Weekend Getaway: Brussels

Brussels is only about 1.5 hours away from Paris and about 2 hours away from London. You can just jump on a train and it will take you directly to this lovely city. I have spent some great weekends there before having kids and would love to go back to show the family around. So I am super excited that one of Esther’s friends, Majolein, offered to put her top recommendations together for us.

at La Piola

Marjolein:

Brussels is known as the European Union’s capital full of grey (boring) buildings. It is less known as one of the greenest capitals in Europe, full of parks and beautiful places to visit for adults and kids. It is not one of those cities where you fall in love with it at first sight like London, Barcelona or Paris, but once you get to know it, you will certainly enjoy it.
Nine years ago I moved here and I now live with my man, my 3-year-old daughter Livia and my 5-month-old baby boy Mats. Coming from the Netherlands, I speak Dutch to our children, and their father, born in Brussels, speaks to them in French.
I hope you will come to spend some days in this nice city and will enjoy the tips below:

SEE:

Palace of Justice. Close to the Avenue Louise stands the immense Palace of Justice with a large golden roof. From this square you have a nice view over the city, going as far as the Atomium. You can take a glass elevator from here to go down to the streets below. From there you will be a 10 min walk away from the famous Fleamarket at the Place Jeu de Balle at the end of Rue Blaes. It is at its biggest on Sundays, but is open every day until 14:00.

The Musical Instruments Museum This is a great place to visit for children with over 7000 instruments to see and try. On the roof terrace you have a nice view over the city, while enjoying a coffee or some lunch. Around the corner from the museum is the Royal Palace  with the Warande Park  opposite of it.

Brussels is famous for Manneken Pis, the peeing little boy statue wearing many different costumes. Children (and grown ups) will go, take a look and have a good laugh.

From here it is not far to go to the Grand Place, the most famous square of Brussels with its beautiful buildings. There are lots of places here that sell the famous Belgian waffles and chocolate. Close by is Jeanneke-Pis,  a cute little squatting girl statue.

The Toy museum is another, not so well known, fun place for kids situated in an old house. Kids are allowed to play with all the toys in the museum.

The Children Museum has a play ground next to it and some goats.

Museum of Natural Sciences for Children is full of all kinds of stuffed animals and the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe.

You can’t leave Brussels without going to the Atomium, an iconic building from 1958 depicting an ice crystal. Moving staircases link the different spheres and from the top sphere you have a 360 view over Brussels.

In Mini Europe  you can visit the whole of Europe and all it’s famous buildings in one day. The easiest way to visit is by car or with the Hop-on-Hop-Off bus or Metro line 6 to Heizel/Heysel.

PLAY:

The Bois de La Cambre  is a huge park, especially worth a visit on a Sunday when no cars are allowed and it becomes one big leisure and playing area. Skates and bikes can be rented here during the summer months.
In the middle of the park is a small pond with an island and a restaurant called  Chalet Robinson on it. It is reachable by a small ferry boat and is a perfect place to have lunch. You can also rent boats here. The park hosts several playgrounds and children can ride ponies.

The big playground Plaine de Jeux Renier Chalon is open every day (in July and August even until 21:00) with nice benches for parents to rest on. The ice cream van passes frequently in summer and makes a nice little music that all the children will recognise.

ParcTenBoschParc Tenbosch is also highly recommended. A small oasis of three hectares. It has plenty of lawns, lovely wooden benches, gentle slopes, a playground and sand pit for children and lovely trees, flowers and winding paths. Very much recommended if you need a little break, lie in the sun, want to have a picnic or let your children play.

EAT:

Balmoral

Le Balmoral looks like an American dinner with retro colours and is children very child friendly.

In the Rue Americaine there are two places to eat crêpes: Au P’tit Breton or the more modern Westend Bruxelles.

Gusto is a good Italian restaurant. I also highly recommend La Piola, which is one of my favourites.

For delicious pizza ‘al taglio’ (squares of different flavours cut at the spot) go to Mamma Roma (and some more locations in town).

You can find some great Asian food at Lucy Chang.

There are also many places for brunch, like Chez Franz or try one of the Pain Quotidien branches in town.

Another good place to go with kids, even early in the morning, is the huge Café Belga. During the weekend there is a market until 13:00 next to it and opposite there are ducks in the ponds waiting for you to feed them.

SHOP:

If you want to stay away from the high-street shops you will find nice places in the following streets: Rue Franz Merjay , Rue Darwin , Berkendaelstraat and Place Georges Brugmann all in the Ixelles neighbourhood. At Place Georges Brugmann you wll find the beautiful high-end children shop: Claude Hontoir. For toys good to Oli Wood Toys.

ClaudeHontoir

After visiting all these places you deserve some cupcakes and you can buy them at the cute shop: Lilicup.

If you are in town on a Wednesday there is a lovely market as of 14:00 at Place du Châtelain.

You can continue your shopping experience via Rue de l’Aqueduc, Rue du Tabellion, Parvis de la Trinité , Rue du Bailli. A route full of nice shops of all kinds: clothes, toys, food (delicious ice cream at Rue du Bailli 35), children, interior (like Zao on Rue du Bailli). You will also find cafés to have a drink or bite to eat.

Grasshopper  is a huge and beautiful toy shop in the centre of town, open every day till 19:00.

SLEEP:

Les Chambres de Franz and La Nuit Americaine  are two B&B’s located in Ixelles, one of the nicest neighbourhoods in town. In the first one ‘Le Studio’ is fitted to stay with children and the second one has an extra floor with a double bed.

Vintage Hotel is in a very good location and has 29 vintage style bedrooms with family rooms and inter-connecting rooms are available.

 

Weekend Getaway: Milan

Milano_Duomo

I love Italy! To be honest, who doesn’t? The landscape, the architecture, the history, the food and the people — a beautiful holiday is guaranteed whatever corner of Italy you decide to explore. Milan always struck me as the most “sensible” city of Italy, known more as a business and fashion capital than as a tourist destination. But I have completely changed my mind since Paola, who runs her own PR agency and blog in Milan, put together of list of must-see things in Milan. Now Milan has jumped up a few places on my top 10 list of cities to visit! Introducing Paula…

Babyccino 2

I’m a communication consultant in Milan and mom of four-year-old Leonardo. I moved to the city a long time ago and am now living with my family in the Navigli neighborhood… it’s a very charming and interesting place: I love walking Leonardo to school, which is just in front of the canal, and sipping my cappuccino in one of the several bars of the area before starting my workday. I hope you enjoy my recommendations!

