Europe is a fascinating part of the world where you can find yourself exploring ancient cities one week and skiing down some of the world’s best pistes the next. London, Paris and Rome are all famous capitals that everyone should visit in their lifetime but what about some of the lesser known European treasures waiting to be discovered too? Here are three destinations that you might not instantly think about visiting with the family — but you really should, for a unique look at this incredible continent.
France’s third largest city is a cosmopolitan place that is thriving with a strong economy, bustling night scene and cultural landmarks. As well as plentiful shops and highly recommended restaurants (At Grand Ma’s, Pizzeria Carlino) there are of course lots of nods to its historical past to get involved in. Place des Terreaux is a pretty central square with a 19th century fountain sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (who designed the Statue of Liberty). Kids can get caught in the granite fountains of Daniel Buren’s polka dot forest water feature and parents can marvel at 17th century facade of the Hotel de Ville that overlooks the square. Families can also take city boats, hire out rollerblades or simply stroll around to take in the atmosphere without spending a fortune.
Spain attracts hordes of sun seekers every year but head next door to Portugal for an equally good time but without the crowds. Porto is the country’s second largest city that dates back to Roman times and has an evidently rich history. Take a wander around Ribeira district (or the old town), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you’ll walk past quaint houses, local stalls, beautiful plazas and even some roman ruins. World of Discoveries is a fun day out for that is worth the very reasonable entrance fee. You’ll learn about Portugal’s explorers through interactive exhibits, theatrical performances and even rides! Another day can be spent at Sealife Porto where over 5,000 sea creatures swim around. Catch the sharks and rays being fed in the afternoon.
For a winter vacation, Reykjavik is a striking city that boasts an Icelandic backdrop of snow covered mountains. One activity that you simply must book before heading to Reykjavik is a night trip to see the Aurora Borealis. The magic of the famous Northern Lights never fails to wow anyone in Iceland and you’ll be able to experience them on a drive just outside of the city. There’s still lots of things to do if you want to stay put, like a visit to the Saga Museum where you’ll learn all about the gory Vikings. This isn’t for the faint hearted, so be sure that everyone is in the mood for a scream or two! Laugardalur is a stretch of hot springs with a skating rink, botanical garden and cafes. Locals of Iceland like to spend time here so you’ll be in good, friendly company.
These are just a few of the highlights that Europe needs to start shouting about. Other ideas include Salzburg in Austria (what family doesn’t love The Sound of Music?), Verona in Italy (perfect for teens studying Romeo and Juliet) and Manchester in England (great for football, music and shopping fans!). Find your own European secret for you and your family to enjoy.