DESTINATIONS / EUROPE

Things to do in Nuremberg with children – the best family activities

Things to do in Nuremberg with children – the best family activities

Top activities for kids in Nuremberg, Germany, from castles to theme parks, museums to festivals

Many people have only heard of Nuremberg (German: Nürnberg) in connection with its history.

It was of course the setting for the Nuremberg Trials held by the Allies against Nazi German leaders.

But it’s not only popular with history buffs. This city, located in the German state of Bavaria, has a lot of appeal for families too with plenty of things for children to do.

The Imperial Castle

A great starting point for any visit to Nuremberg is the Imperial Castle. It has been standing on a hill above the city since the 13th century.

In the past, it stood firm to repel visiting armies, now, it’s a peaceful spot. There’s a lovely garden around the edge, with benches and views over the city.

You can reach the castle by going through tunnels and gates which guarded the fortress in years gone by.

Inside there are tours of the castle or you can wander freely.

The cobbled streets around it are traffic-free and are a beautiful area to explore and imagine.

If your youngsters are interested in art, below the castle is Albrecht Durer’s House, where perhaps Germany’s most famous painter lived. The house is open to visitors.

Imperial Castle
Imperial Castle

City centre

Nuremberg’s historic centre is one of Germany’s most traditional. The area from the castle down to the main market square has some wonderful buildings, restaurants and is like stepping back in time.

There’s a market on most days in the main market square with stalls selling food, drinks, local produce and gifts.

It really comes alive for the famous Christmas Market, which is the city’s busiest time of year.

Nuremberg city centre river

Tiergarten Zoo

On the edge of the city is Nuremberg Zoo. You can reach it by tram numbers 5 or 11 from the city centre.

It’s one of the best zoos we’ve ever visited as it’s set in a forest so it’s a beautiful walk even without animals around every corner.

There’s lots of space so it doesn’t feel crowded. Among the highlights for us was seeing polar bears playing together in their enclosure.

We also watched a dolphin and sea lion show in front of a packed crowd in the sunshine which we enjoyed despite not understanding a word the presenters were saying (we don’t speak much German).

Another high point, literally for our daughter, was the bungee trampoline area. This costs extra but she was thrilled to bounce above the trees and have fun.

It’s quite a hilly site and there’s a lot of walking involved but being in the forest means it’s quite shaded even though it was 25 degrees when we visited.

There’s a cafe in the far corner of the zoo or you can bring a picnic.

A gorilla statue at Nuremberg Zoo

Playmobil FunPark

On the outskirts of the city is this large theme park, designed for children aged between four and nine.

There are different themed ‘worlds’ around the park with both indoor and outdoor areas to explore.

There’s a pirate ship to play on, knights castle to enjoy and other attractions based around the popular toys.

The park is open daily between 9am and 7pm.

Nuremberg’s Historical Past

If you’ve got older children studying World War Two then Nuremberg is home to two famous sites.

The first is the huge arena and area where Adolf Hitler and the Nazis held massive rallies for up to 700,000 people in the 1930s.

The arena is still on the site and there’s also a museum about the events which was being renovated when we visited.

You can also learn more about the Nuremberg Trials, where leading Nazis were prosecuted in 1945. You can step inside the exact court room, court 600, which is still being used for criminal trials today.

There’s a small exhibition about the trials on the floor above the court room. You’re given an audioguide to take round as the display boards are only in German.

Nuremberg Trials court room
Nuremberg Trials court room

Museums

Nuremberg is home to a host of museums – there’s a few which may suit children.

The Railway Museum is the oldest in the country.

Nuremberg has quite a history with rail travel as this was where the first steam train in Germany ran.

 You can see that train – the Nordgau – in the museum.

The Museum of the Future looks at how the world could be in 2050 with interactive exhibits for children.

Another museum instead looks back in time. Nuremberg has a tradition of toy making dating back 600 years. The Toy Museum features some of those toys from years gone by.

City Tour

A miniature train takes visitors around the old city from the Market to the Imperial Castle. It’s a walkable distance but the train is fun for younger children or to rest tired legs.

Festivals

We were lucky to visit when one of Nuremberg’s two annual festivals were on.

The Volksfest is a giant funfair with dozens of rides, a ferris wheel, large beer garden and stalls selling food and drink. It was a great insight into German culture and we loved wandering around and trying some of the rides.

The festivals are on for two weeks around Easter and also another two weeks in late August and September. Try and coincide your visit with them if you can.

Swinging on a ride at Volkfest
Volkfest

Nuremberg Cards

We used the great Nürnberg card designed for tourists.

The card offers free public transport and free access to most attractions for a set period of time.

Ours was €33 for an adult for 48 hours, and just €11 for children aged six to 11. Younger children are free.

It really made it easy to get around without worrying about individual tickets for different types of transport.

Nuremberg has underground trains, buses, trams and overground trains to choose from.

Just a visit to the zoo would cover more than half the cost of the card so if you’re going there it definitely makes sense to get one.

We got full value from our cards and found them easy to use and accepted everywhere we visited around the city, which doesn’t always happen with cards like this.

For more ideas of things to do in Nuremberg visit Tourismus-Zentrale Nürnberg

We visited as part of an Interrail trip and so arrived by train which works well as the station is in the city centre.

We stayed in an apartment hotel: Living Hotel Nuremberg, Germany: Review and tips

Living Hotel Nuremberg Germany GV Outside
Living Hotel Nuremberg

*We were given Nuremberg cards to try for the purpose of this review, all views are our own.

Brussels with children – family-friendly activities in this beautiful Belgium city

Brussels with children – family-friendly activities in this beautiful Belgium city

Things to see and places to visit in Brussels with kids and the whole family

There are so many wonderful things to do, places to see and activities to enjoy in Brussels, here is our pick of the best.

Grand-Place

The starting point for any visit to Brussels is the Grand-Place – its main square.

It’s huge and dominated on all sides by beautiful buildings, many adorned in gold.

A wonderful spot to wow children, it can get crowded with tour groups.

You can wander the cobbled streets around the Grand-Place – it’s not a huge city so a pleasant stroll won’t tire out young legs.

We enjoyed going into the renovated Stock Exchange building nearby to have a look.

The St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral  is nearby too – Belgium’s national church, which looks similar to Notre Dame and has played host to the country’s biggest occasions for centuries.

Another good spot to sit is the Mont Des Arts, a large, open space with lovely flowers and a good view over the city.

Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium
Grand-Place

Mini-Europe

A great way for children to learn more about Europe is at this small park with 1:25 scale models of famous European monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Houses of Parliament and Acropolis.

Mini-Europe is an EU project built in the late 1980s and the models still look great – they are all hand made and some cost up to £300,000.

You can push buttons to make Mount Vesuvius erupt with steam or at each country to play its national music.

When we visited, there was a little treasure hunt to follow looking for miniature statues of famous figures like Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and even Boris Johnson!

Some of the interactive games as you go round are a bit old fashioned but our daughter enjoyed walking round the site and learning more about the different countries.

They have to add more nations to the park every time a new country joins the EU.

Despite Brexit, the UK’s models remain in the park but the guide book doesn’t have any information on them now.

It takes around an hour to walk around the park at a leisurely pace and there’s a cafe and restaurant.

You could combine a visit with a trip to the Atomium landmark building next door.

The park is a little way out of Brussels. The Heysel stop on the metro is the nearest public transport.

You can also book a ticket and combine it with Tootbus Hop On, Hop Off bus experience.

Looking at the Grand-Place in miniature at Mini-Europe
Looking at the Grand-Place in miniature at Mini-Europe

Tootbus

We love a hop-on, hop-off bus when sightseeing. With Tootbus you can buy a one or two-day pass or even enjoy a non-stop evening tour of Brussels.

You can use Tootbus to get to Mini-Europe using the red route. This runs from near Brussels Central Station, out to Mini-Europe and then around the city.

We find hop-on, hop-off buses a great way to see a lot of a place quickly without tiring out children – and we’ve used Tootbus in other cities including Bath and Paris.

Manneken Pis

Okay, so a small statue of a toddler urinating doesn’t sound the highlight of a visit but it was one of ours.

And it seems others agree – crowds flock to the Manneken Pis statue. The boy’s a Brussels landmark with copies in shop windows, displays and postcards. People love to have their photo taken with him and sometimes dress the statue in clothes like football kits or Elvis outfits.

It’s fun for children to laugh at and keeps them entertained as you wander the streets, as they can spot every new model of the boy.

Manneken Pis statue in Brussels
Manneken Pis statue

Brussels Park

For a bit of green space in the city, visit Brussels Park, it’s up a small hill from the Grand-Place.

There are cafes and beer gardens, space to ride bikes and walk.

There are also playgrounds and fountains in this royal park, which is near the Palais De Bruxelles.

Brussels Park
Brussels Park

Food

One of the best things to do with children is sample Belgium’s favourite foods – chocolate, waffles and frites.

You’d struggle to find three better options to keep most children happy. In the city centre it seems every second shop is selling one of these three items.

Frites – think chips somewhere between the thickness of French fries and chip shop chips in the UK – are taken very seriously in Brussels,

You can buy them in a cone to eat on the move – with mayonnaise traditionally, but ketchup’s also always available.

We went to Fritland, which has been open since 1978, for a takeaway cone, and also Patatak, where you can sit at tables on the street and enjoy.

Waffle houses are everywhere, with two main types of waffle – the Liege and the Brussels waffle.

Make sure you get yours from somewhere making the batter freshly – they taste amazing warm.

You can go for any sweet sauce and topping you can think of, and there are also savoury options.

And chocolate – well you’re spoilt for choice. You can smell the aroma coming from stores and cafes.

Waffles in Brussels

Chocolate Story

Speaking of chocolate, there’s a small museum called the Choco Story Brussels near the Manneken Pis.

You get an audioguide to listen around a small tour with exhibits telling the story of the cocoa bean.

Then you get to see one of the master chocolatiers at work creating the tasty treat.

There’s even the odd sample to try as you go around.

Choco-Story chocolate museum in Brussels

We enjoyed complimentary access to some attractions to enable us to review the area. All views are our own.

Have we missed any activities that your family enjoys in Brussels? Please let us know!

Interrailing review – we take our children on a train trip around Europe

Interrailing review – we take our children on a train trip around Europe

The highs and lows of a family Interrail holiday using Global Passes

I get some strange looks as I edge down the corridor in my pyjamas.

I’ve already had to stand on a suitcase to get out of the room without waking the other three occupants.

It’s the smallest bedroom we have ever slept in and it’s moving at 100mph.

We are on our first overnight train and it’s certainly an experience we won’t forget in a hurry.

After boarding at nearly midnight, we have to make up the beds as the train rattles along.

There’s no room for us all to stand let alone store our two suitcases.

But it’s all part of the adventure. We have set ourselves a challenge to travel around five countries in 10 days by train.

And it’s made possible thanks to Interrail. We are trying out its Global Pass which allows us to travel on almost all trains around Europe.

This includes Eurostar and trains in our own country while on the outbound and inward journeys.

Frankfurt to Nuremberg train, Interrailing around Europe with children

Although the less said about our outward journey the better – signal problems saw our easy trip to London mutate into a four-train nightmare which left us wondering if we would even make it to the capital, let alone our Eurostar from St Pancras.

But we did. And it has been mostly plain sailing from there. Or plain railing, if that is even a word. And if it isn’t then it should be.

First stop Brussels. We visit Mini Europe with its miniature replicas of famous landmarks and indulge in Belgium’s famous waffles and frites (not together).

Most memorable is the famous Manneken Pis sculpture of a boy urinating in a fountain – he is everywhere we look – replicas are in shop windows, on socks and even made into mini chocolates.

The local trains we catch here are double decker delights to the joy of my daughter.

(Read our full guide to Brussels for more information).

On day three we depart for Germany, changing trains in Frankfurt to get to Nuremberg.

The trains feel so clean, modern and spacious. Plus, we are lucky enough to have the first class Interrail option – the price difference is relatively small and worth the extra if you can afford it.

After settling into a big apartment hotel (review here) and armed with a Nuremberg Card (which gives free access to attractions and free local transport), we start at the city’s pretty zoo where we spot polar bears and enjoy a dolphin show.

We get a glimpse of German culture, lederhosen and bratwurst at the twice annual fair Volkfest and explore the Old Town.

(If you are planning a trip of your own to Nuremberg, read our full guide).

Nuremberg
Nuremberg

Munich is our day five destination. Although it’s nearly 200 miles from the sea, we join crowds of spectators watching surfers take turns to ride the waves of the Eisbach River where it gushes out from under a bridge.

It then meanders through a huge park, the English Garden, where thousands are gathered enjoying the sunshine and the relaxed atmosphere.

We view the city from the top of St Peter’s Church and my son enjoys a visit to the home of Harry Kane and Bayern Munich – the Allianz Arena.

Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany
Allianz Arena

And you can’t visit Munich without stopping for a traditional Bavarian meal at world famous tavern The Hofbrauhaus, by far the biggest restaurant I have ever seen.

It’s nearly midnight when we take to our (not so comfortable) beds on the aforementioned overnight train, which is taking us from Munich to Venice in eight-and-a-half hours.

And the reason I am to be found early in the morning wandering around in my pyjamas? I’m in search of a toilet and my clothes are firmly inside the one suitcase we could fit under a bed. Our night has been disturbed by noisy passengers getting on and off and I’ll do anything to avoid waking the children.

Although I nearly turn back when I realise everyone else is fully dressed!

A couple of hours later, we arrive in Venice, not exactly refreshed from the journey.

But stepping out of the station is a feast for the eyes – the turquoise waters, fabulous architecture and gliding gondolas soon wake us up.

A canal in Venice
Venice

And the room back at our hotel later feels gloriously spacious after our cramped conditions the night before.

A travelling day beckons next. We take three trains from Venice to Paris with stops at Milan and Zurich. It’s our most stunning journey to date as we pass through the spectacular scenery of Switzerland.

We have three nights in Paris and manage a whistlestop tour of all the main attractions, without the help of trains, using the Tootbus hop-on hop-off buses.

A trip up the Eiffel Tower takes me back to the last time I looked over Paris from on top of it when my boyfriend asked if we could move it together.

Up the Eiffel Tower
Up the Eiffel Tower

So it is nice to return, now, married with children.

We can’t resist a trip to Disneyland for our last day where another train leaves an impression – but it’s just one of the rides, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Then it’s back on the Eurostar home.

We have been on 28 trains this holiday – so you would think I would know how to exit one.

But at our final top, our village station, I press the wrong button, only to sound an alarm that makes everyone jump.

What a way to announce our arrival home.

Are you interested in an Interrail trip, check out our full guide: Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train – The Family Holiday Guide

If you would like to hear more about this journey, here is our full day-by-day diary: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

Related article: Brussels with children – family-friendly activities in this beautiful Belgium city

Related article: Things to do in Nuremberg with children – the best family activities

*All views are, as ever, our own. To help us review the experience and areas travelled around, we were given complimentary Interrail passes, Tootbus passes, a Nürnberg Card and accommodation in Nuremberg.

Living Hotel Nuremberg, Germany: Review and tips

Living Hotel Nuremberg, Germany: Review and tips

We stay at this apartment hotel in the Gostenhof area of Nuremberg

Name

Living Hotel Nuremberg

Where is it?

It is in the district of Gostenhof, about a 20-minute walk from the historic old town.

It’s near to the Gostenhof underground stop on the U1 line which can take you directly to the main station.

What is it?

This is an apartment hotel/ aparthotel, giving you the best of both worlds as the rooms have kitchenettes.

It is popular with people who want to stay for a longer period of time.

Is it family friendly?

Our room was family friendly as there was plenty of space for us to spread out.

The open plan kitchen and living area

The rooms

We are in a two-bedroom maisonette which is spread over two floors with a small balcony. There’s an open plan lounge, dining room and kitchen and a separate toilet downstairs.

