You may have heard that city breaks are getting more and more popular with families. And to be honest, we’re not surprised.
Why? Well, whether you’re into castles or parks, live events or exciting museums, there’s always loads going on. We can get you booked in some great-value cities, perfect for shorter holidays at any time of year. Plus, there’s a fantastic choice of flights from departure airports around the UK, so it will be super-easy to find a deal that suits you.
Sounding better and better, isn’t it! Now read on for our pick of the best cities for family holidays.
Where is Rome?
You can fly to the Italian capital in under three hours. Known for its ancient history and mind-blowing attractions, Rome is in the centre of the famous ‘boot’ of Mediterranean Europe. What a place to take the kids!
Hitlist for your Rome family city break
• Colosseum & Pantheon – At the Colosseum, see the corridors that once housed gladiators and ferocious animals beneath the amphitheatre. While the Pantheon shows you just how astonishing Roman temples were.
• Catacombs – Perfect for Scooby-Doo fans or Twilight-loving teens, Rome’s catacombs are satisfyingly creepy without being properly scary. Explore the tunnels and chambers of these lovingly created underground burial sites before emerging for gelato in the sunshine.
• Trevi Fountain – Wander over to one of the city’s best-known squares, Piazza di Trevi, to each throw a coin into the elaborate fountain. Legend says it will guarantee your return to Rome.
• Time Elevator – Watch history unfold in front of your eyes at this 5D cinema experience. Whether you’re finding out about evolution or the Romans, it’s quite a ride!
• Vatican City – Climb the dome of St Peter’s Basilica for bird’s eye views of Rome. Marvel at the glorious ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the breathtaking Gallery of Maps. And set the kids free in the beautiful Vatican Gardens.
Best family hotel in Rome
4-star Crowne Plaza Rome – St Peter’s Hotel & Spa for its family-frendly location outside the busy city centre, and its summer swimming pool! About 15 mins on the Metro from central Rome and handy for Fiumicino Airport.
Where is Paris?
France’s capital city is just a short flight across the Channel – around one hour and 20 minutes from London, for example. Sprawling along the River Seine, it's an elegant mix of old-world charm and up-to-the-minute modernity.
Hitlist for your Paris family city break
• Pompidou Centre – As well as the main exhibits, you’ll want to check out the kids’ gallery and studio or find out what’s happening in the teen-focused Studio 13/16. Don’t miss the other top Paris museums too: see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, then swap art for science at Cité in Parc de la Villette.
• Eiffel Tower – Go up the tower to share the far-reaching views with older children and teenagers. If you’ve got younger kids, it’ll be more fun to take in La Tour Eiffel from the surrounding Champs-de-Mars park, where there’s a playground, ice creams and space to run free – though this will become a temporary arena for the 2024 Paris Olympics!
• Versailles – A real must-see, this astonishing palace is totally worth the short train ride from Paris. Think musical fountain shows, vast gardens, rowing boats, and a road train around the country park. You might want to give the two-hour tour of the palace rooms a miss with kids and teens, but Versailles town is lovely to explore instead.
• Theme parks – Jump on the shuttle to Parc Asterix (40 minutes from central Paris), which celebrates 35 years in 2024. Or catch the train to Disneyland Paris (35 minutes) for a magical day out. Prefer to stick to the city? Check out the rides, farm and shows at Le Jardin d’Acclimatation.
• Soak up city life – Snack on fresh crêpes from a food stall. Watch artists at work on Place du Tertre. Soak up the local atmosphere on a walk through Belleville or Montmartre. Take a boat trip on the Seine. Or browse one of the many street markets for pocket-money souvenirs.
2024 Summer Olympics: Paris and Versailles are set to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2024, so expect July, August and September to be particularly busy! The atmosphere will be buzzing but if you’re not there for the events, you might want to pick a different time of year for your family city break. Paris is drop-dead gorgeous in the spring, for example – perfect for the half-term or Easter holidays.
Best family hotel in Paris
Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris – it’s the dream 3-star base for a family city break to Paris. Kid-friendly themed rooms, indoor waterpark, playground, soft play and quick access to both Disneyland Paris and the city centre by train.
Where is Krakow?
One of Poland’s oldest cities, beautiful Krakow is around two and a half hours from the UK.
Hitlist for your Krakow family city break
• Wawel Castle – You’ll find this absolute must-do in the heart of the city. Don’t miss the Dragon’s Den, an ancient cave complete with a firebreathing dragon!
• Wieliczka salt mine – A brilliant family day out, where you can explore jaw-dropping caverns and play at being a miner on a guided tour. It’s around 30 minutes by train from Krakow, or book a trip to Wieliczka salt mine with pick-up from the city.
• Planty Garden Ring – The perfect place for a bike ride or just to run about and let off steam, this park encircles the whole of the historical centre!
• Kazimierz – Once a separate city in its own right, Krakow’s gorgeous old Jewish neighbourhood has a bohemian feel, making it a lovely place to take a break from sightseeing. Check out the laid-back cafes for some calm family time.
A special note on Auschwitz-Birkenau: While it’s not suitable for under 14s, you might be thinking of taking your older teenagers to this much-visited historical site, not far from Krakow. After all, Auschwitz-Birkenau is of huge national and international importance. It goes without saying that it’s a humbling and powerful experience. You can get there by bus (approx 90 minutes), book a shuttle transfer, or join a tour from the city centre.
