Search our site

Take the Family › Greece

Greece Family Holidays & Breaks

Chios Island.Chios Island.© Visit Greece
Paragliding in Greece.Paragliding in Greece.© Visit Greece
Local octopus.Local octopus.© Visit Greece
Enjoying the clear waters of Greece.Enjoying the clear waters of Greece.© Visit Greece
Sunset in Halkidiki.Sunset in Halkidiki.
Capital City Athens
Flying Time 3.75hrs
Carbon Footprint 1.93 CO2
Timezone GMT +2
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

Greece is the ideal family holiday destination: much of the transport is by boat, the weather is warm, the sea is inviting, and the people are hospitable and love kids. Mountains, sea, beaches, wild herbs, olive groves, tavernas, boats: the ingredients remain the same but the contrasts and variety are phenomenal. Add the occasional Greek ruin or Byzantine church – a striking reminder of a lost civilisation that has become an organic and much-loved part of the landscape – and you can't fail to fall head-over-heels in love. And with the current economic uncertainty, the Greek tourist industry needs you more than ever.

Things to do with kids in Greece

Head for the lush green Ionian Islands in the northwest, thickly wooded with olives and cypresses. They’re very popular with tourists, and have airports with direct flights from the UK. Corfu and Zakynthos, and to a lesser extent Kefalloniá, are very developed, but as with all Greek islands, tourist centres tend to cluster in one region (in all these islands, the main tourist resorts are in the south) while other parts are quiet and undiscovered. As soon as you leave the coast and drive into the interior (car-hire is cheap and distances are short), you enter the timeless world of the Greek village. 

The northernmost island, Corfu, bears the imprint of England’s brief authority, and the Venetian atmosphere of Corfu Town (the Venetians colonised the island from 1386 to 1797) sits strangely with the cricket pitch in the town square. To get away from other tourists, take a boat to the green, wooded and underdeveloped island of Paxos. The historic buildings of the island of Kefalloniá were largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, but in the north the picturesque fishing village (another yachting favourite) of Fiskardo survives, with pastel-painted Venetian houses from the 18th century. From Lefkas, a short ferry journey away, you can drive along a causeway to the mainland, and on to Preveza (see below).

If you’re flying to Athens, there are a number of islands easily reachable from there that may provide you with welcome peace after the hurly-burly of the capital – they’re green and pine-covered, with secluded bays and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Hydra is the most picturesque, not least because no motorised vehicles are allowed: from the minute you sail into the multi-coloured harbour, you find yourself in a dream of long-lost Greece. Kids love the bikes and donkeys that provide the main form of transport along the winding tracks, while parents love the tranquillity of car-free streets (it’s rare in Greece to be far removed from the insistent puttering of scooters and motorbikes). Then there’s Spetse and Poros, playgrounds of Athenians, well endowed with pretty resorts and beachside tavernas.

Further afield, take a ferry from Piraeus or Raffina to the Cycladic Islands, scattered across the middle of the Aegean south of Athens. An ordinary ferry can take up to 12 hours to reach these, so with small children opt for the more expensive high-speed ferries with playrooms, games arcades, TV screens and restaurants (though of course you could just gaze out at the Aegean Sea). The Cycladic Islands are picture-book Greece, with blue-domed churches, hilltop windmills and the whitewashed cubist architecture of their towns and villages, where the dazzling white of the building-block architecture is relieved by the vibrant blues and greens of doors and window-frames and splashes of purple bougainvillea. Streets in the main towns are narrow, stone-paved and often barred to traffic (except for the ubiquitous scooters). In the heat of the day towns are sleepy under the relentless sun; by 5pm they buzz with activity as shop-owners set out their wares and the streets throng with promenading Greeks and tourists buying food and souvenirs, or just strolling around deciding where to eat later in the evening.

