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Easy Family Hotel Stays in Europe

Until you become a parent, it’s hard to truly understand the joy—and ease—of a hotel that understands and caters to families with young kids.

In the throes of the young kids years, what I usually want is what I call “easy button travel,” where you show up with bags of snacks and a wet wipe stuck to your shoe and you’re greeted kindly, human to human—as opposed to wary eyes scrutinizing the little aliens. The pool is ready to welcome your family and bonus points if the children’s menu goes beyond pasta pomodoro and chicken nuggets.

But I also want high-quality food for the adults—with salads and vegetables!—an inviting spa and well-equipped gym, and a cozy bar to have a 5:30 p.m. dinner together, kids and all, if that’s what we feel like. The most important thing is that it feels uncomplicated; we are not aiming for life-changing travel at this moment in time.

Most hotels could certainly do better on family configurations, no matter how large the room. I have traded so many stories with fellow moms about eating dinner in the bathroom while your baby tries to sleep in the darkened room, or rolling the crib into a dark closet. Even in expansive suites, the set-up often doesn’t allow for a separate, dark area for kids to fall asleep while you still enjoy your evening after 7:00 p.m. Hiring or bringing childcare help along does eliminate elements of stress, but it’s not always what you need or want as part of a trip.

I have not included any theme park-related stays but I recently visited Disney Paris and am thinking of booking a Disney cruise soon (someone has to do the research, and test the food, to help save the rest of us), so stay tuned. We will continue updating this list as recommendations come in—and let us know your favorites.

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a family-friendly European holiday. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.

ITALY

Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel

Less than two hours south of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort, perhaps the most appealing property for families on the red-hot, trending island.

While all of the brand’s hotels are kid-friendly (The Balmoral in Edinburgh just renovated their pool), things are taken up a notch here and the children’s program is separated by ages—zero to three years for babies; four to 12 for kids; and 13 to 16 for teens. All meals are free for babies (and 50 percent off for kids four to 16) and the amenities are luxe–bath products, hooded towels and rubber ducks to start.

Through the kids’ club Verdùland, named for the hedgehog mascot Verdù, there are educational programs like astronomy and mythology; junior sports academies including tennis, soccer and golf; Sicilian cooking classes and more. There is also a private beach, the headquarters of the water sports center.

This year, the hotel unveiled a soft renovation of all rooms and suites, inspired by Sicilian cultural heritage and colors (think burnt orange and citron yellow), all spearheaded by Olga Polizzi, director of design, who infuses her style throughout every Rocco Forte hotel. Depending on the room you book, there are 100 to 200 euro credits towards children's activities.

Forget rolling the crib into the closet when booking one of the private three- to four-bedroom villas–Rocco Forte Private Villas–framed by palm trees and sea views, and a great choice for families with private pools, outdoor dining areas, and fully equipped kitchens for easy dinners.

While the kids are at the club, the Irene Forte Spa is one of the largest and most advanced in Italy, with everything from daily spa treatments using Sicilian botanicals to longer programs including an express (three days) itinerary to kick-start new wellness routines and longer healthy living programs at six days minimum.

And while travelers normally don’t associate Italy with golf, the resort is also a huge draw for golfers with Mediterranean views from two 18-hole championship courses and a nine-hole, par-3 course.

ENGLAND

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park originally opened in 1908—no other hotel in London allows you to eat breakfast right on Hyde Park, watching horses and locals on their morning routines.

The hotel recently launched one of the coolest kid-focused programs I’ve experienced, Little Ranger Adventures, which allows children to choose a passion to focus on: Park Ranger with an interactive card-game experience in Hyde Park; Sloane Ranger for personal shopping at Harvey Nichols across the street; and Royal Ranger, with an insider access tour to the closed-to-the-public Hyde Park Barracks, with more than 200 royal horses.

It’s all in the details here—kids are greeted with a treasure hunt map relating to the ranger they chose, a room full of balloons, a trunk full of dress-up clothes and special edible treats. There is also a children’s afternoon tea, and they can set up a movie night with popcorn and twinkly lights—not to mention a fantastic pool in the spa.

PORTUGAL

Reid's Palace, a Belmond Hotel, Madeira

Known for Madeira wine and as the home of soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, the landscape of this Portuguese island is varied and lush. Belmond’s Reid’s Palace, known as the Pink Palace, is the grande dame of the island, built in 1891 on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and capital of Funchal. Today, the Brits love Madeira with a four-hour direct flight from London but it is lesser-known by Americans.

At Reid’s, families love the traditional afternoon tea on the terrace, the three large swimming pools, as well as one of the best kid’s clubs in Europe with warm and friendly staff aimed at kids ages three to nine.

