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Best European city break destinations for family holidays

Planning a long weekend away or a short family break? You may not be as fancy-free as you were pre-children, but European city breaks with kids in tow are still doable – and are often a cheap and easy option for families looking to squeeze in a weekend break outside the school holidays. 

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Dec 30, 2022

Family standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe

We've consulted the Mumsnet travel experts on our popular Holiday Talk Forums to discover the best European city breaks for families. Before booking your next trip or last-minute weekend break, check out these top travel tips and destination recommendations from parents that have been there, done that and stayed there with kids in tow.

Where's best for a family city break in Europe?

Here are the top 10 city breaks for families, as recommended by parents.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Colourful canalside houses in Copenhagen

Why Mumsnetters love Copenhagen

An increasing number of Mumsnetters rate the Danish capital for family city breaks thanks to its family-friendly attractions, walkable streets and laid-back vibe.

"We had three days and walked pretty much everywhere. We went in early December and Tivoli Gardens were decorated beautifully. We also liked the Little Mermaid - she’s small but lovely" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Letsnotargue

"I was there last week but with toddlers! Get a Copenhagen card and work through the booklet. Seriously. It’s a mixed bag of great places and the card gives you free transport in the city" - rated by Mumsnet user, Whyismycatanasshat

Best things to do with kids in Copenhagen 

It is indeed very child-friendly – not too big and not too small, with plenty of parks and open spaces, plus interactive museums (release your inner Viking), Tivoli Gardens amusement park, a planetarium, a zoo, and northern Europe's largest aquarium.

Consider getting a CPH Card, which covers entry to a number of attractions, thus saving you money on entertainment. For little ones with energy to burn, walk up the Round Tower and enjoy views over the city. If you fancy a more relaxed pace, go on a Copenhagen boat trip or find a seat in one of the canalside cafes and watch the world cycle by.

Copenhagen's very easy to navigate, and most things are close by, so little legs won't get too tired.

The best family-friendly hotels in Copenhagen

"My DD stayed at the Absalon Hotel and found it excellent. Has Designers Guild furnishings. Handy for many things and helpful staff" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, TizerorFizz

"We stayed in the Ibsens Hotel and loved it. Our room had a little reading nook down a couple of stairs with chairs and sheepskins. They had a happy hour with cheap drinks and snacks at the bar before dinner, and a fancy restaurant we ate in one night" - rated by Mumsnet user, Letsnotargue

"I went pre-pandemic and stayed at the Copenhagen Island Hotel which was walking distance to most of the places I went. It was December so very festive" - recommended by Mumsnet user, blitzen

Take the stress out of planning a city break by booking a bespoke break with Take the Family

Looking to book a city break but keen for someone else to take charge of flights, hotels, attractions and fiddly itineraries? Mumsnet has partnered with Take the Family, a travel agency that specialises in putting together memorable trips for families. Using a travel agent can take the stress out of booking holidays and offers ATOL protection for peace of mind. As an added incentive, Take the Family is offering Mumsnet users a £5 John Lewis voucher (for every £1000 of holiday value). Speak to a family travel expert to get a bespoke city break quote.

2. Lisbon, Portugal

Tram in Lisbon

Why Mumsnetters love Lisbon

Lisbon is quite the hit with Mumsnetters. That might be something to do with its cuisine, from bacalhau (salted cod) – to the infamous pastéis de nata (Portugese custard tarts), proximity to nice beaches and vibrant atmosphere. Be warned, it is quite hilly: something to bear in mind if you're travelling with small children. It does however, boast a great range of transport options if you're not keen on walking everywhere.

"I really loved Lisbon! It’s great value for money compared to Paris, Rome, etc and has all the old European city charm - just really, really lovely" - recommended by Mumsnet user, ABitOfAShitShow

"Lisbon is my happy place. The aquarium is great, get a cab there. Also love the pantheon, hippo/duck tours good for children. Sitting on the front by the water is lovely in the evening" - rated by Mumsnet user, MissyCooperismyShero

Best things to do with kids in Lisbon

The hop-on-hop-off bus tours are a good start to your trip to really get a feel for the city. The Remodelado trams (those quaint yellow ones) are also a fun way to view the surroundings with kids – the most scenic route being the E28 – as well as the Glória Funicular. If you like art, the collection at The Gulbenkian museum is well worth a visit.

Food-wise, the Time Out Market in the Mercado da Ribeira – an open-air food court with a wide range of cuisines and family-style seating – is the perfect place to eat if you're catering for different tastes. If you're after a treat, Mumsnetters recommend eating at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais: “Fantastic posh Sunday lunch at a hotel in a palace with beautiful gardens.”

