Europe’s best hidden gems for a family holiday

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This post is in collaboration with Opodo.

Many families have a tried and tested favourite destination that they’ll return to most summers. It’s easy, it’s convenient, the kids love it, and after a long winter of hard work and chores, us parents deserve a relaxing break. But some destinations are worth breaking the cycle for. Here are some of our favourite hidden gems in Europe, perfect for a family getaway. 

Kotor, Montenegro: A fairytale town with plenty to do (and so many cats) 

Take the little ones to the fairytale destination of Kotor, and their inner prince or princess will instantly feel at home. Within the ancient marble old town, crooked narrow lanes expand into beautiful polished squares, resplendent churches towering over the scene. Mountain scenery and crystalline turquoise waters provide a breathtaking backdrop. This is Eastern Europe at its very best; similar to Croatia, but without the overwhelming tourist crowds. 

Walk the city walls and take a family hike up to the old fort that sits on the town’s mountain backdrop. Stop for local souvenirs and indulge in an ice cream while live music plays in the town’s many picturesque stores and cafes. There’s also the quirky little cat museum, which features an array of kooky cat-based art, for feline fans. This museum is no doubt inspired by the many friendly kittens and cats that roam Kotor’s streets as if they own the place. 

If you’re a hiking family, the jaw-dropping Lovcen National park is nearby, while the old town’s location on the Bay of Kotor means it’s easy to sail to the many tiny islands nearby – some of which boast secluded beaches. Simply put, Kotor is a stunning destination with myriad activities for families who like to get out and about. 

Bled, Slovenia: Jaw-dropping scenery, high-octane activities, and cream cake 

Another destination that appears as if from the pages of a fairytale, Slovenia’s Bled has been growing in popularity with tourists over the past few years, but it’s still relatively off-the-beaten track for those travelling Europe. Iconic Bled Castle rises up from the stunning blue-green Lake Bled, and the spellbinding scenery that surrounds it makes it a magical destination for families who love the great outdoors.

High-octane activities in Bled include zip-lining, kayaking, and canyoning, while those who like to take life at a more relaxed pace will enjoy boating across the lake, visiting the castle, and exploring the breathtaking Vintgar Gorge, with its incredible waterfalls. Alternatively, simply take a hike to enjoy the beautiful Slovenian landscape. Visiting in winter? Alpine skiing is another fun option. Whatever you do in Bled, don’t forget to finish the day off with a mouthwatering slice of Bled cream cake – the area’s culinary symbol. 

Saranda, Albania: A beach holiday with a historic twist 

If you’re a family of beach bums and mermaids, Saranda – often dubbed the unofficial capital of the Albanian Riviera – provides a coastal holiday that offers something a little different from Europe’s more popular sandy resorts. The town is clustered around an idyllic horseshoe-shaped bay on the sparkling Ionian Sea, and edged by luscious hills of olive groves. Spend endless sunny days at the beach, building sandcastles, and paddling in the clear waters, or take a couple of kayaks out on the gentle waves. If you get tired of all the relaxing (as if!), there’s plenty of interesting things to see in the town too. 

Head to the center of the town to discover the archaeological remains of a fifth-century synagogue – and don’t miss the intricate floor mosaics, still visible today. Hike up to the 16th century Lekuresi Castle, which sits on a hilltop overlooking the town, or the Forty Saints Monastery, from which you can enjoy a stunning panorama over Saranda. 

This pretty town offers all the benefits of a beach holiday, while also boasting plenty of fascinating ancient landmarks – perfect for inserting a little bit of education into your summer trip. 

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