe.
1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Like the rest of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is an extremely family-friendly place outside of its infamous Red Light District. Because the city is planned around foot and bike traffic, the pace is relaxed and perfect for touring with small children in tow.
Take everybody out on a Canal Pizza Cruise to enjoy the beautiful sights of the city while also enjoying some pizza and ice cream or visit Vondelpark with a real kid-size working kitchen that children can cook in while the parents relax with a coffee.
To learn about Amsterdam's fascinating history, you can take in a variety of Amsterdam's most historic residences--the Van Gogh House, the Anne Frank House, or the Rembrandt House. Scoot around by bakjiet or plan a visit to ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in all of Europe.
2. Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is one of the most attractive cities in Ireland and features a number of can't-be-missed attractions for all ages.
Visit Trinity College to see the Kells manuscript, enjoy free entry to the National Gallery of Ireland, or take a trip to Dublinia, which recreates Dublin as it would have looked during the medieval period. Here kids can try on Viking clothing, visit a medieval kitchen, and learn medieval games.Image Credits: Private Photos from Vacations
For smaller children, the museum Imaginosity is a perfect place to play make believe and features a nice cafe for adults to hang out at while the kids play.
3. Paris, France
There are so many things to see in Paris that it is hard to get to everything in one go. It is tempting to stick to the tried-and-true favorites of tourism like the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, but there are many other attractions in Paris that are off the beaten path.
For something different, take a break for a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens, which features a great playground for smaller children, or take in the grand vistas and history of Versailles.
You can also stroll around in the many colorful and eccentric markets of Paris, including the Paris Marche Aux Fleurs et Oiseaux, which sells both flowers and exotic songbirds of every species and color imaginable.
4. London, United Kingdom
London is a great choice for a family vacation because most of its many large and impressive museums are free to the public. To take advantage of these, make sure to plan a visit to the Natural History Museum, The British Museum, and the Science Museum.
Visit Borough Market to hang out at the location of the Harry Potter filming (you can see The Leaky Cauldron here), pick up some souvenirs at Hamleys--basically the coolest toy store in the world--or take a break at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Park at Kensington Palace (children under 12).
5. Munich, Germany
Munich is a friendly place all around and is especially inviting for a family vacation during the holidays. Germany's Christmas markets are like something out of a fairytale, and every family should experience them at least once.
For indoor attractions, check out the German Museum or pick up some gifts for back home from Obletter Spielwaren, the largest toy store in Munich. For some toys you can't take with you, check out Spielzeugmuseum, Munich's four-story toy museum.
If everybody needs to unwind, take a relaxing detour to the English Garden, or hang out at the beer garden at Hirschgarten--the children can check out the adjacent deer park while the grown-ups try some of the best Bavarian style lagers in all of Europe.
6. Barcelona, Spain
For a city and a beach trip rolled into one, you can't do much better than Barcelona. With miles and miles of idyllic coastline along with nine separate UNESCO World Heritage sites, this European city is saturated with beauty and culture.
Spend a day at the L'Aquarium Barcelona, which features Europe's largest underwater glass-enclosed tunnel, or take in the Magic Fountains Montijuïc's nightly fountain show, complete with lights and music.
7. Florence, Italy
Florence is a cultural destination like no other, but it doesn't have to be one long historical slog that will disengage the younger members of your travel party. Take little ones to visit the Antique Carousel in Piazza della Repubblica for some great photo ops or stroll the Boboli Gardens.
To see a diverse outdoor park that will hit everybody's sweet spot--it features both a ferris wheel and a bar--take a trip to Parco Delle Cascine. The swimming pool can be a refreshing change of pace in the hot Florence summers, and the park features playgrounds for younger children.
8. Vienna, Austria
Austria isn't the first place people typically think of when they're planning a family vacation, but this jewel of Europe has plenty to see. Whether you play in the maze at the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace or check out the over 700 animals at the Vienna Zoo, there is tons to see.
Whether you're more interested in seeing the world-class Lipizzaner dancing stallions at the Spanish Riding School or hanging out at the Japanese style Cafe Neko to take a selfie with one of their famously friendly cats, there is something in Vienna for everyone.
One exhibit in Vienna that can't be missed (especially if you have small children) is the Haus der Musik,
a sound-based museum with musical stairs and three stories dedicated to the most famous composers in history.
9. Rome, Italy
One activity to check out—especially with kids—is the Gladiator School. In this educational tour near the Coliseum, kids can dress up and learn how to train just like the ancient gladiators did (with quite a bit less bloodshed).
