Try It For Free! GPS-Guided Travel Articles

Have you ever found yourself exploring a new city, guidebook in one hand, map in the other, and still been unable to work out exactly where you are or how to get to that amazing sounding restaurant you’ve just read about?

Or perhaps you saw a great blog post with lots of ideas on the best things to do in a particular city but now you’re here, you don’t have free internet access so you can’t look at it.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Fortunately there’s now a solution to this problem. GPSMyCity has come up with the brilliant idea of producing GPS-guided travel articles. These are travel articles or blog posts that have GPS coordinates embedded into them, together with a map of the route. You use the GPS tracking to chart where you are and make sure you don’t get lost. It comes up with a detailed route map, with turn by turn walking directions.

Once you’ve installed the app onto your GPS-enabled mobile phone or tablet, you’ve effectively turned your phone into a personal tour guide.

GPS Guided Travel ArticlesWhat’s more, once the app has been downloaded onto your device it works offline so you don’t need to have internet access to read the articles or follow the routes.

On the GPSMyCity website, you can find over 5,000 self-guided walks in over 600 cities all over the world. In each city there are loads of different walks: some are cultural, some are focused on food, others will tell you where to find the best parks or family-friendly activities.

You could look for the best cafés in Florence, where to shop in Havana, take a walking tour of New Orleans or follow a three-day guide to St Petersburg.

You can download any travel article free of charge. Several of my best city guides are already available as apps. If you decide you want to turn them into a GPS-guided article you just pay a small fee (typically about $1) to upgrade.

I’ve teamed up with GPSMyCity to offer you all a free upgrade on a couple of my latest article apps so that you can see how it works without having to pay anything.

For the next week you can upgrade:

The Ten Best Free Things to do in London

(My guide to all the great things you can do in London without having to spend any money)

City Breaks with Kids: Seville

(A guide to all that’s brilliant about the Spanish city – especially with children)

To get your free upgraded app you need to click on the link for the article you’re interested in. Now follow the instructions to download the GPSMyCity app and you’ll be taken to the page for the article app. Click on ‘upgrade’ and the app will be automatically linked to an offline map and the GPS navigator.

Enjoy your guided tours and let me know what you thought!

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The Best Things to do with Kids in Paris

The Best Things to do with Kids in ParisParis is top of most people’s travel wish lists and with good reason – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But how easy is it to visit with children?

The good news is that the city has more than enough to entertain every member of the family, whatever their age. You can easily combine visits to the cultural sights with trips to the numerous parks and those all-important stops for ice cream and hot chocolate. The trick is finding those activities that children will find fun and engaging. Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Paris with kids.

Paris, like most big cities, can get very busy, with long queues at many of the most popular sights. With this in mind I’ve included tips on avoiding queues wherever possible.

Look for the gargoyles at the top of Notre Dame

The gruesome monsters at the top of Notre Dame are some of the most famous gargoyles in the world. If you climb all 387 steps of the tower’s spiral staircase you’ll be able to see them close up and be rewarded with spectacular views over Paris. This is the world made famous by Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Don’t miss the chance to go inside the 800-year-old Gothic cathedral where Napoleon had himself crowned. Arrive before it opens to avoid long queues to climb the tower.

The cathedral of Notre Dame is open every day and visits are free. The tower can be climbed every day from 10am until 6.30pm. It is open until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays in July and August. Adults, €12; under 18s, free.

Watch a puppet show at the Jardin du Luxembourg

The beautiful Luxembourg Gardens are home to the oldest puppet theatre in France – there are shows three times a week and every day during the school holidays. These grand gardens, complete with statue-lined promenades, fountains and old men playing chess under the trees, are a Parisian institution and the perfect place for children to let off steam. There’s a good playground, sandpits, a vintage merry-go-round and pony rides. You can even hire model boats to sail on the pond.

Visit the bird market on Île de la Cité

Every Sunday, the flower market near Notre Dame is transformed into a bird market. You’ll hear the squawking and singing of the birds well before you arrive and your children will love seeing all the parrots, canaries, budgies and mynah birds for sale. You can cuddle rabbits here too.

Find the best hot chocolate in Paris

The hot chocolate in Paris is thick and creamy and more like melted chocolate than the watered down version we get in the UK. It’s usually served in a jug, with extra cream to make it even more indulgent. It’s fun for kids to embark on a quest to find the best hot chocolate in the city.

