It’s that time of year again. We’ve been treated to a few lovely days of sunshine in the UK but now it’s pretty much back to grey skies and drizzle. So our thoughts turn to the summer and the best European family holidays. But where to book? Never fear, read this list to help you plan with our top five recommendations for your best European family holiday.
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For me, one of the best European family holidays are the Canary Islands. With almost guaranteed sunshine, an active volcano and stunning scenery. And only about a four hours flight from the UK. Tenerife is an easy getaway for those looking for a relaxing European holiday with kids. It gets hot over the summer months (24-28°c) so remember the suncream.
The best way to explore the island is to hire a car, start by heading inland to the Teide National Park where the volcanic scenery will have you feeling like you landed on Mars, the kids will love the excitement of exploring a live volcano (the largest in Spain) and you can hunt out plant and animal species that are totally unique to the area. If you are visiting with younger children you don’t have to miss out. The eight minute cable car ride up to Teide’s summit is probably a better option than scaling the mountain on foot.
For those of you missing your long haul bucket list ticks, you can take a whale watching trip from Playa de Las Americas, you may even spot some dolphins along the way. Just make sure you choose a tour operator that minimises disturbance to the sealife.
If you’re looking for somewhere lively then Puerto de la Cruz is a popular tourist destination. There are plenty of excellent restaurants, an old harbor and street markets. Don’t miss the Lago Martianez, a complex of salt-water swimming pools designed by the celebrated Lanzarote architect César Manrique or Loro Parque, home to the world’s largest collection of parrots and a breeding colony of penguins.
For water based fun Tenerife, has some fabulous beaches, El Médano offers perfect shallow waters for getting little toes wet and Playa Fanabé has some great watersports on offer. Or visit Siam Park, a fabulous waterpark with plenty of family friendly water rides, a floating market and Sea Lion Island.
Where to stay in Tenerife
There are loads of wonderful places to stay on Tenerife, many offering kids clubs, lovely pools and great food. Set in the volcanic San Blas Environmental Reserve, about 2 km from the fishing village of Los Abrigos, one of our favourites is the Barcelo Tenerife, a beautiful upscale, all-inclusive resort. They have an excellent kids club, offering loads of activities such as handcrafts and a minidisco. A fab playground and child-friendly entertainment most nights. So you can indulge yourself in the spa, on the golf course or at the swim up bar, safe in the knowledge the little ones are having as much fun as you are.
Or you could try the fabulously luxurious Roca Nivaria home to some beautiful pools, a fantastic kids club and first class family entertainment.
The Algarve, Portugal
Our next favourite is the Algarve in Portugal, with many low cost airlines flying to Faro this can be a great value European destination to visit with the family. There is so much to do in the area that you may want to extend your stay to ensure you get a few days relaxing by the pool or building sandcastles on the beach, rest assured the kids will not get bored.
Our top tip for a daytrip is Zoomarine, they have seal and dolphin shows, a sandy beach with slides, a wave pool, rides and an aquarium, plenty to fill a whole day.
The Fiesa Sand Sculpture Fesival in Pêra showcases some of the best hand-carved sculptures we have ever seen. This year they are focusing on musicians, instruments and musical cultures from around the world. The annual festival runs from May to October and is great to visit in the day. But really comes to life at night when it’s a bit cooler and sculptures are illuminated by colourful lighting displays. They have a free space where kids (or grown ups) can show off their creativity.
The beaches in the Algarve are pretty hard to beat. From those featuring picturesque limestone rock stacks such as Praia da Marinha in Lagoa. Or the impressive family activities available at Praia de Odeceixe. You could easily spend a week hunting down your favourite. Most offer amazing seafood restaurants for lazy lunches. Add a glass of Vinho Verde when you need a break from the midday heat.
Where to stay in the Algarve
The Algarve has many beautiful Villas to rent which are a great option for larger groups or families looking to self-cater but we love the Pine Cliffs resort in Albufeira where you will feel truly spoilt and the kids totally entertained. They offer golf, tennis, pools and water sports. There’s a range of international and local cuisines and for the kids. Along with Porto Pirata children’s village and the Junior Club with activities designed to suit all ages.
