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2016 Europe with kids - least risky destinations

Hello -

My wife, two kids (ages 9 and 5), and I travel to a different European country every year. This year, I want to choose a destination that's the least risky in terms of safety, and also fun for the kids, in July. I've narrowed down the decisions to Switzerland, Sweden and southern Italy.

However, watching the Rick Steves episodes, Switzerland and Sweden don't seem to offer much for kids; I've seen a few things, but not much.

Can anyone provide any detail, or suggest alternatives to my choices? Three criteria - July, fun for kids ages 9 and 5, and least risky in terms of safety.

We've been to Rome, Paris, London, and Munich...looking for something different.

Thank you all.


Posted by
25613 posts

Personally, I wouldn't be concerned about safety much of anywhere, but given the three options you've identified: There are lots of outdoor activities possible in both Switzerland and Sweden (walking and boat trips on lakes come immediately to mind), and I think your odds of bearable mid-summer temperatures are much better there than in southern Italy. But for kids, beaches and gelato might be hard to beat. However, it will likely be extraordinarily hot at that time of year. Upper 80s to upper 90s, I'd guess. I did Sicily and southern Italy last summer; it gets draining when you're out in the heat all day long. Consider this carefully unless you're planning to stay in one spot with a nice air-conditioned apartment to retire to at will.

Depending on where you go in southern Italy, you may spend more time moving from place to place than you expect. There are trains, but some destinations work better by bus. On Sundays, especially when depending on buses, you will find that your transportation options are very, very limited. The trip would be more pleasant if you rent a car (air-conditioned!) rather than using public transportation.

Posted by
7209 posts

When I lived overseas, we took our children with us on European trips. Had kids ranging from 5 to teens over the years.

Taking young kids to museums can lead to "are we leaving yet" after 30 minutes. Still, my 7 year old Son was in awe of the Sistine Chapel.

Children will appreciate natural beauty over museums. They will enjoy going up in the Eiffel Tower or the Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany. As for safety, Scandinavia is generally very safe, but for Sweden, watch out for Malmo.

My kids also loved the Venice gondola ride. Rothenburg on the Tauber in Germany was nice, I think they appreciated the medieval city.

Regarding safety, just be careful where you go, particularly at night.

Posted by
16617 posts

I can’t think of too many places in Europe I wouldn’t take my kids right now. As a parent you get to choose your risk tolerance and you did ask a question “less risky” as opposed to not dangerous I guess there is some wiggle room for distinction. In my mind “most risky” would include situations like Istanbul while “least risky” would include places like Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary. But I think with only a few exceptions the distinction from average to the “least” is infinitesimally minor. If you want something quantitative you can look at this: but it’s far from perfect.

I think a better thing to concentrate on is the kids having a good time. 9 and 5 are pretty much okay for Budapest; and Budapest is significantly different than where you have been. Here are some ideas:

Many of the activities are free and those that are not are not expensive. Budapest is still significantly cheaper than most of Western Europe so that helps too. I haven’t checked prices in a while but I believe a two bedroom apartment in the right part can still be had for under 75 euro a night. Less if you go a little further out.

Posted by
4098 posts

there's a lot of see outside London and easily reachable by train. Dover Castle is my favorite castle to see the use of a castle for defense, as compared to using it as a palace.

Posted by
3696 posts

What kind of activities have the kids enjoyed in the past? I think there are always kid friendly things to do in every county as kids live there... they must be doing some fun stuff. I took one of my grandsons on a 'castle tour' in Germany and he loved that. Also went to Copenhagen and that was also a great city for kids, as well as you could take off into the countryside for a visit to some little villages. I know that Denmark was not on your list, but was enjoyed by a pre-teen. Could combine Sweden & Denmark if you think Sweden might not have enough to offer.

