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As anyone who has travelled with children knows, finding a great playground for your kids to let off steam is perhaps the most important thing you can do to make sure the trip is a success. It can be the difference between a ruined holiday or a trip full of wonderful shared memories.
Constantly on the look out for creative and exciting parks in the cities we visit, I asked some of my favourite family travel bloggers to nominate their best parks and playgrounds in Europe.
Best city parks and playgrounds in Europe
Paris: The Luxembourg Gardens
Jardin du Luxembourg [6e Arrondissement] Rue de Médicis – Rue de Vaugirard – Paris
Open: between 7.30am and 8.15am, and closes between 4.30pm and 9.30pm depending on the season
What could be better than a park with a puppet theatre and toy boats to play with on the pond? The beautiful Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank of the Seine are a Parisian institution and the perfect place for children to let off steam. The grand gardens were designed in the 17th century and have statue-lined promenades, fountains and an orchard but the biggest draw for families are its wonderful activities for children.
The gardens are home to the oldest puppet theatre in France, with shows three times a week and every day during the school holidays. There’s a vintage merry-go-round and pony rides and you can hire model boats to sail on the pond. Younger children love the sand pits and playground and parents love the quintessentially Parisian atmosphere, free musical performances and café.
Read Clare’s article on best things to do with kids in Paris
Try also : Parc de Belleville [20e Arrondissement] 47 rue des Couronnes – Paris
Lyon: Parc de la Tête D’Or
Parc de la Tête d’Or
Open: between 06.30am and 21:30pm
By Katy of Untold Morsels
France’s second city is home to one of the most wonderful parks we have visited with our children. Stretching 117 hectares, the park is found in the centre of Lyon close to the river Rhône. Kids can run for miles exploring the park and its many sections including several playgrounds, botanic gardens, boating lake and a small fun fair.
The highlight of any visit to the Parc de la Tête d’Or is the small free zoo where most of the animals roam freely in large enclosures. We loved the deer, giraffes and prickly porcupines but were most impressed by the sheer number of turtles. The zoo runs a conservation program for turtles that were impacted by the oil disaster in Florida and is home to thousands of the water creatures.
London: Diana Memorial Playground
Diana Memorial Playground: Broad Walk, London W2 2UH
Open: 10:00am- 15.45pm
The Diana Memorial Playground is one of our favorite playgrounds that we’ve ever visited. It has elements of Peter Pan to it with its pirate ship and teepees and also has a fun musical area. It was a great place for both our girls to play (ages 3 and 1) and had plenty of activities for older children as well. It’s also gated and only allows a certain number of children to come in at a time. This creates a bit of a queue, but for us at least, it was not a long wait. I definitely recommend a visit when in London.
London: Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park: London SE10 8XJ
Open: 06:00am- 21:30pm
Unsurprisingly for a playground in London’s oldest Royal Park, Greenwich Park is top-notch. It’s set at the northern end of the park, near the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark and down the hill from the Royal Observatory, where you can see the Meridian Line that divides the north and south hemispheres.
The playground’s a great pitstop on a day out, but it’s worthy of a visit in its own right. To enter, you walk past a small boating lake, where you can hire pedaloes in summer. After passing through the heavy wrought-iron gates (perfect for foiling would-be mini escapees), the playground opens out into a few hundred metres of climbing frames, wobble boards, a café, slides, wooden huts, a large sandpit, swings and rope bridges. Excited shrieks are mopped up by the noise-dampening shrubs and small trees that were planted as part of an extensive refurbishment in 2015. This playground is one of our favourite places to while away a long summer afternoon in London.
London: Coram’s Fields
Coram’s Fields: 93 Guilford St, London WC1N 1DN
Open: 08:00am to 20:00pm
London is filled with amazing playgrounds but my favourite is Coram’s Fields. Tucked away close to King’s Cross, the park has a playground, lots of grass to play on and best of all, a city farm! My 7yo loves the zipline and my 5yo makes a beeline for the rabbits. The Café has a decent selection of healthy food and more importantly, good coffee for parents. Combine with a trip to the British Museum which is a 10 minute walk away!
The park is open from 9am till dusk and free of charge (note no adult can enter Coram’s Fields without a child)
London: Tumbling Bay Playground, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Tumbling Bay playground, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: London E20 2ST
Open: 24 hours
Remember the 2012 Olympics? Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home of the main sporting venues, has been redeveloped over the last few years and is now a destination in its own right.
Members of the public can swim in the Aquatics Centre, cycle at the VeloPark and slide down the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide.