The main bedroom in our apartment

Upstairs are two bedrooms and a bathroom, plus the mezzanine-style landing has a huge desk built into it. (Great for us, could be a hazard if you have young children who like to climb).

Food and drink:

You can prepare food, make picnics and eat in your room – although there is no oven, our apartment has a microwave, hob and (rather noisy) fridge. There is also a dining table. And nearby shops include a Lidl.

There is a bar and restaurant on site although the restaurant was closed when we stayed.

But there is a separate breakfast restaurant on the first floor, serving a continental buffet.

The breakfast room

There was a good selection of fruit, yoghurts, bread, rolls, pastries meats and cheeses etc.

But my daughter was disappointed as the only cereal available was muesli and there were no pancakes which are her favourite.

Our highlights

*The size of our apartment.

*There are two bottles of water and two bottles of beer awaiting in the room for free.

The view from our balcony

Top tips

There is no gym, but you can ask them to bring fitness equipment to your room for a small charge!

Downsides

No space to put your toiletries in the bathroom.

A bit of a walk to the centre if you don’t catch the metro.

Nearby

The Old city is a 20-minute walk away.

The underground train station is nearby and there is a tram stop just a five-minute walk.

How to get there from the UK

We travelled by train! We stayed at this hotel as part of an Interrail trip around Europe, here is our travel diary: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

More information

Address: Obere Kanalstraße 11, 90429 Nuremberg

How to book: nuernberg@living-hotels.com

The reception

*Our stay was complimentary for the purpose of this review – all views are our own.

Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train

Interrail – our guide and top tips for travelling around Europe by train

Everything you need to know before using an Interrail Pass

What is an Interrail Pass?

An Interrail Pass is a train pass that lets you travel as much as you want across most of Europe.

They are for European residents or citizens only, if you live outside Europe you need a Eurail Pass instead.

Different types of Passes

Location

Interrail Global Pass is valid in 33 European countries, perfect for if you are travelling across more than one country.

Interrail One Country Pass, is self-explanatory – it works across one country. It lets you explore all corners of one country to really get to know it.

Time

You can choose a pass which lasts for anything from four days to three months.

Class

You also have the option of first or second class passes and this depends on your budget.

Second-class is more affordable but the difference in price isn’t as much as you would think and the extra luxury when travelling can really be worth it. Also, meals are often included which you can take off the cost.

Mobile or paperless

Mobile Passes work on your phone if you have Apple devices iOS 13.0 and later and Android devices 6.0 and later. 

This means you can have access to your Interrail Pass straight away and should never leave it behind. It also doesn’t start until you travel.

Issues can occur if you are using the Interrail app and it crashes so keep your mobile pass code handy, it will be a six-digit PNR code.

Traditional paper passes can be ordered online or bought at railway stations. You have to state the start date which offers less flexibility.

What to take with you

Pack as lightly as you possibly can as you will be carrying your luggage around a lot. Backpacks are seen as a traditional option but many like us, opt for suitcases with wheels. We chose these ones from Amazon – the grey three-piece – really reasonably priced, attractive and sturdy, plus they hold a lot. We took the large one on our train trip and used packing bags inside it. We also took the small for spare items, rain coats and electronics.

While you need to limit what you take, don’t forget the essentials:

*Passports and European Health Insurance Cards.

*A steel water bottle that you can refill. This means there is no need to keep buying plastic bottles and everyone can see which is theirs.

*Travel adapters and multiple chargers. We took this European adapter for a British plug to use with my laptop and hair straighteners and this one with only USB sockets for phones and Kindles.

Make the most of sockets on trains and in stations to charge your devices.

*First aid kit – make sure you have painkillers, plasters and travel sickness tablets if needed, plus of course any medication you need and hand gel.

*Credit card/cash – We took some cash for emergencies, around 100 euros, but used specialist cards with no foreign exchange fees. Our preferred one is Halifax Clarity but there are others available. Take a spare card in case one doesn’t work. And always pay in euros never pounds, if you have the option.

*No matter how nice the scenery, nobody and especially children, will want to spend hours and hours on trains just looking out of the window, so make sure you take things to occupy you such as a Kindle or other e-reader (you don’t want to be lugging books around), tablets, card games, activity books, cards or travel games which won’t take up too much precious room. Download any books, podcasts, films or shows before you go, there is often WiFi but it can be sporadic.

*Headphones – the whole train doesn’t want to hear Peppa Pig.

*Comfortable clothes and shoes, this isn’t the time for worrying too much about what you look like and being fashionable.

*A random one, but if you like an uncommon tea, take a few bags with you, I take peppermint tea bags with me then can always ask for a hot water to put my tea bag in if they don’t have any.

Seat reservations

So the beauty of an Interrail pass is being able to hop on and off trains as much as you like. However it’s definitely worth booking seats on busy routes.

Some trains have compulsory booking including Eurostar, other high speed trains, night trains and many in France, Italy and Spain, so make sure to check first.

It also means you are guaranteed a seat, usually have access to a charging point and can sit with any friends or family you are travelling with, especially important when you are with children of course.

The price of seat reservations is sadly not included in the Interrail Pass and the cost can build up.

You can avoid paying seat reservation fees entirely by taking smaller regional trains but this will make the journey a lot slower. We preferred paying for speedier trips between locations but if you’ve got lots of time, it’s an option.

Interrail App

Download Interrail’s Rail Planner app to keep track of your journeys, book seat reservations and access your Mobile Pass.

It should also give you the latest information on train timetables although this relies on you keeping it up-to-date. Some people have also reported issues with the data being wrong in places like Poland.

Alternative sites for timetable data include DB Reiseauskunft.

There’s also a fantastic website which explains everything about European trains and tips and ideas for Interrail newbies called The Man in Seat 61 – we used it to plan a lot of our trip, especially reserving seats and looking at route options.

Accommodation

Book your accommodation in advance. If you are travelling with children you need to know you have a safe, welcoming space where you can all relax and recharge.

It also makes sense to book breakfast in the hotel if you’ve got a long journey that day so the children can fill up on food they like rather than relying on the train menu, which isn’t really designed for youngsters.

Night Trains

If you have a long journey and there is a sleeper train available, go for it! It is such a novelty for children and the cost is similar to a hotel.

However, don’t expect to want to do it again!

We took a night train from Munich to Venice. Boarding wasn’t until nearly midnight, then we had to make our own beds up in a very tiny compartment with a toilet down the corridor.

The beds were hard, the pillows very thin and the passengers getting on and off at the various stops, so noisy, it sounded like they were in a compartment with us!

Am I glad we did it though? Absolutely. It’s a night we won’t forget in a hurry.

When things go wrong

No matter how carefully you plan, something is likely to go wrong.

You can’t prepare for train delays or cancellations, except to try to allocate more time and vow to keep calm when plans change.

Our first day of travelling on our Interrail trip went very wrong before we had even left the UK – full diary here.

There were multiple train cancellations due to signal problems on the line and we struggled to even get to London in order to leave the country and get on the Eurostar. Thankfully, all went smoothly once we had boarded.

Try not to let children pick up on your stress, you don’t want to spoil the trip for them.

Let them know in advance that things might go wrong but that it is all an adventure.

Above all, make the most of this amazing opportunity to explore new places. And of course, have fun.

Now read our INTERRAIL DIARY: Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

*This article contains affiliate links to products we genuinely bought for our trip and recommend. We may make a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of them.

*We had complimentary passes for our Interrail trip to enable us to review a holiday like this, all views, as ever, are our own.

We would love to hear any other tips you have, have we missed anything? Please comment!

Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

Interrailing with children – a diary of our adventures on trains travelling around Europe

The highs and lows of our Interrail trip including a very memorable overnight train

We are off on a 2,000-mile train adventure around Europe, only it hasn’t started off quite as planned..

Day 1: Disaster

Route: Cheshire to Brussels. 

Our day starts on a high with a plan to catch three trains.

But fate will soon intervene. 

Carrying as little luggage as possible, we catch our local train to Crewe, a big hub for the north west and here is where our problems start. 

Our train to London Euston is cancelled with talks of a signal problem on the line. 

We find another train but it has to terminate at Birmingham due to the same issue between Milton Keynes and Watford. 

Panic around us is rising as are passenger numbers as people from multiple trains cram on to a platform at New Street awaiting another one. 

We make it on and breathe a sigh of relief. We even find seats. 

But catastrophe rears its head again. After a 20-minute wait at Rugby, the screens aboard ominously declare that the train is not stopping at stops including our destination of Euston. 

Eventually the train driver confirms this to be true and the entire train has to get off at Northampton. The issue means that the platform already resembles a cattle grid and we join the tense throng. 

We have been creeping further south train by train but it seems we may not get any further. Will we even make it to London today let alone Brussels? We start to look at buses and coaches, our journey by train apparently foiled at the first hurdle. 

Suddenly an announcement that a train to London is leaving from platform one and everyone – now waiting upstairs in the concourse – surges down the stairs and back on to the platform, staff urging caution.

To make it worse, we then get separated, three of us packed into one carriage like sardines, my husband in another one with the luggage. We get off and reunite and I’m amazed to see how much clearer this furthest away carriage is. Lesson learned. 

Might we still make it to Euston and then St Pancras in time for our Eurostar to Brussels? 

Train one!

Day 1, part 2 

After a challenging journey and four trains, we are thrilled and relieved to finally arrive at London Euston. 

A hurried walk to St Pancras and we are miraculously still on time for the Eurostar and we sail through security and two passport checks (UK and French).

We have been given Interrail Global Passes to try out for this review – train tickets that allow us to travel on almost all trains in Europe. 

This includes Eurostar and trains in our own country while travelling on the outbound and inbound journeys. 

We are lucky enough to have the first class option, which actually doesn’t cost too much more and is well worth it. 

Our Eurostar carriage feels plush and quiet and we have a meal included. 

It only stops once, in Lille and we arrive in Brussels, Belgium in just two hours. 

Our sixth and final train of the day delights us all. It’s a sleek double decker and we make sure to sit upstairs despite the short journey from one part of Brussels to another.

We walk to our hotel near the main square. 

The city is bustling, it’s fabulous and there are more frites and waffles than you can shake a stick at. 

Waffles in Brussels

Day 2: Brussels

We wake in Brussels. It’s a bustling, thriving, fabulous city whose most famous resident is a boy urinating in a fountain. 

If you’re on a European rail trip then this, the capital of Europe and home of the EU, is a great place to start.

And Mini-Europe is the place to learn more about the continent.

Travelling there is our only train ride of the day. 

It’s got miniature 1/25 scale replicas, made by hand, of famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Mount Vesuvius and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We also visit a chocolate factory – Choco Story Brussels and a fun, famous sculpture. 

Manneken Pis, a bronze statue of a little boy and a fountain, was designed by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619, and has become a familiar symbol of the city.

You can’t miss him, there are replicas all over the place!

And yes we tried the waffles, they’re delicious. And more frites. 

Only one train today. But three tomorrow, we are off to Germany. Next stop Nuremberg. 

Manneken Pis in Brussels

Day 3: Back on the rails 

Route: Brussels to Nuremberg 

After breakfast, we pack up and catch a train back to the main station in Brussels.

Comfortably settled on our next train to Germany, we are happy everything is going to plan.

‘Please get off the train. There is a technical problem. Please get off the train’.

We are good at this now and obligingly gather up all our stuff and exit, hoping this isn’t a repeat of day one in England. It’s not. 

Twenty minutes later, we are back on and moving. The train is so, so nice. So much nicer than any I’ve used back home in the UK. The glass doors between carriages automatically slide open as you approach. 

The seats are fabulously comfortable – recliners with foot stands. 

There are tempting, private little booths for four behind glass screens available to book. 

These trains just feel so clean, fresh and spacious. And yes we are lucky enough to have complimentary first class passes with Interrail but all the spaces feel more luxurious.

The children are engrossed in their tablets and I read a book (via the Kindle app on my phone in honour of the first Interrailing rule to travel light) and properly relax for the first time in a long while. 

The gentle swaying, the views – trains are my favourite way to travel when things go to plan. And with me they often don’t.*

A car is never an altogether relaxing experience, even when you’re not the driver, planes feel so cramped and your ears pop. 

The station at Frankfurt is a further revelation, it’s bright, airy and welcoming.

We board our final train of the day for Nuremberg. 

Boarding at Frankfurt for Nuremberg

*Just ask my friends about the time last month when I was meant to be meeting them for a long-awaited catch-up in Birmingham and accidentally ended up on a non-stop train to London Euston.

Day 4: Nuremberg

I wasn’t expecting to see polar bears in Germany. Or a dolphin show.

But both are highlights of our trip to Nuremberg Zoo, a pretty site and an unexpected workout (it’s very hilly). 

Travelling around this city is easy as it has both a tram service and underground trains.

And the tram drops you directly outside the zoo.

Paying for attractions and transport is a doddle* too as it is all free if you buy a Nürnberg Card.**

Worth it for the convenience as well as the cost – zoo entry alone would be over half the price of the card.

We are lucky enough to be here for the twice yearly fair Volksfest.

There are lederhosen, bratwurst, a great family atmosphere and lots of funfair rides. A real glimpse of German culture – and the weather helps as it’s an unseasonably warm and sunny 25 degrees. Shame I forgot to pack our sunglasses while ‘travelling light’. 

We are staying at The Living Hotel in the suburb of Gostenhof on the outskirts of the city.

It’s nice to be able to spread out as our roomy apartment has two floors, plus the bonus of a small kitchen and two bedrooms.

The Old Town is just a 20-minute walk away.

We have more exploring to do here tomorrow before we leave for Munich.

And I must buy some sunglasses. 

Nuremberg Zoo

*I pledge to drop this expression into conversations more regularly, it’s not used enough! 

Day 5: Munich 

Surfing and flirting 

Munich may be nearly 200 miles from the sea but it doesn’t stop professional surfers from flocking here.

They come to enjoy some of the best river surfing in the world and it’s a spectacle to behold as they take it in turns to ride waves that surge from under a bridge.

Crowds of spectators watch to see how long they last before plunging into the water and being whipped downstream. 

It happens on the edge of a park, the English Garden. The Eisbach river continues to flow through the park, creating a lazy river effect.

Today in 25C temperatures, dozens are using it to cool off.

There are thousands of mainly younger people enjoying the warm weather in this huge open space. There’s an amazing vibe and it’s fascinating to walk among them as they dance, play volleyball, sunbathe and flirt. It takes me back a few years. Or possibly decades. 

Games continue in another beautiful nearby park – Hofgarten – with groups of people playing boules.

There’s an almost film set feel about the place that I can’t quite put my finger on not least because of the appearance of some of the buildings. 

Loads get around by bicycle, but transport options are plenty, you can use trams, underground trains and electric scooters. 

It feels like a salubrious university city, which it is. This the country’s third biggest city is also one of its wealthiest. 

It took just an hour to get here from Nuremberg where we started the day wandering the historic streets around the Imperial Castle.

We’ve got another full day to enjoy here tomorrow before our very exciting overnight train to Venice. 

Surfing on Eisbach river in Munich

Day 6: Munich 

Workouts and lederhosen

I have an unexpected workout today. Three hundred and six steps to climb St Peter’s Tower in order to tremble on a narrow ledge with great views over Munich. 

We also look around the Viktualinen market which has opened every day (other than Sundays and public holidays) since 1807. And then wait with a crowd, phones all around pointed in the air, to watch the 11am Marienplatz clock tower show. It’s a mechanical clock which re-enacts scenes from Munich’s history on the grand New City Hall. 

Meanwhile my son is keen to see the home of Harry Kane – and Bayern Munich – the Allianz Arena. 

Inside you can do a tour of the stadium and visit the Bayern Munich museum and club shop. The museum’s very well done, with displays in German and English.

