City breaks, or even longer holidays in cities, can be great for the whole family if planned carefully – cities have lots of big attractions, from museums to malls, but also, since they’re home to many children, heaps of family-friendly amenities and facilities, whether it’s playgrounds or restaurants you’re looking for. But don’t overdo it – stick to a couple of attractions a day, and combine attractions judiciously (a morning in a museum with an afternoon in a park, for instance).
Particularly successful family short breaks combine a couple of days in a city with a day or two at a themepark – good options are Barcelona and PortAventura, Paris and Disneyland Paris, and Copenhagen and the Tivoli Gardens.
Before you choose, look carefully at the airport served by low-cost airlines – many require a long transfer to the city itself, so the saving can cause more trouble than it’s worth. And consider taking the train, especially if visiting Paris or Brussels.
Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour for an overview and to pick what you all want to see first/most.
Think before buying a sightseeing pass – you won’t save money if lots of sights are free for kids, or you end up visiting fewer than hoped. Find out if some attractions are free on given days of the month, and look at websites/in tourist offices for discount vouchers. See our tips on Visiting Museums with Kids.
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Consider taking a lightweight stroller or a carrier even if your kid no longer uses one at home – younger one may still get tired, even in compact cities. If you will use public transport, ask about multi-day family passes.
Pack a picnic – your kids won’t want to sit down for proper meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many museums have indoor picnic spaces.
Research family-friendly eating options at or close to attractions on your itinerary to save heading for the nearest in desperation.
Consider an apartment for greater space and to save money on eating out, if only at breakfast. Accommodation close to the centre is best, but consult review sites for noise issues.
If you want to sample local nightlife, check that your accommodation organises babysitting (most require at least 24hrs’ notice).
Consider accommodation with a pool – a useful energy-burner after sightseeing.
At weekends, ask about special offers – many accommodation providers popular with business travellers during the week struggle to fill rooms Fri–Sun.
For more tips, check our our family city break tips page.
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