The best family hotels in Europe
It is a great feeling when booking a packed and organised holiday. Discover your next family getaway with this list of all-inclusive stays around Europe, featuring beautiful scenery, great food and all stress-free.
Das Central, Solden, Austria
Best for a luxurious spa experience and active family holiday
Das Central specialises in relaxed luxury and has long been on the map as one of the best ski hotels in Austria, but recent renovations have secured its place as one of the most scenic spas in Europe. The 17-meter-long summit infinity pool perched on stilts is the new jewel in the hotel’s crown, heated by geo-thermal technology for a balmy experience in sub-freezing outdoor temperatures, the clouds of steam evaporating from the water all add to the other-worldly atmosphere. Gliding up and down the pool in a snowstorm and taking in the spectacular mountain scenery from every angle is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. Families are welcome in the summit spa and the generous lounge areas with swinging chairs and comfortable daybeds make it a relaxing haven for even the smallest of guests to enjoy.
There’s a brand-new steam room and ten saunas to choose from, including family-friendly options and adult only textile-free areas. The brave can test out the hotel’s ice plunge bath for an exhilarating way to wake up all your senses. Taking a dip in the steaming rooftop hot tub after a long day on the slopes is the perfect way to unwind and relax tired muscles, and you’ll still have unbroken panoramic views of the majestic three thousand metre peaks that surround you.
Light flooded relaxation rooms mean you can soak in your surroundings under a blanket from the comfort of a double daybed, plus there’s a Venetian-themed indoor pool to explore in the lowest level of the hotel. There’s a variety of wellness treatments which can be tailored by your therapist to your specific request, the new spa offering does make it difficult to leave the hotel, but there’s good reason to do so.
The hotel runs a complimentary bus shuttle service to the two major ski lifts, Giggijoch and Gaislachkogl which are minutes away, getting out and ready is made easy with a dedicated ski room and private lockers for all your equipment.
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The local ski area extends to an altitude of well over 3000 meters meaning snow is guaranteed from October to May, there are slopes for all ages and abilities as well as several highly regarded ski schools to choose from. Kids and adults will love the magical toboggan run which covers 7.3kilometers of picturesque surroundings and is floodlit for night-time adventures on Wednesday evenings.
James Bond fans will be in their element if they venture to the top of the Gaislachkogl lift, surrounded by the very scenes of the snow chase in Spectre you’ll find the dramatic-looking 007 Elements perched on top of the mountain, inside is an immersive experience that takes place through a number of Bond-themed rooms and installations, tech-enthusiasts will love exploring some of the most creative Bond weapons whilst the Action Hall focuses on special effects and stunt scenes.
Ice Q is just a short snow stroll away from 007 Elements and is also featured in Spectre, it is easy to see why this striking building with unrivalled views was selected for a Bond film. The chef’s table menu here is exceptional and perfect for celebrating a special occasion, it guarantees you a window seat and you’ll be greeted with a welcome glass of champagne and canapes from the kitchen. There are four courses to follow - the ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible and transported to Ice Q by gondola. Stand-out dishes include sea bass served in rockfish soup with beans, mussels and saffron gnocchi and beef tartare with lovage and beech mushrooms, the menu is also inclusive of mineral water and hot beverages. Wine connoisseurs would do well to sample the Pinot Noir 3000, matured on the summit of the Gaislackogl in oak barrels it’s a speciality of the hotel and restaurant, unfinished bottles opened with lunch can also be transported back to the hotel for you to enjoy with dinner.
The half board option at Das Central is of excellent quality, breakfast includes freshly-cooked omelettes and eggs to order, a dedicated juicing room featuring every imaginable ingredient, local honeycomb, fruits, cold-meats, yoghurts and pastries. Breakfasting in salopettes and socks is not frowned-upon and you’re sure to be in good company.
Dinner is a slightly more formal affair, with an a la carte menu as well as generous buffet starters of salads, seafood and much more, plus an opulent dessert and cheese display it’ll be hard to drag yourself away from. Classic dinner menu examples include Tyrolean beef with roasted potatoes and local vegetables or salmon trout with radish and lingonberries. Children can choose from the menu or a generous buffet which has all the usual favourites such as pasta with freshly made sauces, steaks and schnitzel.
How to do it: Das Central Hotel, Sölden, Austria offers double rooms from €200 per person per night, based on two people sharing on a half board basis.
