Welcome to our best of family travel destinations series, inspiring you to travel the world with your kids…and enjoy it!
For me, family travel means so much more than attending an endless stream of amusement parks or seeking out the nearest kids club. In fact, when I look back at the best experiences we have had over the last 5 years, they have all involved city breaks; strollering through the streets, taking in the colours, smells, buildings; eating at street side cafes and adventuring beyond the obvious. Far from the children being bored, city breaks have been a real adventure for all of us.
Don’t just take it from us, we have asked some of our favourite Family Travel Bloggers to give us the low-down on their favourite cities around the world, and why they are so great for kids.
Marta from Learning Escapes
The best memory we have about a city break with kids, goes back to amazing Barcelona. On a breezy summer day, we were having a stroll in the barri Gothic, pleasantly lost in its elaborate maze of winding streets. It was close to lunchtime and the kids were getting rapidly bored with the same architecture we parents found so intriguing; we knew our time for exploring was almost over and we would soon have to engage in more traditionally child friendly activities, the zoo maybe or the always beautiful Parc Guell. Then, at a turn of a corner, a little square opened up in front of us: a car-free, little enclosure of houses, the square had a small tapas bar with a terrace and, adjacent to the tables, an unassuming playground. Our kids dashed ahead and started playing with local children in that safe are; we sat at the bar, soon spoiled by a chilled beer in hand and a plate of Catalan tortilla. Suddenly no plans were needed and with a great sense of satisfaction, we looked at each other and thought: this is exactly the family holiday we wanted. More on Barcelona
Elaine from Family Travel Escapades
Edinburgh, Scotland is a great destination for families for various reasons: history, scenery, plenty of things to do (some free), and friendliness of the people. On our recent visit we found so much to do that we only skimmed the surface. We visited Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Botanic Garden, and strolled both “old town” and “new town”. There were a lot of things we didn’t have time to do that are great activities for families. More on the Royal Mile
Hoi An, Vietnam
Holly from Four around the World
We travelled to Vietnam when our daughter was barely a toddler. While the big cities were chaotic, Hoi An was the perfect combination of culture, great food, friendly people and beaches. The Vietnamese love kids, making it such a welcoming city, so there is never that feeling of embarrassment when your child makes a mess at dinner. Instead, they get smiles and special attention. Plus most kids are pretty happy with rice and noodles. You can enjoy wandering through the markets, or seeing the city lit with lanterns when the sun goes down, or simply enjoy time at your resort, or building sand castles on the beach. More on Vietnam
Nisbah from at Five Adventurers
I love Istanbul and I think it the perfect city break for families especially those with young children, Istanbul is a true fusion, it has both the old (very historic) to the new, it is the only city to be situated in both Asia and Europe and is a cultural hotpot with sight, sounds and smells to enchant even the youngest of children. There are mosques of the most ornate nature, cisterns both creepy yet fascinating, historical buildings from empires past and changed through time and time again after each invasion.
The Turkish people adore children and everyone will be welcomed open armed into restaurants and attractions alike. The country allows children to ride on a boat across the Bosporus, board old-fashioned trams and walk through old cobbled streets which have stayed the same for hundreds of years. A day can be spent in the Grand Bazaar trying dates or pomegranates and smelling spices to my personal favourite of a scavenger hunt. The food is varied and not spicy so perfect for children of all ages. A city break in Istanbul is perfect for families and you will leave richer in culture, history and local hospitality. More on Istanbul
Mark from Wyld family Travel
Lisbon is an amazing city in the summer with kids. Parks and gardens everywhere, tram rides and tuk tuks- yes, even in Portugal! Our kids loved walking along the river dipping their feet in and eating ice cream on the sand. There are castles to explore, elevators to ride everywhere in the city of 7 Hills. The best custard tarts in the world await when exploring the UNESCO sites at Belem and street performers hiding in every little square throughout the city. More on Lisbon
Karen from Mini Travellers
London is my favourite city to travel with my kids not only because it is the closest capital city to us, hence the easiest to get to, but because of the vast amount of free museums and attractions on offer. Granted in London you can easily spend a small fortune on food or attractions if you aren’t careful, but all the major museums provide free entry and are so well designed and fascinating that you can easily spend days touring the ‘free’ things.