If you can’t face the thought of airport security and baggage restrictions (a nightmare with really little ones). You can’t really beat France for one of the best European family holidays. Hop on a ferry to Normandy and soak up the fascinating history and culture surrounding you. From the D-Day landing beaches to the Bayeux tapestry, little history buffs will be in their element. But if you feel most of this will go unappreciated there is plenty more to see and do.
The whole family will love a trip to Mont St. Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and true fairytale island, built by monks in the sixth century. Be warned, there are loads of steps. In the summer months it will be super busy but still well worth a visit. Make sure you stop at one of the many créperies to refuel little tummies. And don’t leave till you’ve seen the stunning views from the top.
For younger kids the Festyland historically-themed amusement park has water slides, rollercoasters and even a medieval castle to explore. Children will learn about the Battle of Hastings, and Vikings without even noticing! For art enthusiasts, make sure you visit Monet’s Garden in Giverny and soak up the inspiration behind some of his most famous pieces, including the Water Lilies series.
Of course you don’t have to immerse yourselves in history and culture to make the most of your family holiday. Normandy has some brilliant bike trails suitable for even the youngest cyclists, it’s a great way to explore the countryside or try your hand at horseriding in Calvados. Normandy is also home to some amazing beaches with dramatic cliffs, golden sand perfect for sand castle building and miles of sand dunes. Seafood is one of Normandys specialities. Most restaurants will use locally sourced produce. So don’t leave without getting the kids to try at least one mussel, it’s almost compulsory!
Where to stay in Normandy
There are so many excellent campsites scattered across Normandy.These make excellent options for a touring holiday. But if you need a few more home comforts then there are some fabulous gites available.
Another of the best European family holidays I recommend is Greece. With crystal clear waters and perfect sandy beaches, Greece is an excellent choice for your next family holiday. Rhodes is one of the most popular of the Greek Islands with numerous family friendly resorts. There are watersports galore and even a few medieval castles.
Little kids will love a visit to the aquarium and slightly older ones will enjoy soaking up the culture in the well preserved medieval city of Rhodes and the ancient (pedestrian only) village of Lindos where you can hike from the village to the Acropolis although this is perhaps best with older kids as it’s quite a climb!
Spectacular beaches can be found along the East coast, Tsambika beach is a particular favourite with fine, golden sand, a beach sports centre and plenty or restaurants and cafes.
A visit to the Faliraki Water Park will cool everyone down, they have plenty of slides for all ages and abilities, a wave pool and even some funfair rides!
Make sure you eat out the traditional way at least once by trying mezedes. Basically a set of starter sized plates that everyone can share. This is a great way of getting kids to try new foods without spending on a main they may not like.
Where to stay in Rhodes
The all inclusive Princess Andriana Resort & Spa has a very popular miniclub with trained staff, an animation team, all inclusive sports, a water sports centre and its very own private beach.
And finally another great value European destination with the family is Mallorca. The whole island is geared up to welcome kids of all ages. And pretty much all the resorts offer some sort of child-friendly entertainment. There are a wealth of family friendly beaches to explore, water parks galore, hilltop forts and beautiful castles. The city of Palma with kids makes a great base from which to explore the rest of the island. And is one of our favourite cities for the best European family holidays.
The Aquarium in Palma is a great family attraction with the deepest shark tank in Europe featuring 10 massive sharks, the kids will love it! The Caves of Arta on the East coast is one of the “not to miss” attractions on the Island showcasing a fascinating network of underground caverns and breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites, it’s been said that these inspired Jules Verne to write Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
A great way to explore the island is renting a bike and taking advantage of the many bike paths. One of our favourites is the relatively flat trail through the Parc Natural de S’Albufera wetlands.
Large informal family lunches are a way of life on Mallorca. Most restaurants will offer children’s menus or smaller sized kids portions. So take your time and enjoy each others company.
Where to stay in Mallorca
There are plenty of excellent family friendly hotels to stay in Mallorca, we recommend the Hotel Ibersol Son Caliu, located close to Palma Nova beach is an upmarket all-inclusive hotel with its own beach club, pool and sports bar and a great kids club with indoor and outdoor activities and daily entertainment for all ages.
Or if you fancy something with a bit more space, James Villas have some amazing Mallorcan villas many with pools and family friendly features.
Wherever you end up on your European family holiday we hope you make some magical memories together. Be sure to tell us about your best European family holidays, just leave a comment below.