For the best family vacations in Europe, choose a destination that expertly combines excitement and education. The best choices are both family-friendly and bucket list-worthy places in Europe, like Rome and Barcelona. Your children (whether they're toddlers, tweens or teens) will have a great time playing, splashing, dancing — and learning. There's truly something for every member of the family on a European vacation.
To have the most unforgettable family vacation in Europe, you need to pick the best destinations. Listed below are 10 awesome family-friendly places in Europe you can cruise to, which include bustling capitals, bucket-list destinations and exotic cities that lie on the magical Mediterranean Sea. Each city offers a plethora of fun and educational family-friendly activities — your children won't even realize they're learning as they walk around ancient sites and cultural attractions. Your trip will include equal parts relaxation and adventure. What more could you want?
One of the most family-friendly places in Europe you can cruise to is Athens, the heart of Ancient Greece. Older children will feel like they've stepped into their history textbooks when they walk around Athens, which is home to ancient sites like the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Acropolis and its Parthenon building. After the history lesson, head to the Plaka neighborhood in Athens to sample authentic Greek food at a local cafe or taverna, which is typically a more informal family-run establishment.
Fill up on Greek salads, souvlaki and loukoumades (delicious Greek-style donuts) for dessert. If you can extend your Athens vacation, it's easy to get a ferry from Athens to well-known Greek Island destinations like Santorini, Mykonos and Ios.
As the British capital, London is buzzing with cultural attractions and fun things to do for the whole family. One of the best ways to see London as a family and within a limited amount of time is a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. They stop at all of the major family-friendly attractions in London, including the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum and the London Eye. London also has plenty of green spaces like Hyde Park and St James's Park, which are perfect for picnics and running off energy. For families visiting London with older children, you may want to check out the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, or perhaps see a fun West End musical at night. The list of family-friendly things to do in London is nearly endless.
Located on the Croatian coast, Dubrovnik has plenty of breathtaking family-friendly beaches next to the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea. Banje is the main beach, with deck chairs available for rent. Don't forget your flip-flops, though, as the beaches here are mostly covered in pebbles. The city is also known for its picturesque Old Town, which has fortified stone walls that were built in the 16th century. If you're cruising Europe with older family members who are also avid "Game of Thrones" viewers, they used the city as one of their many filming locations and offer guided tours of the recognizable locations.
Stradun is the main thoroughfare in Dubrovnik and it's lined with shops and restaurants. Croatian cuisine is very meat and seafood-heavy, but it's also inexpensive. Dubrovnik (and Croatia in general) is both a budget and family-friendly European destination.
Bella Roma! Rome is an extraordinary European city, famously home to intact ancient ruins from the Roman Empire. The best things to do for the family in Rome is to take a historical tour of Rome and experience the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon. You can also check "be in two places at once" off your bucket list as you step over the border and into the Vatican City (a separate country) to explore St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Other things to do with the family in Rome include walking up the Spanish Steps and throwing a coin over your shoulder at the Trevi Fountain — doing so is said to guarantee your return. When in Rome, you must feast on the big three Italian food groups (which also happen to be many children's favorites): pizza, pasta and gelato.
Barcelona is a sun-soaked and must-see Spanish city. With a prime position on the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona's beautiful family-friendly beaches can be enjoyed year-round thanks to its sunny weather. The city is also full of interesting cultural attractions designed by famed local architect Antoni Gaudi. He's the man behind the unique Park Guell and Sagrada Familia, which is one of the world's most famous basilicas due to it not being completed.
Take the time to walk with your family down La Rambla, a tree-lined and pedestrian-only street filled with restaurants, an indoor market and street performers. When you stop for a bite to eat, pintxos and tapas (small dishes) are popular menu items that are sure to satisfy the whole family. Otherwise, fideua is a popular local dish that's similar to paella but includes noodles instead of rice.
Paris may be known as the City of Love, but it's also the city of family fun. To have the best family vacation in Europe, a stop in Paris is pretty much mandatory. Some of the best things to do with the family in Paris include visiting Sacre-Coeur for Parisian views and then wandering around Montmartre; exploring Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Europe's largest science museum; playing and having a picnic in Luxembourg Garden; going for a boat cruise along the River Seine; and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkling at night. If you're traveling to Europe with older children, add the Louvre to this list to see the Mona Lisa in person.