We like the Belle Époque splendour of Angelina’s near the Louvre where Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn used to come. Another favourite is Un Dimanche à Paris on a cobbled passageway on the Left Bank. The rich hot chocolate here comes with the very welcome addition of three miniature cakes.

Brave the underground tunnels of the Catacombes

The bones of over six million people have been carefully arranged along the walls of the underground tunnels which run under the city. These are the bones of the victims of the French Revolution, the Plague and the guillotine. There were so many deaths that by the late 18th century the public burial pits were overflowing and so millions of bones were transferred down into these old mineshafts.

The 45-minute tour takes you down a spiral staircase and along some of the tunnels. You’ll only see a fraction of what is down here – the tunnel network is 200 miles long and during the Second World War they were used as hideouts by both members of the Resistance and the Nazis.

The Catacombes are open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am until 8.30pm. Adults, €12; children, €5. To avoid the queues, get here before it opens or book a guided tour – these cost more but you won’t have to queue.

Watch a magic show in the Musée de la Magie

Best Things to do with Kids in ParisThis quirky museum in the Marais is a must for aspiring magicians. Down in its 16th-century vaulted cellars you’ll find a treasure trove of tricks, props and illusions from the 18th century to the present day. It’s all brilliantly interactive, with distorting mirrors, secret boxes, handles to turn and illusions to figure out.

All kids will love the magic show which is included in the price of the ticket.

The Musée de la Magie is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm until 7pm. Adults, €9; children, €7.

Take the bus around some of the best sights in Paris

Why pay for a sightseeing bus tour when you can go on a local bus for a fraction of the cost? The number 69 bus takes you past the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Saint-Germain-des-Près, the Marais and Bastille and finishes at the Père Lachaise Cemetery where famous figures like Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Chopin and Jim Morrison are buried.

Be a news presenter in the TV Studio at Cité des Enfants

This science and technology museum is widely considered to be the best museum in Paris for children. It’s crammed with fun and interactive activities to help children explore scientific phenomena. In the area for two to seven-year-olds you can work with other children to build a house or fix a car, take part in circus acts or find objects using your senses.

The five to 12-year-olds can head to the TV Studio to present the news and learn how to use a camera. They can also measure how fast they run and play water games.

The Cité des Enfants is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Adults, €9; under 25s, €7. Sessions last for an hour and a half.

Take a boat trip down the Seine

how to plan a trip to paris with a childMake the getting around part of the fun. Taking a boat trip down the River Seine is a great way to get your bearings on your first day. The boats, which travel from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame and back, go past many of the most iconic sights in Paris. The tours usually last an hour and the audio commentary tells you more about what you’re seeing.

There are several companies. We liked Bâteaux Parisiens.

Ride on a merry-go-round

Your children will be delighted to find old-fashioned carrousels scattered all over the city, many of which are over 100 years old. Quite a few of them are in front of some of the most famous sights in Paris – the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Hôtel de Ville – so they make a great reward for tired little legs while you’re out seeing the sights.

Make it even more fun by copying the French children and playing the jeu de bagues. You’re given a stick and you have to try and spear the metal rings as you spin around.

Climb up the Eiffel Tower

how to plan a trip to paris with your childMy own children have assured me that you can’t go to Paris and not go up the Eiffel Tower. If you really want to impress everyone back home then you should climb up the stairs instead of taking the lift. Not only much more fun, it’s also cheaper and the queues for the stairs are much shorter than those for the lift.

The stairs will take you to the second level and you can get the elevator to the top from there. To avoid the longest queues, book tickets in advance from the website. You can only book tickets online for the elevator. Tickets for the stairs are sold at the Tower.

The Eiffel Tower is open every day from 9am until 12.45am from mid June to early September, and from 9.30am until 11pm for the rest of the year. 

Do a treasure hunt around the Louvre

Paris has some of the best art museums in the world so it’s a great place to get your kids excited about art. If you’re going to one of the big galleries, be sure to take it at their pace. Work out what you’re interested in seeing and just do those. That way you won’t get museum fatigue and you can spend time looking at what you’re most interested in.

My kids loved the Impressionists and the clock at the Musée d’Orsay and then we headed to the wonderful Musée de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s spectacular series of waterlily paintings. This is a particularly good museum for children as it’s less busy and has more space for you to sit and gaze at the massive paintings.