SEE:

Museo del Novecento Housed in Palazzo dell’Arengario, in the heart of Milan, just opposite the Duomo cathedral, this gallery displays a wide variety of twentieth-century works of art. You can admire paintings and sculptures from different art periods, such as Futurism and Transavantgarde, that can enchant and surprise even children, as some sculptures by Boccioni. An educational programme dedicated to schools and children is also available.

Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia ‘Leonardo da Vinci:  With its 40,000 m² in total, it is the largest scientific-technical museum in Italy and owns the worldwide largest collection of machine models manufactured from drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. A real paradise for children, where they can discover the different pavilions, from the transport pavilions to the rail pavilion – which houses last century’s first locomotives. You can also board the Toti submarine, or even make a stop in the area dedicated to laboratories, where you can participate at activities organised around the museum.

Duomo  In Milan, a visit to the Duomo cathedral and its terraces, from which you can admire a truly breath-taking panorama, is a must! The church is an artistic monument of incredible importance, and its spires, recently renovated along with the entire facade, a real treasure of the city: Those who are athletic and patient can climb the 201 steps on foot, while those who prefer a comfortable ascent can easily take advantage of the lift.

Navigli  Designed and built to connect the Lombardy capital with Lakes Maggiore and Como as well as the river Ticino, the Milan historic canals represent today a very lively district and an epicentre of culture, events and nightlife. Take a pleasant walk through the small, typical artisan shops, the cosy cafes and restaurants, or even a nice boat trip. And if you are in the area on the last Sunday of the month, a tour of the traditional antiques market cannot be missed.

PLAY:

MUBA  The Museo dei Bambini was inaugurated in early 2014 at the Rotonda della Besana, one of the most representative architectural buildings of the eighteenth century in Milan. It is a permanent centre of cultural and artistic projects dedicated to childhood, a place open to innovation that combines the excellence of national and international culture, education, science and arts, to promote the development of creativity and creative design thinking. The museum has an excellent bistro, an interesting bookshop and a beautiful garden to play at.  

Parco Sempione  Sempione Park is the green lung of the city, where you can walk, drink coffee, or simply sit on a bench reading a book. Of course, there is also a large play area for the little ones, with slides, swings, merry-go-rounds, a small train…  

Giardini Indro Montanelli It is a park located in the heart of Milan, in Via Palestro, where every day many generations of young citizens spend the afternoon, enjoying a tour on the historic small train or having a classic ride on a pony. There are three play areas and an entertainment space with merry-go-rounds and ponds with ducks and swans. Within the gardens there is also the Civico Planetario (Civic Planetarium), the largest in Italy, and the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale (Civic Museum of Natural History), that are definitely worth a visit, especially if you are travelling with astronomy or zoology enthusiasts!

EAT:

Isa e Vane  A delicious bistro with a warm homely feel and definitely kid-friendly, where you can enjoy delicious and genuine foods even in the courtyard … The owners, Isabella and Vanessa, know the art of hospitality and make you feel as if you were in your own living room!

Al Fresco Another ‘newcomer’ in the city catering business, Al Fresco is defined as ‘a meeting place with a kitchen’… High quality ingredients combined with a relaxed, informal atmosphere make this restaurant an event to share with the little ones. In this case, it is worth booking a table outside, in the lovely garden.

California Bakery If you do not want to give up an American coffee or a burger, you should definitely stop at one of the shops of this famous Milan bakery chain. But the main reason why I am pointing out this address is its unmistakable Picnic Brunch. As a matter of fact, during summer, in the store in Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, you can buy a fabulous basket for adults or children: tablecloths, pillows and baskets full of overseas cult food, are ready to be enjoyed in the open air park plaza, relaxing in the sunshine, in the best tradition of New York.

Aromando Bistrot If, like me, you love the retro style, you will literally fall in love with this restaurant, completely furnished with authentic vintage items that create a unique shabby atmosphere. Authentic is also the cuisine, based on traditional dishes, like a cold cuts and pickles starter, Cappelletti in broth and apple pie with eggnog sauce … Is your mouth watering yet?  

SHOP:

L’Elefante con le Ghette Born from the passion of three friends, Erika, Federica and Serena, this is the meeting place for those looking for style and comfort, a mix of Italian and northern Europe niche brands, but also clothes and accessories hand made by craftsmen-artists. In addition to a selection of more than 300 books for young readers, there is also a full schedule of events including workshops, meetings with authors and games.

Il Bianconiglio  Here you will find everything for the baby, from clothing to games, up to strollers and baby changing tables, especially second-hand ones, but in excellent condition… The vintage style is becoming trendy even for the smallest ones (ah, for moms a mandatory stop is Cavalli e Nastri, the kingdom of the Milan retro style)!

Mezzanotte An address in Milan that every mother should know. Originality, attention to detail and search for a unique style are the features underlying the selection of brands constantly made by Barbara Mezzanotte. And there are not only small dresses and T-shirts, but also many designer items, home accessories, items for baby parties and mums.

Il Gufo This boutique in the heart of Milan’s fashion district, at a stone’s throw from Via Montenapoleone, is one of the best known brands in the Made-in-Italy scenery dedicated to children. A brand born in the eighties, on the initiative of a mother who turned her passion for sewing clothes for her children into a job. Even today Il Gufo products are made with natural fibres and carefully selected fabrics, ensuring its customers the utmost control and safety.

SLEEP:

To experience a piece of the ‘Milanese life’, try one of the amazing apartments at Airbnb  like most people are doing lately… you can choose among loft, cozy flat or romantic attic!

Weekend Getaway: Budapest

budapest for kids

Have you every been to Budapest? I would love to go! I’m a little bit obsessed by old European capitals at the moment, so Budapest is right at the top of my list of places to visit. One of our lovely readers, Diane, visited Budapest recently and put together a little lists of things to do and see.