Next we take a flight through 7,000 years of Bavarian history (Munich is the capital of Bavaria) with VR technology at TimeRide Munich. 

There’s plenty of history in our dinner choice.

The Hofbräuhaus has been serving beer, sausages and more since the 1500s.

It’s absolutely huge, full of atmosphere, music and filling German food. 

Sat at tables around us are some of the regulars, often in lederhosen, drinking out of their own beer jugs – kept under lock and key for them. 

No time for trying too much beer though for any of us – we’ve got a night train to Venice to catch.

Next stop Italy.

At the top of St Peter’s Tower in Munich

Day 7: The reality of an overnight train and tears for Venice 

So I don’t get much sleep. 

As it turns out, overnight trains are rather noisy and the beds do not feel like fluffy clouds.

I’m a two-pillow kind of girl but I may as well be lying horizontal, they are so thin. 

Our compartment is obviously tiny. With four of us and two suitcases plus a ladder to get to the top two bunks taking up valuable floor space, attempting to make up the beds when we get inside at nearly midnight on a moving train, is a bit of a challenge. 

The passengers laughing, shouting and  chatting as they get on and off at the various stops, sound like they are in the room with us as we try to sleep. 

Plus a loud ‘Get off the train, get off the train,’ by a guard at one point to a man who presumably has wandered on when he shouldn’t have, is slightly alarming. 

I’m also not sure of the sleep train/pyjama etiquette. There is no en-suite to our cabin and I have to pop to the loo early in the morning while the other three are sleeping.

My clothes are shut in our smaller case which eventually had fitted under a bed (no such luck with the bigger one which I have to clamber over to get out of the room). So I am forced to shuffle self-consciously along the corridor in my PJs. 

EVERYBODY else I see is fully clothed. Is this an embarrassing faux pas? Should I have slept in my clothes? 

I also miss the nearest toilet and have to get into the next compartment along a wobbly connector. Then do the walk of shame all the way back!

Hoping for a final hour of sleep, the guard then brings around four breakfast trays which I balance on the bed around me, until they wake up. Then he is back again to collect all the bed sheets and pillows that they are still sleeping in.

It’s not all bad though. Although I won’t be hurrying to try out an overnight train again, I’m very glad we did it. 

What an experience to travel in a bed and wake up (if I’d slept) in another country for the cost of a hotel room. 

And what a country it is. We love Italy and the children have never been to Venice before. 

We’ve only had one weekend here pre-children and I feel emotional as we leave the station and our eyes feast upon the turquoise waters backed by picturesque architecture. 

My favourite part is standing on the little bridges watching and photographing as the gondolas pass underneath.

We make the most of our day in Italy to dine on divine pasta and pizza.

And I have never appreciated a hotel room as much as the one we are in now, its spaciousness is heaven-sent.

The view from the famous Rialto Bridge 

Day 8

Location: All over the place

We are having a travelling day, working our way across Europe from Venice to Paris with stops in Milan and Zurich. 

The route through Switzerland is slow through the mountains but scenic and I wish we had time to stop for a night here to take in the views some more. 

I also wish for the first time that I’d taken a travel sickness tablet as it is rather winding! 

The children have done well with journeys of two, four and four hours. 

Our last train is a double decker and we sit upstairs although much of the journey is through darkness as night falls. 

I sleep on and off despite the interior automatic doors sounding like the drum sequence used after a joke’s punchline on opening and firmly shutting on everyone on closing, even trapping my handbag in its clutches at one point. 

Other sounds come from our fellow passengers. We aren’t in first class for this leg. Despite our first class Interrail Global Passes (kindly gifted for our review) some trains require seat reservation costs and the charge for the better seats was much higher for this particular train. 

The family next to us make their presence known and break many unofficial train travelling rules throughout the hours. Starting with a loud FaceTime call to a toddler, continuing while watching music videos without headphones and ending with a series of loud, unapologetic burps from the dad! 

The seats are still lovely and comfortable with plenty of leg room. 

We set off at 8.30am and are due to arrive in Paris at 10.30pm. 

Day 9: Paris

I love the Eiffel Tower. Standing on it looking over Paris many years ago, my then boyfriend asked if we could move in together. 

So to return today, not only living together but married with two children, feels special. 

Although this time he says he wants to ask me to move out instead. He jokes. I think. 

Not only do I go back up it, I also photograph and film it from all different angles. 

Including from the top of a hop-on hop-off Tootbus. 

It’s a fabulous vantage point for lots of key Paris landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées.

There’s an audio guide on board and place to charge your phones. 

And it stops at all the best tourist spots so we can explore around the Louvre and enjoy a crêpe in the Tuileries Garden.

Notre-Dame is still impressive despite being under reconstruction following the fire nearly five years ago while a violinist gets even more attention than the cathedral itself as she shimmies about while playing beneath it. 

We finally alight back outside the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889 and now surrounded by men trying to sell miniature sparkly models. 

My daughter, having started off the day excitedly spotting the Eiffel Tower, ends the day clutching a rose pink replica to take home. 

And I have another crêpe. 

Day 10: Paris

We hurtle along at an alarming rate, thrown from side to side while people scream all around us. 

This train is not the relaxing, comfortable experience we have come to expect over our mammoth railway journey. 

Thankfully it’s not part of our Interrail experience. 

It’s a coal train – the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride to be exact. 

We have decided to spend our last day before we travel home at Disneyland Paris. 

And it’s another sunny, warm day to end our Easter Holidays European adventure. 

We enjoy lots of rides and a fabulous Disney show under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. 

Meanwhile we are getting our beauty sleep in a hotel for the last time. Tomorrow we are homeward bound.  

Disneyland Paris

Day 11: The journey back

After nearly 30 trains in 11 days you would think I would know how to exit one. 

But typically, it seems I don’t and have to bring attention to our arrival home. 

I confidently press the green button to open the door at our village station and a loud alarm sounds. 

I have inadvertently pushed the SOS button, scaring passengers and driver alike. 

It’s the end of another travelling day and the end of our Interrail adventure. 

Arriving in England on Eurostar I’m pleasantly surprised at how grand and welcoming St Pancras station is after being impressed with its European counterparts like Frankfurt. 

And impressed with the speed of the journey – six hours from Paris to our home in Cheshire. 

We have travelled over 2,000 miles on this trip.

If you include every journey, long and short, we have been on 28 trains, six trams, five hop-on hop-off buses and one water taxi. 

Plus of course, there’s been a lot of walking.

What an experience but now I’m glad to be at our final stop. 

We are home. 

Catching Eurostar home from Paris

All views are, as ever, our own. To help us review the experience and areas travelled around, we were given complimentary Interrail passes, Tootbus passes, a Nürnberg Card and accommodation in Nuremberg.

Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

We take a trip to the home of Ronaldo – the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira

There’s a spontaneous and enthusiastic round of applause as our plane touches down in Madeira.

We are cheering both the gentle landing and the stunning approach to this airport said to be so challenging to land at that pilots need special training.

Stepping off the plane, I catch a first glimpse of the countless red-roofed homes scattered over the hills which will become an abiding memory from this trip.

That and the view from our hotel room, pina colada slipping down as easily as the waves roll over the rocks in the Atlantic Ocean below us.

I’ll be as bold as to say this might be one of the best hotel room views we’ve ever had.

But then we are in Madeira – an island where stunning scenery is around every corner.

Our particular corner of this Portuguese island is the village of Canico de Baixo.

And our hotel is the Riu Madeira. A large, all-inclusive resort with two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, as much fresh food as you can eat and as many cocktails as you can drink.

One of the outdoor pools at the Riu Madeira hotel

One of the outdoor pools

There’s also a tennis court, games room, an area to play bowls and evening entertainment from singers, bands, magicians and a ballroom dancing duo who call up our daughter to help demonstrate her Strictly Come Dancing skills.

The applause makes her day. And it’s the staff here, especially those in the busy restaurant area, who deserve a pat on the back.

It can’t be easy to keep guests from over 300 rooms fed and watered but they come round to top up your wine glass with an efficient smile before it’s even half emptied.

We’re almost as quick to clear our plates of tasty food. The main restaurant is buffet style catering to every possible preference. There’s also a more adult focussed Kulinarium restaurant with table service. And a poolside bar and grill.

The main bedroom in our junior suite room at Riu Madeira hotel

The main bedroom in our junior suite

Our room is a junior suite with two large beds and a sofa bed for the four of us to choose from.

Having a separate lounge area allows us to spread out as does the large dressing room area – all kept spotless by our lovely maid.

Oh and that balcony I mentioned earlier overlooking the sea. It is literally a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel

Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel

And there are plenty of stones to throw on the rocky beach.

The area around the hotel is a fun place to explore with caves, a small seawater pool, exercise equipment and a busy promenade to enjoy.

The lure of the swimming pool at our hotel is just as popular with our children – indoors if the showers sweep in, or outdoors when the sun shines.

Fortunately the sun is out for most of our week in Madeira so we can explore the narrow, hilly roads around the island.

We head east to the stunning clifftop walk of Ponta de São Lourenço .

The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço

The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço

Drive north west through mountains and tunnels to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.

Seawater pools in Porto Moniz

Seawater pools in Porto Moniz

And go south to Câmara de Lobos – a fishing village made famous by Winston Churchill, who painted its pretty harbour when he came in 1950.

Children looking at Churchill's view in Camara de Lobos

Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos

One must in Madeira is to head up high.

We take the cable car from the centre of capital Funchal to Monte. It’s a spectacular ride and at the top you can enjoy the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again on the cable car.

A statue and flowers in Monte Palace Garden, Madeira

Monte Palace Garden

Another way down is by toboggan on a traditional wicker basket sleigh along steep streets, guided by two people with nothing for brakes but the grips on their shoes.

If you like heights it’s worth stopping by at the Madeira Skywalk. You can walk across a glass walkway on a balcony 580 metres above the sea attached to some of the highest cliffs in Europe.

Madeira Skywalk

Madeira Skywalk

After a busy week of highs, it’s nearly time to leave.

The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk

The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk

For a last time, we awaken and pull back the curtains to enjoy the view and the sound of the Atlantic from our bed.

Then it’s back to the airport, named after the island’s most famous export.

Not its fortified wine but the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

He was born here and returns regularly and this is one happy family which may follow suit.

 

Where we stayed

The Riu Madeira hotel in Canico de Baixo, a four-star all inclusive, read our full guide and review to it here.

What to do in Madeira

*Visit the capital Funchal and take the Madeira Cable Car up to the large Monte Palace Gardens which are set on the steep hillside.

*Take a toboggan ride on a traditional wicker basket.

*Visit the traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, visited by Winston Churchill and find the spot where he painted the view. Also look for his statue in the village.

*Visit the salt water pools at Porto Moniz and the small aquarium in the town.

*Take a walk at inland Levadas – similar to canal paths – at various sites throughout Madeira. The Fanal forest walk in the north west of the island is one of the best places to explore.

*Take a walk at Ponta de São Lourenço for stunning scenery and ocean views,

*Visit Santa Catarina park Funchal with its large playground, busy lake and views over Funchal and its port.

*Football fans can stop at the CR7 Museu – a museum dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo on the waterfront in Funchal. There is a statue of the footballer outside.

*Stop by at the Madeira Skywalk on the cliffs of Cabo Girão and walk across the glass walkway on a balcony that juts out of some of the highest cliffs in Europe, 880 meters above sea level.

RELATED CONTENT: Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

*We received complimentary accommodation for some of our stay at the Riu Madeira, all views are our own.

 

 

Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

We review the Riu Madeira Hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira and give you a video tour

We love a Riu hotel so when we found out the Riu Madeira had been refurbished, we were excited to try it out. Here’s our full review and guide to this four-star all-inclusive on the gorgeous Portuguese island of Madeira.

Name

Riu Madeira

Where is it?

The hotel is in Praia dos Reis Magos in Caniço de Baixo on the south coast of the Portuguese island of Madeira, east of the capital Funchal.

It is nestled in the hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Outdoor restaurant seating at the Riu Madeira hotel

Outdoor restaurant seating

What is it?

It’s a four-star all-inclusive hotel with three restaurants and two pools and is one of the Riu Hotels & Resorts hotels.

As it’s all-inclusive, everyone wears a wristband and all food and drink is included. It also has a spa, hairdressers, lobby bar and a big room to watch shows and entertainment each evening.

Swimming pools and the sea at the Riu Madeira hotel.

Is it family friendly?

It’s great for everyone including families. Children will love the pools, location and food – there’s so much choice that there should be something for even the fussiest eaters including pizza and three pasta options every day.

There’s a tennis court and a place to play bowls. But there isn’t a RiuLand Children’s Club as we’ve seen at other Riu hotels and the two outside pools are deep although there’s a separate little paddling pool.

The lobby or reception area at the Riu Madeira hotel

The reception area

The rooms

There are 327 rooms, including single and twin rooms along with junior suites.

They all have air-conditioning, a balcony or terrace and free Wi-Fi, which was very fast and reliable.

The main bedroom in our junior suite room at Riu Madeira hotel

The main bedroom in our junior suite

We had a fabulous junior suite with the most stunning view over the sea, wonderful to enjoy from the bed or balcony. It had two double beds pushed together and a separate area with a sofa bed. There were two televisions, a bathroom with two sinks and a shower, plus bathrobes which you could wear around the pool (not available in children’s sizes). The sound of the sea from the room was so relaxing.

The second room in our junior suite at Riu Madeira hotel

The second room in our junior suite

Food and drink

There are three restaurants and all food and drink, including alcohol, is included.

The main buffet restaurant – we ate mostly in this restaurant which serves a huge selection of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of tables inside and out, overlooking the pools. It only felt really busy on one morning, which was a Sunday.

The main buffet restaurant at Riu Madeira hotel

The main buffet restaurant

Kulinarium – this is an a la carte speciality restaurant. The food is delicious, made from local produce and the service is fantastic, staff are so attentive. The menu is small and there is no separate children’s menu but if there is nothing they fancy, you can always fetch something from the buffet restaurant. This restaurant gets booked up in advance so make sure you book a night on arrival.

Kulinarium speciality a la carte restaurant at Riu Madeira hotel

Kulinarium

Pepe’s Food – this is a poolside grill bar which has a selection of food and drink open during the day.

Pepe's Food pool bar and restaurant at Riu Madeira Hotel

Pepe’s Food

Sports and activities

There’s a hard-surface tennis court, a card games room and an area to play bowls plus a small gym.

The tennis court at Riu Madeira

The tennis court

We spotted lots of people running along the sea front and many stop to use the outdoor gym equipment dotted around on the path running behind the hotel.

We went in February half-term but from around July to mid-September there’s a daytime entertainment programme for six to 12-year-olds, six times a week.

Our hotel highlights

One of the outdoor pools at Riu Madeira

One of the outdoor pools

*The pools – the indoor pool, one of the outdoor pools and the paddling pool is heated during the winter months.

Indoor pool at Riu Madeira hotel

Indoor pool

*Entertainment –  after dinner in the show room there was a different music act each evening until around 9pm followed by a show from 9.15pm including a magic show, a circus-themed performance and an Elton John tribute. Our favourite was the ballroom dancing as our daughter got picked to have a go.

The bar area at the Riu Madeira hotel

The bar area

*Views of the sea – the view from our bed and balcony and many of the sunbeds of the ocean, were stunning.

View from the sunbeds at the Riu Madeira hotel

View from the sunbeds

*The staff – staff were so friendly and attentive throughout the hotel.

Top tips

Pool towels are available from a hut next to the outdoor pools. You are allowed one each but can swap for a dry one or for a pool card whenever you want.

The towel hut at the Riu Madeira hotel

The towel hut

Breakfast got busier later in the morning so go earlier if you can for a more relaxing experience.