Mine love the Natural History Museum but also the V&A due to all the costumes and bright colours. Getting around on the tube with under 5’s (out of a pram is easy) and free. If you want to spend a little money and find something a little quieter then the London Transport Museum is great too, definitely one for the list!! More on London Transport Museum.
Amy from Passports & Pigtails
For me, Rome, is the epicentre of my wanderlust, the city that speaks directly to my heart. Rome is a city that is about so much more than it’s famous architecture, it’s miles of art-lined hallways, it’s statues, fountains, and it’s Via Veneto. I’ve had the fortune of visiting Rome with and without kids. Each was a unique and treasured experience, and as a family this summer, I was able to share this city, and therefore a piece of my soul, with my daughters.
There is no better opportunity to view history, than from inside the Colosseum or grounds of the forum, or feel the power of worship, even for the non-religious families like us, as you stand in silence under Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or in a beam of sunshine coming through the oculus of the Pantheon. And just as everyone is exhausted and the light begins to fade, the kids are recharged by the sights of spray paint artists and fire dancers of Piazza Navona, a gelato on the Spanish Steps, a penny thrown into the Trevi Fountain or a cat shaped Margarita pizza that comes with the late night eating habits of Europe. We have visited several vibrant, bustling cities in Europe, but Rome simply touches my core, runs through my veins.
San Francisco, USA
Sally-Ann from Toddlers on Tour
San Francisco would have to be my favourite city on the West Coast of the USA. The city has such a relaxed vibe as you easily walk about the streets taking in famous sights like: Zig Zag Road (Lombard St), the Painted Ladies (Steiner Street) where you also let the kids have a play across the road at Alamo Park Playground, and then explore the art deco Coit Tower in Pioneer Park (Telegraph Hill Boulevard). San Francisco is a hilly city so if little legs get tired take them for a fun ride using the San Francisco public transport trolley buses, it is quite entertaining to see how they are driven and controlled.
The other great area to explore is the waterfront of the Port of San Francisco. There is a paved boardwalk along the entire city side of the harbour and where you will get views to the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also where you can catch the ferry for an entertaining and educational tour of Alcatraz (just make sure you book in advance and if you are carrying lots of bags, find a luggage storage place nearby). Finish off by relaxing at Fisherman’s Wharf; meander through the stalls, see the sea lions and have a drink over a bowl of clam chowder. More fall trip ideas
Marianne from Mum on the Move
Singapore is an excellent place to visit with the kids in tow. It is buggy friendly, nearly all restaurants are child-friendly, and the majority of malls have excellent baby care facilities. Plus there are a whole host of fabulous family-friendly attractions.
A visit to the Singapore Zoo should be at the top of your list, and the next-door Night Safari also makes for a thrilling visit, while across town the beautifully landscaped Jurong Bird Park houses over 8,000 birds and boasts the world’s largest walk-in aviary. Sentosa Island is family-getaway paradise, jam-packed with kiddy friendly attractions, including Universal Studios, the Southeast Asia Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark. Beyond the tourist attractions, there are two beautiful Botanic Gardens to wander around, the Singapore River to visit by boat, and colourful neighbourhoods, such as Chinatown and Little India, to explore. More on Singapore
Leah from Kid Bucket List
Sydney is a city rich in history, culture and adventure. It is the perfect city destination for a family with experiences available for every taste. From a tour of the Sydney Opera House, to a Bridge Climb over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you and your family can catch two icons in one day. Take a dip at Bondi Beach; a ferry across to Taronga Zoo; or walk the cobblestone alleys of The Rocks where you can glimpse early European Australia. You’ll find playgrounds littered between every site and plenty of great food spots ready to welcome your family. Ocean, mountains, lakes and rainforests. You’ll find it all in Sydney.
As for the Globetrotters top picks. That’s like asking us to choose between our children! I am torn… but if I could narrow it to only a handful we would choose our current home Abu Dhabi, my childhood home in Perth and the wonderful vibrant streets of Saigon.
Well, what are you waiting for? How many of our Top 10 destinations have you visited? Are there any top cities for kids you think we have missed?
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