Thinking of a break but want to go to a less-traveled alternative city in Europe with your kiddos? Here are 11 of the best alternative city breaks in Europe that will be a crowd-pleaser for all ages. Listed in no particular order they are perfect to visit with babies, toddlers, kids, tweens and teens.
Alternative city breaks in Europe:
1. Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg celebrates being the second-largest city in Germany by being a perfect getaway for the entire family. Because it is also the largest port in Germany, there are dozens of canals, a beach-like atmosphere, and multiple outdoor activities that are sure to please.
One thing I love is that Hamburg allows us to walk to many places. Especially when we stay in a commercial center like Mitte. It has easy access to main tourist attractions such as HafenCity district, Aussen-Alster lake, and Speicherstad. Also it is home to the Miniatur Wunderland. The world’s most extensive miniature train system. If you have little wigglers who get antsy in a vehicle, grab your stroller and let those tiny tots run about and enjoy the fresh air.
What to do with kids in Hamburg?
Stroll to the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall. An aptly wave-shaped building that has concerts regularly and spectacular views of the harbour. The older children will love the model ships at The Internationales Maritimes Museum. The little ones will burn off some energy playing on a pirate ship and enjoying a climbing wall at the HafenCity’s Schatzinsel Spielplatz (Treasure Island Playground) in Grasbrookpark.
Another enjoyable outside adventure for the whole family is Alster Lake. When the weather is warm and sunny, take your babes on pedal boats, paddleboards, canoes, and other fun on the water. After, enjoy some lunch at the many waterside cafes. There, your littles can fill their tummies while watching people jog by, walk their dogs, and skate by.
There is a special place for the older kiddos who want to be thrilled. St Pauli area has northern Germany’s largest fair. This fair is held three times a year and has rollercoasters, carousels, and food vendors. Just down the street is the U-Boat Museum Hamburg, which has a fully functional submarine whose engine and torpedo rooms can be explored.
Planten un Blomen is perfect for a picnic and it is also the place for little ones to run around and enjoy water pumps, play and climb, and then have ice cream. There is a special play area just for toddlers. Also, a Japanese garden and greenhouses with tropical plants and vegetation in case of rain.
Lastly, a trip to Hamburg wouldn’t be complete without a city tour in the HafenCity Riverbus. As the name suggests, this is a vehicle that travels on roads and water! Your kids of all ages will squeal with delight in this incredible activity.
2. Mechelen, Belgium
This is one of the perfect alternative cities in Europe to take a break with your babes. Mechelen is mostly a pedestrian city, so there are lots of areas for a stroller or for the littles to run about without the worry of traffic. In the city, there is a wide variety of kid-friendly restaurants and activities sure to please even the pickiest of kids.
The city holds a toy museum, the biggest in Belgium, along with a day’s worth of fun and adventure, such as art activities that the kids will love.
One of my favorite activities to do with my little travelers is the two self-guided children’s tours. You can find maps that house the routes to take and explanations of the sites along the way. These booklets allow you to find all the places that let you sample chees, cookies, and pastries. There is even a specialized kid’s corner at the cheese shop!
Mechelen is sure to delight your children and tire them out for naps and bedtime, giving parents time to enjoy a glass of wine and relax. Sounds like heaven!
3. Bremen, Germany
Bremen is ready to delight every one of your senses! View the monuments that will leave you and your babe in awe. Feel the cobblestone streets beneath your feet as you stroll to a shop to share the “Blechkuchen” your child. “Blechkuchen” is the most famous dessert in Bremen.
Once your sweet tooth is satisfied, you will want to let your tot work off the sugar with a free visit to the “Bremen City Musician Pantomine”. The Brothers Grimm is a staple on Sundays from May to September.
Get some silly pictures of you and your little traveler in front of a musical animal stature. In Bremen, you will relive your childhood while you introduce the Brothers Grimm and all of the animals of the tales to your child.
4. Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius has taken the task of being a city break destination for parents and children seriously. When you arrive, you will want to visit the tourist’s office to get a copy of the “Vilnius for Children” map. You may also download it from Go Vilnius website.
The map lets you check off 15 different kid-friendly locations in this alternative city break destination in Europe!
Vilnius is a must for a Christmas city break with kids. Each year the Christmas tree in the city is voted one of the most beautiful in Europe.
There are also incredible markets and one of the most beautiful Christmas light displays in Europe as well.
Take the tots to Bernardine Park to play at the playground or climb trees at Uno Parkas Adventure Park. Time to cool down after all that play? Grab an ice cream cone! Lithuania is known for having delicious ice cream with flavours ranging from the usual vanilla, to sake-fermented cod with pine-lime syrup.
I’ve written a detailed guide on visiting Vilnius with kids and you can read it HERE.
5. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Let’s go dragon hunting! Tivoli Park has a castle to pretend to be knights defending the land and all your loved ones, and the best part for parents is it’s free!
It is safe to say Ljubljana is one of the safest and most delightful capitals in Europe. The city also boasts the title of “European’s Best Green Capital”. It has a 100% pedestrian city center with accessibility for people who have family members with strollers, bicycles, and wheelchairs. Isn’t it the perfect alternative city break in Europe?
Next, visit the National History Museum with a mammoth skeleton to delight the children. Go to the markets to taste all the local fare and stop for a puppet show. Take one of the many tours, especially a personalized food tour, bike tour, or a tour of the botanical gardens.
Kids will love The House of Experiments with hands-on activities at the science center, the boat tours, and the Ljubljana Zoo! There is so much to do here, you will find it hard to choose!