If you want to eat at the a la carte Kulinarium restaurant book as soon as you arrive because it fills up quickly.

Tell us more about Madeira

Madeira is one of the Madeira Archipelago (group of islands), as well as Porto Santo, Desertas and the Selvagens. The islands are south west of Portugal, off the coast of Africa and are actually closer to Morocco than Portugal.

Madeira used to be hard to explore as it is so mountainous with rugged coasts, but today there are raised roads and loads of tunnels – two of them over 1.9 miles long.

My abiding memory of Madeira will be of all the red-roofed homes scattered over the hills and the pretty lights sparkling on the hillsides at night, which you can even see from the airport as soon as you arrive.

The view of red roofed buildings from the Madeira Cable Car from Funchal to Monte

The view from the Madeira Cable Car

Nearby

If you leave the hotel by its rear exit, you cross a narrow path to get to the pebbly beach.

It’s pretty to look at but not easy to walk on and quite hard to swim from – you’ll need shoes and there are a lot of rocks plus the sea seems rough. There is a jetty with steps down into the sea and further around to the left is a part sectioned off by rocks which feels safer to swim in.

The pebbly beach at Riu Madeira Hotel

The beach is pebbly

Madeira is a wonderful island to explore. We had a hire car and marvelled at some of the steep mountain roads.

The capital Funchal is just a 15-minute drive from Riu Madeira. We were lucky enough to be there during its Carnival celebrations and enjoyed one of the colourful parades.

We took a cable car from Funchal, it’s a stunning ride up to the top where we visited the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again.

Monte Palace Gardens

Monte Palace Gardens

Another way back down but not for the faint-hearted is by the famous Madeira Toboggan Ride. Passengers on wicker basket sledges are helped down the hill by two runners wearing straw boaters, in a tradition dating back to the 19th century and experienced by my grandparents in the 1970s.

We also visited the traditional fishing village Camara de Lobos which was loved by Winston Churchill after he visited in 1950 and stood at the site where he painted a portrait of the bay.

Children looking at Churchill's view in Camara de Lobos

Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos

We headed east to the stunning clifftop walk of Porto do San Lourenco and drove north west to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.

A seawater pool at Porto Moniz

A seawater pool at Porto Moniz

When to go to the Hotel Riu Madeira

We went in February when the average temperature is 20 degrees and the rain is 97mm. This was perfect for us as we don’t like it too hot. Here is a year-round look at the average weather in Madeira:

January 20 degrees, 80mm rainfall
February 20 degrees, 97mm rainfall
March 21 degrees, 53mm rainfall
April 21 degrees, 55m rainfall
May 22 degrees, 22mm rainfall
June 24 degrees, 6mm rainfall
July 26 degrees, 1mm rainfall
August 27 degrees, 2mm rainfall
September 27 degrees, 28mm rainfall
October 25 degrees, 89mm rainfall
November 23 degrees, 88mm rainfall
December 21 degrees, 118mm rainfall

Riu Madeira more information

Accessibility: The hotel is on a hillside but is said to be generally suitable for those with reduced mobility. There are stairs up from the pool area to the restaurant and reception but also a small lift.

Facilities: Gym, hair salon, spa, tennis court, bowls, three restaurants, three pools, paddling pool, free Wifi.

The gym/fitness suite/centre at the Riu Madeira hotel

The gym

 

Address: Praia dos Reis Magos, 9125-024 Caniço de Baixo, Portugal

How to book: Riu Madeira

RELATED CONTENT: Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

We were given complimentary accommodation for part of our stay in exchange for this review. All views are our own.

Feline amazing on a family holiday to Cyprus

Feline amazing on a family holiday to Cyprus

Exploring Cyprus – and the Columbia Beach five-star resort – with our children

Leo is sauntering airily through reception like he owns the place.

“He’s the leader here,” says the receptionist.

Leo’s a cat and at Columbia Beach you share your five-star stay with a few furry friends.

We even find one stealing our sun lounger. But you can’t blame the cats – this five-star resort in Cyprus is a fantastic place to be.

Columbia Beach Resort hotel and pool in Cyprus

And the owner has helped rescue and look after the local feline population since the hotel opened 20 years ago.

A cat on the sunbed at Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus

Indeed, this is a resort where they look after everything down to the finest detail.

Crafted into the hillside overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea in Pissouri Bay – about halfway between Paphos and Limassol – Columbia Beach is an upmarket family favourite.

Pool at Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus

There are three main pools, two outdoor ones on either side of the resort and another good size indoor pool.

There are also two toddler pools, a pair of tennis courts, swings and The Den children’s club.

If you don’t fancy a sun lounger by either pool you can get one on a quiet lawn area or on the beach itself that the hotel is set on.

Sunbeds next to the beach at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

A sunbathing area next to the beach

When the tide is high, the warm waters of the Med lap within a few metres as you relax.

(If you’d like more details and pictures of the hotel, read our article: We stay at Columbia Beach Resort – a beautiful five-star hotel in Cyprus).

The stony beach isn’t the most comfortable for children to play on but there is fun to be had skimming stones and walking along it – to the nearby village in one direction or – in the other – to the spectacular Cape Aspro hiking trail.

If you want to travel a little further, the popular Aphrodite’s Rock, reputed as the place where the Goddess emerged from the sea, is just a few miles away.

Aphrodites Rock in Cyprus

Aphrodite’s Rock

Or you could enjoy more Cypriot history at Kourion Amphitheatre and Kolossi Castle – both less than 30 minutes’ drive.

A similar journey gets you to the tourist hotspot of Paphos with the Tombs of the Kings archaeological site and the bustling harbour worth a visit.

More active families can enjoy the water park, Luna Park funfair or the zoo.

(For more details of family attractions read The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday).

But it is hard to leave Columbia Beach Resort, especially in the evening.

We enjoyed all three restaurants on site. Fresh fish at Cape Aspro overlooking the sea, classic Cypriot meals at Apollo Taverna and fine dining at Bacchus.

Cape Aspro restaurant at Columbia Beach Hotel in Cyprus

Cape Aspro restaurant

There is a good children’s menu at all three (main courses around 10 euros) with pasta, pizza and more.

Adults are spoilt for choice – the food is divine. Similarly at breakfast with a large buffet and dishes cooked to order – we enjoyed the fresh pancakes every morning.

Despite its size, Columbia Beach doesn’t feel busy, there are only 169 suites and they are all large and spacious.

Our family suite was huge with two bathrooms, lounge, balcony and separate children’s bedroom. But even the standard rooms are a good size.

Our suite at Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus

Our suite

We didn’t want to leave. As we enjoyed our final meal in the warm evening air, our table of four became – temporarily – a table for five.

Yes, one of the Columbia Beach cats had come to say goodbye by nudging each of our legs in turn under the table.

No wonder the cats are happy here. Even for just a few days’ stay, we felt like the cats who had got the cream.

Now watch our exclusive video of the hotel here:

 

The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday

The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday

Ten places to take your children around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus

It may be slightly further on a plane than other European hotspots, but Cyprus is worth the four-and-a-half-hour flight from the UK for the year-round sunshine.

Other pluses make it easy to travel there with children – it is set up for families, English is widely spoken, the food is great and if you are nervous of driving abroad – well they drive on the left.

Once you’ve found a good base – we stayed at the sumptuous Columbia Bay Resort in Pissouri – it’s time to decide where else you want to explore.

There are waterparks, beaches, historical sites and more, including:

Tombs of the Kings

Our children loved exploring this World Heritage Site next to the sea.

Children explore Tombs of the Kings, Paphos/Pafos, Cyprus

Tombs of the Kings

There are seven excavated tombs, carved out of rock and spread out over a big site.

Despite the name, the chambers were not actually occupied by royalty but high-ranking officials and aristocracy of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Top tip: Our children loved climbing here but there are some hidden drops so be very careful with little ones.

Tombs of the Kings, Paphos/Pafos, Cyprus

Tombs of the Kings

Where is it: North of Pafos/Paphos harbour

Address: Tombs of the Kings Ave 63, Chloraka, Cyprus

Aphrodite’s Rock (Petra Tou Romiou)

This site on the south coast of Cyprus is, according to Greek mythology, the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Aphrodites Rock in Cyprus

Aphrodite’s Rock

We stopped off here, where she is said to have emerged from the sea, at sunset on our way back to the airport.

It’s a pebbly beach with big rock formations coming out of the water – one of them known as Aphrodite’s Rock.

Local legend says that anyone who swims around the rock will be blessed with eternal beauty.

Top tip: If you park in the car park opposite, you don’t need to cross the road, there is a passage under the road on to the beach. There is also a shop and cafe with toilets on the car park.

Where is it: On the main coastal road between Pafos/Paphos and Limassol

Children look out to sea at Aphrodite's Rock in Cyprus

Pafos Zoo

This is the biggest zoo in Cyprus with over 500 mammals from all over the world, ranging in size from guinea pigs to giraffes.

An elephant at Pafos Zoo

Pafos Zoo

There are also a thousand birds including birds of prey, penguins and parrots along with reptiles like crocodiles, snakes and giant tortoises.

And there’s a playground, a shop and places to eat.

Top tip: Our favourite part was the parrot and owl show.

Where is it: About 20 minutes north of Pafos/Paphos past the resort of Coral Bay.

Pafos/Paphos Harbour and Port

It’s nice to have a walk around the harbour area to soak up the atmosphere, even if you are just passing through on your way to somewhere else.

There are restaurants and cafes, shops and boats to watch, a promenade to walk along and a small castle at one end.

Some boat trips leave from here too.

Water parks

The nearest water park is Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark.

Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark in Cyprus

Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark

We ran out of time to try it much to our daughter’s disappointment, but it sounds amazing and includes high speed water rides, a lazy river and a wave pool.

Where is it: In Kato Paphos on the coastal road.

Boat trip

A boat trip is a great way to see the island and there are various options available.

Paphos Sea Cruises is one of the companies who offer excursions.

They have a pirate-themed one which children might enjoy called Pirates Adventure – Jolly Roger II, which includes a pirate show, lunch, face painting and more.

Kourion Archaeological Site

We enjoyed looking around the archaeological remains of the city of Kourion, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 365 AD.

The mosaic floors at Kourion Archaeological Site in Cyprus

The mosaic floors at Kourion Archaeological Site

It includes mosaic floors and a Roman theatre which has been restored and is used over the summer for performances.

Where is it: West of Lemesos/Limassol on the road to Pafos/Paphos.

Beaches

Of course, a family holiday in Cyprus would not be complete without trying out the beaches.

And this, the third-largest Mediterranean island, has loads of Blue Flag beaches.

There are pebbly and sandy ones – one of the best being Coral Bay.

Coral Bay beach in Cyprus

Coral Bay beach

This lovely, long, white-sand beach is surrounded by cliffs so the waves don’t get too big.

There are umbrellas and sun loungers over the summer months but not when we went and we could have done with somewhere to shade from the sun.

It was also fairly busy, unlike the pebbly beach, our hotel was on.

The beach at Columbia Beach Resort

The beach at Columbia Beach Resort

Avakas Gorge

This dramatic gorge (a deep valley between hills or mountains) was created by a stream flowing over limestone for thousands of years.

Stepping stones at Avakas Gorge in Cyprus

Stepping stones at Avakas Gorge

It is quite a challenging walk better suited to older, fitter children.

We tried it on a hot day which made it harder so try to go when it’s cooler.

The mountain roads to get to it are not great – several people arrived in hired jeeps – we parked quite far away but this made for a longer walk.

Top tip: There are slippery rocks, so make sure you wear good footwear – not sandals or flip-flops – and look out for some steep drops.

Where is it: West of Pafos/Paphs

Kolossi Castle

We made a flying visit to this 700-year-old castle, birthplace of the world’s oldest wine, Commandaria , said to have been drunk by Richard the Lionheart at his wedding.

Kolossi Castle in Cyprus

Kolossi Castle

The castle was first built in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 15th century.

It only takes around half an hour to look around but the entrance fee is low and it’s worth a stop-off on your way to somewhere else.

The rooms are empty but when you climb the steps, there is a great view from the top.

Where is it: Kolossi, 14km west of Lemesos on the road towards Pafos (Paphos).

Have we missed your favourite family attraction?

We would love to know of anywhere you recommend, please comment below.

RELATED CONTENT: We stay at Columbia Beach Resort – a beautiful five-star hotel in Cyprus

 

 

We stay at Columbia Beach Resort – a beautiful five-star hotel in Cyprus

We stay at Columbia Beach Resort – a beautiful five-star hotel in Cyprus

Our review and all you need to know about Columbia Beach Resort in Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

Name

Columbia Beach Resort

Where is it?

Pissouri Bay on the south coast of Cyprus.

What is it?

It is a five-star resort with 169 suites, two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, spa, gourmet restaurants and beach front location.

The beach at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The beach in front of the hotel

Is it family friendly?

Yes, there were lots of families when we went.

There’s a lovely kids’ club offering a range of activities each day.

The restaurants have a separate children’s menu including pizza, different pastas, fish and chips, burgers etc.

A pizza from the children's menu at Apollo Tavern restaurant at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

A pizza from the children’s menu at Apollo Tavern.

There are two tennis courts plus the hotel is on a pebbly beach with sunbeds.

The rooms

The 169 suites are spread out over this sprawling complex in different areas.

We had a family suite in the main hotel building – it was one of the nicest rooms we had stayed in – big with a fabulous layout and two bathrooms.

The lounge area at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The lounge in our family suite

The children’s room with large twin beds could be closed off with sliding doors, which they loved.

The children's room with twin beds in a family suite at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

Children’s room

There were kitchen facilities too including a sink and fridge and a lounge area, plus desks/dressing tables.

The main bedroom in the family suite at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The main bedroom

I’ve never seen so many lights and lamps – we spent a while searching for some of the switches, eventually asking at reception to discover the room had its own lighting control panel!

A light control panel at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

Lighting control panel

From the balcony we could see both the pool, the sea and the hills that surround the site.

View from a balcont=y at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The view from our balcony

Food and drink

The food was divine and beautifully cooked and presented. There are a choice of restaurants and we tried all three.

A crab salad starter

A crab salad starter

We were half-board and had breakfast in – and on the terrace of – the Bacchus restaurant. The restaurant is a nice size and never felt overly busy or with the cafeteria feel of some breakfast areas in larger hotels. It was buffet style but you can order freshly prepared pancakes, waffles and eggs etc.

We tried this restaurant for dinner one night too and it was the most elegant of all. We asked for a table outside where we could relax with the children while still enjoying the first-class food and service.

The other two restaurants we tried were the Apollo Taverna which offers a traditional Cypriot dining experience.

And the stunning Cape Aspro with a fabulous terrace overlooking the sea.

Cape Aspro restaurant at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

Cape Aspro restaurant

All of the adult menus were different with the children’s menu the same at Cape Aspro and Apollo Taverna. Prices were around 10 euros for children’s main courses, 20-30 euros for adults mains depending on what you ordered. The portions were very generous, sometimes our starters would have been enough.

For dessert there is a special menu with lots of ice cream sundaes and other children’s favourites.

A sea view from a restaurant T Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

Dinner with.a view

Our highlights

*The outdoor pool nearest to the main hotel is beautiful and a fabulous size.

An outdoor pool at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

Our favourite outdoor pool at Columbia Beach Resort

*The indoor pool is slightly warmer as it’s heated so we had a lot of fun in it.

The indoor pool at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The indoor pool

*The food – I had some fabulous meals including a delicious prawn risotto and a gorgeous crab salad plus some fantastic desserts.

*The layout of the resort is pleasing and the views on to the sea are gorgeous.

Sunbeds next to the beach at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

A sunbathing area next to the beach

*Its location on the beach.

Top tips

*While we were there, children could only use the indoor pool until 2pm.

