Keep the kids entertained and work up an appetite with these family foodie holidays, packed with fun activities and fine dining.
Heading out for half-term? Take your family on a trip to remember with these top foodie destinations.
Whether you're travelling in the UK or further afield, we've got a host of advice on how to get the best out of your gourmet getaway.
Best for surfing on the coast
Perfectly positioned on a clifftop overlooking Cornwall’s showstopping Fistral Beach, the imposing Headland Hotel is ideal for a spot of winter storm watching. It has cottages designated for this armchair-based adrenaline activity, while the ballroom has cosy fireplaces and picture windows from where you can watch Atlantic squalls roll in. If you like a bracing walk, step directly out of the hotel onto a sandy path leading to 250 miles of rugged north Cornish coastline.
Meanwhile, inside the hotel, it’s just as atmospheric. You’ll soon see why this Victorian pile was chosen as the location to film an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches; think sweeping staircases, grand libraries, ballrooms and fireplaces so enormous you could step inside. Despite all this old-English elegance, there’s a modern heart to The Headland where staff display easy-going charm, rooms are cosy and comfortable, and the spa is a chic retreat.
Headland is a great base for multi-generational holidays; there are plenty of snug rooms with roaring fires and board games, along with activities for all ages. Archery, circus skills and foraging are all on offer, and the hotel is a 40-minute drive from the Eden Project. There’s an excellent surf and paddle-boarding school beneath the hotel that caters to children as young as five, at any time of year, if you’re game. Dogs are welcome on the beach, too.
Home to two restaurants, Samphire is Headland’s grander offering, overlooking the surf and the sea vegetables after which it is named. This is where Headland’s hearty breakfast is served; order from the menu and help yourself to a generous buffet, too – children will be in their element. In the evening, Samphire serves a seasonally changing, Cornish inspired menu (two courses, £34) where dishes are works of art, but the chef also manages to let quality ingredients speak for themselves – such as seared venison, Cornish crab, local sardines and samphire. Sunday lunch is well worth staying for and is excellent value at £24.95 for three courses.
If you’re looking for something more relaxed, you’ll find cool cocktails, sky-high sandwiches and some excellent crab and chips at The Terrace, which forms part of the hotel. Off-site, Rick Stein’s Fistral is a short walk away, serving Asian food as well as traditional fish and chips. If you’re after aromatic comfort food, try the nasi goreng (£9.95). For drinks before or after dinner, head to Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm or Skinner’s Brewery, landmarks of Cornish libation, both within day-trip distance.
How to do it:
Rooms at the Headland Hotel from £165 per night for a family of four sharing; storm-watching packages are available in the winter months, until March, and start from £90 per night, based on a three-night stay.
Review by Lily Barclay
Best for cosy camping
Between Easter and the end of September there’s a very special campsite hidden away in a field in the South Downs National Park. Run by Griff and Stella, who advocate a lifestyle that leaves little impact on the landscape, Woodfire Camping is a quiet environment populated with tents, surrounded by nature (no electronic music, but guitars and the like are welcome).
It’s a fantastic space for kids with no cars on site, showers housed in cute wooden cubicles (complete with mirrors) and fire pits for hire that light up the night. For those who prefer an easy arrival and departure, pre-erected tents are available. Our four-person Sheraton came with comfortable sleeping mats, hot water bottles, plus a table and benches, though we took our own bedding.
There’s plenty for kids to do, with horses to admire, trails and paths to explore and a good-sized area for playing a spot of football. Just a short drive away you’ll find National Trust property Petworth House, and further afield, along the West Sussex coast, stop off at villages like Climping and West Wittering to visit antique shops and tea rooms, and stroll along the beach at Bracklesham Bay.
Most Thursdays to Sundays – and this is why you’ll really want to book – Griff cooks evening meals over a fire on the enormous iron grill, or a stew in a potjie (a cast iron pot), including veggie options. These come with delicious homemade flatbread, also cooked on the grill, with salads on the side. You need to order dinner in advance and prices range from £7.50-£12 for adults and £4-5 for kids. Eat at one of the communal tables or take away back to your pitch; either way you’ll need to bring your own plates and cutlery.
