Why take a city break with children?
A city break with children in one of Europe’s fabulous cities is a great way to give you and your kids a quick dose of culture and a chance to experience new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Perhaps one of your children has done a Roman project at school, so why not let them touch the cold stone walls of the real Colosseum? Or maybe, your budding linguist has had some French lessons, so how about a trip to Paris to practice a few words?
Many european cities are just a short hop from the UK and as you’re there just a few days, you don’t need masses of baggage. Take a look at our guide to planning your city break and enjoy a stress free few days.
When to go:
There are two considerations for when to take your family city break. If you have preschoolers, then you have the luxury of avoiding the peak tourist times. Prices aren’t always more expensive in the holidays, so if you have school aged children, do browse around you may be pleasantly surprised.
The key to choosing when to go is in the weather. Many southern European cities are far too hot in July or August, so you would be better off planning a spring or autumn break. A stifling hot city is not the place to take a toddler so do check the average temperatures before you decide when to go.
Before you go:
It’s fun to get your children involved before your holiday. You could head to your local library for a city guide and take a look at the things you might see there together. It’s fun to talk about the foods and language too. Get them excited about trying new foods and not scared to taste unfamiliar things. They will follow your example on this so be openminded! If you’re going somewhere non English speaking, then how about teaching them a few words. Hello and thank you are a good start and will certainly be well received while you are out and about.
Now is the time to get the map book out too. Talk about how you are getting there, and how far it is.
What to do:
- Decide which sights you want to see and whether they are child friendly. If you want to see the view from the top of St Paul’s in the Vatican, then it would be best to leave your toddler with the children while the parents ‘tag team’ that one.
- Science museums. Most cities have a science museum and of all the museums, it’s often the one with most to do for children with interactive activities and imaginative visual displays. Google the address details, check for particular events timetabled and head there for a few hours of hands on fun.
- Your city break with children needs to be well planned for their benefit. Having decided what you do want to see, plan your route via playgrounds. Many cities offer shady parks and little play areas for children. Spanish cities are particularly good for this. Get a street map, circle all the play areas and make sure your route takes in one or two. You can take a rest and the children can let off steam.
- Make the most of the sights. Where possible, consider hiring a private tour guide. Ask for one that is happy to cater for children too. That way, if you need toilet stops, or the language adapting for children to understand, all the better.
- Use public transport. We tend to take it for granted, but children love trying out new forms of transport and cities are the best for that. Think tubes, double decker buses, trams, trains, river boats and over head cable cars. See how many different forms you can fit into your trip.
- Street entertainers. All good cities come complete with street entertainment these days; living statues, acrobats and musicians. Collect up coins as you travel, or dig out those cents you forgot about from your last Spanish holiday and put them in a little purse for the kids. They’ll have great fun popping a coin or two into each entertainer’s pot to see what happens next. They make for fantastic colourful photos afterwards too.
- Give your children a camera. If you really want to see the city from their perspective, then let them loose with a camera. See what catches their eye, it will no doubt be different to what we see. We really like the Canon PowerShot available from Amazon. It’s not a child’s camera as such, but it is big enough that they can hold it, the shutter speed is very fast making photo and because the lens comes out, little fingers don’t tend to find their way into the photo!
- Tour buses. Tour buses have never really won favour with me. I find them incredibly expensive, and other than those in Dublin and Edinburgh with their very funny, live commentaries, the information they play through the headphones is pretty staid. Add to that a toddler who’s favourite game is to pull your headphones out and I’m in city break hell. It’s not for me, but do leave a comment if you’ve had a better, more child friendly experience on one.
City breaks with children are great for getting them to try new foods. You can head to a restaurant or eat on the run with food from a street stall. Try to spot restaurants full of locals for the best meals. Often in Europe, these will be the restaurants with big family groups eating there. You can invariably enjoy a more relaxed eating experience as children are very much welcomed into most restaurants. If there isn’t a kids menu, just ask for an extra plate and they can share yours. Or order a single meal between two children.
Restaurants should have high chairs, but you’ll feel well prepared if you invest in a Totseat (available with free delivery from Amazon). It’s a fabric baby/toddler seat that fits many different chair types and rolls away into your change bag afterwards.
It’s a great experience for children to head to a supermarket abroad. Let them choose cheeses, meats and plenty of lovely seasonal fruit and then just pick up a baguette and head to the local park. Very nice.
Where to stay:
City hotels can be expensive and aren’t always geared up for children. We think that a self catered apartment is by far the best option for families. You can use it as a base to return to midday if your children need naps, or when the children go to bed in the evening, you don’t have to creep around quietly as you do in a family hotel room. Instead, you can put your feet up, enjoy a glass of local wine and plan your next day’s activities. Look for family friendly reviews, or an apartment site where you can put questions to the agents or the owners about how child friendly the apartment is.
With a bit of planning, your city break is sure to be great fun. Just remember to take things at the pace of the slowest member of the family and allow for a change in your plans should you need it. You never know what might catch your eye to go and take a closer look at. Enjoy.
Tell us YOUR experiences and where you’d like to go:
We’d love to know if you’ve taken a city break with your children and if you’d recommend it to other parents. Or, if you haven’t been away, do you want to and where do you want to go? Leave us a comment and tell us
You might also like to read:
We have parents eye reviews of city breaks in Valencia, Cork, Madrid and Rome, and we also have a very comprehensive guide to Barcelona for parents that will help make your planning tonnes easier.