Best family hotel in Krakow
3 star Antique Apartments Plac Szczepanski in the heart of Krakow’s Old Town. Make this beautiful building your home in Krakow and you’ll be treated to the luxury of your own family-sized apartment complete with lounge and kitchen – there’s even a washing machine!
Where is Barcelona?
You’ll find this sunny, beachside city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, about two and a half hours from London. The capital of Catalonia (Catalunya), Barcelona fizzes with family holiday energy.
Hitlist for your Barcelona family city break
• Head to the beach – It’s one of the top reasons Barcelona’s so good for family city holidays! Too hot for exploring? Beach! Kids need a break from doing stuff? Beach! La Barceloneta is the most central but Bogatell in the Poble Nou district is a family fave.
• Parc de la Ciutadella & Parc Güell – The best cities for families have awesome parks, and Barcelona delivers with the vast and glorious green space of Parc de la Ciutadella. And then there’s the quirky, colourful joy of Antoni Gaudi’s Parc Guell, an entirely different beast and a total must-do!
• Tibidabo Amusement Park – Take the funicular up Tibidabo Hill for quaint theme park rides with the added thrill of spectacular views across the city. From original Victorian-era attractions to a stomach-flipping rollercoaster, this is a real family-pleaser of a place.
• La Sagrada Familia – If you’re keen to book tickets for Gaudi’s famous basilica but are worried about the kids getting fed up as soon as you walk through the door, you’re in luck – there’s an entertaining audio guide especially for ages 6-12. Phew!
• Camp Nou Stadium – Talk about core memory-making! Football-mad kids will be made up with a visit to Barça’s home ground. You could tour the stadium, get your fill of footie facts at the Barça Museum, see if you can score against the Robokeeper… and if the timing’s right, soak up the unforgettable atmosphere of the beautiful game. Plus, did you know they play basketball here too?
Best family hotel in Barcelona
Unpack just steps from Barcelona’s most famous street at the 3-star Leonardo Hotel Las Ramblas. Perfectly placed for joining the city’s evening strolls with an ice cream in hand! Plus, cute rooftop pool (May to September) and cool digs to suit the clan, including rooms sleeping up to 5.
Where is Athens?
Around four hours from the UK, Athens is on the Aegean Coast of mainland Greece. A great city for a half-term minibreak.
Hitlist for your Athens family city break
• The Acropolis – Home to the celebrated Parthenon, this monumental relic of Ancient Greece is a must-visit. There’s a fantastic museum too, and you can get there by metro from the city centre. Just be aware you can’t take buggies or prams up to the ruins.
• The Happy Train – A fun way to sightsee without tiring out little legs, this road train will take you to highlights like Syntagma Square (where you can watch the changing of the guard) and the ancient Panathenaic Stadium. Hop on and off at the different stops, or stay on board for a 40-minute ride.
• Family museums – Younger kids will have buckets of fun at the Hellenic Children’s Museum in the picturesque Plaka district. Or for all ages, there’s the brain-twisting Museum of Illusions, Goulandris Natural History Museum, and the exciting Technopolis (which gets bonus points for its adventure playground!).
• Athens Riviera – Pack your beach bag for a day on the sand! The nearest seaside spot is only about 20 minutes from Athens, with others to explore along the coast.
• Idyllic islands – Yes, a relaxing day out on Aegina, Agistri or Poros is yours for less than an hour and a half’s ferry ride.
Best family hotel in Athens
Central 3-star Dorian Inn, Sure Hotel Collection by Best Western, around 200 metres from the metro. You’ll get a stunning view of the Acropolis from the rooftop pool, bar and restaurant! Triple and family rooms available.
Where is Budapest?
Budapest is the capital of Hungary in mainland Europe, about two and a half hours from the UK. It’s essentially two cities in one, with Buda and Pest sitting on either side of the River Danube.
Hitlist for your Budapest family city break
• Castle Hill – Explore the narrow alleyways around the castle, ride the funicular for amazing city views, and cross the famous Chain Bridge. Plus, of course, pay a visit to the dramatic Buda Castle itself – it’s Budapest’s top family attraction.
• Aquaworld – A huge indoor waterpark for family fun at any time of the year! There’s a fantastic area for younger children, the surf pool’s perfect for teenagers, and there are adrenalin-pumping slides for everyone.
• Palace of Wonders – This interactive science museum is a must for families of all ages. Even the littlest ones will love it, thanks to the cleverly planned Tiny Explorers’ Route.
• Children’s Railway – Not only is this 11 km train line designed for kids, but it’s also run by them! A unique attraction that’s one of the most famous things to do on family city breaks to Budapest.
• Margitsziget Park – Also known as Margaret Island, we can bet you and the kids will love some downtime in this blissful oasis! Hire a family pedal cart, play in the sandpit, and bring your swimming gear for a splash in the pool.
Best family hotel in Budapest
4-star Crowne Plaza Budapest. With a choice of board basis options, it’s ideal for flexibility-loving families. On the Pest side of the river, about 300 metres from the metro and 3 km from the Castle District.
So, what will it be? A mid-week minibreak, a weekend away or a full-blown holiday in the city?
About the author
Lucy Roberts blogs about all things holiday, with tons of Thomas Cook knowledge. And as a mum of two, she's always looking for ways to help you have family holidays that are memorable for all the right reasons!