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London/Paris/Spain 2025

TravelTime

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I am taking my 9 and 13 year old daughters to Europe for the first time next summer. We will fly into London, take the train from London to Paris, then fly into Malaga. We’ll spend 3-4 nights each in Paris and London and a week in the South of Spain at the end of the trip in a 2BR at the Marriott Vacation Club in Marbella. Then we will take the train to either Madrid or Barcelona to fly home.

In London and Paris, we are looking for larger family-oriented hotels with plenty of space for 4 or apartment-type units directly in the tourist zones. For example, in Paris, I’d be interested in staying near the Champs-Élysées or Arc du Triomphe. In London, I am interested in being near Buckingham Palace. I am a Bonvoy member so interested in Marriott/Westin/Sheraton. Any recommendations?

Also interested in best recommendations for family-oriented activities for my daughters in London, Paris and Spain. I have a bunch of ideas but wondering if there are other recommendations. I have been to all of these places before but not with family members. I indicated my top activities with an asterick. We won’t have time for all of these so can you provide your recommendation of the top 3-5 family oriented activities? Let me know if I am missing any “must sees.”

London
-Warner Bros studio tour / Harry Potter *
-Buckingham Palace: Changing of the guard *
-London Eye *
-Big Ben, Westminster Abbey *
-Windsor Castle *
-Tower of London
-Stonehenge/Bath tour

Paris
-Eiffel tour *
-Moulin Rouge show * (This might be a bit “mature” for kids but as long as it’s not too risqué, I am okay with it.)
-Versailles *
-Seine river cruise *
-Notre Dame Cathedral
-Musée d’Orsay
-Louvre museum
-Arc du Triomphe
-Champs Elysees

Spain Costa del Sol (Marriott Marbella)
-Granada *
-Seville *
-Gibraltar *
-Morocco *
-Marbella
-Malaga
-Cordoba

Madrid vs Barcelona
- Would Madrid or Bacelona be better with kids age 9 and 13?
- Best things to do with kids in each city?
 

Blues

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Paris - Moulin Rouge may be too risque for 9 and 13. Depends on how kids were raised.
When we took our granddaughter at age 12, she was bored by museums. Had to leave Louvre after 30 minutes (a big disappointment to us). But for some reason, she absolutely loved Musee d'Orsay. Possibly because it's so much more modern. But the highlight of her trip, which I don't see on your list, was the Catacombs. A little macabre, but suited her personality. I think many pre-teens would love it.

Costa del Sol - Granada, Seville for sure. The rest, so-so. But I would add Ronda. We loved it, and it's visually fascinating.
 

ScoopKona

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1) Big Ben is a bell (the largest of five). It is installed in the Clock Tower (which is leaning, like Pisa) in the Palace of Westminster. (The Clock Tower was recently renamed Elizabeth Tower. But it hasn't really "stuck.") My favorite way to see Westminster is from the Thames -- using your Oyster Card and taking the River Bus. (I suggest taking the River Bus to Greenwich and seeing the Observatory and perhaps the Cutty Sark. The river bus is a cheap-as-chips excursion in itself. Every stop-off point is a cultural powerhouse. Naturally, only do this on a sunny day.)

2) English Heritage Stone Circle Experience for Stonehenge. Big difference walking around the stone circle, and walking around a fence with the other tourists. I'm willing to bet that every person who says, "Skip Stonehenge, it's no big deal" hasn't done the Stone Circle Experience. My wife and I do this every time we're even remotely close to Salisbury -- which is one of our favorite places in the UK, anyway.

3) As for "What to recommend?" I recommend you show your children photos and Rick Steves videos of the potential sights and let them choose. I would never pick the Eurostar train to Paris, for instance. You miss out on Dover Castle, Dover, Canterbury and the lovely train ride through France. Train/ferry/train is CONSIDERABLY longer than the Eurostar, but you can see so much more than being underground for half an hour. Naturally, if the kids are excited to take the Eurostar, do that and skip Dover. Encourage them to do some trip planning.