Diane and her husband John are avid travelers.  They began taking their daughter (now 4.5) abroad when she was 18 months old.  They now travel with two kids (their son is 2). Here is their list of things to see and places to play, eat and stay:

Family

SEE:

Castle District – Located on the Buda side of the Danube, the Castle District is a must see for three distinct reasons. First, the trip to the Castle District is a blast for kids as it includes riding in a funicular. Once there, you will be dazzled by a wide array of buildings including the Royal Palace and the Matthias Church. But before you explore the charming streets of the District, stop and look across the Danube for the third (and, in my opinion) best reason for visiting the District – the views of Pest. You will have stunningly perfect views of Hungary’s enormous Parliament (third largest in the world), its distinct bridges and the lovely Danube itself. This is the perfect place for a family photo, if I do say so myself.

Heroes’ Square and City Park – City Park is a little like New York’s Central Park in that it has a bit of everything on its grounds including Budapest’s zoo and Szechenyi Baths. We elected not to visit the baths with two small kids but did spend an afternoon at the zoo. As it is located in the middle of town (and is one of the oldest zoos in the world), Budapest’s zoo feels intimate and the animals don’t seem so far away. After spending part of the day at the zoo, it is worth taking a stroll through City Park to visit Vajdahunyad Castle, especially if, like me, you have a child obsessed with princesses and castles. On the way out of the park, stop in (closed-to-traffic) Heroes’ Square and take in the imposing monument and statues of Hungary’s most important national leaders.

Memento Park – The final resting place for communist statues, Memento Park allows you to imagine what life was like behind the iron curtain. Although the significance of the statues will be lost on smaller kids (as it should be), they will enjoy climbing on the larger than life statues and sitting in the old Trabant car parked near the entrance. Once they are older and learn about the Soviet bloc in school, you can pull out the old photos and show them just how close they got to history. Memento Park is a bit out of the way in outer Buda but there are several easy public transportation options. Our kids enjoyed the trip out there just as much as they did the statues.

DSC_2701

PLAY:

Mini Polisz – Located at Nyugati ter, near the train station and WestEnd City Center, Mini Polisz is the ultimate interactive and roleplaying museum for young children. The space is divided into different businesses, including a Tesco grocery store, bank, mechanic shop, hair salon and doctor’s office. Children can move from one location to the next, taking on the jobs required of each business. Among the more creative sections is a roadway where kids can practice obeying traffic rules while riding scooters and trikes. There also is a baby room for those under one and a snack counter. For a more substantial meal, head over to the WestEnd City Center mall which offers over 50 dining options.

Children’s Railway  – Operated by children (under adult supervision), the Children’s Railway is a fun way to see the hills high above Budapest. The train’s route takes you past a number of sites, including Challenge Land Adventure Park, an outdoor park with several different ropes courses for visitors 4 and up. As we had a little one with us who couldn’t participate, we opted to skip Challenge Land but a lot of people recommend it!

EAT:

Verne Restaurant  – Verne Restaurant is just one of a seeming endless row of restaurants located on the popular pedestrian shopping street, Vaci utca. What distinguishes Verne from other restaurants is the enormous playground located in the back of the restaurant. We had not seen a playground of that magnitude at a restaurant not called McDonald’s. It came equipped with a slide, playhouse, sandbox and plenty of shovels and buckets. Our kids did not want to leave. For the adults, the restaurant offers a varied menu including pizzas and traditional Hungarian dishes.

Pizza Eataliano  – With three locations in popular tourist areas of Budapest, you are never far away from an Eataliano outpost. As the name suggests, this is the place for pizza and also pasta, all at a reasonable price (especially if you dine off of the lunch menu). The children’s menu offers several pizza and pasta options and includes dessert (ice cream or chocolate cake).

Gelarto Rosa – Rumored to be the best ice cream in Budapest and it certainly lives up to its hype. This tiny shop scoops the ice cream into the shape of a perfect rose. As a bonus, they offer dairy-free and other allergen-free flavors. This meant that my son, who is allergic to several common foods, was able to enjoy a daily treat. As the shop is small, there is generally a line out the door but it is worth the wait. Plus, the shop is just a few storefronts down from Szent Istvan ter (St. Stephen’s Square) and its beautiful Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica). Take your ice cream over to the (car free) square and let your kids run around while you enjoy the view of the beautiful church.

Jegbufe  – Ever wonder what it must have been like to live in the Communist era? Jegbufe gives you a chance to step back in time. In business since 1952 (and apparently not renovated since them), Jegbufe is a Budapest institution serving pastries and drinks just as they did prior to the fall of the iron curtain. In addition to retaining the Soviet-era décor, Jegbufe has kept the communist system of ordering goods: first, you view the items you wish to purchase. Once you decide which you would like to buy, you get into a separate line to pay. Once payment is complete, bring your receipt back to the original counter and claim your treat. Not surprisingly, they only take cash, and it can be a bit of a challenge to use a stroller inside. No doubt just like in the communist days.

SHOP:

Játékvár  – If there is one item that makes a young child uniquely Hungarian it is their possession of an affordable, plastic ride on scooter. They ride them everywhere: in the mall, on the playground, at the zoo and on any and all pedestrian-only streets and squares. Naturally, we had to buy two for our own children (and find a way to get them home, but that’s another story). We bought ours at Játékvár at the Mammut I shopping mall, located near the Millenaris cultural center. However, these ubiquitous scooters can be found in various shops throughout town. If you have plans to tour the zoo, spend time in City Park or stroll down pedestrian-only Vaci utca., you can’t go wrong by investing in a riding scooter for your children. These scooters may just be the best souvenir we have ever brought back from Europe.

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Memories of Hungary  – There is no shortage of souvenir shops in Hungary selling cheap bags, magnets and other tchotchkes. However, for unique souvenirs of high quality, there is one shop that should be on everyone’s list. Memories of Hungary, located down the street from Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica), sells a wide array of beautifully crafted items including clothing, handbags and ceramics, as well as wine and food. For little ones, they have books, stuffed animals and beautiful hand puppets. The store’s employees speak perfect English and can help you find the right souvenir for that hard-to-shop-for friend or relative.