The Cycladic Islands are arid and austere but like the rest of Greece endowed with beaches to suit every taste. Distances between the islands are not great, and ferries run on a complex system of routes that can be a challenge to comprehend. There are reasonably busy airports on the islands of Mykonos and – far to the south - Santorini. The latter is well worth visiting – its pretty main town is perched on the rim of a vast underwater volcano that erupted c. 1450, sending tidal waves of destruction across the Aegean. Kids love the steep descent to the port in cable-cars (or, more alarmingly, by donkey), and there are expeditions by boat into the caldera (though beware – volcanic islets smell sulphurous, and are still emitting steam from vents, a sign of ongoing volcanic activity). 

Further south – 2hrs by high-speed ferry – lies Crete, a large and fiercely independent island proud of its rugged landscape, hardy inhabitants and history as the birthplace of Minoan civilization. Much of the north coast has been heavily developed, but cross the soaring White Mountains that run like a spine along the centre of Crete and you will enter a different world of peaceful mountain villages, dramatic gorges and wild landscapes populated only by goats and swirling mists.

Travel west of Crete to Rhodes, at the southern end of the Dodecanese. This group of a dozen islands is spread in a great arc across the southern Aegean, with some – notably Kastellórizo  – just a stone’s throw from Turkey. The most developed islands in the group are Rhodes in the south and, about halfway up, Kos. Both have had an eventful history and bear the clear signs of invasion and occupation – crusader castles, city walls, Ottoman mosques. Package tourism is well developed on both Rhodes and Kos, but it is an easy matter to escape, there is always a good balance to be struck between facilities kids love (funfairs, waterparks, horse-riding, watersports and so on) and solitude.

There are a number of more obscure Dodecanese islands – Tilos, Leros, Lipsi, Kalymnos – that can be reached by boat, and this is perfect island-hopping territory. It is never a problem to find rooms on these beautiful and varied islands, but tourism is low-key and laidback. The island populations are small, and the tourist season is comparatively short (June–Sept), as many of the summer inhabitants retreat to Athens for the winter months. 

To the north you will encounter the bigger, more imposing, islands of Lesbos, Lemnos, Samos and Chios. All of these – Lesbos in particular – have their own economy and substantial winter populations, and they are not entirely dependent on tourism. They offer a fascinating blend of modern Greek towns, ancient architecture, beaches, extraordinary landscapes (the petrified forest of Lesbos is famous), and striking remnants of the architecture left by the Genoese and Ottoman merchants who were based here. Further north still is Thásos, a pine-covered island admired for its ancient ruins and honey; the island literally buzzes.

Directly west is the last island group, the Sporades, with four main islands: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonnisos and Skyros. Many Athenians visit in summer because of their more temperate climate. They are intensely green and richly endowed with cove-like, wooded inlets and sandy beaches. Skiathos with its own airport is the most developed, but many parts of the island cannot be reached by road. All these islands are tranquil retreats, with lovely beaches, scenic main towns and unspoilt interiors.

If you’re travelling with small children, think carefully before exploring the mainland. The Acropolis in Athens can’t fail to impress, but the city is crowded and hectic and can be hard work. The interior of Greece is rich with classical remains and Byzantine architecture, but it is rugged and inaccessible. Head instead for parts of the mainland served by local airports: Preveza, Kalamata, Volos and the Halkidiki peninsula, which is accessible from Thessalonika airport. If you stay within reasonably close range of these airports, you will minimise the long-distance driving across the mountainous interior, which, although awe-inspiring, can test the patience of younger passengers.

The Halkidiki peninsula is the most developed part of the mainland; many package-holiday companies can take you to the Kassándra peninsula, while the neighbouring Sithonía is much wilder, with unspoilt beaches in the south. The third ‘finger’ is Mount Athos, a holy site for the Greeks, forbidden to women. Day-long boat cruises creep along the coast of Athos, and some of its 20 monasteries are visible, but that's as near as most tourists get.