When I was that age, my favorite things were the Rodin Museum, the Orangerie (which last time I was there had Grant Wood's "American Gothic." A very unexpected bonus), the restaurant Bouillon Chartier (which I wouldn't blame you if you took the kids there every night in Paris), and every castle I could get into in the UK -- particularly Dover Castle.

One thing I absolutely do NOT recommend is climbing the Arc du Triomphe. Big, long line and loads of stairs to climb a building that was never meant to be a tourist climbing attraction, and then have a marginal view of Paris. The Terrace at the Galleries Lafayette (which if the girls like shopping, is a destination in itself) -- much better view, no lines.

And as much as I loved Morocco, I wouldn't bring young children there. Especially not Tangier. Too easy to get separated.

As for Madrid/Barcelona, just based on summer temperatures, Barcelona. Buy a pick-pocket-proof shirt/pants. I like my travel shirt for this. It has a "Napoleon with his hand in his coat" pocket that is both zipped and velcroed. Thieves would have to beat me unconscious before they could steal anything.
 

clifffaith

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Paris: Cluny Museum/Museum of the Middle Ages. Little girls (and big girls too) love unicorns. We went in 90 minutes before closing and Cliff and I reversed roles. Usually he never makes it past the second or third room in any museum because he reads every blessed bit of signage on exhibits (even when it is in French and he doesn’t speak French), while I see the entire museum in a three hour blitz attack. At this museum I spent the entire time with the unicorn tapestry, in spite of a nervous guard worried I’d miss the rest of the museum.
E92CB1CC-DF8F-4636-8209-E6F6957ADDFF.png
 

Daytripz

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I took my girls to The Lion King in London. They serve ice cream at intermission. They still remember it. Also, we took a boat to Hampton Court Palace. Get the listening tour for the kids. It’s hilarious. We quote it all the time - it’s that memorable and entertaining
 

CalGalTraveler

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What a great trip!

If you have a car I would recommend 1/2 to 3/4 day at Gibraltar (no more because touristy). Park outside Gibraltar and walk in. Bring your passports. I would get a taxi tour at the bottom of the cable car. late in the afternoon or early morning when less crowded. The taxi drivers will help with seeing the wild monkeys and get you to the exhibits. Your girls will like seeing the wild monkeys on the summit. There is a cool cave halfway up the mountain. If you are energetic you can take the cable car and walk back down but be careful of monkeys stealing sunglasses and food for treats. If you don't have a car, there are tours from Marbella.

I agree to skip the ferry to Tangiers with kids. We went this summer, hired a tour guide (absolutely necessary for navigating the best of the old town) and it was amazing. One could get really lost in the old town.

I concur with the recommendation on Musee d'Orsay. Rick Steves has a walking tour of the museum which you can download for free. It is one of his better tours because it focuses on the best pieces in the museum and says something about the pieces he highlights. Despite visiting several times, I found the Louvre overwhelming and crowded.
 
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letsgobobby

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it's a great sounding trip

one week in southern Spain is barely enough. also be aware it will be blazing hot.

Paris - we actually loved climbing the Arc de Trimophe. Do it at sunset just as they are closing, it's kind of a magical time to watch the lights coming on around the city.

The Paris museum pass was an incredible bargain.

The Louvre is overwhelming and not air conditioned. In contrast the Musée d'Orsay is pint sized and beautiful and the artwork is breathtaking.

As akid I loved the Catacombes. You must visit the reopened Notre Dame. The Sainte-Chapelle is wonderful.

I wouldn't stay near the Champs Élysées unless it was my goal to wait in long lines to pay high prices for mediocre tourist oriented attractions and food.
 
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elaine

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In London, I am interested in being near Buckingham Palace. I am a Bonvoy member so interested in Marriott/Westin/Sheraton. Any recommendations?
Not near Buckingham Palace, but fairly easy bus trip (fun way to see the city) are 2 (newish) very good Residence Inns (2 DBL beds and a living room with full kitchen and fold out sofa, plus free laundry, free breakfast and light appetizers/beverages served in evening). Small grocery store down the street. They are not far from Waterloo Station and walkable to London Eye/Big Ben and the other way to Tower. I'd add seeing Shakespeare's Globe Theatre--as you're very close. also nearby, London's Borough Market (location of the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) has a myriad of delicious food, with the best fish/chips I've ever had .
 
