How to holiday in Europe with Older Children
I realised yesterday that I hadn’t really blogged that much about our holidays and that it’s something I should start to include. Everyone loves a holiday and we’ve been very lucky the last couple of years. I’ve just worked out that in the last 24 months I’ve been to 11 different countries!!! My boyfriend and I love a long weekend city break and we totally live by the ‘work hard, play hard’ motto.
Without going too far back I decided to start from Summer 2015 when we decided that for our holiday we wanted to do something a little different and had realised that we weren’t really the package holiday type of family. We put our heads together, scanned flights and a map of Europe and decided to see how our children would react to a mini-European tour! We wanted them to experience a little more culture and we wanted to introduce them to city-breaks. Bearing in mind they are complete water-babies though we knew we had to end the break with a hotel and a giant swimming pool!
We also have a list of ‘must-haves’ for our holiday which are:
- Good food
- Things to do on an evening
- Good entertainment options
- Nice hotels – minimum 4*
- Big, fun swimming pools
- Nearby beach
Travelling with kids can be expensive in the summer holidays – we all know that! So we had to also factor in the cost of what we could afford compared to what we wanted to do – basically be realistic. In fact this ended up being one of our cheaper holidays so it definitely paid off not booking with the big tour operators.
So, we planned our route and decided on – BERLIN to ROME to LISBON. Three countries, three amazing cities, all different but all super interesting and exciting. Before our trip, we encouraged Coby and Lucy to learn about the countries, cities and sights. We googled, searched hashtags on Instagram and we bought them travel journals too. It was really exciting but I was slightly apprehensive about what it was going to be like. All our flights were booked through scanning online, we started off from London Heathrow to Berlin with AirBerlin at a bargain price of £75pp and we found this amazing apartment right near the Colosseum. We then flew AirItalia over to Rome, and same again to Lisbon and then finally we flew back to London with British Airways. All in all our flights were approximately £600 for all four of us, including baggage and priority boarding. So far, so good.
We booked all our accommodation through Booking.com making sure to go through Topcashback first (Oh, by the way – I shop so much online than in the last 12 months I’ve had £340 back now, definitely would recommend). Whilst not a great deal of money – it’s definitely nice and I actually convert mine to Avios points for more holidays!
We travelled with hand luggage only – so packed light (first time I’d gone anywhere without a hairdryer – eek) and we each had small backpacks too. Our children’s were filled with things like pens, pencils, notebooks, i-pods, books, playing cards and sweets! But not so much I’d end up flipping carrying them when they complained they were too heavy. We bought new hard cases with wheels – a godsend, they literally push themselves.
So, first stop – BERLIN!
Aside from the obvious historic sights I didn’t really know what we’d do in Berlin. Overall I found it affordable, a little bit hipster and completely impossible to miss the turbulent history. Our first day, close to the Brandenburg Gate we visited the Holocaust memorial (and witnessed some incredibly disrespectful tourists). It’s nice to take a few photos, but I really don’t think it’s the place for selfies or playing silly games.
People were climbing and do cartwheels on top of the stone blocks! Overall I found it quite moving and the abstract design is certainly unusual. Over the next few days we visited the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, walked up and took a boat ride along the river Spree, and spotted lots of cool graffiti.
We did struggle slightly with food and Coby and Lucy practically lived off pizza! The people were nice and even though it’s not a particularly pretty city, it’s 100% interesting and steeped with history, it definitely gave our children an idea of what life was like during the Cold War as well as learning about some of the darker times in German history. Also, random but Berlin has a thing about ice-creams – you can buy them everywhere!
Next up – ROME
I was really looking forward to Rome, I love Italy – everybody loves Italy! I love the food, the people, the language and was really looking forward to some sun too! Our apartment was amazzzing! We had a rooftop terrace which looked out over the city and was a 10 min walk to the Colosseum. You really don’t need to worry about using public transport in Rome as everything is close together and within walking distance.
Our first day was spent walking around the centre of Rome where the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus are located. The area is full of so many historic ruins that it’s just incredible to gaze at the overturned boulders, broken arches and fragments of buildings, imagining what it might have once looked like. If you’ve seen the film Gladiator you’ll have all sorts of images going through your mind.. Russell Crowe may have, or may not have made an appearance in mine… 😉 Ahem…
Rome is just beautiful, day and night, and I really want to return to do more and see things again. We went to the Spanish steps quite a few times and even though the selfie sticks take over you can still appreciate the beauty. There’s a fountain at the bottom of the steps – Fontana della Barcaccia – which you can drink from and both Coby and Lucy spent some time there! Easily amused… We liked to also just ‘hang-out’, eat gelato, drink coffee and people watch. There’s a lot of that going on!
Eating was easy and we loved the food – but Italian food is easy for anyone to love.
On our final day we visited the Pantheon. Definitely a sight you CANNOT visit. It’s the only ancient Roman temple to survive the millennia virtually intact. The architecture will blow your mind, and you will need a few minutes just to take in the stately sight before heading inside. Again, there’s another fountain – The Fontana del Pantheon – where we stood, ate MORE gelato and drank water. Random fact too – you can drink from any water fountain in the city and there’s over 2,500 to choose from. It’s safe, fresh and super-cold.
Last stop – Lisbon
A month before Coby and I had been to the Algarve with my Mum and family so when I arrived in Lisbon I was a little surprised by how different they compared. Our aim in Lisbon was to relax a little more, especially after lots of walking around in Berlin and Rome. I could tell Coby was starting to get a little fed-up and needed some downtime – and a big pool to splash about in.
Lisbon is a beautiful city, from it’s signature cobbles to it’s colourful tiles we loved to just wander the streets in the evenings, and of course we ate more ice-cream! Actually Steve had a little bit of a thing for the traditional Nata’s – Poruguese custard pies.
As a family we love food and we love finding new food and experimenting. We headed over to Mercada do Ribeira on our first night and easily stayed a couple of hours. It’s a huge food market and you can little portions of lots of different things so you can literally try so much – and its cheap! If you’re in Lisbon ever – you have to go. Overall there was so much more we could have done in Lisbon but we were so looking forward to relaxing around the pool… with the comfy loungers… and the swim up bar! Plus Coby and Lucy made some friends which meant they were easily occupied.
Would we do it again?
Definitely, we all agreed it was exciting, interesting and lots of fun! It was super easy to book, travel and we saw so many things in the 10 days we were away. Have you ever had or considered a holiday like this? Have you ever visited any of these cities?