STAY:

Apartment Rentals –  We had great luck with Golden Stars Apartments  which offered an array of apartments of different sizes throughout Budapest. They also arranged for an airport transfer with car seats. We elected to rent an apartment on pedestrian-only Vaci utca. Vaci utca was the ideal location for a family with small children. We were a stone’s throw away from many food options, including the kids’ favorite, McDonald’s, and the kids rode their new riding scooters to dinner each night. When my son lost his right shoe (we only brought one pair with us), we had several options for purchasing a new pair. When the kids got a little restless during the witching hour (you parents know what I mean), we took them around the corner to a perfect playground set against the backdrop of the Danube. And when it was time to head out and sightsee, we had several public transportation options available to us within a five minute walk, including trams and the metro.

For those who prefer hotels, you can’t beat the family activities available at the Four Seasons Budapest, located on the banks of the Pest side of the Danube. The hotel offers both baby- and kid-sized amenities for their littlest guests, including baby toys and child-sized robes and slippers.

- Emilie

P.S. Diane hired a local photographer to take photos of the whole family in Budapest. Such a great idea, I never have a single photo of the whole family when we go on holiday. She used Brita Photography.

A few days in Portland

walking downtown portland

We’ve just finished a little road trip from Lake Tahoe, NV, where Michael’s parents have a home, back up to Seattle where we will spend the rest of our summer holiday with my family. We did some sightseeing along the way and really enjoyed exploring some new parts of California and Oregon we have never seen before. We decided to stop in Portland  on our way and spend a few days checking out the city. Despite having grown up in Seattle, I’ve never really spent much time in Portland… and we keep hearing such good things about it!

I can definitely say it is worth all the hype. Portland is such a great little city, so easy to navigate with all the wonderful shops and restaurants located downtown in an easily walkable grid. It’s a perfect destination for a weekend break because it’s small enough to explore, but still feels very much like a hip, happening city. We loved it!

Here’s a little recap of our visit and some photos too:

We arrived into Portland in time to check into our hotel and walk to dinner at Oven & Shaker in the Pearl District. We sat outside and enjoyed good pizza and beer. We then stopped by Ruby Jewel for ice cream on our way back to our hotel. Lots of people suggested to go to Salt & Straw for ice cream, but we never made it there. Apparently they serve delicious ice cream in the most unusual flavours (and it’s so popular they have a queue going around the block!).

marlow at Kenny & Zuke's

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at Kenny & Zuke’s (I ate the gravlax salmon bagel and it was delicious!) and then good coffee from Stumptown. We then enjoyed a bit of window shopping in the new Union Way shopping arcade across the street. Quin was excited to find a candy shop named Quin (!!) while I was happy to take a quick stroll through Steven Alan.

Quin candy shop

kids in portland

After window shopping, we walked down to Portland Pedal Bike Tours where we rented bikes for the day. We put the girls in a trailer behind my bike, Quin rode tandem with Michael, and Easton rode his own bike. We had so much fun cycling around the city and exploring the various neighbourhoods (once I got the hang of riding a bike in a dress and pulling two heavy girls behind me! oh my!).

girls in bike trailer

During our bike ride around town, we stopped for lunch at Por Qué No?. The kids were hot and sweaty from cycling in the 90º heat and they loved getting iced cold prickly pear juice to cool them off. The tacos were yummy too!

kids at por que no

At the end of our cycle, we stopped for a while and let the kids run through the fountains at the waterfront park near the Hawthorne Bridge. The kids were so hot, they went in completely clothed (we didn’t have their swimsuits!). I nearly went in too – I was so beat from riding all over town with the girls in tow! ;)

portland water fountain

For dinner that night we met one of Michael’s college friends at one of Portland’s hot spots, Tasty & Alder. The food was again delicious! It was worth the hour long wait to get in (no reservations taken). And even though we were the only ones in there with kids, they were really friendly and accommodating to our big group.

The next day Michael had a few meetings so I was on my own with the kids. We started our day by hitting up the photobooth at the Ace Hotel. I’m a sucker for the old-school photobooths, and my kids loved them so much, they were nearly in tears when I told them we had to leave!

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We then walked over to Powell’s Books, which is a great (enormous!) bookstore selling both new and used books. We sat in the children’s section reading books to each other for a good porting of the morning, and I let the kids each pick out two books to take home with them. It was a great place to escape the heat, and would equally be a great place to escape the rain or cold if you visited during other seasons.

After the bookstore, we walked over to Jamison Square. We picked up pizza from Hot Lips (great name!) and ate lunch in the park, and then the kids ran around in the fountains for a couple hours! Phew! : )

jamison square water fountain

On our way back from the fountains I managed to squeeze in a little visit to Canoe, which is a shop I had been eyeing for the past couple days. I wanted to buy everything in store! So many pretty homewares! Alas, I did not buy everything in the shop. : )

canoe shop

That night, we had a quick dinner at Lardo. The kids got hot dogs, and I had a tasty sandwich. It was all I could manage with four exhausted kids, but it was pretty good for a sandwich joint. The next morning we grabbed breakfast at Mother’s before driving out of town and heading for Seattle. They served us waffles topped with juicy blackberries picked that morning!

That’s it! What a great little trip. I definitely recommend visiting Portland. We will go back for sure!

xx Courtney

p.s. Feel free to add tips in the comments below if you have any other recommendations for people visiting the city. Thank you!

Weekend Getaway: Hamburg

As you might have noticed I have a big soft spot for Germany, the country I partly grew up in, and Hamburg has always been one of my favourite German cities. It has this great majestic, Northern European vibe. Crazy how Europe is so small and cities and their architecture are soo different!

One of the great things about Hamburg is how very much it is centred around the water and river. Our reader Sarah, who put together this post on Hamburg, actually knows a lot about living around and on water as it is her job to decorate yachts. She lives between Hamburg and Venice with her family and I am super excited to share with you her tips on this great city! Here is her guide:

You will love Hamburg as it is a typical Northern European city with lots of attractions, water, ships and shops! There are a lot of big attractions in Hamburg, such as the fish market, the vintage ships, the harbour and St. Pauli, a lot of museums, and so on, but I decided to introduce you to some of my favourite places with kids. We have a lot of wonderful parks and quarters with multi-kulti (multi-cultural) flair.

