10 European Short Breaks for Children Under Ten
Europe has a lot on offer for free-spirited youngsters. We have listed ten of these adventures for children between six and ten. From nature walks to walking with dinosaurs, from winter fun to summers sizzle, from whale watching in Iceland and peering into caves full of bats in Bulgaria to playing princess for a day in Vienna.
BE A GLADIATOR IN ROME
This ancient city is great for adventure, with subterranean catacombs, crumbling basilicas and secret tunnels dating back to the 1st century. Young globetrotters can step back in time, don their shields and learn how to be a real gladiator for the day. The Viator Roman Gladiator School offers two-hour sessions for children aged six and above using realistic weapons. Clad in traditional tunic, belt and protective gloves, and armed with a training sword, the brave can play Spartacus for a day. Tickets start from 50 eruo and include free entrance to the Gladiator School of Rome Museum.
ICE SKATING IN STOCKHOLM
With twinkling lights, hot chocolate and Christmas markets bursting with goodies, Stockholm glisten at Christmas. From November, ice rinks begin to appear about town. A good place to start is the magical Kungsträdgården’s open-air rink (home of the Winter Show Kungsträdgården). You can rent skates (which are inexpensive) and skate around for a while. Then hang up your skates and catch a tram to Djurgården, and island filled with child-friendly attractions such as Gröna lund theme park and Aquaria Water Museum.
GO CAVING IN BULGARIA
Bulgaria has more than 4,500 caves, inhabited by 700 types of animal including 32 species of bat. To experience this wilder side to Bulgaria head to the Rhodope Mountains, in one of Europe’s wildest corners, home to bears, lynxes and golden eagles. Situated in the south of Bulgaria, the area boasts rocky outcrops, dark forests, dramatic river gorges and vast caves. Tour operator KA Adventure Travel, offers trips for families with children over the age of six to try easy rock climbing rocks using ladders and fixed routes, with full instructions. And there’s the chance to explore the Yagodinska Cave and the 250m-deep ‘Devil’s Throat’ canyon, as well as the option to camp under the stars.
WALK WITH DINOSAURS IN THE ALGARVE
Portugals’s south has something for everyone, including future palaeontologists. Among the scenic cove beaches such as Praia da Marinha; tiny, off-the-radar beaches like Praia de Albandeira, and starfish-inhabited rock pools of Paria da Amoreira, the remarkable Praia da Salema is home to some impressive dinosaur footprints, which are great to hunt out. The tracks, belonging to carnivorous bipedal dinosaurs that populated this region about 140 million years ago, can be found at the western end where the beach becomes wilder and quieter.
WHALE WATCHING IN ICELAND
Exploring geysers, mossy lava fields and fluorescent purple lupin, Iceland’s extraordinary landscapes fuel the imagination. And in the seas surrounding it are more than 20 different species of whale lurking in the icy depths, including minke, fin, blue, humpback and sperm whales. Tour operator Special Tour, offer family-friendly <whale watching> trips all year round, departing from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour. Boats have large viewing desks, a safe family environment, and guides on hand to dish out all the facts. Tours run six times daily from May to August and tree times daily from September to November. Trips cost 50 euro adults, 25 euro for children aged 5-15 and children aged six or under go free.
EAT THE WORLD’S BEST ICE CREAM IN NAPLES
For true ice-cream connoisseurs, a must visit place is Naples. The city is bursting with gelatarias overflowing with ice creams and sorbets. Families can get a hands-on gelato experience at David Gelateria, which offers guests a 45-minute insight into how to make perfect hand-made ice cream, or if you have an urgent craving, head to Gay-Odin.
BE A PRINCESS FOR A DAY IN VIENNA
Wannabe princesses can dress as real royalty in the Imperial City of Vienna. At the Schönbrum Palace, one of Austria’s most famous landmarks, children can learn about 18th-century fashion in the very residence of Empress Maria Theresa. In this former Habsburg palace, they can try on Baroque wigs and dresses, learn to communicate in ‘fan language’ and find out how to apply princess make-up.
RUN WILD IN THE SWISS ALPS IN SUMMER
Europe’s highest and longest mountain range sing with sunshine and blue skies throughout summer, showing off some epic scenery. It’s the perfect base for outdoor activities, from rock climbing and walking to swimming in crystalline mountain lakes, and not a ski boot in sight. Engaging Valley in St Moritz has easy walking trails, picnic areas, bathing lakes and a rope park in the Parco Avventura. Along a winding network of hiking paths at the Swiss National Park, nature spotters can see marmots, northern hares and lizards.
VISIT MICKEY AT DISNEYLAND PARIS
Europe has some of the world’s most colourful and curious theme parks, from the Ferris Wheel looking over Barcelona at Tibidabo, to Dyrehavsbakken, the oldest operating theme park in the world, which opened 432 years ago just north of Copenhagen. But Disneyland Paris offers five fantastical lands full of attractions, eye-popping shows and of course Disney character.
EXPLORE THE BEACHES OF IBIZA
Bucket and spade holiday don’t have to be in some far flung parts of the world. Europe boasts some of the world’s most beautiful stretches of sand and Las Salinas and Ibiza or two of them. A captivating silver of seaside with white sand and calm waters bordered by pinewoods, it is perfect for paddling and sandcastle construction. In the winter, Las Salinas is especially good for adventure walks, as the surrounding terrain is Ibiza’s wildlife Conservation area.