Forte village, Pula, Sardinia
best for family luxury and sporting excellence
Forte Village is home to several different luxury five and four star hotels and villas all with their own unique design and ethos. The grounds and rooms are immaculately kept and you’ll discover 50 acres of sub-tropical gardens stretching towards the white sands and sparkling sea of the south coast of Sardinia, the beach is adorned with stylish deckchairs and parasols and the gently sloping waters are perfect for families to play and swim in.
Amongst the wealth of tropical trees and plants at Forte Village, dotted around the grounds are 21 gourmet restaurants, over 20 sports academies, multiple swimming pools and the world-renowned Acquaforte Thalasso & spa, so you won’t run out of new experiences to explore. Despite its size, it’s easy to move around the hotel by hopping onto one of the many smart golf buggy taxis that are on constant rotation across the resort.
The children’s wonderland offers high quality childcare for the duration of your stay, children will find a theatre where they can take part in stage productions, a miniature village including a walk-in Barbie house, a vegetable and gardening patch and best of all a private swimming pool so kids’ can splash around under the watchful eye of the professionally trained staff.
If your child is a sports fan then you’ll find an unparalleled range of opportunities for them to be coached by well-known stars and international champions, from football sessions with the Fundacion Real Madrid Clinic where you might see Alvaro Arbeloa, to rugby with Will Greenwood and go-karting with Paolo Gagliardini. Other academies include fencing, golf, climbing, dance and netball to name just a few. Professional sports kits are gifted to the children at the beginning of the course and the academies generally run from 10am in the morning to 1pm, giving adults the chance to relax before an afternoon and evening of family time.
If you choose to spend your free time making use of the tranquil spa area, then the thalassotherapy is a unique and deeply relaxing experience, you’ll follow a course of six pure Sardinian seawater pools, with varying temperatures, minerals, and salts, some of which will have you floating of no volition of your own, but all resulting in a deeply detoxifying experience.
Forte Village works on a half board basis, breakfasts are a luxurious affair with fresh juice bars, exotic fruits, omelettes, and eggs made to order, beautiful local meats and cheeses and a plethora of pastries, yoghurts and cereals.
In the evenings there are a wide range of restaurants to choose from, from lavish buffets under the stars, to some truly exquisite dining experiences overlooking the Sardinian sea. Many of the vegetables are supplied by the hotel’s expansive kitchen garden and there are a wealth of restaurants specialising in the local Sardinian cuisine, from open charcoal grills with sizzling local meats, to freshly made pasta and pizzas. As you’d expect, there’s an abundance of local seafood on offer, both at the Fish Market restaurant and the celebrated Beachcomber restaurant by Heinz Beck. The Wild Scandinavian BBQ by Brian Bojsen is not to be missed, situated on the seafront and prepared over an open fire, the wooden platters of perfectly prepared steaks and lobster are his speciality and watching your food being prepared over the open flames is all part of the entertainment.
Between July and August Forte Village also hosts a number of celebrated Michelin star chefs from around the world for exclusive evenings, from Andrea Berton from Milan to Frank Reynaud from Switzerland who will offer one-off menus with set wine, all for an additional price.
Forte Village, Sardinia has rooms from €530 per room per night based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Bungalow on a half board basis. fortevillageresort.com
Creta Maris, Hersonissos, Greece
All-inclusive, best for children of all ages
Creta Maris is a sprawling resort and located directly on the glittering Aegean coastline, it is home to a myriad of pools, 250m of private beach, restaurants, tavernas and even an impressive water park, but most importantly it has retained its Greek charm and warm family-run feel. The surroundings are beautifully maintained, with cobbled streets, hidden squares and a hugely impressive array of plant life and flowers, it truly does feel like a small, traditional Greek village.
There’s a huge variety of accommodation to choose from at Creta Maris, from sea-view apartments for couples with babies or young children to two storey villas which are perfect for larger families or those with older children, as they offer complete privacy as well as comfort, with two large separate rooms, two balconies, two large bathrooms and big, comfortable beds. Cleaning services come twice a day so the whole villa feels pristine throughout your holiday.