6. Durbuy, Belgium
Known as the smallest city in the world Durbuy is like visiting a fairy tale with its little cobblestone streets and beautiful green backdrop. Just because the city is small, don’t let it fool you. It really is an incredible alternative city break destination in Europe for your family. There is so much to do to bring delight to you and your little traveler.
Start your adventure with a picnic while you study rocks 360 million years old at Le Roche de la Falize. Take a train ride to see the city, then get a different view from the top of a tower that overlooks a topiary garden.
Once you see the topiary garden from a bird’s eye view, your kids will want to go see it up close. There are over 250 topiary figures and is the largest of this type of topiary garden in Europe. The boxwoods are crafted into animals and figures. The littles will love to see what they can find. Your babes will even get an activity book they can do while in the garden, and they even get a prize at the end!
You can enjoy walking tours that take you into shops to try chocolate and other delights. One of the most favorite events, goat herding, will have your kids in love and giggling all at once. Chèvrerie de Borlon lets kids get up close and personal with the goats. They get to see milking and cheese making and even get to feed the goats and put them in their pens. This will be the highlight of the break!
7. Turin, Italy
Museums are plentiful in Turin, and you will want to choose the museum based on the age of your children. If you have older kids, you will want them to visit the Egyptian Museum. Kids will be able to “ooo” and “aaa” at the scrolls, artifacts, and the collection of real mummies.
Little ones should visit the National Cinema Museum in the Mole Antonelliana. You will be able to wind through the history of cinema, starting with marionettes and moving through to modern technology. Some of the exhibits are activity-based, so the little hands getting itchy to touch something may do so!
Grab the kids and head out for a tour either by bus or tram. Segway tours offer a more teen-friendly view of the city. And for an even more grand view, try the Turin Eye, a hot air balloon ride over the city. The kids will be safe with the support cage and the fact the balloon is anchored.
By the way, there are several parks your kids will love, such as Parco Valentino and Borgo Medievale. There are also amazing restaurants and shops you can get food from to take to the parks for a fantastic picnic in this alternative city break destination in Europe with kids.
8. Naxos Town, Greece
Naxos is a breath of fresh air for parents who want away from child-free zones and hotels in other cities. Moreover, it is also soothing to know you can do the whole town car-free and that means no lugging around car seats!
All of the hotels and restaurants are kid-friendly, and the staff is so happy to play with your child and make them giggle. Several places for lunch offer kid’s menus as well as an arcade along the water.
There are gorgeous beaches to enjoy with your tots. For example, Agios St. George, with a shallow entry for the kids, and Agios Prokopios which is popular and beautiful but has drop-offs to get into the water.
9. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest Zoo is not just a zoo but an adventure for your kiddos. There are hundreds of different exotic and domestic animal species and is more of an educational site that provides tons of activities for parents and kids. Along with all of the animals, the zoo is more of an interactive playground. There is also a carousel with a fairy-tale vibe and a castle that is animated with Hungarian cartoon characters.
The Centre of Scientific Wonders features a 9-D cinema and an escape room spanning over 50,000 square feet. Kids will love the immersive experience in Newton’s world of physics allowing them to see illusions that make them question what they are seeing.
Visit Cyberjump, Central and Eastern Europe’s largest trampoline park, Gellért Hill playground with a rope bridge and climbing areas, and Miniversum, home to thousands of miniatures, always a kid favorite. Finally, when the weather is warm, you will want to enjoy Palatinus together! It is an outdoor waterpark with lots of slides and a spa for the adults.
10. Lisbon, Portugal
Food is always a big plus for adults and kids alike. Fill their tiny tummies on a food tour while they stretch their legs and point at all the things they want to show you.
Lisbon’s aquarium, named Oceanario Lisboa is one of the biggest in Europe. It impresses with over 8,000 creatures from the sea. It is one of the best ideas with toddlers or if you need some time out of the sun or on a rainy day.
Your little travellers will love to visit the beaches of Cascais and Estoril and ride the trams to get a tour of the city, especially when everyone is tired from walking. While talking about rides, you cannot miss the Hippotrip, an amphibious vehicle tour of the city. Kids will be amazed as they are riding down the streets and then suddenly turn to go into the River Tagus.
And last but definitely not least on our list of the best alternative city break in Europe is Brussels in Belgium! Visit this graceful city of Belgium that still maintains its kid-friendly status. It is best to visit the attractions of this city on foot. So, grab those strollers and get ready to wind through the cobblestone streets.
Belgium loves comics! You will see buildings covered in comic-style graffiti. Did you know that the beloved blue Smurfs come from Belgian artists? You can go to museums that teach all about the comic art form.
Next, kids will love to visit the Museum of Musical Instruments. Little travellers will get to see over 1,500 instruments from all around the world from different periods. This is an interactive museum, so little hands can put on headphones and listen to music and other activities.
No trip to Belgium would be complete without the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. We all have enjoyed the tasty treats at home, but now kids can sample the delicious treat up close and personal.
As you can see there are tons of fun cities to travel to with your little globetrotter. You will find hidden gems as you escape the overcrowded cities everyone ventures to. Enjoy the discoveries of the road less traveled! Which one is YOUR favourite alternative city break destination in Europe?
Picture credit: Unsplash. com and Go Vilnius.
p.s. Considering Paris, France as your next city break destination in Europe with kids? Read our guide on what to see and do in the city of light and love with children:
How about a trip to Italy with kids? Here are the 6 best cities to visit in Italy with your family