*I am rubbish at getting into cold water – so acclimatized in the indoor pool first before plunging into the outdoor pool and it’s really worth it.

Another outdoor pool at Columbia Beach Resort, Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The other outdoor pool

*There is live music in some restaurants some of the time which really adds to the atmosphere, so you can ask when booking to secure the evenings when this is on – or not on if you prefer. We enjoyed a saxophonist on one night and a guitar duo on another.

*If you walk one way from the hotel, you can do the Cape Aspro hiking trail, be careful of the steep drops though with children – the other way leads to the village with restaurants, bars and a small store.

Nearby

There are lots of lovely places to take children nearby including a zoo, waterpark, historical sites and beaches: The best places to visit around Pafos/Paphos in Cyprus on a family holiday

More information

Address: Columbia Beach Resort
P.O. Box 54042
Limassol 3779
CyprusHow to book: https://www.columbiaresort.com

A surprise to wake to in Mallorca at a hotel full of swimming pools

A surprise to wake to in Mallorca at a hotel full of swimming pools

We take a family holiday to Mallorca and stay at the five-star Zafiro Palace Alcudia

To land at night is to preserve the mystery of your surroundings until morning – and we were in for a pleasant surprise on our break to the Balearic island of Mallorca.

Early signs are good – we land at Palma and are out of the plane, the airport and into our hire car in a record-breaking 20 minutes.

Safely at the hotel a little later, we love our big, open-plan, ground floor room despite the partially see-through frosted toilet door!

Zafiro Palace Alcudia aerial view of the pools

Zafiro Palace Hotel

The huge comfortable bed and sofa which converts into two singles mean it’s easy to sleep.

And when we pull back the curtains the following morning, we are greeted with a sight befitting this five-star hotel, Zafiro Palace Alcudia.

Our room at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Our room

A big terrace awaits us, furnished with a table and chairs and comfy sun loungers.

But there’s also a gate. A gate which leads on to a swim-up pool. Bliss.

Swim-up pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Swim-up pool

In fact, most ground floor rooms here have this luxurious option while top floor suites benefit from a hot tub.

Water is a common theme, perfect for a Mediterranean island known for the aqua sea surrounding it – I count at least 12 swimming pools.

For children, there’s a pirate-themed pool with water slides and another with a ‘wet bubble’ in the middle to climb and bounce off which opens out into the biggest pool here, with a swim-up bar.

Water slides in a pirate-themed children's pool at Zafiro Palace Hotel, Mallorca

Water slides in a pirate-themed children’s pool

But as it’s October and the water is a little chilly, the warmest pool here is the busiest, with one lane sectioned off for serious swimming and double sun beds over the water on the other side for those who’d rather watch.

The warmest swimming pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

The warmest pool

All that swimming builds up appetites and the food here is fantastic. Thankfully the main buffet restaurant has enough pancakes, pizza and pasta to keep even our daughter happy.
Plus a good variety of Spanish favourites like Paella and fish and other international cuisine to satisfy all palates.

There are several a la carte restaurants too – an Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean and Bistro/Grill. All of them offer high quality food in a relaxed atmosphere which caters to children.

And the younger ones are also well-served by a playground, entertainment such as mini discos in the afternoons, a mini golf course and a basketball court/football pitch.

The hotel is in Puerto de Alcudia, in the north of this popular island.

It’s surrounded by mountainous scenery and is within walking distance of Playa de Alcudia, a long sandy beach with shallow waters and playground equipment.

Play equipment for children on Playa de Alcudia beach

Playa de Alcudia beach

We also spend time on other stunning beaches and explore Port de Pollensa, which inspired Agatha Christie’s story Problem at Pollensa Bay.

The beach at Pollensa

The beach at Pollensa

Alcudia Old Town is also worth a look as are the fabulous Caves of Drach with its stalagmites and stalactites and stunning musical experience.

One day we take the twisty mountain road up to a clifftop vantage point at Es Colomer, with fabulous sweeping views of this wonderful island.

Es Colomer - walking up to a view

Es Colomer – walking up to a view

We admire the keen cyclists cruising up the steep slopes – they didn’t appear to have overindulged in a hotel buffet like I had.

We may have arrived at night but we departed in the morning – just time for a final trip to the breakfast buffet.

*For more details of the hotel, read our full review and guide next – Zafiro Palace Alcudia.

(We were guests of Zafiro Palace Alcudia, all views are my own).

Mallorca: we review the five-star hotel Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Mallorca: we review the five-star hotel Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Does the Zafiro Palace Alcudia live up to its five-star rating on a family holiday with our children to Mallorca

Name

Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Where is it?

In Port d’Alcudia on the north coast of Mallorca, a Spanish Balearic island in the Mediterranean.

What is it?

A luxury five-star hotel with all-inclusive option, with lots of swimming pools, big rooms and delicious food, within walking distance of a beach.

Zafiro Palace Alcudia aerial view of the pools

Is it family friendly?

Yes. There are children’s pools, an outdoor play area, a mini disco, mini golf course and a football/basketball pitch/court too.

Water slides in a pirate-themed children's pool at Zafiro Palace Hotel, Mallorca

Water slides in a pirate-themed children’s pool

The hotel is also suitable for people travelling without youngsters as there are adult-only areas.

Adults only area and pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Adults only section is on raised area in the middle of the site

The rooms

The rooms are laid out in a U-shape around the pools.

Many of the ground floor rooms have pool access while the top-level rooms benefit from a hot tub each.

There are two other levels, mostly with pool views.

Our room: We had a ground-floor room with an outside terrace furnished with two sunbeds, a table and two chairs and a round love seat.

Swim-up pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Swim-up pool

A gate from the terrace leads on to one of the swim-up pools. This feels amazing although in reality, in October, the water in ours was sadly a little chilly to spend long enjoying.

Our ground floor swim-up room at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Our room

The room itself was a lovely big square shape with a huge, comfortable bed big enough for the four of us. But the sofa converted into two single beds for the children.

It’s not for the shy as the room is open-plan to the bathroom, which has a bath and two sinks. There’s some privacy with a separate shower and separate toilet although the doors are frosted and slightly transparent!

Food and drink

There are various price options for food including all-inclusive. We were half-board with breakfast and an evening meal.

The main restaurant – The Market – is buffet-style with indoor and outdoor seating.

Breakfast is a lovely selection of hot and cold food and drinks with more than enough choice to keep us all happy.

Outdoor seating at the main buffet restaurant at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Outdoor seating at the main buffet restaurant

One chef, Miguel, impressed us as he cooked up a constant supply of pancakes, fried eggs and scrambled eggs.

He was there again in the evening, cooking tasty meats and fish.

Also at night were plenty of pasta and pizza options to keep our daughter happy and enough paella and other Spanish specialities for an authentic experience.

Plus, lovely desserts and ice-cream.

There are a la carte restaurants too – Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean and a steak/grill with delicious food. But you must book first thing in the morning at the start of your holiday or you won’t get a reservation as spaces fill up quickly.

Our highlights

*The swimming pools – I counted 12, including:

Several long pools which swim-up ground floor rooms open on to.

Two children’s pools – a pirate-themed one with slides and splashes. And one with a big bouncy bubble in the middle to climb and slide/bounce/jump off which opens out into the biggest pool here, with a swim-up bar.

Bubble pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Bubble pool

The warmest pool was the busiest when we visited in October as it is covered at night to retain heat. It had a strip sectioned off for lane swimming and on the other side are double beds over the water.

The warmest swimming pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

The warmest pool

There is also a pool in a raised section in the middle of the site in an adults-only section.

And there are two warmer indoor pools – a small heated one which we spent time in. And a longer, shallow pool for adults in the gym/spa section of the hotel.

Indoor family swimming pool at Zafiro Palace Alcudia

Indoor family pool

*Pool towels are freely available, you aren’t rationed to one each a day so if you need dry ones later in the day or to take to the beach, you can help yourself.

*The food. We all loved the food, the children particularly enjoyed the choice a buffet affords. We visited post-Covid and guests had to wear masks when choosing food and walking around the restaurant. Plus there were numerous hand sanitisers around.

Nearby

*Alcudia – the town is a couple of miles inland from the touristy port area. It’s a beautiful walled town with a largely pedestrianised city centre. Ideal for strolling around, the children can explore the city walls but they are high with just a wire guard on the one side so take care with younger ones.

Alcudia Old Town

Alcudia Old Town

*Mallorca is famous for its lovely beaches, the nearest to the hotel is Playa de Alcudia – a shallow bay, with calm waters and sandy beach. There are lots of facilities including toilets, sunbeds and lifeguards. You can walk from the hotel to the start of the beach in about five to 10 minutes.

Play equipment for children on Playa de Alcudia beach

Playa de Alcudia beach

*Playa de Muro – slightly further along the bay is another soft sand beach. It is slightly less touristy than Alcudia beach but not as spacious at busy times.

*There are loads of other beaches to explore if you have a hire car, we enjoyed Formentor in particular, a 30-minute drive away over mountains. This beautiful beach felt like we were in the Carribean.

The beach at Formentor, Mallorca

The beach at Formentor

*Cycling is a hugely popular activity in this part of Mallorca and you can hire bikes at the hotel. There are good cycle paths and lots of groups and tours available. The more adventurous can tackle the surrounding mountains where we drove past dozens of riders climbing the steep hills.

*Caves of Drach (Cuevas del Drach) on the east coast in Porto Cristo – stunning caves with stalactites and stalagmites and an atmospheric music show on an underground lake.

*We also explore Puerto Pollensa, which inspired Agatha Christie to write a crime story – Problem at Pollensa Bay is about the disappearance of a holidaymaker while staying at a hotel, under suspicious circumstances.

Pine Walk at Pollensa, Mallorca

Pine Walk at Pollensa

We walked along the Pine Walk then stopped on the main beach which has calm waters, plenty of facilities, along with rocks and coral to see just metres from the shore.

For our full holiday review read: A surprise to wake to in Mallorca at a hotel full of swimming pools

More Zafiro Palace Alcudia information

Airport: Palma de Mallorca Airport is 29.8 miles away.

Address: Zafiro Palace Alcudia, C/ Camí Real al Moll, 2 07400 Port d’Alcúdia, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain.

Parking: There is a free car park.

Book here.

Mallorca

Mallorca, also called Majorca, is the largest of the Balearic Islands along with Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and smaller islands.

They are off eastern Spain in the Mediterranean.

Mallorca, popular with holidaymakers and famous for its sandy beaches, has one airport in its capital, Palma.

Flight times from the UK are from around 2 hours 15 minutes in the south to about 2 hours 55 minutes.

*We stayed as guests at Zafiro Palace Hotel, all views are our own.

Top tips for a family trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark

Top tips for a family trip to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark

All you need to know when visiting the home of LEGO in Billund, Denmark

Billund in Denmark is the home of Lego.

It is where the very first Lego toy brick was made in 1932. And where the first Legoland Park opened on June 7, 1968, next to the original Lego factory.

Legoland Billund is smaller, flatter and easier to get around than Legoland Windsor. Plus it’s just a 90-minute flight from the UK so makes a great alternative for Lego fans.

If you are planning a visit to Legoland Billund, make sure you read our 14 top tips below first and then our review.

1. How to get to Legoland Billund in Denmark

Legoland Billund is across the road from Billund Airport. You can fly there from Manchester, Heathrow and Stansted Airports. Ryanair fly from Stansted and Sun-Air, a British Airways partner, goes from Heathrow and Manchester.

We flew direct from Manchester with Sun-Air (which works in partnership with BA) on a tiny plane. The flight took 90 minutes.

2. Where to stay

It is expensive but you can stay stay at the park – at Legoland Hotel or Legoland Castle Hotel, a stay which can include park tickets, parking and early park access.

There is also Legoland Holiday Village, 450 metres from the entrance to Legoland.

But we stayed over the road at Lalandia Billund – an amazing water park resort, so got the best of both worlds. We stayed in a fantastic two-bedroomed lodge.

Lalandia

Lalandia

3. Best time to go to Legoland Billund

The busiest days at Legoland Billund are Tuesdays and Wednesdays while Saturdays are the quietest.

If you want to go over the summer, go as late as you can as Danish children usually go back to school towards the end of August so it will be quieter.

We found queues manageable despite visiting during the Easter holidays – there are lots of rides and plenty of space.

4. How to avoid the queues

Most people enter the park and start going on rides as soon as they see them so head straight to the back to avoid the crowds.

The longest queues when we went were in the Ninjago area which did mean a wait for Lloyd’s Laser Maze and the Ninjago Ride.

The Ninjago Ride

The Ninjago Ride

If you have Ninjago fans you could head there as soon as the gates open. Alternatively, the most popular rides are often quieter in the last 30 minutes before the park closes, although you may miss out altogether if you leave it too late.

To really save time queuing, splash out on the Q-Bot Reserve and Ride system. Instead of waiting in a queue at each attraction, you spend the waiting time elsewhere in the park. An Express pass reduces your waiting time by 50 per cent and an Ultimate pass means almost no waits in queues on your chosen rides, which can be a game changer when you have young children.

5. Layout

Legoland Billund is divided into themed areas.

The Miniland area is at its heart with recreations of everything from old Amsterdam to Star Wars, made out of Lego, which everyone will enjoy.

This park uses 65 million of the little bricks to build its displays.

There is a Duplo Land, Imagination Zone, Pirate Land, Knights’ Kingdom, Polar Land and Legoredo Town.

Duplo Land at Lego Billund

Duplo Land

Lego Ninjago World and Adventure Land are really popular.

Our favourite ride was the competitive Falck Fire Engine in Adventure Land. You work with your family to use a pump to move a fire engine and then spray out ‘fires’ while racing against other visitors on their fire engines.

Falck Fire Engine ride

Falck Fire Engine ride

The farthest end of the park is the quietest and we found a nice picnic spot by the penguin enclosure where we could watch them swimming while we ate.

6. Age appropriate

Unlike some theme parks, there is lots for little ones including Duplo Land for toddlers and Imagination Zone.

There are also enough rollercoasters to keep teenagers happy – so this suits all ages from two to 16.

A rollercoaster at Legoland Billund

There’s plenty for older children

Don’t forget to be aware of height and age restrictions, so children aren’t left disappointed on the day.

7. Food and drink

There are food and drink outfits but the options can be pricey. Plus they get very busy after 12.30pm so take your own food and drinks where possible, to enjoy in one of the picnic areas.

8. Language

This is obviously a Danish theme park but some of the 4D films are in English – check the times for these in advance.

9. Pushchairs

It’s a nice flat theme park and not overly huge but if little one’s legs get tired, there are pushchairs to hire.

10. Aquarium

If the weather is bad or you want a break from the rides then there is a good aquarium in the Imagination Zone called Atlantis by Sea Life.

Atlantis by Sea Life in Legoland Billund

Atlantis by Sea Life

It takes you on an expedition under the sea with a few bricks to find along the way. It doesn’t take very long but is a good spot to dry off or warm up and includes a tunnel under the water.

11. Special needs

The park is flat and all roads and paths are paved so wheelchairs users can go everywhere.

Those with a hidden disability such as anxiety, autism or ADHD can collect a ’show consideration’ wristband.

Disabled and ’show consideration’ access to rides is via the exits or sometimes through the Q-bot entrance.

12. Buying tickets

Buy online to save money and to save time queuing for tickets and download the free, official app to plan your trip.

13. Don’t miss the new Lego House

If you are after another Lego experience – try the big Lego House, which has opened in Billund and is within walking distance of Legoland.

This 12,000-square-metre house is filled with 25 million Lego bricks.

Here, children learn through play with Lego. The house also includes three restaurants and a Lego store.

Lego House in Billund

Lego House

14. The history

You can go to other Legoland parks, but only one place is the home of Lego.

Almost every visitor stops for an iconic photo outside the main entrance sign. Save time getting in by doing this at the end of the day not the beginning, when the shot will be more clear of people.