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LeslieDet

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If you are trying to decide between Barcelona and Madrid for the return trip, without intending to spend time in the city after a week at MMBR, then I'd recommend Madrid. It is a much shorter travel day to take the train from Malaga to Madrid than from Malaga to Barcelona. If you are spending 7 nights at MMBR, I'd suggest not trying to do it all. Sevilla will be hot in the summertime. Going to the Alhambra is a long day. Gibraltar can be fun, and while the drive to/from is maybe 1.5 hrs each way from MMBR, walking across the border, catching the gondola to the top of the rock, exploring, etc., will take a full day IMO. In the summer, the tours to Tangier do not run when it is too hot; but I personally would not take the kids to Tangier simply because it is a very long day and there can be delays with the ferry crossing, border control, the Medina can be very, very crowded. MMBR has lots of kid related activities on site, and that may be fun. The city itself has the boardwalk, beaches, the Salvador Dali sculpture park, and in the summertime there can be beach festivals and sand castles, and just fun along the boardwalk. There is also Puerto Banus, which has more shopping, if that is something you want to do. Have fun. MMBR is my home resort and I truly enjoy my time in the Costa del Sol.
 

Laurie

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When I was a kid, my parents took us to NYC art museums galore. But honestly, I was pretty bored. Standing in lines forever: no. Architecture didn't impress me, tho Barcelona could be fun for the younger set. Yes to boat rides, skeletons (catacombs), lively shows (flamenco, and dressage horses in southern Spain -- we saw a lovely one during our stay in Estepona), castles (but free range rather than long droning speaking tours), changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace (where you can get your picture taken next to them) and if there's a way to guarantee not getting separated in Tangiers, IMO that could be fascinating for a kid, snake charmers and all. Yes to Stonehenge only if you can get the Heritage tour inside the circle, but those are by reservation and usually very early or late in the day. I did like Natural History museums as a child, and the Paris one as an adult.
 

TravelTime

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In researching potential family hotels in London and Paris, I came up with these. I am looking for nice hotels (4-5 star) being in safe neighborhoods close to tourist attractions in where each child can at least have their own bed. Any input on any of these hotels?

London
-Grand Residences by Marriott, 4.5 TA, 9.8 Expedia
-St Ermin’s Hotel, 4.5 TA, 9.6 Expedia
-Sheraton Grand Park Lane, 4.5 TA, 8.6 Expedia
- Citadines Trafalgar Square, 4 TA, 8.6 Expedia
I am Titanium with Marriott so that’s why I am interested in a Marriott in London.

Paris
I like these in Paris bc they are aparthotels with a little more space:
-La Clef Louvre, 4.5 TA, 9.2 Expedia, 19.4/20 Michelin
-Citadines Saint-Germain, 4.5 TA, 8.8 Expedia
-La Clef Eiffel Tower, 4.5 TA, 8.6 Expedia
However, any Marriotts that would be highly recommended for a family of 4 in one room?
 
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ScoopKona

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Any input on any of these hotels?

London


Paris
-Citadines Saint-Germain, 4.5 TA, 8.8 Expedia

Citadines (many locations) can often be had as an Interval getaway on the cheap. I've stayed in several. They're larger than the typical continental hotel room. I wouldn't rate them as four-star, though. I'd cheerfully stay in one any time.

As for London, my strategy is to stay in a suburb that is still on the underground system. Wimbledon if not during the tournament, for instance. Loads of places to stay, that are usually empty except in July. And if tennis is in full-swing, I'd go stay all the way out in Amersham -- which is about as far as you can go and still use the Oyster card. It also is on the national rail line (as is Wimbledon) which means that it's good for getting out of London to see the UK.

