Holidays can spell hell for kids quick to boredom. They can spend a triumphant day snorkelling, building sandcastles and smearing their faces in gelato, but lack interest in anything else once you’re back in your room. The hosts of our family-friendly hotels in Europe know kids. They know how little ones work and how families roll. They know how to give you mutually beneficial breaks that appeal to all ages. Most of them are run by families themselves who will welcome you as one of their own. Come on in…
Ballymaloe House: Cork, Ireland
Ballymaloe House has been making families feel at home since the 17th century. Hidden away in a 400-acre estate, the rural retreat is packed with simple pleasures. The Allen family will be happy to lend your kids some wellies to roam the farm, find secret spots, feed the pigs, collect eggs, and make friends with the pets. ‘Children’s Tea’ is served daily and is always a beautiful bonding event for little ones. Take it easy; going for swims in the outdoor pool during the summer, challenging each other to a game of tennis or spending time on the mini golf course that’s open for residents.
Kurhaus Bergün: Bergün, Switzerland
Spacious and artistic, Kurhaus Bergün proves that family-friendly hotels in Europe don’t have to compromise on elegance. With gorgeous family rooms and a location in the Albula Valley, you can all comfortably immerse yourselves in nature. Take the kids for mountain adventures in the summer – with walking routes for all levels and fascinating wildlife observations. In winter, those slopes transform into a snowsport dream. From sledging to hiking with goats (yes really), there’s a white wonderland on your doorstep. Grown-ups fall for the creative gourmet, award-winning Art Nouveau lighting and 20th-century building, while little ones are kept busy with the children’s library, cinema evenings, interactive train museum, games room and table tennis.
Fredriksten Hotell: Halden, Norway
Fredriksten fortress is famous – the country sings about it all the time in the Norwegian national anthem. Both children and adults alike will revel in its story, which is best told within the cosy walls of Fredriksten Hotell. With buckets of history and hectares of dazzling green surrounding it, the gently restored stay packs in the perfect combination of culture and nature. Book a family room as your base and explore the quaint town of Halden, which is easy walking distance from the hotel and its unbeatable views.
Waldhaus Sils: Sils Maria, Switzerland
Your children will remember Waldhaus Sils when they’re old and wrinkled themselves. Located in the heavenly Sils-Maria, it’s a dream base among a wonderland of fresh-air fun. Let them unleash their inner wild thing in the forest playground, head out for a refreshing swim in Lake Sils, rent out a mountain bike, go on a high-rope adventure and even go windsurfing. If you’d prefer to indulge in the hotel’s ‘temple of tranquility’ without the young ones, the family-run haven will keep them occupied in the children’s club (for kids aged three to 12) while you recharge. On Thursdays, you can even send them to the big Waldhaus kitchen for pizza-making lessons – good practice for when you return home.
Le Bouclier d’Or: Strasbourg, France
Disney-loving kids adore France, but the obvious Parisian theme park may not be your idea of heaven. Strasbourg, though, may well tick everyone’s boxes. If they haven’t seen it already, show your young ones Walt Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, then whisk them to the cathedral itself and see if they can spot scenes from the movie. 16th-century Le Bouclier d’Or is a beautiful, memorable Strasbourg stay, speckled with special touches. The boutique gem boasts light and spacious suites that are perfect for families. Kids will enjoy the quirky separate bedroom (with its very own staircase) while the whirlpool bath and heated toilet seat are a big hit with older and younger guests alike.