However, the most important advice seems to be: “Don’t forget to eat as many pasteis de nata as you can.”. These scrumptious desserts can be found everywhere, but particular hotspots are Manteigaria in Bica where you can watch the custard tarts be created before your very eyes. Or for a bit of 'history' you could check out Pasteis de Belém, where the first pastéis were ever sold in 1837 – right next door to where the original recipe was developed, the Jerónimos Monastery. The monastery is also worth a look due to its beautifully ornate architecture. Belém is about six miles from downtown Lisbon, a safe, scenic bike ride along the river (cycle paths all the way).

It's also very easy to get to other places outside of Lisbon, such as the beach at Cascais or Sintra, a town that boasts extravagant palaces and ancient castles.

Lisbon is lovely. Lots of garden squares and a long walkway along the sea with nice open-air modern fish eateries.

The best family-friendly hotels in Lisbon

"Stayed at the Eurostars Das Letras in Lisbon a few years ago and I would recommend. It was very slightly out of the centre so much quieter but the walk into Lisbon centre each day was nice" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Barkingmadhouse

"We are just back from a weekend here. It was amazing! The view was to die for" - rated by Mumsnet user, MissAmbrosia 

"Iberostar hotel - walking distance from centre but beautiful pool for chilling out after sightseeing" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Redtartanshoes

3. Bristol, England

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Why Mumsnetters love Bristol

Bristol is famed as the South West's bohemian heartland, packed with winding lanes and green spaces. This artsy and community-minded city is full of family-friendly activities, and is easy to get to from London as well as the north and east of England, via road, train or plane.

"I took my 3 there for a visit a year or so ago, and we did @Bristol and SS Great Britain over the course of two days. Great fun!" - recommended by Mumsnet user, frazzled3ds

"There are often festivals, markets and other events around the harbourside and city centre - there'll be something pretty much every weekend from about May onwards" - travel tip from Mumsnet user, exexpat 

Best things to do with kids in Bristol

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a must-see – walk over it and enjoy the stunning views of the gorge. For another scenic walk, try Blaise Castle which offers a great children's play area, too. And make sure you visit St Werburgh's City Farm, to have a cup of tea in their little tree-top cafe hideaway.

Bristol Zoo is small but brilliant for entertaining kids. “Bring a packed lunch, and if you're visiting in the warm weather bring a change of clothes as there's a wet play area!” recommends one Mumsnetter. Science-lovers will enjoy exploring We the Curious (formerly At Bristol), while older teens can play 'spot the Banksy' among the city's ultra-cool street art.

There's too much to do in just a few days! If it's fine weather, you could try the walk along the river from the M Shed museum to Cumberland Basin.

The best family-friendly hotels in Bristol

"We have stayed in The Bristol Hotel many times before and always had a great stay. A good location for touring the city as well" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Trafalgar

"I would recommend The Marriott Royal, as it's a lovely hotel with great pool, facilities etc" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, jennymac31

"Hotel Du Vin is great. Lovely building, great service and central" - recommended by Mumsnet user, ButFleecesarewarm

Prefer to stay in a cottage within easy reach of Bristol? Save big on a cottage stay in the southwest with a 7% discount on your next stay, an exclusive deal for Mumsnet logged in users. 

4. Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Why Mumsnetters love Paris

Easily reached by train, plane or ferry, Paris is super-accessible. Despite its clichéd status as one of the most romantic cities in the world, it is also an enchanting place to take children (even if you don't head to Disneyland).

"Paris is amazing! My kids love it and we have been a few times.Definitely take them up the Tour Montparnasse as it has amazing views and as DS3 says 'it's a much better view of Paris as you get to see the Eiffel Tower in the view'" - recommended by Mumsnet user, AFingerofFudge 

"I'd take a river cruise in the morning. Have lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel, restaurant on the second floor of the tower. Really good and not expensive. Then go along to Luxembourg Gardens and eat crepes from a van for dinner" - travel tips from Mumsnet user, Kendodd

Best things to do with kids in Paris

Older kids will enjoy seeing the famous sights; younger ones will enjoy a boat ride along the Seine. Of course there are plenty of museums and art galleries to explore too – just make sure you allow plenty of time for kids to burn off steam outdoors in between attractions. Head to the stunning Gardens of Versailles for lots of room to run about, as well as some astoundingly beautiful landscaping and architecture. Win-win.

Kids are welcomed into restaurants with open arms, and adventurous eaters will revel in the chance to try frog legs and snails – it may even be what they remember the most! And don't miss Bertillon ice cream, found in kiosks all over the city. Mumsnetters reckon it's a guaranteed hit with all ages.

