City Breaks With Children – Yes or No?
City Breaks and children were never something I would have put together; images conjured of small children being bored and dragged around shops and museums, or trying to get them to sit still in restaurants would’ve put me off.
As an adult BC (Before Children) I would’ve been puzzled by why anyone would bring a child into a city – noise, traffic, nightlife; surely the goal was to get away from this? Now, my life has changed and I have two kids... but I still have a lot of cities on my bucket list and actually I think there is so much more on offer to amaze, delight and entertain young children, you just got chose wisely.
I read somewhere that it’s often a good idea to re-visit a city you’ve been to – you don’t feel the need to ‘sight see’ as much and can go at a much more relaxed pace without feeling that you are missing something. Doing city hop-on, hop-off tours are often dismissed as “touristy” but can be a brilliant way to combine sight-seeing with some fun and entertainment for the kids, not to mention giving little legs a rest! Getting around a big city like Barcelona, for example, on an open top bus, with lots of breaks; being able to jump off and explore Park Guell might buy you some extra time at the Sagrada Familia for example.
While art galleries and museums nowadays tend to be a lot more family friendly, it’s worth researching and choosing the more interactive exhibitions and galleries – places like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, even our own Science Gallery in Dublin, or specialist museums like the Lego Museum in Prague will hold their attention a lot longer. London is a fantastic city for children; think London Eye, Somerset House Ice Rink, shows galore like the Gruffalo or currently running at Warner Brothers Studio is ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ … there is just so much to do and see there; I remember my own awe at the sheer scale of the whale in the Natural History Museum... I would love to see my kids face walking into that room! Speaking of whales... aquariums are always a winner for parent and child alike. Walking through the tunnels of a massive shark tank in Barcelona Aquarium and watching the manta rays is a memory my daughter still has of a trip to Barcelona two years ago… they are also very handy for a rainy day!
On a very practical level, booking a hotel with a pool is another trick and treat for kids - better still, a hotel with a pool, near a park! City parks usually have playgrounds, duck ponds, bike rides and picnic potential and give the kids a chance to run around unrestrained. Consider bringing a stroller with you, even for kids up to 4+ years (the SilverCross Pop is tested to a heavier weight than most strollers - 25kgs as opposed to 15kgs). Sampling local cuisine is part and parcel of experiencing a new city but if little Billy doesn’t like olives in Ireland, he’s probably not going to like them in France either.. but he might go for a gelato instead! Relaxing the routine a little seems to be key.
So which cities to visit? I sometimes wonder are some cities more child friendly than others to explore? Lonely Planet recommends Budapest this year among its top family destinations, with outdoor baths, a children’s railway (driven by children?!) and a permanent Big Top. London and Berlin have regular top ten places. Actually, most cities have so much to offer, it’s a case of cherry picking a couple of suitable activities and attractions. It’s a personal thing, but I feel that city breaks are a bit like Christmas – if you’re going to bring children, then plan it around them and experience it through their eyes. If they enjoy it, you definitely will.