For children, the highlight is the amazing Tumbling Bay Playground. Older kids will enjoy the wooden tree houses, rope nets, wobbly bridges and plenty of climbing opportunities. Younger children delight in the sand pits, water pumps and channels which are perfect for damming. Parents will appreciate the facilities and coffee at the nearby Timber Lodge cafe. Elsewhere in the park there are water fountains to play in, a climbing wall, gardens and boat trips (summer only). Pick a sunny day, maybe pack a picnic and spend an entire day exploring the site.
The park is free to visit and is always open. It takes about 5-10 minutes to walk to the park entrance from the nearest underground at Stratford Station.
Nottingham: Wollaton Park
Wollaton Park, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG8 2AE
Open: 10:00am- 17:00pm [Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays in Winter] Cost: FREE
Wollaton Park was once a playground for the Willoughby family in the 16th century and their grand Elizabethan Hall (The location for Wayne Manor in the Batman film – Dark Knight) sits proudly on top of the hill, overlooking its 500 acres. Deer roam freely amongst the broad oaks and can be regularly spotted cooling off in the lake throughout the summer.
The park supports many festivals in the warmer months, ranging from food to music to classic cars. And, if the weather is forcing you indoors, the Hall is open to the public and shows off its large collection of Natural History and souvenirs from the Willoughby’s travel expeditions. Plus, the cafe in the old stable block does great coffee and cake!
The adventure playground is a hit with all ages or you could pack yourselves a picnic to enjoy in the manicured gardens behind the Hall. Have Fun!
Trafiksegepladsen | Fælledparken: Gunnar Nu Hansens Plads 10 2100 København Ø
Open: 24 hours. Bike borrowing: Monday-Thursday: 9.30-17.00 Friday: 10.00-17.00
Come to Copenhagen she said. And when here with littles in tow – take a break in the city’s central park – Fælledparken. Lots and lots of nice square meters full of wide open green spaces to relax with a picnic and bottle of wine while the littles run amuck. It’s allowed here. The littles. And the wine.
And when here – there are several adorable places to toodle with your toddlers. Fælledparken offers a corner for every age. Enjoy the Copenhagen architectural icons in miniature with slides and swings at Tårnlegepladsen (Tower playground.) Or take a turn on the trampolines, try the giant swings or obstacle course along Serridslevvej.
But possibly the most Danish of bits in Fælledparken is Trafiklegepladsen – the Traffic park. Wee peeps between ages 3-6 can borrow tricycles and learn how to manoeuvre the streets safely like their big people.
Try also: A visit to Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen‘s classic fun fair and gardens [charges apply]
Dublin: Merrion Square Park
Merrion Square Park: Merrion Square, Dublin 2
Open: From 07.30 on weekdays and 09.30 on weekends
Short of going back to the hotel, finding a place to relax with kids while travelling in a new city can be challenging. Enter the playground, the perfect place for the kids to cut loose and blow off steam while the adults regroup and relax. Most recently we visited the playground in Dublin’s Merrion Square Park. This lovely public playground is based on Oscar Wilde’s story, The Selfish Giant, and the unique giant themed play structures appealed to both my boys ages 8 and 14.
Beyond the play structures the park offers, wide paths, a large grassy area, and numerous statues to explore, including a jesters chair, and a statue of Oscar Wilde who famously resided at No.1 Merrion Square. On select days from May to October you can grab a bite to eat from the lunchtime market. Opening at 11:30 am they have offerings from a variety of different local vendors as well as live music.
Vondelpark: near Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Amsterdam was in the middle of a heatwave when we visited, but even if we hadn’t been seeking a cool shady escape from the 30C+ temperatures, I’d recommend the Vondelpark. And despite getting 10 million visitors a year, it never seems to feel busy – perhaps because there’s so much to discover between the lakes, gardens and cafes.
The 120 acres has seven different play areas, including a playground by Groot Melkhuis café which is probably the best known, with seesaw, merry-go-round and other traditional play equipment. But it’s the wooden playground towards the centre of the park that’s the real standout, with a treetop walkway that practically vanishes into the leaves, rope bridges, climbing platforms, forts, tunnels and whole sections up on stilts, all safely enclosed in netting – like a secret world hidden in the trees, tucked away right in the heart of the park.
The park and playgrounds are all free to enter, and there’s play equipment for toddlers to teens.
Try also: Linnaeshof – Europe’s biggest playground. Note – admission fees apply for this park
Rome: Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese: 00197 Rome
Open: 24 hours
A playground my kids love in Rome is the play area in Villa Borghese, one of the city’s biggest parks. Located in Rome city centre, Villa Borghese is a great stop if you want to take a break from sightseeing and has many attractions for kids: nice play areas with swings and climbing frames (there are several, in different parts of the park), a pond with rowing boats you can rent, a small indoor play area with simple toys and games and of course Rome zoo!