SEE & PLAY

Canal Tour:  A cruise along the Alster canals reveals the mysterious side of Hamburg. You will find beautifully-kept villas with hidden parklands and luxurious houses, as well as other interesting sights (like a real venetian gondola) along unspoilt riverbanks. Although you are near to the city centre, you will find yourself in the midst of the greenery. Don’t forget to take along a typical Hamburg picnic made up out of fishballs and herring. The tour starts at Jungfernstieg, one of the most famous shopping streets in Hamburg.

Hamburg Planterium: What happened at the BIG BANG? and other questions to be answered at Planetarium Hamburg. It is really a magical place not only for children. Built as a water tower in 1912 it is an architectural landmark with a breathtaking view from the observation deck on top. Experience a great sky show with a trip through space and time. After an amazing laser show, you can have a walk in the Stadtpark as the Planetarium is surrounded by the biggest park in town. And if you visit Hamburg during summertime come and bring your swim clothes, as there is a wonderful bath from the 1930s!

The Miniatur Wunderland: Visit the world. America, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany & the world’s largest model railway!
This is the most popular family tourist attraction in Hamburg. There are more than 7.000 square meters of different levels, moving cars and trains, flying planes, snow, sun and rain. Thousands of mini people populate this stunning “little” world. You definitely need binoculars to explore everything. For kids it is amazing, but exhausting, too. There are lots of people and a million things to watch; so plan a lot of time and book tickets in advance. Bring a lot to drink and, after the visit, stroll around the famous Hafencity and Speicherstadt. The Speicherstadt is the former trade centre of Hamburg. Large warehouses out of typical red brickstones along the canals are worth the trip! Right behind this Trade City you can take a walk through Europe’s largest new building project: the Hafencity. Find a lot of small cafés, the hilarious Philharmonic building, the Maritime Museum and the Prototyp Museum with a lot of Porsche cars, little harbors for sailing boats and a playground right behind every corner. Enjoy the view and drinks at a café called Carl’s and fall in love with Hamburg.

PLAY

Strandperle: The Strandperle was build in the end of the 19th century right on the waterfront. It used to be a milk shop! You might still be able to get milk, but you can also lay back with a glass of white wine or a typical Hamburg beer, the Astra. While you enjoy the fantastic view on the harbor skyline, huge container vessels from Panama and Nowosibirsk will sail past and the kids can play and conquer the beach. Yes, the beach! Hamburg has more than 10 kilometers beach and we love it!  Plan a day for the Strandperle, as you will not tear yourself away from this terrific place! Later that day you can climb up the hill up to the Elbchaussee, Hamburgs “Avenue Princess Grace”. After 15 minutes walk you will find a quarter called Ottensen, with a lot of small shops, cafés and restaurants. Handmade objects are on sale here, as are small fashion labels and the world’s best ice-cream in a shop called “Eisliebe”. Have a wine in the “Garage” Kleine Rainstrasse 1, eat cheese and ham before returning to your hotel.

SHOP

Herr Max – a wonderful patisserie in fancy Schanzenviertel, Schulterblatt 12. Delicious little pastries, fresh cakes and biscuits. And it is absolutely sinful!

Vergissmeinicht – it’s the name of this litlle romantic flower, forget-me-not. And you will find a lot of wonderful fashion brands for kids, toys and costumes, little vintage toys, vintage jewelery and hair stuff. Great little shop!

Herr von Eden – for Men: Tailormade woollen cashmere suits, denim shirts, hats, jackets, silk scarfs. Very stylish, very modern, very spezial! Herr von Eden is one of the most beloved brands for individual men.

Kauf dich glücklich – become happy by shopping! A glorious combination of little nice things, books and a lot of fresh german labels. Especially for Mama!  It’s on Susannenstrasse 4. Bars and a playground around fort he rest of the family.

SLEEP

Here are a couple of suggestions for hotels: The Side Hotel,  the Riverside Hotel,  the 25hours Hafencity Hotel and the George.

Come along & Ahoi!

Sarah

Insider tips: Positano, Italy


The lovely Joanna from A Cup Of Jo (who is expecting her second baby any minute now!!) recently asked me to share my insider tips on Positano with her readers.

We’ve now been to Positano every year for the past ten years. For us, it feels like going home — some of the locals even feel like family. It is certainly one of our favourite places in the whole wide world, and so it was easy answering her questions and sharing our tips. Thank you Joanna for featuring them on your blog!

xx Courtney

Weekend Get Away: Prague


Have you ever been to Prague? It is one of my top 5 European cities. It is relatively small and absolutely stunning and is one of these places where you feel surrounded by history! In short, a perfect European destination to spend a weekend with the family. Prague is yet again one of those cities I visited several times before having a kid and have not been to since. I was really happy when one of our readers Diane wanted to write about it who travels all over Europe with her family. Prague really stood out as a place that is very child friendly and fun for everyone no matter what age, so Diane has decided it was time to share her hard earned knowledge with all of us!

SEE:

Petrin Hill – Located above Mala Strana, Petrin Hill is a great place from which to view the city.  For even better views, take the elevator to the top of the mini Eiffel Tower located on its grounds.  Note that the elevator cannot accommodate strollers.  A mirror maze located on the grounds can be fun for kids of all ages.  Even getting to Petrin Hill can be fun for kids – take the funicular and enjoy the ride up.  Remember, you can’t spell funicular without fun!

Prague Castle – no trip to Prague would be complete without a visit to Prague Castle.  A whole afternoon can be spent wandering around the grounds.  Much of it may not interest your kids but stick around for the changing of the guards, as that should grab their attention.

Vysehrad Castle – Prague’s other, less visited castle has on its grounds a beautiful church, a cemetery containing the remains of famous Czechs like composers Dvorak and Smetana, and a well-stocked playground perfect for children bored by sightseeing.

Astronomical Clock – Located in the middle of Old Town (a must see as well) is the enormous astronomical clock.   It is worth sitting down in a nearby café for a snack and waiting for the top of the hour to see what happens.

PLAY:

Kralovstvi Zeleznic – Located in the basement of a building in Novy Smichov, this train museum offers lots of model train sets of different varieties whizzing by miniature cityscapes and countryside.  If your child even remotely likes trains, they will love this museum.  Plus, it is entirely indoors, so it is a great rainy (or snowy) day activity.  Your kids will recognize the Thomas train sets and older folks will appreciate the more historic trains, including the ones with “Czechoslovakia” written on the side.  For the youngest visitors, there is a room set aside with Thomas trains and other age appropriate toys.

