We are planning a family trip next July and need recommendations on the best cities to visit with younger children (ages 10, 7 and 6). We have been to Italy, Sweden and have family in the south of Spain so have experience traveling in Europe. This trip we will again visit family in Spain and plan about 4 or 5 days in Paris at the end. We do want to visit one other country in the middle of the trip for about 4 days and can not choose where to go that would be enjoyable and interesting for our kids. We do intend to take the train to Paris from wherever we decide to add to this trip so that would be a consideration. Top choices now are Switzerland and Amsterdam. We live in Orlando so do not intend to visit theme parks, kids museums or the like since we have access to that here. We are more into adventure and blending with the culture. One thing I am trying to find are factory tours for clocks/watches, industrial manufacturers, chocolate or things of that nature as my kids are very engineering-minded. Any help would be much appreciated! Paula Anderson
As I am sure you have figured out if it's by train and from Paris with kids on board the radius is pretty limited. Switzerland I would imagine is pretty much the fringe as would be Germany as far as Frankfurt, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg. I can't offer much advice but I can offer that when we were really pretty shocked at how much we enjoyed London. We really didn't expect it to be what it was. But it took a lot of advance research to find the right neighborhoods and events. No, actually, that's not true. An English family we met on the plane on the way over pretty much sent us in the right direction. We've been back a number of times and still enjoy it ... and the high speed chunnel train is a trip.
There are plenty of amazing things to see and do in SW France between Spain and Paris. Culturally it is far from Paris. Consider it your "one other country," perhaps.
I haven't been to Amsterdam, but it doesn't seem so kid-friendly to me....I was just looking at my Rick Steves' Best of Europe 2012 and itinerary planning. Did you know that he says if you have 5 days in Europe you should go to Paris and the Swiss Alps? Those are his #1 and #2 priorities, so I would take his advice and go to the Swiss Alps. I have been there in July (with a 4 year old) and found it beautiful! Expensive too.
"One thing I am trying to find are factory tours for clocks/watches" One of the centers of watchmaking is the Joux Valley in French speaking Switzerland. Prestigious watchmakers like Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Breguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Vacheron Constantin are located in this remote valley. Most of them were founded by the descendants of Huguenot refugees. There is a watch museum in Le Sentier. There are other watchmaking regions of course but this one is really anchored in history as it dates back from around 1750. It is a very pretty area with a beautiful unspoiled lake. Nearby is the wonderful 10th Century Romanesque Romainmôtier Priory. Worth mentioning are the spectacular Vallorbe caves (a 2 mile underground walk in caves full of lakes and rivers which is great for kids).
a recent quote on this thread, I haven't been to Amsterdam, but it doesn't seem so kid-friendly to me I have been to Amsterdam, and I couldn't disagree more. Consider these: Zaanse Schans, just north of central Amsterdam where kids of all ages can wander around several real windmills, consume and buy windmill produced produce, see a real wooden shoe (clog) maker make their own wooden shoes, plenty of room to run and play, and other demonstrations of Delftware painting, pewter-casting and cheese-making. Good fun. Boat trips available. While the kids frolic one or two of the adults might like to check out the Distillery museum & tasting room. A little further northeast of Amsterdam is the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen where the kids can dress up in old fashioned clothes and play old fashioned games. I've been to both places and kids love them, and they love the pancakes available at both too. Riding around the canals of Amsterdam. Vondelpark. Riding trams. Cat Museum. Spectacles (eye-glasses) Museum. Museum of Bags and Purses. The Cruquius Museum which has a working steam powered water pump. Even if that doesn't appeal, click the link and look at the super neat architecture. They have plenty of kids' activities. Then there's Nemo at http://www.e-nemo.nl/en/?id=1
It is all for kids and on the bank of Ij in a building in the shape of huge green ship. There's nowhere like it. I could go on. If you haven't taken kids to Amsterdam don't condemn it.
I agree that Amsterdam would be a great place if you could arrange a budget air carrier flight from where you'll be in Spain. I wouldn't do it by train, however. You can easily get back to Paris by train from Amsterdam, however.
Otherwise, have you considered the north coast of Spain? It's a very large country and just going to one region means missing so much.
David beat me to it, but I was going to suggest northern Spain, too. It is very different from the south - mountainous and green, with great beaches and fewer tourists.