Where in Europe to take a 4 year old

Old Jan 1st, 2023, 11:31 AM
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Where in Europe to take a 4 year old

Hi all! Happy New Year.
My husband, 4 year old and I are considering spending 2-3 weeks in Europe this summer and are looking for ideas from people who have been to many of the countries. We haven’t been out of the country since before we had her.
We’ve been twice together before kiddo- Italy, Spain and Portugal. I lived in Paris for a year in 2005 and would love to spend more time in other regions of France (and practice my now slightly rusty French!) but we also really loved Italy and Portugal so much we’re considering returning. Now, we’ve been looking at Croatia and Slovenia, Czech Rep. and Hungary. And then of course there’s the Netherlands which we’ve also never been to. How do you decide where to go when there are so many places that seem so amazing? Do you return to countries you love (but maybe visit a different region) or do you go to a whole new country?
If you were traveling with a young kid what country would you recommend?
We are first and foremost food-obsessed. Love architecture and art museums (though we realize we wouldn’t be doing much in the way of fine art museums). Beaches or lakes are nice, big beautiful parks and outdoor things like this are also appealing. The photos of plitvice National park in Croatia look amazing with all the bridges and waterfalls…
Any suggestions are appreciated!!
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 12:05 PM
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When thinking about 4 and 5 yo's first big trip London and Paris come to mind first. London and nearby counties have soooooooo much for young children. From the London Transport Museum, Natural History Museum. more parks than one can count, the London Zoo, The Princes Diana Playground, city farms ( https://www.mudchute.org is just one of several) , boat trips, - even a LegoLand in Windsor. Plus lots more.

And you know all the great things in Paris.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 12:30 PM
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You might enjoy this German article about where Germans think kids are served best on vacations. If you open it and then right-click in a browser it will translate the whole thing. They focus on beach and 'freizeitparks' which includes theme parks but also less overblown ones - - but also rewarding places for adults - - it gives a real sense of what native Europeans find a successful and enjoyable time with a preschooler looks lilke (I also think boat rides are nice, like in Venice - - could stay out on Lido where there is a beach; also Lake Garda has boat rides and more ice cream than you can shake a cone at, with small easy beaches; staying near the coast of Provence near Aigue Mortes you need a car, but lots of pretty places, and good history - - these are places that avoid strenuous slogs over boring terrain, which I think is essential for a 4-year-old):

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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 01:18 PM
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Vienna is an awesome place for a young family - Zoom Children's Museum, butterfly house, the 'beach' on the Danube in summer, the Prater, a tram ride that goes around the city, the aquarium, the zoo, and then many of the adult things you might take a child to (unless your child really doesn't fare well in adult settings). Churches and cathedrals are all open with free admission and are a nice way to introduce your child to some religion as practised in Europe. You will have to seek out child-friendly cafés (google kinderfreundliche Cafés Wien) because the big traditional ones are not so good with kids. This is based on when we took our then 4 yr old to Vienna when I was doing research in the town hall library there in 2013. I did some of these activities with our daughter (including a trip to Melk) and my husband did the rest on his own with her.

i also like the idea of London as you will be able to do language-based activities with your kid (plays, pantomimes in the right season, etc), having the same language does take the heat off a bit.


Last edited by lavandula; Jan 1st, 2023 at 01:31 PM.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 01:30 PM
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When our kids were around that age we went on a fab family holiday to Mallorca and all loved it. Sea, sand, nice food and lots of excursions in quite a small area. And much cheaper than Italy at the moment. When they were a bit older we went to Lake Garda and that worked very well too. THere's even the eponymous Gardaland if you want a theme park experience.

And from my experience of travelling with kids of that age, albeit a while ago, having a pool in which to cool off at the end of the day is essential.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 08:12 PM
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It's always a tussle between visiting new places and returning to old favourites. It's hard and I have to reconcile myself to not seeing everything and focus on a particular country or region.

With a four year old, I wouldn't worry too much about which towns or country to visit but I would tailor the days to suit a child. Kids of that age will find something interesting and distracting anywhere and don't necessarily need specific kid focused destinations. I'd also try to make sure that your journeys between places are not too long - and we've found trains work much better than cars, buses or planes with our children at all their ages. An afternoon rest can sometimes give everyone the energy to enjoy a (not-too-late) dinner. Lunch as the main meal can work well too and is very European.

If food is a focus, then choose based on the cuisine you enjoy most. And once you've chosen that country or region, then mix up your environments. For example, I'd choose a city location; a rural-ish village or small town; and perhaps a beach/lake location. With a young child, I'd avoid any stays less than 4 or 5 nights each.

As for luggage, I recommend a small case and a day pack for each of the adults, and a small pack (like kids take to kinder or school) for your child (s/he can carry their own toys, pencils, hat, small water bottle, etc).

Enjoy yourselves. Your child won't remember it but you will.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2023, 06:48 AM
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Another option in Italy is an agritorismo, which are farms, usually family run, which also cater for tourists. They usually offer evening meals as well as some breakfasts, often have pools, rent out bikes and have play grounds and animals for the children to pet. You could spend the day exploring, come back and allow the little one some play or swimming, feed her, then she could be in bed whilst you had some adult time eating your dinner.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2023, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
When thinking about 4 and 5 yo's first big trip London and Paris come to mind first. London and nearby counties have soooooooo much for young children.
I would second Janis's recommendation. Our first trip as a family to Europe in 2019 was to London and Paris, and London in particular was incredibly family friendly. At the time, my kids were 7, 5, and 1, and we had more than enough to keep everyone happy and entertained.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2023, 02:32 AM
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Italy, Portugal, Greece, Spain, France are all family friendly countries. Maybe go to the Dordogne or the south of France, castles, architecture, lakes, beaches and good food, things that appeal to kids as well as adults, where you can happily spend 2-3 weeks. Copenhagen is another option, plenty of things for young kids to enjoy such as the Tivoli Gardens, zoo, Bakken, Legoland as well as beautiful nature, lakes and beautiful beaches, food scene is great too, you can rent a summer cottage in one of the upmarket suburbs on the coast, just north of Copenhagen, cross over to southern Sweden for a change. Everyone over the age of about 7 speaks English. There are places to stay such as farm stays or cabins in the forest. Majorca is a good option too, plenty of beaches and architecture, culture and local food. The choices of where to stay are endless in Europe. Cyprus is an easy place to be, English widely spoken, lots for kids to do & adults alike, its a well known holiday destination for Europeans. There's mountains, perched villages, festivals etc and the locals love kids, its a big enough island to spend that amount on time on.
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