Teach everybody how to make authentic Italian pizza at a local trattoria, or just walk around taking in the beautiful sights of the city while eating some of its famous gelato. Rome is a big place, so when you're traveling with family, it's best to take it slow and savor everything.
10. Madrid, Spain
Madrid is the beating heart of Spain, and no matter if you want to watch street performers at Puerta de Sol or eat the same notoriously delicious breakfast churros favored by locals (Chocolateria San Gines) you're sure to find something you like here.
A large draw of Madrid is its food and markets--you can try everything from caviar to fresh oysters off carts in the San Miguel Food Market, and the El Rastro Flea Market on Sundays is the largest flea market in all of Europe.
If you want something a little different, check out Madrid's Robot Museum (kids love it), go see a flamenco dance, or see the sights at Madrid's Royal Palace. If you're lucky you'll see the gorgeous peacocks in the Royal Gardens, which locals cheekily refer to as "royal turkeys".
11. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich isn't the top of the list for too many people when considering a European family vacation, but it should be.
The best family-friendly draw of Zurich is quite possibly Jucker Farm, which features lots of farm animal petting, an apple tree maze set against the gorgeous backdrop of Zurich Lake, and pick-your-own fruit. Be sure to visit during the pumpkin season to see their amazing displays.
Zurich is a great choice for families that like to spend time outdoors--you can take a boat tour of Zurich Lake or see Zoo Zurich. But if you get rained out, you can always visit Europe's largest indoor waterpark at Alpamare, which features pools, slides, saunas, and steam baths.
12. Athens, Greece
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One of the cultural cornerstones of the world, Athens is definitely a place you should plan on scratching off your travel bucket list. Show your crew the birthplace of democracy at the Acropolis and visit the family-friendly Acropolis Museum.
For a more laid-back day, ride the cable car up to Mount Lycabettus and eat ice cream while you enjoy a panorama of the entire city, or stroll around in the National Garden, which features a petting zoo, a turtle pond, and a large shaded playground with lots of grassy areas to rest.
13. Lisbon, Portugal
With a picturesque castle, exciting trams, world-class animal attractions, and some of the prettiest beaches in Europe, Portugal is a great place to take the family. Famously the sunniest city on the continent, the heat is nicely tempered by cool breezes coming off the river.
If you have younger kids, check out KidZania, a kids-only park in a shopping mall that allows kids to
play grown-up in a number of magical areas unsupervised while parents are free to browse the shops outside.
The rolling hills of Lisbon can be exhausting to walk up and down, so take advantage of the city's historic tram system, the Number 28. Animal lovers will enjoy the Jardim Zoologico de Lisboa, and you can't leave without seeing the Jeronimos Monastery.
For a sure family-friendly bet, hit up northern Malta for idyllic relaxation and some of the best beaches in Europe. With lots of opportunities for boat trips and watersports, northern Malta also features the Malta National Aquarium if you'd like to plan a day indoors to recover from the sun.
If you head south, you can visit the famous Marsaxlokk Sunday market, go swimming in natural pools, or visit some of the hilltop temples and caves. Like most countries in the Mediterranean, Malta is very welcoming to children and families, so you'll never feel like an imposition.
Wherever you go in Malta, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel and swim. Malta also features many family-friendly restaurants and cafes, many of them oceanfront, so you'll always have that postcard view to enjoy.
For more intrepid or outdoorsy travelers, it is hard to beat a trip to the Romanian mountains. Romania may not show up on many would-be tourism radars, but that is changing fast with new tourism programs and a new awareness of the things this country has to offer travelers.
The food is delicious while still exotic, there are thousands of acres of unspoiled wilderness around every corner, and the people are some of the friendliest in Europe.
Visit Dracula's castle, take a mountain biking tour, take in the pastoral scenery on a picnic, or come away from the markets with tons of trinkets for a very reasonable price. No matter what kind of things you like to do, Romania is an excellent choice for any family on a budget.
Croatia is not as well-known as some European destinations, but there are plenty of things to do packed into this tiny country.
One unique attraction is the Museum of Illusions. While a string of museum tours can start to bore the younger or more restless members of your travel party, everyone will be amused at this one. For folks who can't wait to go in the water, check out Istralandia Water Park.
You also can't leave Croatia without visiting the gorgeous Adriatic Sea, so plan a day to go sail boating or visit one of Croatia's beaches. If you don't manage to see any fish when you go snorkeling, you can always get a look at them all at the Split Aquarium.
