Exclude Further Afield Travel

Where to stay and play in Europe

If a trip to Europe is on your travel bucket list, the good news is that flights from Hong Kong are now more affordable. Prices have dropped considerably over the last few years and with airlines increasing the frequency of direct flights from Hong Kong as well as offering more promotions, it’s a great time to get booking! To help you plan your trip, EL staff and readers recount their recent European Travel adventures – with and without children.

Fact file

Population: 740 million
Number of countries: 50 (6 with limited recognition)
Smallest country: Vatican City (population 1,000)
Biggest country: Russia (the western part of the Russian Federation – around 25 percent of the country – is in Eastern Europe; the rest is in Asia)
Largest religion: Christianity Languages: More than 200 languages are spoken across Europe.

Visiting… Austria

“Austria has become my family’s favourite part of Europe to explore; you can get postcard-worthy scenery, a good dose of culture and delicious food at reasonable prices. Our recent holiday in April 2019 brought us to Hallstatt and Vienna. We stayed in Pepi’s Apartment in Hallstatt, which overlooks the idyllic landscape of the laidback town. Despite the throngs of tourists arriving each morning (Hallstatt is a popular destination), it was still a lovely experience overall. Lake Hallstatt is absolutely beautiful and staying in the apartment was a big plus as we woke up to mountain views. You can easily spend a day roaming the small town, but do take time to get the cable car up to the salt museum.

Austria - where to stay in Europe

After a bus and a train ride (four hours), we arrived at Vienna. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment just five minutes by foot to the central station. Commuting around the city was convenient thanks to a well-developed public transport system. Must-visits include the massive Natural History Museum, the grand St Stephen’s Cathedral, and Cafe Central for some of the best cakes you’ll ever have.” – Anthia Chng, Singaporean

Visiting… Croatia

“We visited Split, Hvar, Losinj and Plitvice Lakes in Croatia over two weeks. In Split, we stayed in a two-bedroom Airbnb just outside the old town. The kids’ highlight was a day trip to Blue Cave and the nearby islands from Split. I highly recommend Split Sea Tours – they have a great powerboat that gets you to the caves.

We then took a ferry to Hvar and stayed at the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort for four nights. Hvar is stunning! We recommend hiring a boat to see the Paklinski Islands; there are so many amazing bays to swim in and you’ve got to have lunch at Laganini Lounge Bar & Fish House.

Croatia - where to stay in Europe

After that, we headed to Losinj and stayed at Hotel Bellevue – it’s an amazing luxury hotel! We then took a ferry and hired a car to get to Plitvice Lakes and stayed one night in a guest house. Plitvice Lakes is the most beautiful national park we’ve been to; the colours are outstanding and it’s definitely worth the drive. The walk around the lakes was about 10 kilometres so we motivated the kids by having a photo-taking competition to keep them engaged during the walk.

A special moment of our vacation was the day we took a boat to the Paklinski islands and jumped off the boat together into its amazing bays. Our youngest was a little apprehensive at first but became absolutely fearless by the end of the day.

When travelling with kids, pick a base near your arrival destination for a couple of nights to get over jet lag. We flew into Split and got an apartment there so if someone woke in the early hours, they could watch TV or read in the lounge. We also took mainly ferries and buses between our destinations and booked tickets in advance. The kids enjoyed the adventure of getting to each destination.” – Louise and Chris Whittock, British/American; Amelia (9) and Sienna (7)

Visiting… Denmark

“We spent four days in Copenhagen, hiring a picture-perfect (though small!) summer house in the north of the country for a week with friends. The water was freezing but the kids loved it. We drove west from Copenhagen through Odense (Hans Christian Andersen’s hometown) to the original capital Ribe on the coast.

denmark - where to stay in Europe

Beautiful, wild and windswept, the west hosts millions of migrating birds every year on the tidal flats. A highlight was Vadehavscentret, the museum of the Wadden Sea, which explains a lot of the trading and natural history of the area. Also, nearby is the outdoor Viking Museum, set up as a working village, and the Egeskov Castle is a children’s dream, with multiple adventure playgrounds and a classic vehicle collection around a castle in a moat. Legoland (better than Malaysia’s one) and The Lego House are must-dos, too, even for teenagers. The Lego House, in particular, had many interactive activities and amazing galleries of Lego creations. Allow a full day here.

It was so easy to drive around the country, and the Airbnbs we rented were in great condition. It was an easy and fun holiday with kids.” – Danielle Rossetti, Australian

Visiting Greece

“In the third quarter of 2019, I travelled to Greece where I stayed at the Economy Hotel Athens before heading to the island of Lesvos, and the Lesvion Hotel in Mytilini. I loved the food – Greek yoghurt, organic produce, fresh seafood – and the wine! We also went on a snorkelling trip in the crystal-clear waters of Rabbit Island.

greece - where to stay in Europe

Although our kids weren’t with us on this particular trip, I’ve already mooted the idea to my wife of bringing them here on a summer family volunteer trip, which I believe would be a powerful life lesson for them. Besides that, they’d love the natural surroundings – and the islanders are such lovely people!

Some highlights of my trip included a walk through Moria refugee camp and playing chess with an Afghan refugee. Why not embark on a different sort of trip? One where you can serve others, bond with your family and enjoy some R&R.” – Lim Nan, Singaporean

Visiting Belgium

“In June last year, we went to Brussels and Bruges in Belgium. In Brussels, you’ve got to go to the GrandPlace, which is surrounded by the city’s iconic heritage buildings. It’s truly awe-inspiring, with its cobbled streets, gold-gilded buildings and gothic churches. Other must-dos include taking a ferry to Chalet Robinson for an authentic Belgian meal and having handcrafted ice-cream from Neuhaus (definitely a highlight for kids) – you’ve got to try their famous pralines too.

