My Top 5 European Cities Safe to travel with Small Children
Parents need to do their homework about a country
Many parents who want to travel with their small children to Europe are concerned about how safe it is. Parents need to do their homework and concerns about safety are justifiable since taking your child to another country could be risky. Europe generally is safe to travel with small children but trips should be well planned. I have traveled for my work with a small child to many European cities for many years. To assist other parents I created my own top five list of European cities safe to travel with small children based on my own experiences. I do realize that there are numerous other safe European cities (which I have not visited yet) and thus acknowledge that this article is somewhat subjective. These cities are (in no particular order of preference):
Amsterdam is a small city compared to other European cities. If you stay in central Amsterdam (close to Rembrandt Square), you will be close to many popular tourists attractions. Because the city is so small you would be able to walk to many tourist attractions and not be dependent on public transport. Although there are parts to be best avoided with small children (for example the famous red-light district), Amsterdam is a pleasant and safe city to explore with small children. The public transport system is very good and if you need to travel outside Amsterdam, the train system is excellent and safe.
Are your surprised that Athens is on my list? Now that the European Euro crisis is somewhat stabilising, Athens could be considered again to travel with small children. It is a beautiful city with much to offer to foreign travellers. Athens is big and use of public transport is a must. It is very hot and uncomfortable in Greece during summer time and should then be best avoided with small children. I never felt unsafe with my child and found the Greek people to be friendly and helpful. Watch out for the many stray dogs in the streets of Athens. They live on the streets all over the city and are fed by the residents. Although they are harmless and not aggressive, your child should rather not touch them as they may carry many diseases. If you prepare your trip well, your trip to Athens will be unforgettable.
Paris is a very huge city and the thought of travelling with a small child to this city could be overwhelming. The truth is that Paris is actually a very child friendly city with lovely parks and fun attractions for children. You will have an enjoyable time in Paris with your children if you plan your trip well. The main obstacles could be to find your way around Paris and the language barrier but Parisians working in tourist areas can speak English very well. Before you travel to Paris try to gain an understanding of the different areas (arrondissements) and how the metro system functions. Taxis are expensive and the bus system is more complicated. The metro system is very overcrowded on most of the lines but still the fastest and least expensive way to get around. I used the metro system even on the most overcrowded line (line 13) but I fortunately am very familiar with it due to my many previous visits there. With the change in government in May 2012 the first thing that I noticed in June 2012 was that hawkers are slowly returning to the metro stations (which was prohibited under the previous government due to the rise in petty crime). I will definitely return with my child to Paris as I have not had any problems with safety there but will become more careful in the metro stations.
Madrid is also a fun and interesting city to explore with small children. It is very hot during summer and could be very uncomfortable for small children. But generally the city is safe and enjoyable to visit with small children. There are lovely parks in Madrid for children to enjoy, for example the well-known Retiro Park, which would be an enjoyable and safe attraction if your children need a break from the busy streets. Very few Spanish people can speak English well and there is a greater language barrier in Madrid than in Paris. A good idea is to write down the different phrases that you would use often and show them to taxi drivers and shop assistants when needed.
Germans love small children and they go out of their way to assist travellers with small children. Frankfurt in general is an interesting city to visit with small children and very safe (in my experience). There are many fun places to go to in Frankfurt to keep them occupied.
To travel with small children should not be an obstacle to parents. I am glad that I took my son with me to Europe as he has grown and learnt so much from the experiences. Each trip is different and with careful planning and knowledge of which areas to avoid, your child could only benefit.