The best family-friendly hotels in Paris

"If you're on a bit of a budget, we stayed in Hotel Joyce Astotel and really recommend it. It's 9th arrondisement which if you check the map is walkable to most big tourist attractions, but is more of a local residential area, which means it had some great local bistros" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Catch32

"Novotel Tour Eiffel. It's only a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower and has a big pool" - rated by Mumsnet user, dizzydizzydizzy

Eurocamp also has three parks in the region, ideal if you want to stay outside the city and mix days of sightseeing with other kid-friendly activities such as swimming, bowling and cycling (facilities vary at each site). 

5. Barcelona, Spain

View from Park Guell in Barcelona

Why Mumsnetters love Barcelona

Just a short flight from the UK and the perfect combination of city AND beach, it's no surprise Barcelona comes highly recommended. As one Mumsner user sums up: “The weather, lots of beautiful parks for kids to run around in, good transport system, not too long a flight, a bit of culture and yummy food.” What's not to like?

"It's wonderful. My kids (11, 8 and 6) thoroughly enjoyed it, as did we. Getting around on the Metro quickly became second nature to us and even the children knew where to get on and off it. I would go back in a heartbeat" - recommended by Mumsnet user, OchAyeThaNoo

Best things to do with kids in Barcelona

With plenty of open spaces, mesmerising Gaudi architecture, shops, museums, a zoo and markets, there's easily enough to fill a weekend, or longer. Should children tire of the city, simply decamp to the beach for sun, sea, sand and ice-creams. You can also easily head out to the nearby Portaventura theme park for a day.

If you fancy a fun family meal alfresco, one Mumsnetter suggests: “Go to La Boqueria food market on Las Ramblas and stock up on goodies for a beach picnic.” Or, you could take your packed lunch to Park Güell for some stunning city-wide views (as well as a mosaic dragon resident!). And don't forget to head to Montjuïc where you can check out the Magic Fountain, and ride on the Teleferic cable car.

The best family-friendly hotels in Barcelona

“Highly highly recommend K&K Hotel Picasso El Born. Beautiful central setting, right next to bus routes, rooftop swimming pool. Amazing place and would go back there in a heartbeat” - recommended by Mumsnet user, cauliflowersqueeze

“Hotel jazz is fab. Great location and lovely rooftop pool” - rated by Mumsnet user, Lala1245

"We stayed here a few years ago. We had a 2 bed apartment with kitchen and living room. Easy to walk everywhere and there is a bakery on the corner to pick up breakfast. It’s also a residential area so very quiet" - recommended by Mumsnet user, MrsPnut

6. Glasgow, Scotland

St Mungo mural, Glasgow

Why Mumsnetters love Glasgow

If you're travelling to Glasgow from London, don't overlook the sleeper train as a means of transport, which can be a really fun adventure for kids – and *may* even guarantee a good night's sleep. One Mumsnetter says, “I took my seven- and four-year-old on the sleeper and we had a fantastic night sleep – the rocking was really soothing.”

"Glasgow is brilliant for short break - great museums/galleries, music scene, bars and restaurants and shopping" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Sunbeam18 

"Glasgow is small enough to get around easily via the subway but loads to do and see. It really is a beautiful city in spite of the best efforts of the city planners to ruin it" - rated by Mumsnet user, TheBogQueen

Best things to do with kids in Glasgow

Scotland's largest city has all the essentials for a great short break with kids: plenty of museums (including a v. hands-on science museum), a renowned modern art gallery, gardens and parks, open-top bus tours (always a winner with children) and a bohemian quarter with trendy boutiques, cafes and bars.

The best family-friendly hotels in Glasgow

"The Village Hotel is central enough to walk wherever you need to go and it has parking" - recommended by Mumsnet user, HeadToToesNo

"The Grosvenor in the West End its vaiiiry naice and thanks to subway you're only ten mins from the town centre" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, ExCharlieBucket 

Prefer to stay in a cottage within easy reach of Glasgow? Save big on a cottage stay with a 7% discount on your next stay, an exclusive deal for Mumsnet logged in users. 

7. Berlin, Germany

Berlin skyline

Why Mumsnetters love Berlin

Berlin's a real Mumsnet fave and a good option for families with older kids – its combination of modern history and alternative vibes means that you're sure to gain some kudos for taking them there.