Further to the west is Pilion, another fantastic peninsula, reasonably close to the large port of Volos. The high mountains of Pilion are thickly covered with deciduous trees, and there are many traditional villages with tall stone-built houses perched on the hillside and narrow cobbled streets. The mountain villages are ideal places for a drink or lunch accompanied by panoramic views. Down on the coast, the scenery is reassuringly Aegean, and flotilla-style sailing holidays abound. The beautiful sandy resort of Plataniá, on the southern tip, is a good jumping-off point for the Sporades.

Preveza is on the north-west side of the Greek mainland; from here't is a short drive up the coast to Igoumenitsa and the Albanian border. This is a lush area of red-tiled, stone-built villages nestled along the coast and rivers running down from the mountains (the ancient Styx is here). Coastal villages such as Párga with stunning natural harbours are yachting havens; at night waterside tavernas are packed with diners enjoying fish fresh off the boats.

See also our guide to the Peloponnese peninsula of southern mainland Greece.

Eat

Greeks love small children, and the relaxed atmosphere of Greek tavernas is ideally suited to eating out with young kids. You’re never far from a taverna: they’re perched on seaside promontories, spread across pavements and piazzas, and hidden in secret gardens. Often no more than a ramshackle collection of rickety tables and brightly painted chairs, they’re festooned with flowers – frequently growing out of old olive-oil cans – and always inviting.

Food is served through the day, and every taverna serves child-friendly food – pasta, barbecued meat, calamari, chips, salad. While your children are happily stoking up, you can enjoy a more eclectic range of treats, from stifado (a rich beef stew cooked in red wine with shallots) to kleftiko (oven-baked lamb), saganaki (oven-baked mussels with cheese) and briam (slow-braised vegetables). Fresh Greek salads are ubiquitous, as is charcoal-grilled meat – chicken, pork and lamb. The ingredients are fresh and the food is laced with the herbs – thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram – that grow wild everywhere.

Many restaurants serve local village wine by the carafe for just a few euros. And there is always retsina, local white wine scented with pine resin, which you’ll either love or loathe. Round off your meal with ouzo, a distilled liquor with a distinctive aniseed flavour, drunk – frequently diluted with ice or water – all over Greece.

When to go to Greece

Bring the kids between May and October. On many more remote islands, the season does not begin until June, but if you can find somewhere to stay in May, grab the opportunity – the weather is just beginning to warm up and the islands are green and flower-bedecked after the winter rains.

By July and August many parts of Greece are baking in relentless heat, and you might do well to opt for the northern island groups or mainland. September and October are mellow, golden months – beaches are lapped by warm seas, and winter seems reassuringly distant.

Cost

Greece remains one of the best-value destinations for family holidays in Europe, with prices falling over the few years, partly as a result of the country's financial turmoil.