The play areas are all free (there are fees for the boats and the zoo) and always a hit especially with younger kids: in the summer, they are also a good refuge from the heat as the one beside the pond, in particular, is in the shade and has a small kiosk selling drinks and snacks. More info about what to do in Rome with kids can be found here.
Uppsala near Stockholm: Pelle Svanslös Lekplats
Pelle Svanslösparken: 753 10 Uppsala, Sweden
Open: 24 hours
Sweden is a very family-friendly country so it will come as little surprise to hear that its playgrounds are plentiful and usually a little out of the ordinary. The one which really impressed us during our summer road trip was Pelle Svanslös Lekplats in Uppsala, north of Stockholm. This isn’t just a playground, it’s a fantasyland of colourful little houses, towers, slides and roundabouts. Oh, and swings too. The quirky buildings were a wonder to look at and my four-year-old daughter could have explored for hours while I was able to rest my legs on one of the many seats.
It transpires the playground is based on a series of children’s books written by Gösta Knutsson about a cat called Pelle Svanslös, The late author lived in Uppsala and It seems there are references to the stories throughout the playground with the cat characters making appearances on the equipment. My daughter enjoyed the roundabout which had seats and pedals which you powered yourself as well as the tall tower with a cylindrical slide. Located in Carolina Park, Pelle Svanslös Lekplats is clearly a favourite with the local children and we felt privileged, as outsiders, to have the opportunity to use it.
Córdoba: Pirate Ship Playground, Milaflores
There are so many wonderful outdoor playgrounds in the Spanish city of Córdoba, there literally seems to be a new park around every corner. Córdoba even has a whole area called Children’s city, with over 30 different types of equipment, including a skate park, set over 4 hectares (Avda. Menéndez Pidal).
Our favourite playground was the pirate ship playground, just next to the Torre de la Calahorra-Calahorra Tower on the south side of the Roman bridge. The playground has a few different sections making it suitable for all ages. The Pirate ship itself is wonderful and has rigging, ropes and climbing sections that are a hit with older children.
Our toddlers preferred the sand pit; complete with sit-on diggers and moving conveyor belts, where they spent all afternoon scooping, loading up and transporting the sand from one end of the playground to the other. The park is a five-minute walk from the UNESCO world heritage site of the historic quarter. More on Córdoba’s highlights here.
Malaga: Malaga Park & Port Playground
Parque de Málaga: Paseo España, 2, 29015
Open: 24 hours
Malaga Park, or the Parque de Malaga, also known as the Parque de la Alameda, runs in front of the new port area, the Muello Uno and contains a fantastic park and small playground. The playground is located in a tranquil and shady space, but the park itself is the main attraction. A great space to let your children run around and explore the botanical gardens, complete with tropical plants, parakeets, fountains, monuments and sculptures. A welcome relief, especially if you have spent your day inside visiting some of the city’s world-class museums.
A short hop over to the new port and you will also find a small playground right on the promenade. With the standard spinners and boingers it is aimed at younger children, but older children will enjoy jumping from the concrete ‘wave’ structures. It is also the best place to sit back, people watch and gawp in amazement at the extraordinarily huge cruise liners docked nearby. A must if your children are boat obsessed like ours! Read more about Malaga here.
Berlin: Volkspark Friedrichschain
Volkspark Friedrichshain: Am Friedrichshain 1, 10407 Berlin
Open: 24 hours
By Katy of Untold Morsels
If you find yourself in Berlin on a sunny day you could easily spend most of it Berlin’s Volkspark Friedrichshain. This huge park to the north-east of Alexanderplatz in the former East Berlin has attractions for kids of all ages. We counted at least three playgrounds featuring water play, sand pits, climbing equipment, swings and slides.
There are several fountains dotted around the park but our favourite was the Märchenbrunnen or fountain of fairy tales. This ornate Baroque-style fountain is decorated with characters from favourite fairy tales including Puss in Boots and Cinderella. Hundreds of little turtles live inside the fountain and they are fun to watch swim about.
Bring a picnic and relax on the grass with the hundreds of Berliners who enjoy but don’t crowd this beautiful space. We were not that organised so enjoyed some traditional German sausages in the expansive beer garden near the lake. There are plenty more food and beverage stands around the park.
We are always on the lookout for exciting places for play breaks on our trips to European cities.
Have we missed parks and playgrounds in Europe that you love?