"We went a few years ago & really enjoyed it. Food was relatively cheap and tasty. The Science Centre Spectrum, next door to the Techniks Museum was our highlight" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Chewbecca

"We visited Berlin last year with a 13 and 10 year old. The kids enjoyed two days of the ‘Get on/Get off bus’ and the zoo in particular. We stayed in a hired apartment so we had plenty of downtime with the internet etc" - rated by Mumsnet user, Kmetsch3

Best things to do with kids in Berlin

As you'd expect there's lots of historical stuff to see such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial and Reichstag (do consider booking in advance). There's also a great choice of museums – including a Museum of Gaming, Minecraft fans, and the DDR, an impressive interactive museum. The Olympic Stadium, with a fantastic outdoor pool, and Lego Discoveryland are other must-sees. We've also heard lots of good things about the Fat Tire bike tour – a great way to explore the city.

If you're going with teenagers, try boating in the Tiergarten, followed by a visit to the traditional German beer garden (refreshments for mum and dad, pizza for the kids). If it's chilly, head to the Rausch Shokoladenhaus to warm your cockles with their “wonderful hot chocolate and cake,” recommended by one Mumsnetter. Street food options across the city should appeal to even the fussiest eaters.

The best family-friendly hotels in Berlin

"We stayed at Louisa's Place which was like a mini apartment & worked well for us. It's in a nice area and v close to the metro as well as plenty of eateries. It had a pleasant pool too which made a nice break from sightseeing" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, Chewbacca

"I really like the Goodman's apart-hotel - fantastic place" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Cherryblossoms85

"Can really recommend the Novotel near Tiergarten. Right next to an U Bahn station - rooms for a family of 4 at a good price" - recommended by Mumsnet user, ComeOnGordon

8. Edinburgh, Scotland

Skyline view of Edinburgh

Why Mumsnetters love Edinburgh

Well connected from across the UK with regional flights and trains, Edinburgh is a great mix of culture, history and family attractions.

"We went last October. The Camera Obscura was brilliant and our kids (age 4 & 5) really enjoyed Brittannia. The best thing was the National Museum of Scotland - so much to see that we went back three times! It's a fabulous city! - recommended by Mumsnet user, FriendofDorothy

"Oh I love Edinburgh! Definitely see Dynamic Earth, Arthur's Seat (if the weather isn't too wet and windy), National Museum of Scotland, Jenner's, Royal Yacht Britannia, and have a good walk along The Royal Mile and the streets off it" - rated by Mumsnet user, juneau

Best things to do with kids in Edinburgh

Festival time (August) is a great time to visit with kids – although prices inevitably soar. If the weather is good, there are plenty of fun walks around the city. Take in the views from Edinburgh Castle and explore Princes Street Gardens. If the weather's not so good, head inside – all the city's museums and galleries are free.

Don't miss the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile, the National Museums of Scotland and the Camera Obscura, which Mumsnetters say is well worth the money.

The best family-friendly hotels in Edinburgh

"Holyrood Aparthotel - it is BRILLIANT. You get a really nice kitchen so you can cook it you want or order in a takeaway" - recommended by Mumsnet user, mumoftwoboys

"I often recommend the Holiday Inn next to the zoo to friends. It has some family rooms available, or interconnecting ones, so that’s good if you’re going with kids. It has a pool, and is pretty reasonable" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Fabellini

"We could not fault The Edinburgh Residence (now Hapimag Resort). All of the rooms are suites and breakfast is served in the seating/lounge area within the room so no concerns about children disturbing other diners" - recommended by Mumsnet user, MrsPworkingmummy

Prefer to stay in a cottage within easy reach of Edinburgh? Save big on a cottage stay near the Scottish capital with a 7% discount on your next stay, an exclusive deal for Mumsnet logged in users. 

9. Rome, Italy

Spanish Steps, Rome

Why Mumsnetters love Rome

History, culture, fantastic food (and wine) – Rome has it all, and then some. As one Mumsnetter puts it: “Rome is a good one. Not too cold. Great food and gelato all a fraction of the cost of Venice.”

"We took ours in August and had a wonderful time. I think they were 6 & 8. Loved the colosseum and just wandering around the Forum. We rented a little self catering apartment very centrally so could walk everywhere and then go back for an afternoon rest. They absolutely loved the late dinners and being fussed over in restaurants, walking around at night looking at all the buildings lit up. We’d go back in a heartbeat - it was a great holiday" - recommended by Mumsnet user, zgaze

"Rome with kids is fab! I took mine when they were 8 and 5. We stayed in a little guest house in a back street near Piazza Navone, so were able to walk to most things. We were on a mission to see how much we could fit into 2 days and 1 night (I get very cheap flights at work) but wish I’d planned longer" - rated by Mumsnet user, backinthebox

Best things to do with kids in Rome

You're essentially visiting a city-sized museum with points of interest on pretty much every corner: the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and Vatican City to name but a few. Read up on what you want to see, consider which sights will be best suited to your children's ages and interests, and brace yourself for a fair bit of walking, as this isn't the easiest city to get around.