There are playgrounds to explore in Funchal, botanical gardens and fun, buzzy streets with restaurants and stands to pick up a steak sandwich. You can also take the famous cable car from the center of Funchal to Monte and then take the toboggan down the hill—there is no age limit, and we took our daughter at 15 months, but I'd recommend it for kids four and up. You hop in a traditional wicker basket toboggan and then steered down the hill at around 30 mph for 10 minutes. It's totally exhilarating and a fun look at historical transport.

I’d hire a babysitter through the hotel for a lunch at the incredibly special Fajã dos Padres, which you can only get to by boat or cable car, descending from a cliff to a gorgeous organic farm and wine-tasting facility. Lunch overlooks the sea, surrounded by fig, avocado and mango trees.

Four Seasons Resort Lisbon

This is Lisbon’s grande dame, despite only being built in the 1950’s, and it is a nearly perfect hotel, from the indoor pool that kids can use at any time to top-floor gym facilities and one of Europe’s best breakfast buffets.

The exterior belies the Art Deco meets 18th-century French masterpiece interiors, with elegant, rich finishings in every room. Kids love the huge Oceanário de Lisboa, located a short taxi ride from the center in the Parque das Nações, an area built for the Expo in 1998. Skip lunch at the café and join the locals around 1 p.m. at nearby ZeroZero for a kid-friendly casual pizza lunch. Also worth seeing with kids is the Lisbon Zoo, one of the oldest in Europe—and with dozens of (mostly delightful) peacocks roaming around outside.

The Martinhal is a much-loved, family-friendly Portuguese hotel brand–however, the one in Lisbon’s Chiado neighborhood does not have a pool. In the Algarve, families often rave about the Martinhal Sagres Beach Resort.

Four Seasons overall does a great job with families, usually offering special flatware and plastic cups—it is perplexing how often two-year-olds are giving full-size forks and glass cups at hotels. During a recent lunch at the Four Seasons Taormina, it felt like dozens of small kids were being catered to—and for such a sexy, trendy resort as the season two filming location for The White Lotus, it felt refreshing. When I stayed at the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires with my seven-month-old, the hotel laundered every piece of baby clothing for just $1 USD each—a hefty discount from normal laundry rates.

SWITZERLAND

Kempinski Palace Engelberg

Just 45 minutes by direct train from Lucerne, Engelberg has long flown under the radar for visitors but not the locals—it’s where my Swiss husband learned how to ski. In the early 1900’s, there were 12 five-star hotels here with a direct train from London. “If you couldn’t afford Engelberg, you went to St. Moritz,” a local told me.

What goes around comes around. In 2021, Kempinski reopened the first luxury resort in the village, a Belle Epoque masterpiece that has been exquisitely restored and modernized.

With kids, it is an easy, beautiful Alpine getaway—the Kempinski Kids Club is open for most of the day (except a lunch break from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), where they can also bake muffins and cookies in the children’s kitchen. Directly outside one of the main restaurants and the hotel’s breakfast room is a beautiful playground, the main one in town, where locals and visitors mingle. Kids are welcome in the infinity pool from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and any time in the children’s pool, which has a depth of 17 inches. Kids also love the excursions to the top of Mount Titlis, with its 360 degree revolving cable car up to the summit.

Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, Interlaken

The Victoria-Jungfrau joined two historic hotels together in 1991 to create a modern grande dame, paying homage to its golden age grandeur. Visitors to Interlaken are typically there to explore the Bernese-Oberland, with some of the most spectacular scenery in Switzerland, and ascend the Jungfraujoch, the highest point accessible in Europe. For families with young kids, using the Victoria-Jungfrau as a base is an easy choice—the new kids' club is one of the best I’ve seen globally, offering a full slate of events like face painting; candle and pizza classes; and flower arranging. The pool offers a kid’s “splash hour” from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. with colorful pool floats and toys. There is even a special children’s section of the amazing breakfast buffet-think Babybel cheese and Swiss chocolate.

GREECE

Daios Cove, Crete

As the largest and southernmost island in Greece, Crete sits at the crossroads of three continents—Asia, Europe and Africa. It also has some of the most beautiful beaches and is the perfect easy button getaway for families–starting with the hour-long transfer from Crete’s airport to set you up at this 165-room resort overlooking a perfect sandy beach. The childcare options are excellent, with an included children’s club for kids four and up and an on-site nursery for babies and toddlers at an extra charge. But most hotels don’t have any nursery option beyond setting you up with a babysitter, which makes this especially appealing.

European hotels often charge by the person, unlike the U.S. Babies up to two years old always stay free—for deluxe rooms, the first child stays free; and all children stay free if you book one of the suites or villas, which families love for the privacy and private pools. There are six excellent restaurants (just-caught seafood is the specialty) and the kid’s menu has pizza and pasta but also mini Greek salads and leek, carrot and potato soup.

Guests can arrange to visit various museums and ruins in the area, but most families remain at the hotel and enjoy easy travel with Cretan views.

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a family-friendly European holiday. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.

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