Posted by
14210 posts


I was with my grandson twice in Europe when he was almost 5 ( a month away) and almost 11, also a month away, ie in the summer months of late June and July, went to northern France, Paris and southern France, Perpignan and that area, went by TGV and regional train, car, Metro, and walked. Since you've been to Paris, how about elsewhere in Germany? Berlin, the Middle Rhine area, Dresden, etc. Or, just stay in France, see Strasbourg, Obernai, Colmar. You would be surprised to see how kids will react positively to a museum, or other sites.

Posted by
7209 posts

Our kids always had a blast in Switzerland. outdoor activities are great in the Berner Oberland area. Snow sledding in July is always a hit even with most adults. You just can't be Switzerland - it's designed for tourists and families with kids.

Posted by
6113 posts

Of your options, I would go for Sweden. A gorgeous country, very friendly people who all speak English and a good climate. Hire bikes and enjoy the big outdoors.

Us Europeans tend to think of Switzerland as a winter destination for the skiing and due to the eye wateringly expensive costs, we tend to visit other countries in the summer that offer the same thing but cheaper eg Austria or France.

Southern Italy will be far too hot to do anything in the summer. Best enjoyed in May or September.

I would also consider Croatia, which is very child friendly- a few days in Split or Dubrovnik for the culture, then a few days on one of the islands for beach time. Alternatively, the northern Spanish coast. Great climate and not as manic as southern Italy.

In addition to Rick, also look at other guides such as Lonely Planet or DK, as it's good to get several different views on places. Use Trip Advisor for the areas that you are considering, as they have a section for things to do in each place, which may help.

Posted by
12154 posts

I've traveled with three kids in tow so forgive me if budget seems to be at the top of my priority list.

Italians love family. It's a great place to pack kids. I'd expect this to offer the best value of your three locations. I'd suggest considering Spain as a really good alternative for family travel. Spain has great history, is very affordable, it's much cleaner and better maintained than Italy, and it's very safe (with possible pickpocket exceptions in the big tourist centers, particularly Madrid and Barcelona). I personally avoid the Costa del Sol; for me that's all resort and no culture. If you're going in the high summer months, I'd stick to the northern coast (San Sebastian/Donostia, Bilbao, etc.). Like Italy, summers can be really hot in the south.

Of the three, Sweden is probably the most safe, and the locals speak very good English. I'd recommend Copenhagen, Denmark, however, as the best jumping off point for a visit to Scandinavia. There are a lot of day and evening activity choices and the locals speak perfect English. Scandinavia is a place to visit in the high summer months of July/August.

I never recommend Switzerland. I don't want anyone to experience sticker shock based on my recommendation. If prices aren't an issue, it's lovely and I'm sure completely safe. Switzerland is also a summer destination because the mountain weather will be the most reliable (though still variable) in high summer months.

Posted by
4363 posts

I've taken children all over Europe and found them to be equally welcome in any European country, and fawned over in none of them. I have read and heard the "Italians love family" comment but have experienced nothing exceptional there, and if anything it is a nearly childless country that puzzles over them.

Posted by
768 posts

I agree with the positive comments about Switzerland. I took each of my kids there (Berner Oberland area), where they hiked all over, meeting cows and goats on the trails. They liked it so much that they are going back (with me) to the exact same places.
I'll also add that kids should love the Rodelbahn rides at Pfingstegg (near Grindelwald) and the cheese-making near Winteregg. Give them cheapo cameras so they can take pics of the mountains and friendly cows.
As for cost, kids travel free with parents (you may need a Swiss Family Card-- ).
As for safety, I'd say it's safer there than in the USA.

Posted by
1059 posts

I think Venice would be a great place for your kids. I know there is water everywhere, but I think it's still safe for kids. The PBS series "Traveling With Kids" has done a great show on Venice. You can view it from the PBS website or watch it on YouTube. There are a lot of areas that are in Northern Italy that would be a lot of fun for kids like Varenna on Lake Como. The kids could ride on the ferries to other towns around the lake or could hike up to the castle above Varenna. Also, Castlerotto would be a great place to do a lot of hiking in the Dolamites.