Photo: Ermolaev Alexander/Shuttertsock

The 10 Best European Cities for Families, From a Toddler Mom on the Go

Europe Family Travel
by Olivia Liveng May 10, 2024

Embarking on a European adventure with a toddler might seem like a tall order. But trust me, as a frequent traveler and a toddler mama, I’ve figured out how to turn Europe into quite the playground. I moved to Copenhagen after marrying a Dane, and since then, our son Aksel and I have taken Europe by storm, debunking the idea that parenting clips your travel wings.

“We see more families with young kids inquiring about Europe now,” said Charlie Neville, marketing director of JayWay Travel, specializing in custom European tours. “Millennials are [having babies] and love to travel to off-the-beaten-path European destinations, so it makes sense they want to bring their babies along.” Yet, as a baby-making millennial myself, I’ve encountered my share of raised eyebrows when we travel with Aksel. Sure, traveling with a kid sounds like a dream — but a diaper-laden one most people don’t want to take on.

But that’s why I continually try to prove the naysayers wrong, showing that some destinations make traveling with a little one fairly easy. I’ve explored tons of cities with our toddler, and have my go-to list of the 10 best cities for a family trip to Europe. The best destinations for a family trip to Europe have plenty to do for kids, but also have enough history and culture to keep adults equally excited.

Travel’s not over, baby — it’s just getting started.

Lausanne, Switzerland

 -kids in switzerland

There are plenty of outdoorsy areas for kids to run amok in Lausanne. Photo: Anna Nahabed/Shutterstock

Lausanne is an underrated Swiss city that captures the essence of Swiss tranquility. With stunning views over Lake Geneva and a backdrop as appealing to kids as adults, the hour-long train ride from Geneva might be the most scenic journey you’ll ever take. And the cheese is fabulous everywhere you go.

What To Do: Plunge into the world of sports at the Olympic Museum, where interactive fun meets educational insight, potentially sparking a budding athletic passion in any youngsters. The town is very outdoorsy, with lots of room to wander through Lausanne’s cobblestoned old town or breathe the fresh Swiss air at multiple lakeside parks, perfect for letting children romp and parents relax. To extend your exploration, consider taking a family boat ride to Evian or Montreux, mixing effortless travel with breathtaking scenery. And if you’re visiting in early winter, the Christmas markets are a must.

Where to stay: Overlooking Lake Geneva, Lausanne Palace feels like a fairytale that caters to adults and children. The hotel’s rooms offer grand views, and on-site babysitting services allow parents to explore the spa or enjoy a quiet meal while the baby is in good hands. It’s definitely a splurge, but it’s near attractions like the Olympic Museum and the gorgeous lakeside promenades.

Florence, Italy

family trip to europe - florence family

Photo: Ermolaev Alexander/Shuttertsock

Ah, Florence. It’s known for negronis and a rich cultural heritage (and gorgeous parks), but did you know it’s also a haven for traveling with children? Its compact layout is perfect for walking with a stroller, and every corner is steeped in history. And the Italian adore babies.

What To Do: Delight young minds at the Palazzo Vecchio’s children’s museum with interactive exhibits that breathe life into historical tales (that are equally captivating for adults). Along the whimsical paths of Boboli Gardens at the Uffizi Gallery, every fountain and statue invites childish imagination to run wild – and is a great place for kiddos to run wild, too. And don’t miss the Bardini Gardens, with a quieter pace and impromptu puppet shows.

Basing yourself around the family-friendly Oltrarno neighborhood is a good choice, with an artisan feel and plenty of stores showcasing traditional Florentine crafts. You’ll find plenty of quaint cafes to stop by for a gelato break (or a swift diaper change).

Where to stay: Sina Villa Medici is in Florence’s historical center and encapsulates the essence of Italian luxury and family-friendly convenience. After all, the Sina Hotels brand is still entirely family-owned and operated. Rooms are spacious, making them ideal for strollers and sprawled toys with extra room for modern comforts like in-room cribs. There’s a secure outdoor pool surrounded by lush gardens, so kids can splash about while adults indulge in some me-time at the spa or the hotel’s restaurants. It’s also close to many of Florence’s top family attractions, including the Palazzo Vecchio.

More Florence lodging recommendations:

Tallinn, Estonia

old town tallinn - family trip to europe

Photo: Arcady/Shutterstock

Tallinn is another underrated capital that blends medieval charm with modern amenities. The city’s compact size makes it especially appealing for families with children, offering easy access to various activities. It somehow impeccably preserves its past while simultaneously looking forward.

What To Do: Visit Lennusadam (the Seaplane Harbour), where interactive maritime exhibits and a real submarine tour await eager explorers (and what toddler doesn’t love a submarine?) The Open Air Museum offers a glimpse into Estonian rural life with interactive reenactments. And at the expansive Kadriorg Park, you can let your kid run amok with hands-on learning at the Energy Discovery Centre, with more than 100 science-based activities.