If you haven’t sorted out breakfast, bacon and egg butties are often available in the mornings, along with tea and freshly brewed coffee, for a small fee. The meat is free-range and and vegetables come from the kitchen garden if possible, while other fresh ingredients are sourced locally. On remaining evenings, or for lunch, you can walk to the pub. Within easy reach are The Foresters Arms, The White Horse – a smarter option – and The Cricketers with dinner from 6pm, which is useful with kids in tow, plus it serves enormous portions.
How to do it:
A Sheraton tent at Woodfire Camping costs £30 per night (for adults) or £10 for children 3-18 years, with a minimum spend of £60; there’s a two-night minimum stay at weekends, and three nights over bank holidays.
Review by Lulu Grimes
Dorset: Chesil Vista
Best for family caravanning
A stone’s throw from Chesil Beach, Chesil Vista is a family-friendly caravan park (open March-October) that makes the perfect base for exploring Dorset’s fossil-rich coastline. You’ll find comfortable, wellequipped caravans with large living rooms and decent showers – some also come with a generous terrace and sea views, and a handful of two-bedroom apartments have shared terraces. On site, there’s plenty of organised entertainment and games to keep children happy, including an indoor pool complete with flume slide.
No trip to the seaside is complete without a visit to the arcade, and Chesil Vista’s will not disappoint, while other on-site facilities include a well-maintained soft play centre. Rise early and hire bikes (in advance) to make the most of the vast shingle bays with their crystal-clear waters, that are virtually on the doorstep. Look for fossils, visit the impressive Portland Bill Lighthouse, and stop off for freshly shucked oysters in one of the many seaside shacks.
If you’re looking for good food with a family friendly vibe, then try Billy Winters Bar & Diner. There’s house-smoked salmon, Fleet Lagoon-foraged seabeet, and oyster beds adjacent to the restaurant so you can enjoy briny bivalves straight from the water. The wood-fired pizzas (£11.50-15), and homemade cakes (around £3) are a hit with kids, and Billy’s makes a good classic cocktail, too (£7.50). The bar is set right on the beach with amazing views, which is ideal for some postprandial stone-skimming.
If you’re looking for a more grown-up dinner venue, then the award-winning Crab House Café is a short walk from the caravan park. Renowned for its seafood, it’s recommended by tourists and locals alike, with mains from £14-£30, and children’s fish and chips for £7.50. For a relaxed, good-quality, well-priced meal on site, Chesil Vista’s Breeze Bar & Grill has friendly staff and a wide selection to choose from. Try the locally caught seabass with scalloped new potatoes and spinach (£13.95) and a range of classic kids’ dishes from a fiver, then grown-ups can round off the meal with artisan cheeses sourced from the Dorset Downs (£6.95). Kids will be delighted by the dessert menu. Indulge them with an ice-cream sandwich or sundae (£4.95) to fuel a bit more play before bedtime.
How to do it:
Stay at Chesil Vista from £159 for a three-night break (Fri-Mon) based on a family of four sharing a Classic Modern Caravan.
Review by Lily Barclay
Best for sun-ripened veg and idyllic simplicity
Situated in the heel of the ‘boot’ of Italy, the region’s veg-centric dishes show a special appreciation for the produce, whereby even the simplest of ingredients are elevated, like courgettes marinated and lightly seasoned in a light and perfectly balanced salad, and cima di rapa combined with garlic and anchovy to form the most flavoursome pasta sauce. Take a tour of this area and you will eat very well.
At La Farmacia dei Sani in Ruffano, Valentina Rizza, the head chef, cooks a pasta dish with anchovies and pistachios that is an absolute delight. Head to La Bersagliera, in Surano (+39 345 795 3080) where Raffaele Fabcullio serves plates of food based on the produce that surrounds him. He also runs private cooking classes for guests staying in the nearby Don Totu hotel. La Puritate in Gallipoli (+39 0833 264205) specialises in fish – try the salt-crusted red shrimps. And for a truly hyperlocal meal, visit Le Stanzie in Supersano with its underground olive presses. They make their own ricotta, pasta and bread and grow their own veg.
How to do it:
For a truly cosseting hotel experience, Don Totu, located in the small town of San Cassiano, is nothing short of idyllic and the staff are continually on hand. Family rooms are available from £283 a night and include breakfast and an aperitif in the evening.