There is an open top bus tour which, while screaming “tourist”, will save little legs and mean you avoid the faff of a (crowded and hot) underground, as you can hop on and off as you please. Alternatively, book yourself on to a child-friendly tour like this one.

If you need a bit of downtime, try the Pincio Gardens and Borghese Gardens, which come Mumsnetter-approved. Or make like the locals and take siestas if you need to. And don't forget the essential gelato pit-stops.

The best family-friendly hotels in Rome

"Stay at the Hassler hotel. Ask the concierge to get you a car and a private guide for a half day (or full day) tour. Fabulous" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, AmandaHoldensLips

"We stayed at the Hotel California nearish to the Termini and it was great in February. Very accessible for trains and buses, walking distance to many of the sights. There’s a lovely restaurant underneath the hotel for night when you’ve done enough walking too" - recommended by Mumsnet user, CatsOperatingInGangs

"Hotel Forum, overlooks Roman ruins which are illuminated at night and breakfast is taken on a covered viewing terrace. You can request interconnecting rooms. Close to Colosseum" - recommended by Mumsnet user, LIZS

10. York, England

Why Mumsnetters love York

If it's history you're after, then York should be high on your list. The city is easily accessible by train and also surrounded by beautiful countryside for walks, so you can enjoying the great outdoors and get the best of both worlds.

"We loved a walk around the walls, railway museum and the cold war bunker. Lots of good places to eat, we were spoilt for choice" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Disfordarkchocolate

"Definitely Jorvik. The railway museum is worth a look. The olde worlde sweetshops in the shambles are fun. Walk along the castle walls too. That's brilliant" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, gingerhills

Best things to do with kids in York

With its castle, city walls, Jorvik Viking Centre, York Minster, York Dungeon and the National Railway Museum, there's more than enough to keep kids entertained and educated – plus lots of quaint little tea shops en route, perfect for refuelling between sights. If you're looking for a treat after all that walking around, Mumsnet users recommend The Chocolate Story: “Fun, much better than I expected. A couple of hours fun with lots of sampling and learning about the history of chocolate making in York.”

The best family-friendly hotels in York

"Hampton by hilton is nice, little out of town so a walk to the centre. The Hilton over looks Cliffords Tower which is nice and right by the castle museum which is great" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, ineedwine99

"Recently stayed one night at Clearly apartments and thought it would be better than hotel if staying with children" - rated by Mumsnet user, MoMandaS

"The Bar Convent has decent family rooms and their museum/exhibition is fab, very interactive. Has a lovely atmosphere" - recommended by Mumsnet user, BarchesterFlowers

Prefer to stay in a cottage within easy reach of York? Save big on a cottage stay in the historic city with a 7% discount on your next stay, an exclusive deal for Mumsnet logged in users. 

Travel essentials: what to buy to keep kids entertained on city breaks

City breaks with children: what to know before you go

Child with suitcase

How far you go is up to you

Your first decision is going to be how far you're willing to travel – and only you know the answer to that. There's nowt to be sniffed at in a city break close to home, but equally a jaunt to nearby France or Spain – or even European cities slightly further afield – are totally possible with children. Consider places that can be reached by car, train or ferry if you don't fancy entertaining little ones on a flight – and make the journey part of the adventure.

You don't have to stay in a hotel/B&B/run-of-the-mill type place

There are deals to be had if you search through online booking sites such as and check out our Mumsnet Discounts page for exclusive offers.

Worried about cramming into a hotel room with your brood? Consider a city apartment via the likes of Airbnb, giving you more space, additional facilities (serving up Weetabix at 4am will certainly be possible) and potentially working out cheaper than a hotel, too.

It's also worth checking out places like Eurocamp, with several sites close to major cities.

Manage your expectations

It's worth mentioning, just in case you'd put on those rose-tinted (sun)glasses, that you're not going to be spending all day gazing in wonderment at Monet's finest, or enjoying long boozy lunches people-watching. This applies to travelling with children of all ages, but especially if you're holidaying with 'spirited' toddlers.

Top travel tips from Mumsnetters

“Look for entertainment for the kids when they are awake and when they have naps you can go to the places where they'd start getting fussy soon.”

“Once or twice my partner stayed in a cafe with our daughter and let me go to an attraction on my own when I wanted some time to look at things in peace.”

"We found that castles, churches and museums went down well but galleries didn't – nothing to touch or relate to, just pictures."