Where to stay: Centrally located Kalev Spa Hotel is a play paradise for kids, and quite honestly, a relief for parents. The hotel has an on-site waterpark with slides and pools, perfect for entertaining children of all ages — and adults (those waterslides are something else). It’s also within easy walking distance of Tallinn’s charming Old Town.

Helsinki, Finland

helsinki - little girl playing in town

Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

Helsinki stands out as a Nordic haven, with a similar vibe in ways to some of Scandinavia’s heavy-metal-music-love and-black-coffee-drinking cities. But it has a leg up for families, with modern design and child-friendly spaces. The city is vibrant and approachable, with various public spaces inviting playful exploration and healthy surroundings that ensure fresh air everywhere you go.

What To Do: Start with a whirl at Linnanmäki Amusement Park, followed by a deep dive into the marine world at the Sea Life Aquarium. For a dose of history and scenic beauty, ferry over to the fortress island of Suomenlinna, a UNESCO site that doubles as a perfect picnic spot.

Back on the mainland, the Design District and family workshops at the Design Museum are an ideal creative outlet for little hands, and a great way to burn some energy. Helsinki’s cuisine is diverse and caters to all tastes, with many restaurants offering child-friendly options and high chairs.

Where to stay: The Hotel Maria has a family-oriented approach to Nordic hospitality, set amid Finland’s stunning landscapes. Parents will appreciate the ability to genuinely relax, especially if you book a spa suite with a steam room or sauna to use while the baby is napping in the provided crib. If you book a babysitter for the night, you don’t need to go far for fine dining, as the onsite restaurant Lilja and the more understated Garden Terrace are highly rated. Fortunately, the latter is low key enough to bring the kiddos along. There are also lots of pretty Airbnbs throughout Helsinki.

Barcelona, Spain

family trip to europe -barcelona

Photo: Alliance Images/Shutterstock

With actual Spanish spice, Barcelona bursts with life and sensory overload, from the fantastical creations of Gaudí to the bustling marketplaces and sandy beaches. The Mediterranean getaway fills your (tapas) plate for parents and kiddos alike.

What To Do: Families should be sure to explore the fantastical Park Güell, where unconventional architect Antoni Gaudí‘s playful architectural styles will captivate young minds. The green expanse of Parc de la Ciutadella is home to the Barcelona Zoo, and Barceloneta Beach has plenty of child-friendly facilities. And if you’re feeling brave, consider getting lost in the Gothic Quarter (though you’ll probably want a baby carrier, rather than a stroller).

Where to stay: El Palace Hotel is a top choice for any traveler heading to Barcelona, but especially for families willing to splurge a bit while visiting the city. It’s in the chic Eixample district and close to major attractions. Many rooms connect, and hotel amenities great for kids include special children’s menus and safe garden areas for play. Cribs and babysitting services are available, and the upscale but still down-to-Earth ambiance is a great balanced for parents and children.

More Barcelona lodging recommendations:

Dresden, Germany

family trip to europe - winter in dresden germany

Photo: Irina Wilhauk/Shutterstock

Dresden may not be the first place you’d think of for a family trip to Europe, but the capital of Saxony is an excellent place for a relaxing family holiday. It mixes lush greenery with mid-century architecture entirely rebuilt post-WWII. It’s suitable for families looking for cultural immersion without the rush (or the prices) of larger European cities – and parents, the beer pours are quite generous.

What To Do: Adults and kids alike will love Zwinger Palace‘s grand architecture and interactive exhibits. The city’s renowned puppet theater is one of the biggest in the world and an ideal place to catch a magical performance, blending entertainment with rich narratives that fascinate children. Also worth a visit is the innovative German Hygiene Museum, where exhibits on health and the human body are presented in an interactive format suitable for curious young minds.

Where to stay: Facing Dresden’s Zwinger Palace, Residenz am Zwinger has luxurious apartments and studios that feel high end but are still comfortable for families. Helpfully, rooms fully equipped kitchens and expansive terraces, which are a great place for an outdoor stroller nap. It’s an ideal choice if you’re staying for longer than a few days, as it allows for easy home cooking and units have laundry facilities. It feels like a home away from home — well, if your home was near significant sites like the world-famous Semper Opera House and the Green Vault, that is.

Porto, Portugal

porto portugal from aerial view

Photo: Rafael Bischof/Shutterstock

Just like Port wine and blue cheese, Porto’s coastal allure pairs deliciously with its deep-seated history, creating one of the best cities for a family trip to Europe on the western side of the continent. From its famed port wine cellars to panoramic river views and intimate historical streets, Porto has plenty of opportunities for family-friendly cultural immersion.

What To Do: Start your day with the babies with a panoramic tram ride along the Douro River on the Passeio Alegre/No. 1 line, capturing the essence of Porto’s historic districts. Families may want to dive into Portugal’s maritime history at the World of Discoveries, a sort of interactive theater where families ride boats through the colorful exhibits. (Information is suitable for all ages and available in multiple languages, including English). And for an unscheduled afternoon, relax in in the Ribeira district, where the vibrant street life and inevitable people-watching will entertain parents and kids.