Conclusion

This park is not huge but it is historic and has enough to keep you entertained for a full day or a couple of days.

Advance entry starts from around 300DKK – about £30 – per person. For tickets and information visit the Legoland Billund website.

RELATED CONTENT: Will the home of LEGO live up to children’s expectations on a trip to LEGOLAND in Denmark?

RELATED CONTENT: We review a water park holiday resort opposite LEGOLAND in Denmark called Lalandia Billund

The entrance to Legoland in Billund, Denmark, when it opened in 1968/1969.

The entrance to Legoland when it opened in 1968/1969.



We visited as guests of the park to review it, all views are our own.

Finding the real tv Hunter Street house in Amsterdam

Finding the real tv Hunter Street house in Amsterdam

We take our children in search of the actual Hunter Street house in the Netherlands

Hunter Street is a popular Nickelodeon/TeenNick children’s television series, set in Amsterdam.

The first series started in March, 2017 when a boy called Max joins the Hunter family.

When he and the four other children Anika, Sal, Tess, and Daniel, wake up the next morning, they discover that their foster parents Erik and Kate have disappeared.

They turn detectives to try to find out what happened to them while keeping up appearances that everything is fine.

It’s a family adventure following clues, boat racing through canals, exploring tunnels and finding lost treasure while fighting off bad guys.

Their grand home also houses a museum, which the family run.

In real life though, the Hunter House exterior is a real home.

Our two children love this comedy/drama so when we visited Amsterdam they were keen to find this actual Hunter House.

The address is Singel 140-142, a small canalside road just outside the heart of the city.

We got there via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and it was then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal.

The exterior of the actual Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon tv series

It’s a big, tall building on the canal. Our children were excited to see it and enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!

The house is private property so you won’t be able to go in and see inside.

Plus you won’t spot any of the stars as the actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands, in Aalsmeer.

The exterior of the actual Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon television series

Hunter Street stars Stony Blyden, Mae Mae Renfrow, Kyra Smith, Thomas Jansen, and Daan Creyghton. Wilson Radjou-Pujalte and Kate Bensdorp join the cast in the second season, and Eliyha Altena and Sarah Nauta join in the third season.

It is produced in the Netherlands by Blooming Media and was co-developed with the Nickelodeon Netherlands television series De Ludwigs.

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

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Holiday fun with our children on a family holiday to Lake Garda and Verona

Holiday fun with our children on a family holiday to Lake Garda and Verona

We try out family-friendly activities around the lake and take a trip to Verona

We are holidaying in the beautiful Lakes – but for once it’s not our beloved English Lake District.

The waters are a clearer turquoise, there isn’t a walking boot in sight and ice creams are in greater supply.

We are in the fashionable Italian Lakes for a slightly chilly October half-term break and I am feeling cosy but a little out of place in my ‘school run coat’.

We are staying on the southern end of Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda, loved by families and affluent travellers.

Peschiera

Peschiera

And home for the trip is also a family favourite with a great lakefront location.

Bella Italia – a five-star campsite – is a 15-minute lakeside walk from the town of Peschiera Del Garda.

It has four pools (sadly closed at this time of year), the same number of restaurants with well-priced tasty food, playgrounds, a children’s club, ice cream parlour, bouncy castles, fairground rides and more.

For our full review of our accommodation read Bella Italia holiday park and watch our video below.

Our three-bedroom mobile home, a Girasole Suite, is smaller than similar holiday homes we have stayed in but is an ideal base to explore the area.

Girasole Suite at Campeggio Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Girasole Suite

And we start out on the pebbly beach in front of the holiday park before getting on to the water itself – the quickest way to get around the lake’s beautiful towns and villages is by ferry.

The ferry around Lake Garda

You can hop on and off, visiting several spots in a day. Among our favourites were the enchanting village of Lazise with its castle and playground and tourist magnet Sirmione – the most picturesque yet busiest spot on the lake.

Boats at the town of Garda in Lake Garda, Italy

Garda

Another busy spot is Italy’s biggest theme park, Gardaland, just 15 minutes away.

There are plenty of rollercoasters for older children but younger children are well-catered for too – there’s even a small Peppa Pig Land.

And a Sea Life aquarium next door is a good rainy day option – you can buy one ticket covering a visit to both on the same or consecutive days.

Just a short drive away lies a more relaxing day out. Parco Natura Viva is a zoo and safari park with hippos, giraffes, rhinos and bears among a lovely site.

Riding a golf buggy at Parco Sigurta

Parco Giardino Sigurta

Another attraction worth a visit is Parco Giardino Sigurta. This 600-acre garden has a maze, small animal farm and plenty of space to run around in beautiful gardens. We explore on foot then hire a golf cart for 18 euros to get around the whole site.

Read our full guide here: What to do in Lake Garda with children – our top tips and watch our video below.

Further afield, but still only half an hour away, is Verona.

Our children love the huge Roman amphitheatre, the 2,000-year-old Arena.

Two children outside the Arena amphitheatre in Verona, Italy

The Arena

Others head to this city of Romeo and Juliet to leave love notes at Juliet’s balcony, linked to the fictional star-crossed lovers.

Romeo and Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s balcony

But it isn’t the most child friendly spot with a cramped courtyard full of selfie hunters taking photos at Juliet’s statue and balcony.

You are better off exploring Verona’s pedestrianised centre, the square around the Arena and its riverside walks. It is a compact city and in a day you can see historic churches, castles, museums or stop by one of countless gelato outlets.

To keep younger ones really happy, the city’s new Children’s Museum is a fantastic hands-on place where they can learn about light, water, power and science through play. It is well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Children's Museum, Verona

Children’s Museum, Verona

We throw ourselves into the Verona experience with an authentic Veronese feast prepared for us at Locanda Ristori – one of the city’s traditional eateries.

Afterwards we plan to walk it off up the Torre Dei Lamberti – the city’s 368 step tower.

However, the lure of the lift taking us most of the way up is too strong. And from there stretches street upon street of terracotta roofs, spectacular even in the rain.

For all our Verona ideas read: What to do with children in Verona and watch our video below.

As we stroll away from the city, one last ice cream in hand, it isn’t hard to see why this area has been one loved by visitors for centuries.

Our time in the city made famous by Shakespeare and Lake Garda has definitely been a triumph, not tragedy.

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation, entrance to attractions and a Verona Card for this visit. All opinions are our own.

What to do in Lake Garda with children – our top tips

What to do in Lake Garda with children – our top tips

Our full guide on where to take children on a family holiday to Lake Garda in Italy

Tourists flock every year to stunning Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) in northern Italy.

It’s a fabulous destination for a family holiday as we discovered on a recent trip.

Here’s our full guide to the best activities for children in and around this, Italy’s biggest lake, with its beautiful turquoise waters.

 

1. Visit a lakeside town

Spend time exploring the lovely towns and villages around the lake and enjoying an ice cream or two, such as:

Lazise

A pretty village on the eastern side of the lake dominated by a 14th century castle and walls.

The centre has a ferry stop, small harbour and plenty of ice cream shops and restaurants.

It is mostly pedestrianised with car parking around the outskirts which means it feels safer to walk around with children.

Near the centre next to the castle is a small playground.

Lazise

Lazise

Garda

The town which gave the lake its name has a nice lakefront walk along its harbour, cobbled streets to explore and a busy market every Friday.

Boats at the town of Garda in Lake Garda, Italy

Garda

Our children were interested in a fun bridge on the lake shore where couples from around the world have left padlocks proclaiming their enduring passion!

A bridge of padlocks in Garda, Lake Garda, Italy

Sirmione

This is the area’s tourist trap. Sirmione gets busy quickly, its narrow streets full of tourists, ice cream shops and restaurants.

It’s a stunning spot, the castle entrance is spectacular and worth a walk around (children enter for free, adults 6 euros).

On the other side of the town’s streets are thermal baths and at the top of its peninsula the remains of a Roman villa, Grotte di Catulla. It is incredible but a long walk for children so only for the most dedicated walkers.

Everything in Sirmione is more expensive than elsewhere in the area. The ice creams here are massive but at least double the price of other places.

There are plenty of lovely spots to sit and play away from the main thoroughfare, a few stony beach areas and nice park towards the Roman remains.

Peschiera

This town is made by the stunning blue waters of the river Mincio as it meets the lake. Its centre isn’t as pretty as some as Peschiera is also a working town.

Peschiera

Peschiera

However there are plenty of restaurants around the streets near the ferry port.

We walked into the town a few times from our holiday park Campeggio Bella Italia (see our review of it here here), which was a pleasant 15-minute stroll along a tree lined lake shore promenade.

2. Get around by ferry

The most fun and often the fastest way to see Lake Garda’s towns and villages is by ferry.

The ferry around Lake Garda

Every major place has a ferry stop and in high season there will be a boat roughly every hour between 8 and 6pm.

You must buy tickets before you board which are priced based on the distance you are travelling, from around 10 euros for a short return journey to 35 euros for a whole lake pass for a day. Children’s tickets cost around half an adult’s price.

The ferries are large, accommodating 500 people, boarding is efficient, there are toilets on board and a food and drink service in high season.

It is a smooth journey but because the lake is 50 miles long it takes at least three hours to get from top to bottom.

You can pick up ferry timetables from every ticket office where the boat docks or follow this link.

3. Parco Naturo Viva

This large zoo and safari park was set up by a husband and wife in 1969 and has expanded over a huge site.

The ticket price includes both the zoo and safari drive and you must do both to see all the animals – giraffes and zebras for example are only on the safari.

The safari takes around half an hour and is safe to do in your hire car. There are no dangerous monkey enclosures to threaten your windscreen wipers!

The main zoo is a large parkland which is steep in places.

It is divided into continents with the Africa section near the start featuring lions, rhinos and hippos. The Asian area has tigers and snow leopards with the Americas section including bears and colourful macaws.

A hippo at Parco Natura-viva zoo

Their latest attraction is a giants of the world indoor enclosure which has a Komodo dragon, anaconda, piranhas and giant otters.

There is also a dinosaur area with full size scale models of a T-Rex, stegosaurus and triceratops.

Picnics are allowed and there are several reasonably priced restaurants across the site.

The site is beautiful and makes for a pleasant walk – it will take you at least four hours to get round.

Signs are in Italian, German and English except for the dinosaur section.

Parking costs 2 euros on top of the ticket price.

4. Gardaland

This is Italy’s biggest theme park. There are lots of rides (and lots of queues) and you can easily spend a whole day here.

For smaller children there are four main sections, including a Peppa Pig Land.

Peppa Pig Land at Gardaland, Lake Garda, Italy

This is smaller than the UK equivalent with only four major rides – a balloon ride, small train, circular boat trip and Peppa Pig’s house, which is frankly just a room where you can find pretend strawberries and pancakes.

It won’t take more than 90 minutes to do this part of the park but will still be a thrill for Peppa fans. All the music and songs are in Italian but the signs are also in English.

Near the entrance is a large carousel and other rides for younger children. And it’s only a short walk to Fantasy Land which has a plane ride and farmyard tractor ride.

Our two children loved an area for under 7s at the far end of the park with two gentle rollercoasters, a relaxing monorail, teacups ride and a dizzying Peter Pan ride.

Tweens and teens are more than catered for in the rest of the park with rides including spectacular rollercoasters.

Daily shows take place in two on-site theatres and there are themed events through the year at times like Halloween and Christmas.

There are lots of food options from candy floss stalls through to a la carte restaurants and everything in between.

Car parking costs six euros on top of your ticket.

5. Sea Life Aquarium

At Gardaland – on the other side of the car park – is the Sea Life Aquarium. You can buy joint tickets to Gardaland and Sea Life and visit them on the same day or consecutive days.

It doesn’t take that long to go round but is interesting and a good option for a rainy day. Children can do a quiz on the way round, in English, with the answers to each question on the information boards.

There is also a cafe at the end of the route around the aquarium.

6. Movie World

This is a smaller theme park just up the road from Gardaland based on films and special effects.

It has live shows and themed restaurants. We didn’t have time to visit on our trip.

7. Parco Giardino Sigurta

For a relaxing day out, the huge gardens of Parco Sigurta are a 15 minute drive south of the lake, on the banks of the river Mincio.

This 600 acre park is vast with a small animal farm, beautiful gardens, a fun maze and other trails like a zig zag path through woodland.

Parco Sigurta

Parco Sigurta

The park would take hours to get around on foot but you can see it all in an hour if you hire a golf cart or take the train which circles it.

Our children enjoyed walking around first, despite wet weather and then taking a golf buggy (you need a driving licence to hire one) to explore the far flung parts. It has a screen with an interactive map and English commentary.

There are food kiosks and toilets around the park plus a restaurant on site.

8. On and in the water

The lake is clear and inviting – most towns have places where children can swim and some offer water activities like pedalo boats and windsurfing.

Lake Garda beach

The beaches are pebbly so take beach shoes for paddling.

More reading about our trip

For our full review of our holiday, go to:

To hear about our accommodation when we stayed at Lake Garda go to: We review a family stay at Bella Italia holiday park on Lake Garda in Italy

We also spent time in nearby Verona, read: What to do with children in Verona

Disclaimer: We were provided with ferry tickets and entrance to the attractions in exchange for this review. All opinions are our own honestly held views.

*Where have you visited in Lake Garda, is there anywhere we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!

We review a family stay at Bella Italia holiday park on Lake Garda in Italy

We review a family stay at Bella Italia holiday park on Lake Garda in Italy

We stay in a mobile home at this campsite in Peschiera del Garda

Name

Campeggio Bella Italia.

Where is it?

On the shores of Lake Garda, at the bottom right of the lake, in Peschiera del Garda. Lake Garda (Lago di Garda), the largest lake in Italy, is in the north of Italy between Venice and Milan.

What is it?

It is a large holiday park with mobile homes, apartments, bungalows and camping pitches.

Is it family friendly?

There are little playgrounds/play parks, swimming pools and slides (not open out of season), a children’s club for 4-12 year-olds, as well as evening entertainment like mini-discos.

The site is good for riding bikes, walking and backs on to the lake which you can swim in during warmer weather.

Sport-wise, you can play tennis, football, basketball, beach volleyball and table tennis. And during the summer, guests can do water activities on the lake.

A girl plays on the beach at Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Accommodation

There are four types of mobile home here – we stayed in a Girasole Suite.

It slept six, with three small bedrooms, a kitchen/diner and bathroom with good-sized shower.

Girasole Suite at Campeggio Bella Italia at Lake Garda

Girasole Suite

The kitchen had a hob (no oven), microwave and fridge/freezer. Towels and bedding are provided in the Girasole Suite properties only.

The kitchen diner at our mobile home at Campeggio Bella Italia

There was a sofa bench on one side of the dining table and a TV (no English channels on ours). Outside the mobile home, there was a decked area with table and chairs plus parking space for a car.

A bedroom at our mobile home at Campeggio Bella Italia

It also had a heater/air conditioning unit and the warmth from it was very welcome when we stayed.

Food and drink

There are four restaurants on site and the prices are very reasonable. We ate twice at Le Terrazze, overlooking the lake.

At a restaurant overlooking Lake Garda at Bella Italia campsite

There is also Corte Riga, which has an almost identical menu to Le Terrazze but offers a takeaway option, Trattoria Bella Italia and a diner and takeaway cafe offering fish and chips and burgers which has an ice cream parlour attached.

Nearby

*The lake – the site is on the southern banks of Lake Garda. There are exits on to the shallow pebbly beach and a small pier where you can walk down steps into the lake for a swim.

Lake Garda beach

*It’s a 15-minute walk along the lake to the town, Peschiera del Garda, where you can shop, eat or catch a ferry.

*Gardaland theme park is a 10-minute drive.