Review by Elena Silcock
Best for beer and harbour views
You’ll find vineyards, distilleries and breweries, as well as places to eat, around the sheltered bay. Daily catches supply eateries, including Prawn on the Lawn. Try a plate piled high with Porthilly mussels and clams or a whole red mullet. Visit the cosy Harbour Inn for a glass of delicate Camel Valley Pilsner, the brainchild of two Cornish drinks giants: Camel Valley wines and Sharp’s Brewery. Or try Seven Souls ale, a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Indulge in dry-aged rib-eye and roasted pumpkin with plump burrata and romesco sauce at Nathan Outlaw’s The Mariners, and end with Crackler cheddar alongside fruitcake infused with Doom Bar – an almost porty beer.
How to do it:
Stay at The St Moritz Hotel near Rock and Padstow. Family garden suites are available from £395 a night with breakfast included.
Review by Georgina Kiely
Best for ice cream and hidden places
Nothing prepares you for your first trip to Venice; the miracle of the buildings on the water, alleyways bursting onto sun-beaten squares and the glow of Aperol spritzes. The best and cheapest way to get about is walk, so if taking the family, be prepared, but Venice is a joy for children with lots of bridges to cross and ice cream to eat. Good food can be hard to come by here, so hop off the beaten track. In Campo San Polo find La Corte Birraria where you can sit in the square and eat pizza made from 72-hour dough for £7 to £13, or linguine with cuttlefish costing £12.
Pasticceria Rosa Salva has several sites in Venice. Head for Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, and sit outside with brioche or tramezzini (sandwiches) and coffee. Gelateria Nico on the Zattere serves fine ice cream – their speciality is gianduiotto, a creamy chocolatey confection, but a cone of pistachio is a simpler pleasure. Buy at the counter then walk in the sunshine to the tip of Santa Maria della Salute for the best view in Venice.
How to do it:
Review by Lulu Grimes
Best for seafood and midnight sun
Situated on a small island well within the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and fjords, and the locals are extremely proud of the world-class produce from the region. The cuisine is highly driven by seasonality; in summer, a cold beer and a hard-boiled seagull egg is a midsummer night’s snack, and in winter, skrei cod, stockfish (dried cod) and clipfish (dried and salted cod or bacalao) are common. Don’t miss out on cold-water prawns – eat them straight off the boat on the pier – or the delicious local king crab.
Fiskekompaniet on the harbour has the best the Norwegian seas have to offer. For a cheap snack, local fishmongers sell hot Norwegian fishcakes – try Dragøy Fishmonger in Kystens Mathus on the main square for the best. Or opt for a reindeer hot dog at Raketten Kiosko, Norway’s smallest bar. You could also enjoy halibut or strawberry salmon roll at Rå Sushi. Drink at Ølhallen, one of the world’s northernmost breweries with rows of craft beer to choose from.
At Mathallen, the restaurant's head chef Gunnar Jensen fuses modern and traditional Norwegian food using everything from king crab to reindeer. Smak is one of the best restaurants in Norway – head chef Espen Ramnestedt uses locally sourced products from beef and seafood with home-grown herbs to make it a true culinary gem (booking is essential).
How to do it:
Stay at Scandic Ishavshotel on the scenic harbourside and wake up to an excellent breakfast each morning. Standard family rooms start from £257 per night during half term. Tromsø Camping may feel like the wilderness, but it’s a half-hour walk to the city centre. Traditional cabins with four bunk beds are available from £142 per night.
Review by Jocelyn Sowden
Best for lakeside vineyards and pastries galore
At the northernmost point of Lake Geneva, Lausanne is a breathtaking mixture of medieval architecture, Gothic cathedral and cosmopolitan metropolis. Cheese, chocolate and wine are all high on the agenda of what to eat. Try traditional fondue in the romantic setting of the city’s oldest restaurant, Pinte Besson, or sip indulgent hot chocolate, admiring the views from the terrace at Le Barbare. A short train ride away you’ll find yourself in the Lavaux-Oron district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled as far as the eye can see with terraced vineyards. Appreciate the beauty of your surroundings while sampling Switzerland’s best kept secret – its wine. Stock up on a few bottles to take home. Given that Switzerland only exports 1%, predominantly to Germany, it's unlikely you will find it elsewhere.
How to do it:
See the Lausanne tourism board for accomodation and activities in the area.