The savings are significant -- not just in lodging. A full breakfast is going to cost less than half than central London. Basically, everything costs less, is less crowded, and generally more pleasant. (Won't be as luxe as central London, of course.)
 

iowateach

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I am taking my 9 and 13 year old daughters to Europe for the first time next summer. We will fly into London, take the train from London to Paris, then fly into Malaga. We’ll spend 3-4 nights each in Paris and London and a week in the South of Spain at the end of the trip in a 2BR at the Marriott Vacation Club in Marbella. Then we will take the train to either Madrid or Barcelona to fly home.

In London and Paris, we are looking for larger family-oriented hotels with plenty of space for 4 or apartment-type units directly in the tourist zones. For example, in Paris, I’d be interested in staying near the Champs-Élysées or Arc du Triomphe. In London, I am interested in being near Buckingham Palace. I am a Bonvoy member so interested in Marriott/Westin/Sheraton. Any recommendations?

Also interested in best recommendations for family-oriented activities for my daughters in London, Paris and Spain. I have a bunch of ideas but wondering if there are other recommendations. I have been to all of these places before but not with family members. I indicated my top activities with an asterick. We won’t have time for all of these so can you provide your recommendation of the top 3-5 family oriented activities? Let me know if I am missing any “must sees.”

London
-Warner Bros studio tour / Harry Potter *
-Buckingham Palace: Changing of the guard *
-London Eye *
-Big Ben, Westminster Abbey *
-Windsor Castle *
-Tower of London
-Stonehenge/Bath tour

Paris
-Eiffel tour *
-Moulin Rouge show * (This might be a bit “mature” for kids but as long as it’s not too risqué, I am okay with it.)
-Versailles *
-Seine river cruise *
-Notre Dame Cathedral
-Musée d’Orsay
-Louvre museum
-Arc du Triomphe
-Champs Elysees

Spain Costa del Sol (Marriott Marbella)
-Granada *
-Seville *
-Gibraltar *
-Morocco *
-Marbella
-Malaga
-Cordoba

Madrid vs Barcelona
- Would Madrid or Bacelona be better with kids age 9 and 13?
- Best things to do with kids in each city?
I agree with a lot of the suggestions here. I would never go back to Barcelona because of the pickpockets. Skip Morocco. The line to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower will waste an entire day just standing in lines. Just look at it as you walk by, especially at night. I would go to the Alhambra and Ronda (bullfighting ring and museum) when in southern Spain. The kids would love "The Lion King" in London. The London Eye is a good way to see London from above. The Tower of London has enough horror stories about it to interest teenagers, plus it has the Crown Jewels. The Musee' d'Orsay is a must. Remember, you're going in summer when the crowds are the worst. I would go as early in June as you can after the girls get out of school. Remember to build in a down day or a late start so everyone isn't exhausted and short tempered. Have fun!
 

ScoopKona

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I would never go back to Barcelona because of the pickpockets.

I'd cheerfully drop everything and fly to Barcelona right now.

The pickpockets are a nuisance, sure. It's the pickpocket capital of Europe. I wear a shirt that is pick-proof. Problem solved. Just like when being chased by a bear, you don't have to be the fastest -- just don't be the slowest. The pickpockets go for the bulging wallet barely tucked into an easy-reach pocket. I wish them luck undoing the velcro and opening a zipper on my travel shirt without me noticing.

Would it be better if there were no pickpockets at all? Absolutely.
 

TravelTime

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Citadines (many locations) can often be had as an Interval getaway on the cheap. I've stayed in several. They're larger than the typical continental hotel room. I wouldn't rate them as four-star, though. I'd cheerfully stay in one any time.

As for London, my strategy is to stay in a suburb that is still on the underground system. Wimbledon if not during the tournament, for instance. Loads of places to stay, that are usually empty except in July. And if tennis is in full-swing, I'd go stay all the way out in Amersham -- which is about as far as you can go and still use the Oyster card. It also is on the national rail line (as is Wimbledon) which means that it's good for getting out of London to see the UK.

The savings are significant -- not just in lodging. A full breakfast is going to cost less than half than central London. Basically, everything costs less, is less crowded, and generally more pleasant. (Won't be as luxe as central London, of course.)
Thank you so much for letting me know about II for the Citadines.
 