The all-inclusive offering here manages to be high-quality and very generous at the same time, with an array of food and drink on offer from morning until night. You’ll find seven restaurants on the premises, which all have a focus on local, organic produce which is sustainably-farmed with a farm-to-fork ethos – the Creta Maris have their own kitchen gardens on-site which supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to the hotel.
Children will love the buffet restaurants which have plentiful choice and decadent dessert bars, the buffets mostly focus on traditional Greek cuisine with fresh salads, seafood and grilled meats, but the largest buffet restaurant offers themed nights which change every evening. However, the à la carte restaurants are the highlight and it’s worth making your booking early through the hotel app to secure the restaurants of your choice the day before dining.
Pithos is an organic restaurant overlooking a quiet pool which focuses exclusively on Cretan cuisine. There’s a traditional wood oven and you’ll find dishes such as cuttlefish with fennel and olives, grilled sea bream and homemade burgers and chips, and a good choice of local Cretan wines which are all complimentary. Cochilias is another restaurant highlight, specialising in barbecue and having spectacular sea views and beautifully barbecued steaks, chicken souvlaki, fish and an array of salads, freshly baked breads and oils and a towering dessert and ice cream bar. Platia is a smart Greek restaurant overlooking the Byzantine chapel, where traditionally dressed waiters serve exceptional seafood pasta and an imaginative children’s menu.
Despite all this, children may well be mostly taken with the many snack points on offer throughout the hotel, where you can order freshly made waffles, crepes, Greek salad pots as well as hotdogs, toasties and slushies – no one will go hungry. The bar overlooking the pool and beach outside reception also serve a good range of cocktails and mocktails which are all included in the price of your stay. Borrow from a range of board games and settle in to see the sunset.
Sports facilities for children here are also excellent, you can book professional tennis and football courts for free anytime during your stay which are flood lit during the evenings, the perfect time to play in hot weather. Creta Maris is also home to an open-air cinema where you can see box office classics or big games under the stars as a family, and pick up complimentary popcorn on your way in.
The all-inclusive offering lasts until the moment you leave the hotel, even if you have a late-night flight back home. There are showers and changing facilities specifically for checked-out guests, so you can enjoy the pools, beach and restaurants for the entirety of your last day.
How to do it Rooms available at Creta Maris from £180 per night on an all-inclusive basis, use of all facilities included.
Cretan Malia Park, Malia, Greece
Best for relaxed family luxury
Cretan Malia Park is an effortlessly chic hotel that doesn’t let its child-friendly ethos get in the way of being a paradise for adults too. You’ll be welcomed by an opulent light-flooded reception which is home to a huge bar, plush furnishings and some impressive Cretan art. Outside lush tropical gardens frame sparkling pools and smart sunbeds, outdoor bars and classically Mediterranean restaurants are dotted around the grounds, so you’re never too far from a seasonal cocktail or a homemade crepe. The family sized bungalows directly overlook a scenic and sandy beach, where you’ll find wicker parasols and deckchairs facing the Aegean Sea.
There’s table service around the two main swimming pools and family sized cabanas to relax in. The children’s pool is heated and shallow enough for young children to stand in, adjoining is another bigger heated pool (at a lower temperature) which older children can dive into fir a swim. The river pool is a much quieter affair and perfect for a tranquil and refreshing swim whilst taking in the abundant plant life.
The staff are warm and attentive and exceptionally good with the younger guests, there’s a relaxed atmosphere and it’s clearly a popular destination for families. There’s a children’s club within the grounds and older children will enjoy the beach volleyball, tennis courts and snack bar.
The breakfast buffet has plenty of healthy options, from freshly squeezed smoothies and juices, fruit platters and salads as well as all of the usual buffet treats and an a la carte menu which is all served in a sun-drenched courtyard.
There are a number of restaurants on site, but the favourite had to be Mouries which serves traditional Cretan dishes from a central outdoor kitchen island using just a stone oven and grill, the chef concentrates on high quality meats and fish cooked over an open fire, served with vegetables from the kitchen gardens, the food here is simple but the flavour is superb.
How to do it Rooms available at Cretan Malia Park from £235 per night, use of all facilities included.
