6 Places in Europe to Take the Kids in 2018
Every European city has its unique charm, but a few destinations stand out as especially friendly, exhilarating (and accommodating!) to those us who travel with tiny sidekicks. Planning a European adventure this year for the whole clan? This list is a good place to start.
The Algarve, Portugal
The sun-drenched Algarve in southern Portugal checks everything off your perfect family-beach-vacation list. Spectacular weather; wide, beautiful beaches (some of them secret locales accessible only from the water); surfing for the big kids; dolphins; the freshest seafood you can imagine; a laid-back, welcoming European vibe; and plenty of VRBOs, points hotels and all-inclusives to call home for a week. Plus, it’s cheap!
Christmas in Salzburg, Austria
Possibly the most Christmas-y place on earth during December, this is clearly where Santa pre-games before he heads to the NP. Walk the Christmas markets, ride the funicular at Hohensalzburg Castle to see the gorgeous views, catch a classic marionette performance, dance in the twinkling lights and falling snow, and drink a lot of hot chocolate. Stay at the Sheraton Grand Salzburg (rates start around $277 or 16,000 Starpoints for a December stay), or the Radisson Blu Hotel Altstadt (rates start around $304 or 50,000 Club Carlson Gold points for a December stay).
Parents of picky eaters can breathe easy here, since kids will find plenty to love in a country where omelettes, jamon and croquettas are on virtually every menu. But the magical Barcelona architecture is really what makes this city so special for kids. Gaudi monuments around every turn feel like a Dr. Seuss book come alive, and now that that the Sagrada Familia is in its final construction phase, it’s a great time to pay a visit. Plus, you can take advantage of the serious airfare sales happening right now.
If you’ve got an older crew, stay at the W Barcelona — the perfect place for too-cool-for-school teens — with its amazing location overlooking the ocean and Barceloneta Beach — just make sure everyone is comfortable with nude sunbathing. (Rates start around $280 and 20,000 Starpoints.) Families with younger kids will like the NH Collection Barcelona Podium, with its central location, cribs and cots on request and family guides to the city (rates start around $130 per night). Also, it's worth checking out our points and miles guide to Barcelona.
This walkable city, full of friendly, bike-riding locals, is home to a ton of kid-friendly possibilities. Say hi to the Little Mermaid statue in the harbor, then visit her real-life cousins at the National Aquarium Denmark, surrounded on three sides by the sea. Spend a day at Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park said to have inspired both Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney, and then watch the changing of the guards at Amalienborg Palace.
Stay at the gorgeous (Arne Jacobsen-designed) Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Copenhagen, where you can rent bikes on site and walk to the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy-Tale House and Tivoli Gardens (rates start around $308 or 70,000 Club Carlson Gold points). Check out low-cost carriers for the best deals when you're booking flights to Copenhagen.
The Tower of London, the London Eye and the zoo (and realistically, the ease of everyone speaking English when you’re on a panicked 2:00am search for pediatric cough medicine) all make this a favorite vacation for families with littles. Make sure to get a few Harry Potter books under your belt before taking the Muggles tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a 20-minute train ride outside London.
Stay at Rubens at the Palace near Buckingham Palace and check in with the Director of Fun, who’ll regale the kids with secrets of the hotel, how many times he’s seen the queen drive past and maybe even invite them to afternoon tea (rates start around $260 a night including a restaurant credit). Rather pay with points? Check out this huge list of points hotels in London.
Truthfully, anywhere in Italy makes a great family getaway (especially if you have babies — Italians love babies!) but Pompeii will blow your mind. The fact that you can walk through the ruins of a town while looking up at the very mountain that created the devastation is thrilling. Imagining it streaming with lava brings history home for kids in a way the abstract ruins of other cities can’t.
Stay a few miles down the road at the Hilton Sorrento Palace and keep an eye on Mt. Vesuvius from the pool (rates start around $255 or 57,000 Hilton Honors Points).