You can take the Paris metro to all of these attractions — it's very user-friendly. If a theme park is your family's idea of a fun day out, there's Disneyland Paris and Asterix Park on the city's outskirts as well. One of the best things to do for the family in Paris is visit the Asterix Park, a theme park based on a famous French comic book series of the same name. For a Parisian treat, visit a patisserie, which seem to be on every corner. The whole family can choose a different pastry to enjoy, including croissants, chocolate chip bread and macaroons. You can also be adventurous and try two of France's most infamous delicacies in Paris: frog legs and snails. Don't worry, they aren't as scary as they sound!
Another fantastically family-friendly place to visit in Italy is Florence. The capital of Italy's Tuscany region, Florence is known for being the birthplace of the Renaissance. It's a great city to visit as a family as it's quite compact and all of its top attractions are conveniently located within walking distance of each other. These attractions include the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio and the famous statue of David. Italian artist Michelangelo made the masterpiece between 1501 and 1504. You can see more of his and Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance-era paintings at the Uffizi Gallery.
After that walk back through history, head for lunch at San Lorenzo a family-friendly Market and try a lampredotto panini. It's a delicacy you can only eat in Florence, so don't miss trying this local favorite. The best sunset spot in Florence is Michelangelo Piazza with its panoramic city views. While in Florence, you can also catch a train or do a day trip to Pisa, home to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Kids of all ages will love trying to capture a photo holding up the 14th-century building.
For a budget-friendly family vacation in Europe, check out Lisbon. The capital of Portugal, Lisbon has become a very popular tourist destination in recent years. The hilly city by the sea is known for its friendly locals, year-round temperate climate and delicious food. But there's also plenty of family-friendly attractions in Lisbon, including Castelo de S. Jorge, Praca do Comercio (a waterfront plaza), the 25 de Abril Bridge (a Golden Gate Bridge lookalike) and the Tower of Belem.
Enjoy a fantastic day trip to Sintra, with its colorful palace, or to Costa da Caparica, a very popular white sand beach. Another option is Cascais, a vibrant seaside resort with a charming old town and sandy beaches. As for food, Lisbon's Time Out Market is a great place to sample a lot of different local delicacies in one place. Try a Bifana sandwich, which is a crispy roll filled with marinated pork, or Piri-Piri chicken. The most popular Portuguese treat is Pasteis de Nata — egg and custard tarts.
Split is a Croatian city located on the Adriatic Sea, which is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea. If your ideal family summer vacation in Europe includes time spent soaking up the sun on a Mediterranean beach, make sure Split is on the agenda. Its most famous and centralized beach is Bacvice, which is filled with families during the summer months.
Further south of Bacvice are the Firule and Trstenik Znjan beaches. Meanwhile, Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and fortress-like complex built by the Roman emperor in the fourth century, is in the city center. This is another "Game of Thrones" filming location. You will find a lot of dining options within Diocletian's Palace, but try Riva, Split's modern beachfront promenade which is lined with palm trees and an abundance of restaurants, too. Due to its location on the Dalmatian coast, the food in Split has Mediterranean influences. Expect to see many pasta and seafood dishes on restaurant menus. From Split, you can also catch ferries to the popular Dalmatian islands of Hvar, Vis and Brac.
Consisting of a group of 118 small islands in a lagoon in the alluring Adriatic Sea, Venice is a very unique place. There are no roads in Venice (you'll only find canals), more than 400 bridges, and many Renaissance and Gothic-style buildings. Top things to do with the family in Venice include visiting Doge's Palace, going on a scenic gondola ride, visiting St. Mark's Square and St. Mark's Basilica and stopping for a snack on the Rialto Bridge.
Everyone who visits Venice says the best way to explore the city with your family is to simply wander down the laneways and over the bridges to see what you can find. Your children will love the Italian-style treasure hunt! You can also get a ferry from Venice to Burano, a neighboring seaside village filled with bright and multicolored houses. In addition to devouring delicious pizza and gelato, try out the popular Venetian dish of risotto.
From the turquoise shores of the Mediterranean to big metropolises like Paris and London, there are many family-friendly places in Europe that provide as much excitement as education.