Zoo Praha – Like most zoos, Zoo Praha offers a wide array of animals on display.  What makes this zoo stand out is its extensive children’s area complete with a petting zoo, playground and small train that children can ride (with parents, if necessary).  There is a café on the grounds.  The zoo is a bit off the beaten path but can be reached by taking the metro and then a bus.

Komunitni Centrum KAMPA – During our travels we always try to give our children an opportunity to interact with others their age by seeking out age appropriate classes and inquiring as to whether we can pay for one or two visits.  At the Komunitni Centrum KAMPA, we were able to pay for our daughter to attend a “Kids in Motion” class.  This English-speaking class involved music, movement and every toddler’s favorite, bubbles.  After class, everyone heads next door to Kampa Park for its playground and views of the Charles River. (more…)

Weekend Getaway: Ibiza


Ibiza is a place I visited a long time ago in a different life. It is so easy to get to from mainland Europe and so full of life and excitement. I absolutely loved it, but it never occurred to me that it might also be a great place to visits with kids. Anne-Laure, a fellow Frenchy, has recently moved to Ibiza and kindly shares her favourite places to visit with kids. Turns out there are a ton of things to do for the whole family! Here’s her guide:

Have you ever thought of Ibiza as an Island Break for family? Well Ibiza is the perfect spot because this tiny little island has it all! Wonderful weather from Easter to mid-November, good flight connections with most European cities, small villages, beautiful beaches, incredible food and lots of fun for kids and adults.

I moved here last February and even though I already loved the island before moving, I can assure you that the more I know it the more I fall in love with Ibiza. The positive energy which captivates all its visitors will also charm you.

I am a French native, a natural cosmetic blogger and mother of 2 incredible sons, Gabriel (20 months) and Paul (4 months)… :) I can see you raising your eyebrows! Yes, it is a hell of a lot of work and organisation to be able to keep up with all the things you used to do before having children, like going out for lunch with friends, shopping, partying, etc… But with all the tips I have listed down here you will be able to do it in Ibiza. Here’s my list with all my favourite places to go around the island to enjoy the Ibiza Lifestyle with your children: (more…)

Weekend Getaway: Bali

Have you ever been to Bali? Bali must be one of the most magical places I have been to and I can imagine it must be paradise for kids. It is so exciting that Jemma, a fellow blogger, offered to put together a post about Bali. Granted, not really a weekend away for most of us (except our South-East Asian readers, lucky you!) but it is a great holiday destination!

Jemma’s love affair with the Island of the Gods began 15 years ago when she first travelled to Bali as a teenager. Fast forward a decade and a half and many trips and adventures later, Bali is now her home away from home for her and her hubby and their two little girls aged 3 and 2. Some people head down the coast for their summer breaks, but this family jet off to Bali for some fun in the sun, new experiences, nasi goreng and quality family time. After dishing out email after email to fellow travelling families on where to stay, where to eat and other tidbits about the island, Jemma decided to launch Little Bali Love which now provides families all over the world with advice and tips on all the best places to eat, play, shop, stay, see, experience and explore when holidaying in Bali.

Please note, the below guide has a strong Seminyak focus. For more tips and ideas on other places to eat, play, shop and stay visit Little Bali Love.

PLAY:

Cubbyhouse Kids Club (Petitenget, Seminyak): Located at the Semara Resort, Cubbyhouse is arguably the best kids club on the island, and open to all too, not just guests. Check the little ones in for 2 hours as part of the “Pampering and Playdate” package while you enjoy a relaxing massage, or even for the whole day where they can play, read, paint, draw and dress-up till their little hearts content.

El Parque (Seminyak): The new kid on the block, and a fun spot for the whole family to chill together and eat, play and swim. Seek out this spot in the backstreets of Seminyak, sample the Spanish inspired menu, and kick back and relax in the sunshine for a few fun hours together. We especially love the “no nanny” policiy – this place is all about rockin quality family time.

Waterbom Park (Kuta): An oldie but a goodie. What child doesn’t love to splish splash around and some serious waterslide action. With over 17 waterslides, water cannons, rides, rafts, boogie boards and more, this place is sure to delight all from toddlers to teens.

Beachside fun (From Sanur to Seminyak, Canggu to Candidasa…): Paddling, swimming, sandcastles, shell-collecting, surfing, boogie-boarding, horseriding, hair braiding, BBQ’ed corn on the cob, manicures, pedicures, massages, buckets and spades, sunsets, fresh tropical juices… life’s a beach, and life on the beach in Bali will provide hours of entertainment, new experiences, fun times and magical memories for visiting families. (more…)

Weekend Away: Sao Paulo, Brazil


I have always wanted to visit Brazil — everything about this country feels exciting: beaches, rainforest, samba and carnival! Not to forget Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo! I am super happy that Flavia, a mother of two living in Sao Paulo, agreed to put together a weekend guide to her bustling metropole. I think it is the first South American city guide we have had here at Babyccino Kids. I hope you enjoy reading about Sao Paulo as much as I did! (more…)

Weekend Away: Paris


We have had so many great contributors tell us about their cities, and each of them has made me want to pack my bag and go explore the city, so I wanted to do a post about Paris. I still sometimes step out of my flat and get a little bit excited. Why? Because I do live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Sometimes I forget and then I look up and think: “Seriously… I am one lucky girl!”

So here is my list of what to do in Paris with your family for a weekend (or more!) in Paris:

SEE:

The Pompidou Centre – great for the whole family. The permanent collection is world-class and well laid out, not too big and not too small. The ground floor has a little exhibition center just for kids that normally runs parallel to the temporary exhibitions and helps kids understand the exhibition. If nothing else, taking the rolling staircases, which are on the outside of the building in the plastic tubes, is an activity in itself.

The Galerie de l’Evolution – Paris’s natural history museum, which has recently been renovated and is worth a visit, especially if it is rainy outside. It is a beautiful space and is set in the Jardin des Plantes, the Botantical Gardens. It is a lovely to have a walk around in.