*Verona is less than half an hour a way and we had hired a car so visited this city which was the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. For our top tips on what to do with children in Verona, read our guide: What to do with children in Verona

*There are other lovely towns around the lake you can visit by car or ferry – we tried Sirmione, Lazise and Garda.

One of the towns around Lake Garda from the ferry

*Supermarkets – there is an Aldi and Lidl nearby, handy if you have a car and want to stock up.

Our highlights

*The park was lovely and quiet as we visited at October half-term in the last week before the site closed for the winter.

*The ice cream parlour – we sampled a LOT of ice cream in different towns on this trip and the ice cream from here was our favourite. Great to walk to for a leisurely dessert after a meal too.

*The park’s position next to the beautiful lake.

*The children’s areas which open in the evening – a little fair and another part with a bouncy castle and bouncy slide.

Combined with evening entertainment and mini-discos, there is a lot to do after dark.

There is also a games room/arcade.

*The choice of restaurants and good-priced range of food.

We ate at Le Terrazze where a child’s pizza was only 4 euros and a plate of adult pasta around 8 euros.

restaurant at Bella Italia campsite/holiday park, Lke Garda, Italy

*The swimming pools and water slides here look amazing. We sadly didn’t get to experience them as we visited out of season and they were closed.

*There are sports facilities like tennis courts and beach volleyball courts plus you can hire bikes.

*The distance from Verona airport – about a 25-minute drive.

Other information

*You can do water activities at the park’s Waterski Centre between May and mid-September. For an extra fee you can try parasailing, paraflying, a banana boat and more.

*You pay extra for wi-fi.

*You pay extra for bedding and towels.

*If your children will be going in the lake, take beach shoes as it is pebbly.

Address

Campeggio Bella Italia, Via Bell Italia 2, Peschiera del Garda 37019

For more information visit the Campeggio Bella Italia website.

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation for the purposes of this review. All opinions are out honestly held views.

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What to do with children in Verona

What to do with children in Verona

Our top tips for activities on a family holiday to Verona in Italy

How do you take in this beautiful, historic Italian city while keeping both adults and children happy? Read our guide for the best ideas of what to do and where to go.

Verona Arena

This Roman amphitheatre is right in the centre of the city in Piazza Bra square and makes a good starting point for exploring.

It dates back to the first century and is second only to Rome’s Colosseum in terms of its size and history.

You can explore inside, climb to the top, walk inside the walls and across the stage area where Roman gladiators once fought and our children really enjoyed it.

Inside the Arena amphitheatre in Verona, Italy

The Arena is really well preserved and is still used today – it is a world-famous music venue and hosts big operatic shows.

Piazza Bra (also called the Bra)

Verona’s main square, next to the Arena in the centre of the city, is one of the largest in Europe.

There are plenty of places to sit and eat with restaurants and cafes along one side.

Piazza Bra

Piazza Bra

There are historic buildings around it and a small park in the middle with a fountain. It is mostly car free.

Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony

A ten-minute walk from the Arena, through a pedestrianised shopping area, is ‘Juliet’s House’, Casa de Giulietta.

Romeo and Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s balcony

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may have been fictional but this house is linked to the star-crossed lovers as it was once inhabited by the Cappello family, a surname similar to Juliet’s, Capulet.

Tourists enter the courtyard and queue up for photos with Juliet’s bronze statue (and rub her right breast for luck in love).

Juliet statue in Verona, Italy

People also take pictures of the balcony where they like to imagine Juliet was wooed by Romeo (although the balcony was actually added at a much later date) so keep a hold of your children as it gets busy here.

Inside the house is a small museum.

There isn’t much for children once they have seen the balcony and statue but the walls outside scrawled with love letters and graffiti are interesting to see.

And it is near Piazza Erbe with plenty of ice cream parlours and a market.

Torre Dei Lamberti

Just around the corner from the famous balcony is the best viewpoint of Verona – from the top of an 84-metre-tall tower.

Torre Dei Lamberti in Verona, Italy

Torre Dei Lamberti

There are 368 steps to the top of Torre Dei Lamberti, quite a way with children.

But there is a lift for an extra euro which takes you almost to the top of the first viewing platform.

And from there you get 360 degree views of Verona.

The view of Verona from Torre Dei Lamberti

The view of Verona from Torre Dei Lamberti

A ticket for the tower also gives access to the an art gallery next to the tower, the Gallery of Modern Art.

Verona Children’s Museum

This bright museum opened in 2019 and offers lots of hands-on fun for children.

Situated on the edge of the city, it is essentially one big space of science and learning, disguised as fun.

The Children's Museum in Verona, Italy

Before you go in, everyone must remove shoes and leave coats and bags behind, so you automatically feel more carefree.

Tickets are for allocated 90-minute slots through the day to make sure it never gets too crowded. Then the staff tidy up again so that everything is neat and clean ready for the next group.

It is designed and created for children – you can build your own mini-houses, milk a pretend cow, learn about light and shadows and play in a ball pit and climbing area.

There’s a also a water section where you can use water to create music, put balls into a whirlpool and more.

The staff are really friendly and helpful. If you have children under 10 they will love it here as ours did.

It also makes a good rainy day activity as it is all indoors.

Castelvecchio

This large Veronese building on the banks of the Adige river is part museum part castle.

Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy

Castelvecchio

There is a lot of 16th century religious artwork here which didn’t hold much appeal for our children. But some of the exhibits had old swords and armour.

And the walk around the castle was good fun. You get a good view across the river to Ponte Scaligero which was rebuilt after being blown up by the Germans in World War Two. And you can walk along the castle walls and into raised courtyards.

Visitors have to leave backpacks in lockers at the entrance.

Have a traditional Veronese meal

The Veronese take food very seriously. There are restaurants at every turn and they welcome children.

Almost all will serve you a plate of tomato pasta or a pizza, if that is what you are after.

For a real authentic experience, we tried Locanda Ristori, a traditional Veronese restaurant just outside the touristy centre near Castelvecchio.

Locanda Ristori restaurant in Verona in Italy

The restaurant was mostly full of locals when we visited on a Sunday lunchtime, which is always a good sign and staff are warm and attentive.

The lovely owner Lia, a former ballet dancer across Europe, is very friendly and passionate about the food, explaining it all to us.

The menu includes a mix of pasta and meat dishes.

The Veronese tradition is a big plate of up to eight mixed meats including tongue, which my husband tucked into. It was served with mashed potato, vegetables and a broth which takes four hours to cook.

Lia serves a Veronese speciality

Lia serves a Veronese speciality

My children just fancied a plain tomato pasta (pasta pomodoro), not on the menu, but Lia was more than happy to make them some and they loved it.

There is also a good selection of desserts, including ice cream and we grown-ups sampled some fabulous wine.

Get a Verona card

The quickest and cheapest way to get into the main sites is with a Verona card, which costs 20 euros for a day and 25 euros for 48 hours.

If you are going to visit the Arena and at least two other sites then you will save money with the card.

It includes free entry to all the attractions above (except the Children’s Museum), all the largest churches and city centre museums.

You can pick up the card at the tourist information office in a corner of Piazza Bra.

Our children were also given a couple of city centre trails to do while we wandered around.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a Verona Card and a complimentary meal for the purposes of this article. All views are our own.

*Have you taken children to Verona? Where did you go? Tell us below!

Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

We stay at a holiday park in the middle of the Netherlands with our children

Sand stretches before us. A vast expanse of gold, nothing on the horizon save for a makeshift den of withered tree branches.

Where is this extraordinary landscape? The Sahara? Outer Mongolia?

Try central Holland, the Dunes of Loon.

This natural phenomenon was created by sand drifts 10,000 years ago and its 30km of desert are fun to explore.

the Dunes of Loon in Drunen National Park

Dunes of Loon

You experience it by walking just five minutes from our family campsite at Duinhoeve (read our full Duinhoeve Holiday Park review and tips here).

And we certainly feel like explorers as we unzip the door to our glamping lodge at the park.

Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve holiday park in Holland/The Netherlands

Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve

From the outside it is a huge tent, but through the zipped entrance you find a fabulous, modern interior.

There are three bedrooms, a den/storage area for children, spacious shower and bathroom, TV, well-equipped kitchen and large dining table. See our video below.

The park is ideal for younger children with three playgrounds aimed at under-7s and two swimming pools – one large and heated by solar power, the other for toddlers complete with pirate ship.

There’s a restaurant/cafe selling hot and cold meals every evening.

There’s also bike and go-kart hire. Very useful as Duinhoeve is well located to explore what the natural world has to offer with cycle paths and walks through the dunes and woodland.

If you want to experience further afield then the small medieval city of Den Bosch is less than 30 minutes away.

The cathedral city of Den Bosch

Den Bosch

If you are browsing its ancients streets, squares and markets don’t forget to try the local delicacy Bosch Bollen – a type of giant profiterole sold in every bakery.

Bosche Bollen, yum

The city was home to the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, famous for his fantastical imagination.

And if it is a wild imagination you want to witness, then just 10 minutes from Duinhoeve is the fairytale themed theme park of Efteling (full review and top tips for visiting Efteling here).

Children at Efteling Theme Park

Efteling Theme Park

Think Disneyland minus the schmaltz, the sky high food prices and super-long queues.

Not that Efteling is quiet, it is still Holland’s largest theme park and draws visitors from around Europe.

The best place to get a feel for Efteling is the Fairytale Forest with recreations of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, Pinocchio’s workshop and the witch’s gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, which even smells authentic.

The park is broadly divided into two halves, to the left of the entrance is mostly aimed at younger children. Head right if you have roller-coaster loving tweens and teens who are seeking plenty of thrills. See our exclusive video below.

With our younger ones, some of the best rides are Symphonica – a theatrical indoor adventure and the Pirana River Rapids Ride.

If you need a break, there are plenty of places to sit and rest. You can hop on a steam train around the park, take a leisurely boat ride on a lake, or head up the pagoda viewing tower to see Efteling from above.

When you are hungry you can pick from plenty of food options with more than just the usual expensive fast-food.

A day at Efteling ends with a 15-minute fire and water show called Aquanura, set to classical music.

Efteling is a reminder that this area – capable of extraordinary landscapes is also pretty good at man-made mythical lands as well.

Aquanura water show at Efteling

Aquanura water show

There’s more water and drama back at our glamping lodge that night.

After days of humidity, a terrific thunder storm breaks out. As we look out across the park, enjoying the sight and the sound of the rain hammering on the canvas roof, we are very glad to be in safe and secure in our very, very posh tent.

*This was the second of a two-part holiday to Holland, starting in Amsterdam, read the first part here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

*We travelled via mini-cruise with DFDS – read about our journey here: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

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(We received complimentary accommodation, tickets to Efteling and ferry crossing, all views are our own).

Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

We take our children via mini-cruise to Amsterdam in Holland

Amsterdam may be a stag and hen do favourite – but there is much more to the city than its infamous seedier side.

We head to the beautiful Dutch capital with our children, in search of a family-friendly break.

It’s just a short, 45-minute plane journey from the UK. So we decide to travel by ship. Obviously.

Billed as a mini-cruise, our overnight ferry crossing is with DFDS from Newcastle.

Our cabin on the Princess Seaways

Our cabin

The children love it and it doesn’t feel like part of the journey – more a highlight of the holiday.

It sets sail at 5.30pm, so enough time to explore the ship, eat and enjoy the entertainment.

Then most of the journey is spent asleep in our cabin, before waking up for breakfast and disembarkment. Read our review and tips for taking this ferry crossing here and watch our video below.

Our visit to the Netherlands is in two parts so it’s a bonus to have our car and lots of luggage.

Part 1 Amsterdam

There are bicycles EVERYWHERE we look. I’m expecting this but am still staggered at the sheer volume of cyclists, their confidence and the natural way they rule the road.

Bicycles parked in Amsterdam

All ages are on two wheels, children too young to pedal themselves ride on a seat or in a trailer with an adult.

And NOBODY wears a helmet.

It’s a stressful city for car drivers to negotiate – it’s also difficult and expensive to park.

So we use a cheap park and ride car park on the outskirts (read our Amsterdam park and ride guide here) and take a couple of trams to our hotel.

NH Amsterdam Center is a good base to explore from plus it was great value when we booked. (See our full hotel review and pictures here).

A suite at NH Amsterdam Centre hotel

Our hotel room

It’s a well-positioned hotel next to Leidseplein square in Amsterdam, across the road from canal cruises, within five minutes’ walk of Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Plus, our room is huge.

Then, armed with an I amsterdam city card, which gives free access to attractions, public transport including ferries and a free canal cruise, we start our exploring.

We tick off Nemo Science Museum, a great hands-on attraction, where our children even get to be scientists in a lab.

Nemo Science Museum exterior

Nemo Science Museum

We take a pancake cruise – a 75-minute cruise – with all you can eat pancakes and toppings. None of us get near to the record of 15. Then, part of the boat’s floor opens up to reveal a ball bit below deck.

The Pancake Boat

The Pancake Boat

We pop to see the outside of the real-life Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon programme of the same name.

And we get close to nature at Artis Zoo – a beautiful attraction, with some species you don’t get to see in English zoos.

Less child-oriented but a must-see for art lovers, is the Van Gogh Museum which houses the biggest collection of the Dutch painter’s work in the world. Even his famous work Sunflowers is there when we visit.

We use our cruise tickets (free with the I amsterdam card), with the Blue Boat Company. The cruise really caters for children – they have their own Pirates commentary on headphones and goody bags.

The Blue Boat Company in Amsterdam

The Blue Boat Company

Read our complete reviews and guides to Amsterdam’s children’s attractions here and watch our video below.

We get around by trams and on foot (read Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children).

Walking is a great way to see the city and the canals but it’s a challenge to negotiate the roads and crossings with children, remembering to check the cycle lanes and look out for trams as well as other traffic.

Amsterdam is fascinating, brilliant and intensive and when it’s time for part two of our trip, all four of us are ready to head south.

Go to Part 2: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

RELATED CONTENT: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

(We received complimentary ferry crossing and two i amsterdam cards, all views are our own).

We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

We take our children to the fairytale-themed Efteling Theme Park Resort in Holland

Name

Efteling Theme Park Resort.

What is it?

This is a huge fairytale-themed family attraction. It’s the biggest theme park in the Netherlands and is open every day of the year.

Where is it?

In the town of Kaatsheuvel in the Brabant region of south central Holland. Just over an hour’s drive from Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

What did we think?

This is a great theme park for all ages – it feels Disney-like and magical as you walk in with music playing around you, but it is much quicker to park and get into than Disney parks.

Navigation around it was made easier as the left-hand side is largely suited to younger children and the right has more for teenagers and older children with more rollercoasters and bigger rides.

Our highlights

*The fairytale forest – you wander through a wooded area, seeing recreations of fairy tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty and some we had not heard of before. The commentary is in Dutch but there are written descriptions in English.

Hansel and Gretel in Fairytale Forest

Hansel and Gretel in Fairytale Forest

*There is lots for younger visitors, we saw three carousels alone. There are some lovely gentle rides, plus a little train.

*Comfort – there are lots of shaded areas and it’s big, it didn’t feel cramped at all.

*Carnaval Festival – a nice gentle ride, with music, through different countries.

*Symphonia ride – this had the longest queue, it is a theatrical, dark, indoor ride suitable for the whole family but scary in parts for some young children.

*The Aquanura water show is a great way to finish a day at the park. It is normally on at around 7.15pm and 8.15pm on a lake near the exit. It’s along the theme of the Princess and the Frog. Water shoots out of giant frogs’ mouths and from the middle of the lake while classical music plays.
There are lots of vantage points to get a good view.

Aquanura water show at Efteling

Aquanura water show

Top tips

*Check when the Dutch holidays are, we went at the end of the summer holidays when local children had already returned to school so it wasn’t too busy.