ScoopKona

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Thank you so much for letting me know about II for the Citadines.

Hey, if you're spending 3 days in Paris and buying a getaway for seven, I know a couple who are always ready to drop everything and fly to Paris. Just sayin'.... ;)


If it weren't for the kids, I'd recommend taking the world's easiest day-trip from Paris to Epernay, which is the most criminally-underrated town in France. Just wall-to-wall champagne in a cheery, walkable, lovely town. That's where I'd go after three or four days in Paris. Just sayin'.... ;)
 

elaine

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Building on the London post, if you decide to go further out in Paris, we absolutely love Marriott Ile de Paris. It's near Disney, but no need to go there, except to catch train/bus. It's 45 minutes into Paris via commuter train and perfect for exploring the region. I'd recommend car (1.5 hours) to Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte (on the same route) and bus to Provins (medievel town). There are lots of posts on TUG about what to do in the area. The 2 bedroom villas are fantastic and there's a cute "town" right down the road that's fun to feel like you're in "real France" getting food at grocery store, etc. We've stayed with kids your ages and they loved it. The trade off is commuting into Paris. I'd do 4 days there, and do 2 Paris, 2 day trips to make it worth staying there.
I'd recommend taking the world's easiest day-trip from Paris to Epernay, which is the most criminally-underrated town in France. Just wall-to-wall champagne in a cheery, walkable, lovely town. That's where I'd go after three or four days in Paris. Just sayin'.... ;)
Thanks! I'll put in list for next trip! Elaine
 

Jodyv

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I took my girls to The Lion King in London. They serve ice cream at intermission. They still remember it. Also, we took a boat to Hampton Court Palace. Get the listening tour for the kids. It’s hilarious. We quote it all the time - it’s that memorable and entertaining
The Lion King is amazing, and tickets are much cheaper than in the us. The thought of the people eating ice cream during the intermission still makes me laugh. English people are so polite and they all ate their ice cream very quietly....
 

Red elephant

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I am taking my 9 and 13 year old daughters to Europe for the first time next summer. We will fly into London, take the train from London to Paris, then fly into Malaga. We’ll spend 3-4 nights each in Paris and London and a week in the South of Spain at the end of the trip in a 2BR at the Marriott Vacation Club in Marbella. Then we will take the train to either Madrid or Barcelona to fly home.

In London and Paris, we are looking for larger family-oriented hotels with plenty of space for 4 or apartment-type units directly in the tourist zones. For example, in Paris, I’d be interested in staying near the Champs-Élysées or Arc du Triomphe. In London, I am interested in being near Buckingham Palace. I am a Bonvoy member so interested in Marriott/Westin/Sheraton. Any recommendations?

Also interested in best recommendations for family-oriented activities for my daughters in London, Paris and Spain. I have a bunch of ideas but wondering if there are other recommendations. I have been to all of these places before but not with family members. I indicated my top activities with an asterick. We won’t have time for all of these so can you provide your recommendation of the top 3-5 family oriented activities? Let me know if I am missing any “must sees.”

London
-Warner Bros studio tour / Harry Potter *
-Buckingham Palace: Changing of the guard *
-London Eye *
-Big Ben, Westminster Abbey *
-Windsor Castle *
-Tower of London
-Stonehenge/Bath tour

Paris
-Eiffel tour *
-Moulin Rouge show * (This might be a bit “mature” for kids but as long as it’s not too risqué, I am okay with it.)
-Versailles *
-Seine river cruise *
-Notre Dame Cathedral
-Musée d’Orsay
-Louvre museum
-Arc du Triomphe
-Champs Elysees

Spain Costa del Sol (Marriott Marbella)
-Granada *
-Seville *
-Gibraltar *
-Morocco *
-Marbella
-Malaga
-Cordoba

Madrid vs Barcelona
- Would Madrid or Bacelona be better with kids age 9 and 13?
- Best things to do with kids in each city?
In order to skip the lines of the Eiffel Tower we made reservations to have lunch at the restaurant there. After lunch we went up and took pictures. No waiting.
 
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