Where to stay: Village by Boa is a contemporary “apartment hotel” perfect for traveling with kiddos, especially if there are multiple in the pack as units have more room than your average hotel. It has family-friendly amenities, including spacious suites with kitchenettes for preparing toddler meals or midnight snacks. The hotel’s central location makes it easy to visit attractions like the Porto Wine Cellars or take scenic strolls along the Douro River.

More Porto lodging recommendations:

Venice, Italy

venice italy child on bridge

Photo: Yating Kuo/Shutterstock

Venice is chaotic, but in the most picturesque way. It’s best enjoyed in the quieter months of low season, without cars and bikes (and relentless fanny pack-clad cruise ship guests). Don’t visit the “City of Water” in high season with a child, or your anxiety will skyrocket. Another tip: wear a BabyBjorn if your kiddo isn’t fully walking, as Venice, with all its staircase bridges, can be cumbersome with a stroller. However, Venice’s public transportation system is stroller-friendly, with most vaporetto (water taxi) stops equipped with ramps for easy access.

What To Do: Drift along the iconic canals on a vaporetto ride, giving your toddler a splashy perspective of Venice’s storied architecture. Explore the peaceful Lido for some beach time or discover the less-trodden charms of Cannaregio (one of the city’s northern neighborhoods) or the vibrant island of Burano, with its brightly colored houses. At the Giardini della Biennale (Biennale Gardens), interactive art installations make for a perfect family day. Leave plenty of time to stroll through local piazzas where the can kids mingle and play and parents can unwind with an Aperol spritz (after all, Venice is where the spritz cocktail was born).

Where to stay: Sina Centurion Palace on the city’s Grand Canal mixes Venetian Gothic allure with contemporary chic, with similar touches as its Florentine counterpart. The hotel has family-friendly offerings like spacious rooms, children’s meal options, and babysitting services. Unique to this location is a private dock, allowing families to hop on a gondola ride from the hotel’s doorstep (and without fighting crowds in the summers).

More Venice lodging recommendations:

Amsterdam, Netherlands

girl in amsterdam chasing birds - family trip to europe

Photo: MNStudio/Shutterstock

Amsterdam’s idyllic canals, vibrant street scenes, and forward-thinking architecture are a visual feast for everyone, including kids. Its landscape is interlaced with bike-friendly paths and bridges, creating an adventure for kids and a relaxed pace for parents to enjoy the more G-rated side of the city.

What To Do: Book tickets to the Van Gogh Museum with child-centric tours that turn art history into a vivid tale, as well as a museum-wide “treasure hunt.” On the family-focused canal boat tour, try to grab a window seat to offer kids a serene and engaging look at Amsterdam’s storied architecture. The city has plenty of food markets and child-friendly cafes, where Dutch culinary delights meet casual, cozy atmospheres perfect for family downtime and hot cocoa breaks.

Learning a few basic Dutch phrases, such as “dank u wel” (thank you) and “alstublieft” (please), can go a long way in making your interactions with locals more pleasant (and be fun for kids to practice).

Where to stay: The Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht Hotel is a superb choice for families visiting Amsterdam, blending imaginative design with family-friendly comforts and drawing inspiration from the whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland. The hotel is filled with playful and eclectic decor that captivates kids and adults, with spacious suites and garden-view rooms that can comfortably house three people. Larger families can ask about options for connecting rooms.

More Amsterdam lodging recommendations:

Edinburgh, Scotland

family trip to europe - edinburgh park

Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/Shutterstock

Edinburgh combines historical allure with child-friendly attractions, making it like Disney World, but without the Mickey Mouse-levels of anxiety and crowds. From its dramatic hilltop castles to intriguing underground tours, the city offers a captivating mix of history and adventure with lots of unique places for kids.

What To Do: When taking the tots to Edinburgh, begin the visit with a trip to Edinburgh Castle. Perched dramatically on an extinct volcanic crag, the castle provides a lesson in Scottish history. Be sure to ask for a kids’ scavenger hunt form at the entrance gate if your kiddos are running and reading already, as it gives the wee ones a kid-friendly way to stay engaged while visiting the large museum.

For outdoor fun, climb Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano, for another spectacular view of Edinburgh. The hike is manageable for families and provides a great way to burn off some energy. Families with slightly older (and braver) kids may want to book a daytime ghost tour of the city, with a more family-friendly approach than the evening tours that may be macabre enough to spook some adults.

Where to stay: Steps from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Fraser Suites are family-friendly, have kitchenette for easy meal prep, and are spacious enough to handle the hubbub of family life. Close to Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland, it’s ideal for families looking to immerse themselves in Scotland’s rich history without breaking the bank.

More Edinburgh lodging recommendations:

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