*The best place to start with younger children is the Fairytale Forest. Climb into Sleeping Beauty’s castle and see Rapunzel leaning out of her tower while the witch climbs up. It is a good gentle introduction for younger children to what the park is all about.

*If you’ve got a picnic and don’t want to stop to eat it, you could eat during the lake cruise – you sit on a boat being led around a track for 20 minutes. It’s a good spot for a rest as its also next to a pagoda, which takes you high above the park, giving you a good view of everything.

The pagoda at Efteling Theme Park in the Netherlands/Holland

Pagoda

*A lot of the signs have an English version and staff speak good English. But a lot of the commentary and shows are in Dutch.

*Parking is well-organised. It costs 10/12 euros to park, you pay at the entrance/exit and use your ticket to open the barrier when you leave.

*Use the Efteling app, it is simple and straightforward. It shows you where you are on a map, gives up-to-date ride queue times and basic information about each ride to assess its suitability for your children.

*There are no fast track passes or similar (except for disabled visitors), other than the Python rollercoaster where you can book a ride time.

*Baby switch is available for two adults who have a baby and both want to go on a ride – one queues and the other waits at the exit with the baby and they can then swap with the new adult going in through the exit.

*You can rent wooden pushchairs/strollers for 4 euros.

*All toilets in the park have at least one baby changing cubicle.

*Restaurant staff can warm up water, milk or food for babies.

You can stay overnight in a hotel or holiday home with unlimited access to the park.

Good rides and areas for children aged under six

*Fairytale Forest – walk through recreations of famous fairy tales.

*Stoomcarrousel – a big undercover carousel (there are others in the park too).

*Avonturendoolhof – adventure maze – look out for the bridge where you will get wet!

*Stoomtrein – the train – it does a circuit of the park and there are two stops so you can use it to get from one area to another or stay on for the duration to rest your legs.

*Kleuterhof – the playground.

*De Oude Tufferbaan – classic car ride – children feel like they are driving the cars themselves and even have their own horn.

*The monorail.

Older children, teenagers and thrillseekers

There are plenty of bigger, faster rides for those that want them including the Python roller coaster and the Baron 1898 Dive Coaster. There’s a pirate ship, water rides and more.

Roller coasters at Efteling Theme Park in the Netherlands/Holland

Efteling Theme Park Resort information

Food: The cost of food is good and there is a wide variety of choice including a Vietnamese food stand, a Dutch pancake house and restaurants.

There are lots of ice cream stands (good value at around €1.50 for an ice cream) including one where you pick a flavour of whipped ice cream and FIVE toppings which get mixed together, yum!

But it was also great to see fresh fruit and vegetable stalls at a fair price – a punnet of strawberries was 3.45 euros.

We ate an evening meal at Octopus restaurant, before watching the water show at the end of the day. Billed as an ‘underwater’ restaurant (it’s not but it is really quirky, dimly lit with moving animals  and play areas), fresh pasta and a drink for children was around 6 euros.

There are also nice picnic spots.

Opening hours: Opens at 10am and closes at 6pm during the week and later at the weekends, depending on the season.

Cost: Tickets are 42 euros. Children aged three and under are free. You can buy a parking ticket in advance for 12.50 euros.

Best for: Aged four and above.

Time needed: At least one full day.

Access and restrictions: Accessibility is very good and most rides have wheelchair entrances to get on rides without a long queue. These are available to all with physical or learning disabilities. You must register at guest services where you are given a card to present to ride attendants showing them, then you wait at the disabled entrance.

There are plenty of toilets around the park and this being Holland, the park is mostly flat and easy to get around.

Address: Efteling Park, Europalaan 1 5171 KW Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands.

Read our full review of this visit to the Netherlands: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

We stayed at Duinhoeve Holiday Park near Efteling, read our review and tips here: A holiday park in Holland next to the ‘Dutch desert’ – we review Duinhoeve and give our top tips for a family holiday there with children

We travelled to Holland by ferry on a mini-cruise, read all the details here: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

We spent the first part of our holiday in Amsterdam: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

(We received free entry to Efteling, all views are our own).

 

We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

We take our children across the North Sea on an overnight ferry from England to Amsterdam

Ferry operator

DFDS

Our journey

Newcastle to Amsterdam

The service

This route runs every day linking England and Holland/The Netherlands, with overnight crossings both ways. The ports are North Shields near Newcastle and Ijmuiden ferry port in the Netherlands.

Journey time

15 hours 30 minutes.

The ship leaves at 5pm from Newcastle and arrives in Holland at 9.45am local time. Returning, the ship leaves Holland at 5.30pm and returns to Newcastle at 9.15am.

The ferry

There are two ships which operate this crossing – we sailed out with the ship Princess Seaways and back with King Seaways.

DFDS calls them cruise ferries because of the facilities and entertainment on board.

They each have 140 crew. The King takes 1,300 passengers and the Princess 1,250.

We thought that they were great ships and our children loved exploring them. There is plenty to occupy a family between boarding time and bedtime.

Facilities

The ships each have two restaurants, a cinema, play areas, games rooms, a small casino, bars, a club and a shop.

There is good entertainment on board. Our children took part in children’s entertainment on King Seaways and enjoyed it. The play areas and games rooms were slightly bigger on the King.

A play area on the King Seaways ship

A play area on the King Seaways ship

Food (same on both)

*Explorer’s Kitchen – a buffet restaurant for breakfast and dinner which we tried on King Seaways. Perfect for families, not too formal with lots of choice.

Ice cream bar in the Explorer's Kitchen on King Seaways

For dinner, there is a variety of foods from different parts of the world including Chinese, Indian, German, Dutch, Italian and British. There’s an ice cream bar, where you can order your own soft scoop flavour with a selection of toppings.

*North Sea Bistro – we ate here on Princess Seaways. It is formal with table service – the food was more expensive but delicious.

North Sea Bistro

North Sea Bistro

There is a three-course menu for adults featuring steak, sea bass and other upmarket options.

The children’s menu offers two courses for £11.95 from a starter, main and dessert. Main course options included spaghetti Bolognese and a burger. Pancakes for pudding went down well with our pair.

My dessert at North Sea Bistro

My delicious dessert at North Sea Bistro

*Coffee Crew – a café next to the play areas which serves snacks.

Our cabin

All the cabins are en suite, ours were five-berth – with two bunk beds – a double on one side and triple on the other! The bathroom has a shower. Towels and bedding are provided.

Our 5-berth cabin on Princess Seaways

Our cabin on Princess Seaways

Cabins are well located away from all the communal areas.

Who can travel?

Cars, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles, motorhomes and lorries can all use the ferry or foot passengers without a vehicle.

How does it work?

You check-in at the port in North Shields near Newcastle, at least 45 minutes before departure – and if you are in a car or other vehicle, drive to a vehicle check-in booth, open the window and hand over your passports to be checked.

You are given boarding cards which are also your cabin keys. There are lots of crew around to direct you into a lane and then on to the ship. You are told exactly where to park, the crew guide you as far forward as possible in your lane in order to fit all the cars on board. Remember your deck number so you can find your car quickly again in the morning!

Foot passengers check in at the passenger terminal.

Disabled facilities

There are six disabled cabins on King Seaways and three on the Princess. There are lifts and disabled toilets.

Benefits

It may take longer than flying but there are lots of benefits to the ferry:

*You have your own car, so you don’t need to rent or worry about children’s car seats in Holland.

*You can pack more luggage – there is unlimited baggage on board.

*You can take bikes and scooters.

*You can take pets. Pets can travel on board in their own area or there are even pet-friendly cabins. Make sure you are up-to-date on requirements for pet passports and vaccinations.

*The mini-cruise is a fun experience, part of the holiday rather than the journey.

Top tips

*We headed for the ports both ends early to make sure we arrived in time and then stretched our legs on a beach – at Long Sands beach in Tynemouth near Newcastle and Zandvoort beach on the way to Ijmuiden port in Holland.

Long Sands Beach, Tynemouth

Long Sands Beach, Tynemouth

*Keep an eye on young children outside on the ships, it can get very windy. Also, the doors to outside are very heavy to open and may slam shut.

*The car deck is locked once the ship sets sail. You can’t return to your car then so make sure you have everything with you that you need. We packed a separate bag for the cruise so we didn’t have too much to carry.

*Don’t book a restaurant time until half an hour after sailing time if you want to enjoy the ship setting off.

*There are a lot of stairs but lifts are available if you have a buggy or a pram and there would be room for a pushchair in the five-berth cabins we had.

*The restaurants are fantastic but bring water/drinks and food from the car for your cabin to save money. You are not allowed to take your own alcohol.

*Breakfast can get very busy. There is an announcement at 8am to wake everyone up so lots of passengers eat after that. The quiet period, where you are more likely to get a window seat to enjoy the sea view, is 7am to 7.45am. Also 9am is quieter – but you are called to your car as soon as the ship docks, around 9.15am.

*Don’t feel you need to rush to your car as soon as they announce it as you will be sitting in it for some time, wait a few minutes, but not too long!

In conclusion

A great experience for the children and a fun way to travel to Amsterdam. This really makes the journey a fun part of the holiday rather than a chore.

Prices from £81, via the DFDS website.

Read about our holiday in Amsterdam here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

Our visit to the Netherlands was in two parts, read about our second adventure here: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

DFDS ferry/mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam, crossing the North Sea

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

(We received a free ferry trip for the purposes of this review, all views, as ever, are our own).

Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

Amsterdam’s top attractions and activities for children

What to do with children in Amsterdam – our reviews and top tips

Amsterdam isn’t just for hen and stag dos, it is a family-friendly city with lots for children to do. We had a great time with our two, here’s our video and lots of information below about what we recommend.

NEMO Science Museum

This is a fantastic hands-on museum. NEMO looks like a giant ship rising from the harbour where it is situated. Inside there are four floors of interactive activities.

Floor one demonstrates how science works with pulleys, the chance to create electricity and an hourly show which is great fun, showing how a chain reaction works. One young volunteer gets to set off a reaction which spreads around the stage.

Floor two explains everyday technology such as how water is purified – children can collect water in a bucket and tip it in and out of various systems. There is also a great perspective room with altered height ceilings and angles where you can make children look like giants and turn the adults tiny.

The third floor has a display about planets and a brilliant science lab. The whole family put lab coats and goggles on to create their own experiments showing how rockets can fire and how sun cream works. It is hands-on learning at its best.

The fourth floor was closed when we visited but will be all about the human body.

There is a fifth floor with a nice cafe – the food is good quality with a wide variety. And don’t miss the roof terrace, especially on a sunny day – take your food out there to eat. There are panoramic views of Amsterdam and children can play in various water features.

Nemo Science Museum roof terrace

NEMO Science Museum roof terrace

*Entrance to the museum is free with an I amsterdam card or book tickets via their website.

Hunter Street house

The popular Nickelodeon children’s series Hunter Street is set in Amsterdam. The actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands but the exterior of the Hunter house is a real home.

A girl stands in front of the real Hunter Street house from the television series

The Hunter Street house

It is at Singel 140-142, a small canalside road just outside the heart of the city.

It is best reached via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and is then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal. Our children enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!

For our full story on the Hunter Street house click here.

Pancake Boat

This is a great way to mix a river cruise, meal and a soft play.

The Pancake Boat

The Pancake Boat

De Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat) is moored across the IJ river from Amsterdam Centraal Station (catch the free NDSM ferry 906 from the far left pontoon at the station).

It is a 75-minute cruise along the river past Amsterdam Central Station. Once on board you can eat as many proper Dutch pancakes as you want (the record is a huge 15, which considering how filling they are is barely believable). There are three types of pancake – plain, with apple and one with bacon – plus lots of toppings you can put on.

Pancake toppings on the pancake boat in Amsterdam

About 30 minutes into the cruise, they open a big ball pit with slide in the bowels of the boat, which kept our daughter entertained for most of the rest of the journey.

Tip: There are two levels – the top deck is cooler and has better views but the pancakes and ball pit are downstairs. But once you have eaten you can sit wherever you want.

Cruise times vary but there are at least four a day in high season, book via their site

ARTIS Zoo

This glorious zoo in the centre of Amsterdam is a tropical delight to walk through. It has some of the usual animals you see at English zoos such as elephants and giraffes but other species you don’t see very often.

I liked seeing the armadillos – having only ‘seen’ one before when Ross dressed up as the holiday armadillo on Friends!

Fennec foxes

Fennec foxes

Little Fennec foxes with huge ears and a black jaguar were other highlights.

We also felt we could get much closer to the animals than usual. There are a few areas under cover, great for hot or rainy days, including a big space to watch the sea lions underwater.

Entry to the zoo is free with an I amsterdam card or book via the zoo’s website.

Van Gogh Museum

This popular museum houses the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world – over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letters.

It is a wonderful collection including famous paintings like Almond Blossom, Sunflowers (which was on temporary exhibition) and my daughter’s favourite there, The Bedroom.

The Bedroom by Van Gogh

The Bedroom (credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

But it is not ideal territory for a lot of children, you may have to work hard to sustain their interest.

The museum is fairly spacious and if they are old enough, we would recommend the audio guide (5 euros for adults, free for children aged 6 to 12) to keep them interested for longer.

Once they have seen enough of the artwork, the Van Gogh Museum does have a couple of good areas for little ones. They can pose in front of a giant sunflower picture in the entrance hall and also the shop has an easel where they can sketch their own portrait.

Children can enter for free so if they get fed up it isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t a huge museum, so you can get around it in an hour.

Book a time slot in advance – if you have an I amsterdam card, book through their link not on the museum website.

Pirate Canal cruise – Blue Boat Company Kids Cruise

You have to do a canal cruise in Amsterdam and this was the only company we found which specifically catered for children.

Despite being a 75-minute journey, our two were entertained throughout.

The Blue Boat Company in Amsterdam

The Blue Boat Company

Every passenger gets a new set of headphones to plug in and listen to a commentary in a language of their choice. But there is also a great children’s Pirate commentary to select (in English).

And children are given an activity pack including binoculars and an activity book with answers to be heard within the commentary.

Plus, our captain was very accommodating and happy to chat and answer questions and also pointed out places of interest along the route.

Most tables are under cover, there is also space to sit at the back in the open, plus there’s a toilet on board.

The cruise is a great way to see life in Amsterdam.

This cruise is free with an I amsterdam card which offers one free standard canal cruise per ticket. Or book via the website.

Parks

There are lots of parks to enjoy in Amsterdam to stretch young legs, including the largest, Vondelpark.

Vondelpark in Amsterdam

Vondelpark (credit: Klapfilm.nl)

It is the most popular park in the Netherlands and has a great children’s play area. The main areas for children are in the centre of the park.

Many of Amsterdam’s parks have small petting zoos, one of the largest Amstelpark, to the south of the city centre also has a small train to ride.

I amsterdam cards

The simplest and most cost-effective way of getting to around Amsterdam’s attractions is with an I amsterdam cty card. You can buy then in 24 hour periods for as long as you need.

The card includes one free canal cruise, public transport around the city centre and access to more than 40 museums.

We used a 72-hour card for two adults but not for our children as a lot of museums are free to children and a public transport ticket is only four euros per day.

We found that three was the magic number to save money. If you are going to visit more than three attractions on the I amsterdam list (all major attractions are included except the Anne Frank House), then you will definitely save money.

*Read the full review of our stay in Amsterdam here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

*Read about our journey to Amsterdam via mini-cruise: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

RELATED CONTENT: Our full guide to getting around Amsterdam with children

RELATED CONTENT: Amsterdam’s park and ride service – all you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: We review Efteling – the biggest theme park in the Netherlands – and give our top tips for visiting

RELATED CONTENT: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

Have you been to Amsterdam with children? What did they enjoy most?

Disclaimer: We were given I amsterdam cards, entry to Nemo Science Museum and a discount on the Pancake Boat for the purposes of this review. All opinions as always, are our own.