Belgium - where to stay in Europe

We rented bicycles in Bruges and the hour that we spent cycling around town was the highlight of the entire trip. It’s like something straight out of a fairy tale – imagine Disneyland, but without the characters in costume and insane queues!

We travelled with our four-year-old. He loved trying out all the amazing food (waffles, fries, hot chocolate) and he enjoyed the street music. There’s a lot of walking around involved so my top tip for travelling with a young one is to bring a travel stroller – it’s a saviour even on cobbled streets. Besides that, keep them hydrated and ensure they have their fruit and veggies as most of the popular foods don’t include them.” – Tresa CJ, Indian

Visiting Spain

“Our trip started in Barcelona, which is home to Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, a must-visit for its splendid architecture and interiors. Make a trip to Montjuïc Castle for stunning views of the city and waterfront. While there, stay for the light and sound show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. A city tour can be booked to visit Casa Batlló, the Gothic Quarter, La Pedrera, Palau Güell and other architectural and historic wonders of Spain. Camp Nou (for football fans) and Las Ramblas (shopping and eating) may be covered too.

spain - where to stay in Europe

The next stop was Seville where we witnessed the famous flamenco performances, while Royal Alcázar of Seville and Plaza de España are also mustvisits. We covered Santa Cruz, Triana, Basílica de la Macarena and the Bullring on guided walking tours.

When in Madrid, don’t miss the Royal Palace of Madrid, Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Toros. The hop-on hop-off bus covers most tourist attractions. For shopping at high-end outlet stores, head to Las Rozas Village. And be sure to experience the food (especially tapas) and nightlife!” – Nikita Agarwal, Indian

Visiting France

“The Dordogne refers to several things. It’s the name of a 483-kilometre-long river and the valley it traverses, and it’s also a department in north Aquitaine. We stayed there with family of my husband’s who are lucky enough to have a home in the gorgeous village of Saint-Geniès.

It’s a lovely area to tour, starting with Sarlat. This magical medieval town’s stone buildings have been impeccably restored, much of the centre is pedestrianised, and both tourists and locals alike flock to its Saturday market. The Dordogne area is famous for its rivers, castles and prehistoric caves, as well as its agricultural bounty and distinctive cuisine featuring ducks, geese, walnuts and strawberries. I fell in love with pommes de terre à la sarladaise – a Sarlat dish of potatoes fried with onion, and sometimes also with garlic, lardons or mushrooms. That’s right, instead of olive oil, they cook in duck or goose fat here.

where to stay in Europe

Also in the area is Domme, officially listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and located on the very top of a steep and lofty cliff that rises from the exquisite valley of the Dordogne. From there, we descended to the valley and to the fortress town La Roque-Gageac, built into a cliff and located right next to the river. Its history goes back even further than Gallo-Roman times: evidence of prehistoric communities has been found along the cliff. Beynac’s magnificent castle offers more stunning views across the valley. Also not to be missed is the village of Les Eysies de Tayac, where a fossil of a Cro-Magnon (or early European modern human) was first discovered in a rock shelter in 1868.”

– Verne Maree, South African

Visiting Italy

Lake Como

“We visited Lake Como in May 2018. We hired a car and drove from Munich where we were visiting family members. The scenic drive took us through Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

Visiting italy

We stayed in Menaggio, in a short-stay apartment called Casa Daniele. It was near a small supermarket, restaurants and the ferry dock, and a short walk to the town square. Menaggio has a long lakeside promenade and flat roads, so getting around with a stroller is easy.

There are many villas and gardens in the towns around Lake Como; the two we liked the most were Bellagio’s Villa Melzi and Lenno’s Villa Balbianello. We viewed them as part of a boat tour. Ferries link the towns, and we enjoyed two days of ferry trips to see Bellagio, Varenna and Como itself.

Menaggio has many family-friendly activities, including a small lakefront mini-golf with a large pool, playground, bar and restaurant. Our young kids also enjoyed the colourful Trombetta Express train that travels along the road from Menaggio to Tremezzina with several stops on the way.

Italy Villa Balbianella

If you have kids prone to motion sickness, be warned that all the roads into and around Lake Como are curvy, steep and narrow. I also recommend getting a holiday apartment rather than a hotel, so you have the flexibility of doing simple cooking or preparing a picnic lunch. The little supermarket in Menaggio had delicious bread, cheeses and hams for a lovely DIY lunch. ”

– Karola Clark, Australian

Puglia: A sublime Summer spot

Located in the heel of Italy, Puglia is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination thanks to its charming baroque towns, olive groves and orchards, blue seas and beaches, plentiful sunshine and excellent cuisine.

Scott dunn

A firm favourite of travel operator Scott Dunn, Borgo Egnazia is one of the Mediterranean’s most luxurious hotels. Set within 20 hectares along the Puglian coast, it’s a treat for couples and families alike (there’s a kids’ club). Hire bikes and explore the surrounding olive groves, learn how to cook traditional Italian dishes, visit the famous white-washed trullo houses in Alberobello, relax at the spa, and enjoy sampling delicious local delicacies. It’s a tranquil place that makes the perfect spot for a summer holiday.

Italy Scott Dunn Borgo Egnazia

Find out more about Borgo Egnazia and other European accommodation at scottdunn.com.


Like this? See more in our Travel section

Six quick getaways from Hong Kong
A guide to visiting Laos