By Liz Wyse

Related features

Top 15 Family Rail Journeys Around the World
Top 15 Family Rail Journeys Around the World
Georgina scours the globe for the best family adventures by train.
A Family Holiday at the Elounda Peninsula All-Suite Hotel, Crete
A Family Holiday at the Elounda Peninsula All-Suite Hotel, Crete
We rate the luxury resort guaranteed to put a spring in everyone's step.
A Family Holiday at Levante Beach Resort, Rhodes
A Family Holiday at Levante Beach Resort, Rhodes
Rhonda and Zac check out Mark Warner's five-star flagship property in Greece.
A Family Holiday at The Westin, Costa Navarino, Peloponnese
A Family Holiday at The Westin, Costa Navarino, Peloponnese
Rhonda and son feast and flop at the luxury Greek resort.
A Mediterranean Family Cruise Holiday
A Mediterranean Family Cruise Holiday
Nick and family take in Athens, the Greek islands and southern Turkey in one fun-packed trip.
A Kids' Session at Cucina Caldesi, London, and Other Family Cookery Classes
A Kids' Session at Cucina Caldesi, London, and Other Family Cookery Classes
A review of a kids' cookery class in London and round-up of other family cooking experiences in the UK and abroad.
Best Family Volunteering Holidays in the UK and Abroad
Best Family Volunteering Holidays in the UK and Abroad
Rhonda hand-picks voluntourism breaks with kids around the globe.
An October Half-term Holiday at Levante Beach Resort, Rhodes
An October Half-term Holiday at Levante Beach Resort, Rhodes
Rhonda and her boys have a blissful late break in the Mediterranean sunshine.
A Family Holiday at Mousses, Lefkas
A Family Holiday at Mousses, Lefkas
Abigail regains her sanity at a family-run, family-friendly complex on the gorgeous Greek island.
Top 5 Greek Sites for Learning about Ancient Myths
Top 5 Greek Sites for Learning about Ancient Myths
Theodora teaches her son that Greece's many archaeological ruins aren't boring.
Top 25 Destinations for Spotting Marine Animals with Kids
Top 25 Destinations for Spotting Marine Animals with Kids
Georgina casts her net for the best places to spot whales, dolphins and more.
Top 10 Valentine’s/Romantic Breaks with Kids
Top 10 Valentine’s/Romantic Breaks with Kids
Places where you can combine quality family time with some 'us' time.
A Visit to the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum, Athens
A Visit to the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum, Athens
Rhonda Carrier and her 9-year-old son find one icon that more than lives up to expectations.
A Mum-and-Son Break at Lakitira Beach Resort, Kos
A Mum-and-Son Break at Lakitira Beach Resort, Kos
Rhonda and her 10-year-old get in the swim at the popular Greek resort.
A Family Holiday on Santorini
A Family Holiday on Santorini
Dea and family discover that the Greek island is not all about its spectacular sunsets.
A Family Villa Holiday in Spetses, Greece
A Family Villa Holiday in Spetses, Greece
A runner-up in our travel-writing competition relives a holiday highlight.
A Family Holiday in Crete
A Family Holiday in Crete
Dea delights in her daughter following in her journalistic footsteps, inspired by the Greek island.
A Family Villa Holiday in Crete
A Family Villa Holiday in Crete
Nicole and family seek out the island's loveliest beach.
Island-Hopping in Greece with Kids
Island-Hopping in Greece with Kids
Theodora revisits a childhood holiday from the perspective of a parent.
20 Eco-friendly Places to Stay with Kids in Mainland Europe
20 Eco-friendly Places to Stay with Kids in Mainland Europe
Rhonda roots out the most tempting places for a green family holiday on the Continent.
A Family Holiday at Lakitira Beach Resort, Kos
A Family Holiday at Lakitira Beach Resort, Kos
Lucy Ace and family get into the holiday groove on the family-friendly Greek island.
An Eastern Mediterranean Cruise with Kids
An Eastern Mediterranean Cruise with Kids
Deb and family take in Venice, Istanbul and Dubrovnik aboard a cruise ship.
10 Unmissable Museums with Kids in Mainland Europe
10 Unmissable Museums with Kids in Mainland Europe
Georgina rounds up some of her favourite cultural venues on the Continent with kids.
A Family Holiday with Grandparents in Epirus, Greece
A Family Holiday with Grandparents in Epirus, Greece
Jos looks back fondly on a family reunion in the country's northern mountains.
A Single-Parent Holiday in Chania, Crete
A Single-Parent Holiday in Chania, Crete
Georgina and Arthur uncover untouristy gems on the family-friendly Greek island.
A Single-Parent Holiday at the MarBella Corfu Hotel
A Single-Parent Holiday at the MarBella Corfu Hotel
Single mum Judy Reynolds discovers that even the best-thought-out holidays don't always go to plan.

Let us tailor-make the perfect family holiday for you

Call: 020 3633 0653
or complete our form

Offer of the Week

Mark Warner family ski holidays
Quote 'Take the Family' when you book a family ski holiday by 9 October for travel between 10 December 2017 and 15 April 2018.

Poll

What do you think about all-inclusive holidays with kids?:
Skip to Navigation
Skip to Navigation
Loading...