Fodele beach, Crete, Greece
All inclusive, best for active family fun
Fodele Beach resort is an all-inclusive hotel set into a hill overlooking its own private beach and an unspoilt mountain view. The hotel is home to two fresh-water swimming pools and a separate heated children’s pool, but the jewel in the crown is its award-winning waterpark which includes seven slides of varying speed and a wealth of small pools that will keep children entertained for hours. The water park is situated at the top of a steep hill but is served by a fun train which ferries visitors to and from the park every 15 minutes or so. The hotel staff are warm and engaging, whether that’s at the water park, beach or one of the many on-site restaurants.
The private beach is well served by an abundance of deckchairs and parasols and the all-inclusive offering is very generous, extending to the beach café and offering a variety of all-day snacks, ice creams, coffees and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The hotel works with a restaurant booking system, and you will want to be organised to get the most out of your stay as they can book up quickly. The restaurants specialise in Greek, French and Italian cuisine and they all have outdoor terraces to make the most of the stunning views. There’s also an all-day restaurant which serves fresh salads, pasta, fruits and homemade cakes to name but a few.
The main all-inclusive restaurant Basilikos is drop-in and offers a huge variety of good-quality local dishes, and there are plenty of children’s options, they’re sure to be blown away by the opulent desert buffet.
The rooms are cleverly designed for families, providing both space and privacy with sliding doors and dual access to a shared bathroom. However, there are a variety of rooms on offer to suit all family sizes. The mini bar comes stocked with free drinks and the family suite has a balcony overlooking the dramatic coastline, providing an ideal place to wind down and enjoy the scenery.
How to do it Family rooms available at Fodele beach from £400 per night on an all-inclusive basis, use of all facilities including water park are included.
P&O Cruises Norwegian Fjords tour
All-inclusive, best for older children
Starting a trip abroad without having to fly or take a very long drive sets the precedent for one of the most stress-free ways to travel. Cruises have a reputation for an audience of a certain age but P&O Cruises ships couldn’t be more family-focused. Set sail from Southampton on the Iona and spend two nights at sea being pampered. Keep the hunger at bay at the round-the-clock street food area, The Quays, serving exemplary fish and chips, big burgers and fried chicken, and Thai curries and katsu. For the first full day, there’s a gala evening with a menu of timeless classics like beef wellington, curated by culinary heavyweight, Marco Pierre White, who was on board throughout the voyage giving daily talks and cookery demonstrations (other chefs are involved, too). There are more dining options than days on the ship to enjoy them, the popular Olive Grove (booking essential) make pizza to order and serve other Mediterranean favourites, Sindhu is Indian-fusion, and you can pick your own steak from their on-board meat-aging cabinet at The Keel and Cow – you won’t go hungry.
First port of call is Norway’s fourth biggest city, Stavanger. The ship docks in the old quarter with its view of old white wooden houses. Stavanger is home to the Norwegian canning museum. Norway is reliant on preserved fish and here you can learn about every step of the sardine-canning process, from the arrival of fresh fish to smoking (which you can taste on some days, check website) to the canning itself.
It’s up early the next day to take in the first views of the spectacularly scenic Fjordland before stopping at the picturesque village of Olden. There are lots of ways to experience the Olden Fjords, from the reasonable safety of a cable car to the more adventurous option of a speed boat, which can be combined with catching langoustine for a seafood feast (with homemade mayonnaise, bread, wine and salad) when you get back on shore. Trips can be organised through the ship’s expert shore experience team and all Olden activities can be booked independently at oldenactive.com.
After a morning cycling from the snow topped mountains to the most iconic and busy fjord port, Geiranger, you are ready for a sugar fix at the Gerianger Bakeri. Here, they specalise in filling cinnamon-flavoured buns and flaky pastries with whipped cream and make a lesser-known traditional dessert ‘heitevegg’ or ‘hot wall’ which involves pouring hot milk over a soft, sweet cardamon bun and allowing it to soak in like an individual bread and butter pudding. Our last day was spent in the town Haugesund which is rich in Viking folklore and is a short bus ride away from the Norwegian history centre and Viking village, Avaldsnes.
Haugesund offers lots of shopping opportunities from out-and-bound clothes shops to small delis and there’s a lively waterside restaurant and coffee shop scene with all day dining at Brasserie Brakstad and small plates with a Nordic slant at To Glass.
After all that action, you’ll be thankful for the last two nights at sea, making full use of the ship's spa facilities or just relaxing in one of the 18 jacuzzis. If you want to combine the all-taken-care-of elements of an all-inclusive but still want the culture fix of touring, then a cruise has it all covered.