The Menagerie in the Jardin des Plantes – Also in the Jardin des Plantes is the Menagerie, a little zoo that has been around since the mid-19th century and has not changed a lot since then. It is a great size for smaller children and very charming.

The Sacrée Coeur and Montmartre – Montmartre and the Sacrée Coeur is a fun place to explore – unfortunately a lot of tourists agree with this, so the main streets are often packed with tourists. It is quite easy to avoid them though, as the groups normally stick to a few road and squares.

I recommend taking the funicular (easily my favourite public transportation vehicle) up to the top of the hill (you pay with a metro ticket). The view of Paris from the Sacrée Coeur is one of the best. If you walk back down the steps you will find a beautiful old merry-go-round – you might recognize it from the movie Amelie Poulain.

Musée D’Orsay – The Musée d’Orsay is a really accessible museum for kids from about 5 years and up. It houses a lot of the famous impressionists, so it is a great introduction to art and famous artwork that your kids might already know. It is right in the heart of Paris on the right bank of the Seine, beside the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, the perfect place to go and have a run about in after a museum visit. Do note that one of the crazy things about parks in France is one is often not allowed on the grass and there are fierce looking officers with whistles paroling the parks to make sure it stays that way!

Cité des Enfants - The cité des Enfants is based in the Science Museum a little bit outside the centre of Paris at La Villette. It is definitely worth the treck out if you are staying for a few days. All the exhibitions are interactive, educational and fun. I have been there with my kids and it is quite interesting how different kids gravitate towards different part of the exhibition. The exhibitions are divided between a section for 2-7 year olds and a section for 5-12 year olds. I would advise booking tickets in advance from the museum’s website.

PLAY:

Luxembourg Gardens – The Luxembourg Gardens is possibly my favourite park in Paris – it is beautiful and very, very Parisian. Again you will stumble over the problem that it is hard to find a piece of grass to sit on, but you can sit on the famous chairs, go on the merry-go-round, rent little boats to push around the little pond with a stick, visit the play area (you will notice all the French parents sitting on the benches outside the area while the foreign parents are running around the area trying to keep an eye on their children). (more…)

Weekend Getaway: Sevilla, Spain

My husband and I spent a week in Sevilla over Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) when our oldest was just 8 months old. It was such a magical, sunny week, and such a special time to be there (we lucked out — we had no idea of the Easter celebrations we would get to see!). We loved our trip so much and hope to go back some day. Luckily, one of our readers, Sarah, an American living in Seville, has offered to write a (very comprehensive!) guide to exploring her city. Sarah is mum to a toddler girl called Manuela, and has a blog called Babbles and Bibis where she shares what life is like as an expat raising a bilingual family in Southern Spain. Here is her guide:

Sevilla (Seville) is the capital city of the southernmost region in Spain and it is mostly known for its colorful flamenco, lazy siesta afternoons, bullfighting and of course, its delectable tapas. Visitors will also find it to be a great destination for a getaway with the whole family. There is so much to see and do, you might just have to stay a whole week. (more…)

Weekend Getaway: Rome


Rome is one of my favorite European capitals. When I visited I was so impressed that so much history, from the Romans to the Renaissance and turbulent 19th century, can be found on a relatively small scale. But how easy is it to explore all this history with the whole family? Sarah Petrucci, a true Roman and the owner of the newly opened toy boutique Il Pesciolino Rosso, was kind enough to write down her recommendations for a trip to Rome with familia!

Rome must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Maybe because of the warm light so unique to this city which makes its palazzi in hues of gold and terracotta glow at sunset. Perhaps it has to do with the beauty of its flowering balconies and rooftops or the regal stance of the pine and sycamore trees that line the river and fill the parks. Of course it could be the abundance of wealth in monuments and churches, important ruins and treasures. And to top it off, that balmy climate, so mellow in each season giving a romantic feeling you can’t get enough of as you walk the cobblestone streets and listen to the sweet sounds of Roma. Here are some ideas for a weekend in Rome… (more…)

Weekend Getaway: Munich

Courtney and I spent a hilarious weekend seven years ago (pre-children) at the October Fest in Munich. It was great fun: there was a lot of beer, schnapps, bretzels, German sausages, sleeping and card playing involved. I don’t think we had ever seen so many people our age in lederhosen and dirndls. It was definitely not the kind of weekend you would have with kids.

I am pretty sure that a weekend in Munich now would be very, very different, but potentially as much fun — it is a beautiful city, very traditional but also very happening. For some local insight on what Munich has to offer for kids, Mitali, a stay-at-home mom living in Munich, has very kindly given us her tips and recommendations on what to do in the capital of Bavaria. She is a mother of two (son Nilay 6 years, daughter Nalini 7 months) and the proud owner of a crazy dog, Greta. She loves travelling and has lived all around the world, but, in the end, has always enjoyed coming home to Munich. She has some great ideas of what to do in Munich! (more…)

Weekend Get-Away: Madrid

I love Spain — the culture, the cities, the people and the great, great food. I have not been to Madrid in years (actually decades) and had no idea if it is a good place to visit with kids.  Luckily we got some local intel from the lovely Beatriz.

Beatriz, a Spanish native, lives in Madrid with her husband, her daughter Martina and her dog. During the day, she works in communications for a Spanish Luxury Brand. During the night, she runs her blog Con Botas de Agua about things that inspire her.

Here are Beatriz’s recommendations if you happen to be in Madrid (or need an excuse to go!): (more…)

Weekend Get-Away: Stockholm!

Stockholm is SUCH a cool city. I have been only a few times, but each time I felt an urge to move there (and not many cities do that to me!). It’s beautiful, it’s trendy, it’s kid-friendly, most people speak English, and it’s always voted one of the best cities for families to live… so it must be true! I recently met up with the lovely Britt Hanson, freelance illustrator, one half of the husband-and-wife duo behind fanfamfun blog and beautiful mama of two, and she had me green with envy over her recent three-year stint in Stockholm. I asked her to write a family-friendly guide to the city, and thankfully she obliged.  Here is Britt’s guide complete with her own cute illustrations…

It’s horrible. It really is an awful place to visit. Hungry polar bears have even been known to roam the streets looking for food! There, that should do it. That should keep this geographical gem off the radar of the visiting hordes.