17. Brussels, Belgium
If you don't have time to do a European circuit with family, Brussels is a good option for seeing a little bit of everything. Go ahead and buy one of Belgium's famous waffles, which is sure to be a hit among the kids!
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While here visit Mini Europe, which features 350 of Europe's most famous landmarks from across 80 cities, all shrunk down to 1/25th of their true size. See Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Acropolis without ever leaving Belgium.
You can also check out the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate for a history on one of Belgium's most delicious exports or see Europe's largest collection of dinosaur bones at the Museum of Natural Sciences.
18. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen features a cool mixture of indoor and outdoor activities suitable for every preference in the family.
For some indoor fun that is educational as well as exciting, check out the National Gallery of Denmark, the Experimentarium, or the Kid’s Workers Museum. More artsy families can also check out the Louisiana Museum, which encourages hands-on arts and crafts.
Denmark is also full of great outdoor amusement parks. No trip to Copenhagen is complete without at least one day at Tivoli Gardens or Copenhagen Zoo. Tivoli features amazing fun rides, roller-coasters and beautiful gardens. The Zoo has a large variety of exotic animals and beautiful surroundings to give you an amazing time.
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If you're up for traveling, you can visit Legoland in Billund which is about a 3 hour drive from Copenhagen, but well worth the ride! Billund is also the birthplace of Lego and thereby also the original Legoland. A great pass time for the kids, but it comes with quite a long drive if you are living in Copenhagen.
Visitors can also check out Jaegersborg Dyrehave, which is a thirty-minute trip outside of Copenhagen but features a deer park with over 2,000 deer and in its center lies Bakken, the oldest amusement park in all of Europe.
Iceland is a great winter destination for families, and one of the coolest ways to see this beautiful country is by Icelandic horse, a special breed of stocky cold-hardy horse native to the country. Several companies offer horseback tours.
For animal lovers, another can't-miss attraction of Iceland is its puffins. Iceland contains half the world's population of these comical birds, and you can catch a scenic boat tour from Reykjavik Harbor to see these clowns of the sea in their natural habitat.
Other cool activities in Iceland include dog-sledding tours, swimming in geothermal hot springs, and some of the best whale-watching in all of Europe, with sightings of more than twenty different
Iceland is perfect for adventurous families that don't mind a walk on the wild side.
20. Ionian Islands, Greece
Outside of the major attractions of Athens, there is plenty of other reasons to visit the Greek countryside and its diverse spattering of island getaways. Because they are so close together, it is easy to string together a vacation full of one-day excursions that let you see a bit of everything.
One of the most fun parts about a trip to the Ionian Islands is chugging along by boat from place to place, so if anyone in your family gets seasick, this might not be the trip for you. Otherwise, be sure to visit Corfu, Antipaxos, Lefkada, and Ithaka while you're there.Image Credits: Private Photos from Vacations
For boating and beaches, the Ionian Islands is a good laid-back getaway for the whole family.
21. Edinburgh, Scotland
No trip to Scotland is complete without a trip to Edinburgh Castle, and it is by-far Scotland's favorite tourist attraction, so be sure to book tours and activities well in advance to avoid being crowded out.
Here you can see the Crown Jewels of Scotland, suits of medieval armor in the Great Hall and the Mons Meg, the largest medieval cannon in the world.
If you deal with rainy weather in Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland is a good bet as one of the top twenty visited museums in the world (with good reason). Another indoor option is Edinburgh's Butterfly and Insect World, one of the longest running butterfly houses in the world.
22. Strasbourg, France
For something a little different than the crowded sights found in Paris, Strasbourg is a great option for traveling families. When you're bringing kids, a travel destination can't just be interesting or culturally enriching--it also must be fun.
You can go on a boat tour of the city (which is more relaxing and less "touristy" than those found on the Seine) or spend some time outside at the Orangerie, a park that features a free zoo and petting zoo along with plenty of storks, Strasbourg's city symbol.
Visitors should also make time to see the Cathedral Notre Dame, which is one of Europe's oldest and most beautiful stone cathedrals, and also make a pass down the Petite France district to see the streets that inspired Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
23. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is another one of those sleeper travel destinations that not many people think of off the top of their head when they think of European family trips, but they should.
With marionette window displays and fairytale architecture, Prague is a perfect choice for people with children, who will feel like they've stepped into the pages of one of their own storybooks.
For something different, check out Golem VR, an interactive tour that lets travelers step back in time to visit 16th century Prague, visit Stromovka Park's beer gardens while the kids enjoy the multi-story jungle gyms, or see the Airship Gulliver at the DOX Centre of Contemporary Art.