HOW TO DO IT
P&O Cruises Norwegian Fjords tours start at £999 per person for a room with a balcony, and we sailed on the Iona.
Verdura resort, Sicily
Utter luxury with childcare
Hugging the south coast of Sicily near Agrigento, the Verdura resort is set amid the mossy green expanses of golf courses (two championship courses and a 9 hole) kept lush using recycled water, and almond and orange groves with a backdrop of mountains and an expanse of private coastline. This low-rise establishment with its enormous sky-reflecting infinity pool barely causes a blip on the gorgeous horizon and feels loved, it’s been nurtured by the owner, Rocco Forte, beautifully decorated by his sister Olga Polizzi in a spare but luxurious way, and a large percentage of the staff are local. Come in the off season, especially autumn half term, for warm water, blue skies and a balmy temperature that doesn’t tip over into too hot.
Breakfast is a buffet of dreams, bottomless orange juice from the trees onsite (nearly 4000 of them) as well as home-grown prickly pears, pomegranates, almonds and other fruit. A make your own juice station featuring an array of veg (there’s a kitchen garden) and a stand where you can make your own brioche con gelato (yes, it’s a traditional breakfast dish, your children will love it) and acres of the sweet treats that make Italian breakfasts such a delight are supplemented with a hot menu, skip the eggs royale for local grilled Sicilian sausages or a thin frittata made with wild fennel and herbs.
There are three restaurants dotted around the estate, Amare sits on the coast by the beach and specialises in fresh fish, it has its own fish counter so you can see what you’ll be eating. Treated simply, fish are grilled and taken off the bone for you, or you can opt for squid or seafood if you prefer, busiate is the local pasta shape (a spiral formed around a skewer) and comes with prawns and pistachio pesto. You need to check the menu, not everything is included in half-board but you can pay extra for ‘off ticket items’. Children are welcome as they are throughout the resort. Liolà down by the golf hub is bright and breezy with a terrace overlooking the sea, a huge pizza oven and a menu that includes pasta and, at lunch time, ‘sandwiches’ including a pane cunzatu, a Sicilian speciality packed with tomatoes, oregano and anchovies. Zagara looks out over the enormous pool and with a view of the coats and specialises in Sicilian cuisine, pasta is dressed in local red prawns from Sciacca, courgette leaves and lemon, octopus comes in a deep bowl with chickpeas and mint, hearty but fresh. There’s a children’s menu available across the resort with plainer pasta, chicken and pizza, ask and they will do whatever they can to help you. Prices on adult menus are on the expensive side so it’s worth investigating half board options and offers or leaving the resort on occasion.
Kids club (open 10-8, collect your off-spring for lunch) is free for 4-12 year olds and teens club is free between the ages of 13 and 16, there is also a paid for baby club and babysitting until midnight. The club centres around Vedùland which has its own heated pool and outdoor space as well as a proper kitchen for cooking lessons and mini science lab and a video games room and TV room. There are several sporting academies on site, these cost extra, and you’ll have to check dates as to what’s on where, but budding footballers might enjoy Juventus Academy or Football Legends Academy, or tennis, swimming, golf or water sports. While your kids are running around you can visit the spa and thalassotherapy pools, the four pools are an oasis of calm in the open air surrounded by lush vegetation and lantana flowers. Use of the indoor pool, gym, sauna and spa are included in the room rate, as is use of the driving range and putting green.
Rooms are all very spacious, have shutters and mosquito nets and are very well equipped. Bathrooms are enormous, pampering and filled with toiletries from the Irene Forte range, made with herbs and fruit from the farm. The hotel has all manner of baby and toddler equipment from highchairs and sterilisers to eating utensils, changing mats and pool floats, as well as rubber ducks in the bathroom and tiny bathrobes and slippers, check before you go, you will be able to pack light. Cots and beds for children under 12 can be added to rooms free of charge. Suites have kitchenettes with hotplates for heating milk and baby food. There are bicycles everywhere, including kid’s bikes, these are free to use, you pick them up and leave them where you like, and they make a quick way to get around the resort.
The lead-in rate on B&B basis starts from €400 per night in a Deluxe Room for double occupancy. Half (from €528) or full board (from €650) can also be booked. For additional information, please call +39 06 32 888 630 or visit roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/verdura-resort .