Child-friendly city breaks
For adults, the city break is always a winner - new culture, new cuisine to experience, interesting architecture, and local sights. Children, however, are not adults and like doing different things. Their tolerance for looking at old buildings and paintings is somewhat limited, and no one is going to enjoy a holiday during which someone is always complaining about being bored. Children also get hungry, thirsty and tired quite frequently, so build in plenty of pitstops and opportunities for refreshment. Here are some trip ideas with the aim of entertaining and catering to the needs of the younger members of the family.
This charming city in the Netherlands has much to offer all visitors. While bicycles are an enduring motif of the city, cycling in the centre of town can be stressful for younger cyclists finding their way; instead, take the whole family on a cycling tour in the countryside. Those too young to power their own wheels can be carried in bakfiets, which are the child transporters that Dutch families use.
A day out could include a stop at a cafe for apple pie, touring an attractive traditional village, and whizzing past canals and windmills. In Amsterdam itself, head to one of the city's attractive parks - such as Vondelpark - which have play areas, well-maintained pathways and often petting zoos. In the eastern area, the recently-developed Oosterpark offers a terraced cafe and a new playground. For culture, the Tropenmuseum next door has a huge array of anthropological exhibits and lots of interactive experiences aimed at children, with more activities at the weekends. There are instruments and games to play, and a big selection of short films.
The Spanish seaside city has long been popular with adults, but there is also lots for children to enjoy. It has many play areas, including Ciutadella park, which has lawns for picnics, a lake for boating, and an enormous plastic mammoth that everyone can take selfies with. If the children want to go to the beach, try Mar Bella. This is popular with families, offering facilities for activities such as nets for playing basketball and an area for skating.
Children of all ages will have fun exploring the atmospheric streets of the Gothic Quarter and its imposing cathedral, fuelled by snacking on xurros (or churros), the stick-like pastries beloved of the Spanish that they dip into thick chocolate. It is fair to say that children of all ages will like these! Spaniards like chocolate a lot, and tired children may appreciate a stop at a chocolate cafe as a quick pick-me-up. For some culture, head to the CosmoCaixa museum, which focuses on scientific exhibits. There are lots of interactive experiences, a stunning planetarium in 3D, and a chunk of Amazon rainforest filled with insects, birds, reptiles and fish.
While children may not be totally enthralled by Roman ruins in the Eternal City, they will love the pizza and the availability of delicious gelato. If the children watched the film Gladiator and felt inspired, they can visit the Gladiator School and Museum. It is free to go in and wander around; in addition, there is gladiator training for a fee, whereby children can put on tunics and learn how to fight with swords and how to conduct themselves in battle Roman style.
At weekends, Romans and their families go to a park called Villa Celimontana. Built on a former vineyard in the 16th century, this was a grand estate and became a public facility in 1926. Green and full of fountains and statues, it is popular for picnics; in addition, many family-oriented events are held here, such as concerts and treasure hunts. The Zoology Museum is in the Bioparco, or city zoo, and offers millions of different mammals, insects and fossils. In the modern section are interactive exhibitions and colossal skeletons of whales.