Keep the kids entertained and work up an appetite with these family foodie holidays, packed with 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 within the UK or further afield, we've got a host of advice on how to get the best out of your gourmet getaway.
South Downs, West Sussex
Best for outdoor family dining
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, advocates of a life that leaves little impact on the landscape, Woodfire Camping is a quiet (no electronic music, live music welcome) environment sympathetic to its surroundings, dotted with tents and surrounded by nature. It’s a fantastic space for kids with no cars on site, the hot showers are in cute wooden cubicles (complete with mirrors), there are fire bowls for hire which light up the night, and, for those who prefer an easy arrival and departure, pre-erected tents are available. We stayed in a four-person Sheraton which came with comfortable sleeping mats, hot water bottles and a table and benches; we took our own bedding. There’s plenty to do for kids with horses to admire, trails and paths to explore and a good-sized area for playing a spot of football. Further afield by car is the coast, National Trust property Petworth House (fabulous kitchens) and plenty of country towns stuffed with antique shops and tea shops.
Most Thursdays to Sundays – and this is why you’ll really want to book – Griff cooks evening meals of grilled meat (or a veggie option) over a fire on the enormous iron grill, or a stew in a cast iron potjie (pot). These come with homemade flatbread, also cooked on the grill, and salads. You need to order this in advance so the right amount gets cooked 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 – bring your own plates and cutlery. If you’ve failed to sort out breakfast yourself (that was us) then bacon and egg butties are often available in the mornings, along with tea and proper coffee for a small fee. The meat is free-range and sourced close by and vegetables come from the kitchen garden if possible, other ingredients are as local and seasonal as they can be. On other evenings, or for lunch, you can walk to the pub, The Foresters Arms, The White Horse (a smarter option) and The Cricketers (dinner from 6pm, useful with kids, enormous portions) are all within easy reach.
How to do it
Prices per person, per night staying in a Sheraton tent: adults £30, children (three-18) £10 (minimum £60 a night; two-night stay minimum at weekends, three nights on bank holiday weekends).
Review by Lulu Grimes
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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