Review by Sophie Godwin
Prague, Czech Republic
Best for beer and affordable cuisine
On a walking tour with Eating Prague Tours, take in the sights via local delicacies, starting with a gingerbread house at Perníčkův Sen and ending at the 100-year-old Café Louvre. In between there’s the Choco Café, with 50 flavours of hot chocolate and traditional sauerkraut soup with foraged chanterelles at beautifully gothic Zvonice. A highlight is the Dlouhá gourmet arcade where you can buy meat from Czech farmers at Naše Maso which they’ll cook and serve for you on homemade bread. Across the arcade is Sisters Bistro, serving open-face sandwiches (chlebicky).
Near the Old Town square, U Supa is the oldest brewery with its own restaurant in town – the hoppy confit goose with roasted spaetzle dumplings is a treat. Don’t leave without trying a trdelník, sweet dough baked on a spit, turned over an open flame and rolled in cinnamon sugar – the Good Food Coffee House near the Old Town Square serves them in a variety of different flavours.
How to do it:
Stay at the Clarion Hotel Prague City. Superior double rooms are available from £85 a night during half-term periods and include breakfast.
Review by Laura Jenkins
Tenby & Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire
Best for walks and seafood
Surrounded by some of the finest beaches in the UK, it’s easy to see why the picture-postcard Welsh towns of Tenby and neighbouring Saundersfoot are swamped in summer. Out of season, Pembrokeshire’s charm still shines through. In Tenby, go to Italian-Welsh family chippy D. Fecci & Sons for award-winning fish & chips and ice cream. On Castle Beach, Dennis Café offers fry-ups and doorstep toasties to sate those sea-air hunger pangs. Round the bay, South Beach Grill is part of a modern development.
Menu highlights include Welsh beef and seafood. Overlooking Coppet Hall beach in Saundersfoot, Coast is one of the best restaurants in Wales. Chef Will Holland’s menu takes full advantage of the fishing boats visible from your table. Skill is shown in starters like crab topped with a white tomato mousse, while turbot fillet with a lobster cream sauce, samphire & mash is very comforting. There’s a kids’ menu too. This area is one of the best in the UK for outdoor activities with a coastal National Park offering everything from clifftop walks and horseriding to seal safaris and boat excursions to nearby islands.
How to do it:
Inland, The Grove in Narberth is a luxury country house hotel with an award-winning restaurant; rooms for four from £400 per night. Or if you prefer to stay on the coast, Trevayne Farm has a campsite and a rental cottage which sleeps eight, plus a cot. Tent pitches from £7 per person per night, cottage from £765 per week.
Best for scones, trains and snickelways
Compact, walkable York appeals to adults and children alike. The Shambles, cobbled streets, snickelways (small streets) and ginnels (narrow passages) amplify the historical nature of the city, but the lively centre gives it a modern edge. The food offering is great. As well as several high-end chains, there are plenty of independent restaurants and cafés, including the fabulous Le Cochon Aveugle. You’ll need to ditch younger kids for the tasting menu (eight courses for £60) but the wine bar is worth a punt if they like charcuterie and cheese. More down to earth is No8 Bistro, open from breakfast through to dinner.
Don’t leave without visiting the National Railway Museum (free entry), where there are several good cafés featuring Yorkshire produce aplenty. The reconstructed Victorian street at York Castle Museum has a sweetshop selling sugar mice, and stop by Bettys for a proper cup of tea and a scone.
How to do it:
Come by train and stay at the swish Royal York Hotel beside the station, which offers a pool (useful if it rains) and an excellent breakfast. Junior suites can accommodate extra beds, or go for standard room number four, which has two king-sized beds, from £260 for a two-night minimum stay.
Best for chocolate, chips and Tintin
A mere two hours from London on the Eurostar, Brussels is a family-friendly city with an efficient transport system and a chocolate shop on every corner (a free taster will always revive a flagging child). Visit the Atomium, one of the world’s most bonkers buildings. Take the Wonka-esque glass-roofed lift to the top of the structure, and work your way back down the tubes via stairs and a disco escalator. Then jump on the tram to a branch of the wonderful Exki for lunch, where you’ll find good-quality, interesting sandwiches, salads and desserts, all freshly made.