Ok, I’ll come clean. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful (and clean) cities in the world and we absolutely love visiting. I should also mention, we’ve lived there for three years. So what’s so special about it? Isn’t it cold, dark and miserable? It’s cold and dark in the winter, but oh so beautiful. And even more beautiful in the summer.

This is a city built on fourteen islands at the mouth of a lake and the Baltic Sea. These islands continue out to the Stockholm archipelago, where you’ll find around 30,000 more islands and islets that will literally charm your socks off. So, there’s water here, there and everywhere. What else? Do acres upon acres of parks and greenery take your fancy? Not forgetting culture, fine architecture, fashionable people and cutting edge design amidst this sea of blue water and ever so green greenery. And to top all this off, it’s as child friendly as a cuddly toy polar bear.

Here are our favourite places to have some fantastic family fun.

SEE

  • Stockholm Waterfront Walk – Take a stroll from the edge of Södermalm where it meets Slussen. As you walk across Slussen to Gamla Stan you can see Lake Malaren on your left and the Baltic sea on your right. Walk along the waters edge around Gamla Stan (the tourist friendly old town that’s also a must see destination), towards Kungstragarden, Take in some magnificent architecture along the way, this includes The Royal Palace, The Grand Hotel and the National Museum. You’ll also come across local fishermen catching salmon. When you reach Nybrokajen (the harbour with lots of tourist tour boats), follow the arc of the dock around and meander slowly down the beautiful tree lined avenue, Strandvagen. There are many landmarks to see as you approach the bridge that goes across to the island of Djurgarden. Once on Djurgarden you’ll find lots to see and do. This really is a wonderful way to see the city.

  • Gamla Stan – You go back in time when you stroll around the narrow cobbled streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town). This is the original Stockholm, most of the buildings are from the 1700′s. It’s a wonderful island to stroll through and pick up some tourist gifts. You might want to bring your Babybjorn on this trip, small stroller wheels really struggle on the very old cobbled streets. Be warned, it can be very touristy, but it’s well worth a visit. And if you’re lucky enough to be here around Christmas time be sure to visit the Christmas market at Stortorget square.
  • Modern Museet – Get inspired at the beautiful modern museum on the island of Skeppsholmen. It has one of the world’s finest collections of 20th and 21st century art. Make sure to visit on Family Sunday, there are fun and educational tours and workshops where your little ones create art inspired by the collections they’ve just seen. When you’ve got your fill of art, take a walk around the island and see all the house boats and views to many impressive landmarks.
  • Fotografiska – The Photographic Museum is new to Stockholm. It’s one of the worlds largest photography museums with some of the worlds biggest names showing. The building is next to the water front and views from the cafe are worth a visit alone. So take in a few floors of photos, even if some of the photographs are a bit racy it’s a great place for kids to spend a few hours and learn about art.
  • Sightseeing Boat Tour – See Stockholm from a boat. It’s a wonderful way to explore this city of islands. There are many different tours you can choose from, but the Hop on Hop off is probably the best way to go. Kids love taking a boat trip! If you don’t get a chance to take a boat tour, at least take the ferry from Djurgården to Slussen.
  • Sergels Torg – Feel the buzz of the city at Stockholm’s central point. Sergels Torg is made up of a very large pedestrian plaza with an iconic black and white triangular pattern. The plaza is surrounded by a busy roundabout with a tall glass obelisk at its centre. Three busy streets converge and there is lots of shopping and the imposing building Kulturhuset (www.kulturhuset.se) and the Stockholm City Theatre. (more…)

Weekend Get-Away: Dallas

The moment I hear Dallas, I automatically think of JR, Bobby and good old Sue Ellen hanging out in Southfork with their cowboy hats. I am sure this is a gross generalisation, and there must be so much more that Dallas has to offer than the Ewings and their crazy antics. Which is why I was very grateful that Sara, formally from the lovely children’s clothing label Chakra Design Studio, offered to give us a bit more insight to what goes on in Dallas. Turns out that it is a wonderful place to visit with a family with a ton of things on offer.

Sara Hignite, our guest blogger, has put her master’s degree in art history to good use as a museum professional, first in St. Louis and now in Dallas. She has also published Comic Art Magazine and in her most recent side project, she helped launch Chakra Design Studio, a boho children’s clothing line. She lives in Dallas with her husband and their 4-year-old daughter, Ava, and is currently looking for her next project. Here are Sara’s insider tips on a weekend away in Dallas: (more…)

Weekend Get-Away: Copenhagen


Did you know that apparently the Danish have the highest standard of living in all of Europe and possibly the world? And the highest standard of living in Denmark must be in Copenhagen, so I reckon it must be a very, very cool place to visit especially with kids: clean, safe, and beautiful (and by the sea!).

We are very lucky to have Christine, a mom of two who runs a maternity cafe called Lille Du and a lovely webshop called Happy Boheme, give us a list of things to do in Copenhagen. Reading her recommendations makes me want to book flight tickets and jump on a plane right this minute!
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Weekend Get-Away: Boston

According to my friend, Marika, who is a regular visitor — Boston is an absolutely fantastic city to visit with kids because it is jam-packed with things to do for the whole family, regardless of age and interest.  It’s also super easy to get around town, either on foot or by public transport.  The centre of the city is tiny and most sights are within walking distance of each other.
Marika lives in London and has two daughters. She also travels more than any other friend I have! She and her family (photographed below) have just returned from another family visit to Boston and she has kindly written down a weekend guide for us. Makes me want to take the kids to Boston — there’s so much to do and it all sounds incredible.

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Chicago Weekend Get-Away

Chicago has a special place in my heart as I lived close by in Illinois a very, very long time ago (between the ages of 6 and 8)…. I have vague memories of going up the John Hancock building and trying to get my head around the fact that Lake Michigan is actually a lake and not a sea, even though it is so big you can’t see across it.

Luckily enough, Inessa from the lovely blog Diaper Style Memoirs offered to write a post for us with a more reliable version of things to do in Chicago. By the way the Chicago sky line is a watercolour & ink drawing by Comic Nurse on Etsy. Isn’t it beautiful?

Here are Inessa’s tips for a weekend with kids in Chicago: (more…)

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