Head to Choco-Story for a look at the history and production of chocolate (with tastings and workshops, bookable) or take a stroll around the Grand Place and surrounding streets and conduct a chocolate-tasting tour of your own at the many, many shops. Comics, including Tintin, are big here. Visit the Comics Art Museum for everything from animation to restoration; exit via the gift shop, of course. In the early evening, stroll to the area around Halles de Saint-Géry, grab an outside table at Mappa Mundo for an aperitif and watch the world go by. Central restaurants include Peck 47, or Peck 20, for brunch dishes, salads or a bookie (brownie/cookie), and Bia Mara for fish & chips with a difference – panko, tempura, tacos.
How to do it:
Eurostar from St Pancras, tickets from £29 one way. Choose a hotel near the Grand Place to be central. The Novotel is well situated and has family-sized rooms from around £75. Don’t include breakfast – there are coffee shops and waffles everywhere.
Best for fun on the farm
Drover’s Rest, a 16th-century farm and staging spot for market-going shepherds en route to London, now gives travellers one of the warmest welcomes in the countryside, near Hay-on-Wye. This immaculate sheep farm-cum-glampsite, renovated by South African couple Kesri and Paul Smolas, comes with five spacious safari tents so plush you can barely call this camping. Think decked terraces, smartly kitted-out kitchens, deeply-duveted beds, and beautiful, bright soft furnishings that sing of the South African sunshine.
Several times a week, guests come together in the dining barn for BBQs, make-your-own pizzas fired in the outdoor oven, and curries. Room-service breakfasts are a treat, with standout South African-style omelettes, bacon rolls and croissants. Collect eggs on farm walks, and feed bunnies, alpacas, pygmy goats and pot-bellied pigs. Walks across the adjacent common allow kids to roam free, longer hikes to the Brecon’s peaks and waterfalls are within easy reach by car, while kayaking on the river Wye is a popular choice.
How to do it:
Two-bedroom tents and cottages from £75 per night, from Canopy and Stars.
Best for inn-to-inn walking
A programme of self-guided hikes combines the loveliest bits of Dorset’s back country with a selection of fine foodie pubs. With maps, walking notes and even a tin of barley sugars supplied, parents need not worry about losing their way, or the will of small companions. Distances are manageable, luggage is transferred, and there are plenty of chances to pause at farm cafés and country pubs.
The five-day Dorset Royal Chase route takes in the villages and hunting grounds around Cranborne, former haunt of Henry VIII. Walking notes bring history to life, while food pitstops include the 17th-century Museum Inn at Farnham, where the Shed dining area comes with children’s toys and old school desks. Mains include steamed River Exe mussels and a hot-smoked pheasant salad. Weather not great? Get cosy at the Inn at Cranborne. Dine in front of woodburners on the award-winning local 30-Mile Menu, which includes smoked meat and fish platters plus daily steak selections.
How to do it:
The Dorset Royal Chase break costs from £495 per person for four nights’ B&B, luggage transfers and a walking pack, from Foot Trails.
Best for a bella vita birthday blowout
Visit the birthplace of Italy’s best-known wine: Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III granted Chianti its denomination of origin three centuries ago, commemorated in 2016 with wine-fuelled festivities throughout the province to mark the 300th anniversary. Tour and taste at Chianti’s premier wine-producing estate, Castello di Ama, also home to a contemporary art collection including child-accessible works by Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor. At the Dievole Estate, bike, hike and horse-ride along 27.6km of old sharecroppers’ trails; easily navigable for little legs (and the wine-weary).
Stay at Casa Camporata, a three-bedroom, country-style Tuscan pool villa. The shops, restaurants and kid’s playground in the pretty Siena town of Gaiole are in walking distance. A 15-minute drive away, in Radda, you’ll find Casa Porciatti, a deli renowned for its Tonno di Radda (not tuna but a delicate fennel-scented pork salami) and Lardone di Radda (a local variation of the classic Italian spiced slices of lard). Taste these and more meaty goodies at the family’s enoteca. In the neighbouring hamlet of Volpaia, enjoy Sunday lunch on the terrace of the mother-and-daughter-run La Bottega di Volpaia. The menu includes hearty cinghiale in umido con olive (wild boar stew with olives), and silky-soft pappardelle with porcini. For dessert, drive 15 minutes east to Gelateria di Castellina for homemade ice cream in seasonal flavours that include vin santo (sweet wine), figs and ricotta.
How to do it:
To Tuscany offers a week at Casa Camporata (sleeps six) from £1,509. Flights extra, to either Pisa or Florence.
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Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.