For modern art, head for the Pompidou Centre. Children will love its crazy, colourful exterior and the interactive exhibits in the Children’s Gallery. Be sure to go up to the top floor for panoramic views over Paris and then spend time enjoying all the street entertainers in the square outside.

If you’re going to the Louvre, I’d recommend taking a fun tour like the Treasure Hunts offered by THATLou. In teams of two to four you follow the clues to various works of art in a scavenger hunt around the museum.

Eat lots of cake

With an amazing pâtisserie on virtually every street corner you can feel justified in indulging your sweet tooth while you’re in Paris. You’ll find macarons in every colour of the rainbow, lemon tarts, éclairs, Baba au Rhum and Paris-Brest. They’ll come beautifully wrapped in a pyramid parcel ready for you to enjoy beside the Seine or in one of Paris’s wonderful parks.

Cuddle a cat in the Café des Chats

The Best Things to do with Kids in ParisCat lovers will adore the Cat Café in the Marais where you can find over a dozen cats wandering around, curled up on chairs or sleeping in corners while you enjoy lunch or afternoon cake.

The cats have all been rescued and have been specially chosen for their sociability. They can all be cuddled (unless they’re sleeping) but young children will need to be supervised.

Le Café des Chats is open on Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm until 10.30pm. 

Have an ice cream beside the Seine

Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis serves some of the most famous ice creams in the world. When you’ve bought yours, follow the steps down to the banks of the River Seine. It’s a lovely spot to eat your ice cream while you walk beside the river, stopping to look at all the barges along the riverbank.

Learn how to make éclairs in a cooking class

Children can have a lot of fun learning how to create their own sweet treats by taking a cooking class. At Cook’n With Class in Montmartre, six to 12-year-olds are taught how to make molten lava cakes and French jam shortbreads. The whole family can take part in a two-hour choux pastry workshop at L’Atelier des Sens and learn how to make éclairs. Both classes are in English.

 

For more tips and ideas on travelling to Paris with kids, take a look at

How to make City Trips Fun for Kids: The Leap & Hop Travel Guides

and How to plan a one-to-one trip to Paris with your child.

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City Breaks with Kids: Bath

Bath is, quite simply, one of the loveliest cities in England. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, it’s the only city in the UK to be classed as a World Heritage Site. It’s not hard to see why when you first glimpse the gorgeous honey-coloured stone of the Georgian buildings and visit the spectacular Roman Baths. There are delights on every corner, from the numerous museums and parks to the wonderful independent shops and restaurants.

It’s a fantastic city to visit as a family. It’s small enough to explore on foot and there’s more than enough to entertain children and adults alike. What’s more, it makes an ideal base to see more of the local area – the cities of Bristol and Wells, Stonehenge, Longleat and the Cotswolds are all nearby.

Walk in the footsteps of the Romans at the Roman Baths

A visit to the Roman Baths is an absolute must – it’s one of the finest spas of the ancient world. Naturally hot water has been rising up from the spring here for thousands of years. In the 1st century AD, the Romans built a magnificent temple and bathing complex where they came to bathe in the sacred waters, pray and seek healing.

You can still tread on the ancient stone pavements where the Romans walked, see the ruins of the temple to the Goddess Minerva and the various bathing rooms. It’s a great place to find out more about the Ancient Romans as there are displays of all the items that have been excavated from the site – thousands of coins, jewellery, writing tools, drinking cups, perfume pots and, best of all, the Roman Curse Tablets, on which the Romans wrote messages to Minerva on lead and pewter, cursing people who wronged them.

The children’s audioguide is excellent and there are characters in costume at the Baths every day to help visitors learn more about Roman Britain. During the school holidays there are family activities on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Don’t forget to taste the spa water at the end of your tour. You’ll probably find the warm water as revolting as we did!

The Roman Baths are open every day from 9am until 6pm. You can see them by torchlight in July and August when they remain open until 10pm. Adults, £15; children, £11.25; under 6s free. 

Try the Bath Bun at Sally Lunn’s

You can’t leave Bath without trying the original Bath Bun, created over 300 years ago by a French refugee. Part bun, part cake, part bread, Sally Lunn’s bun was really popular in Georgian England, where it was served for breakfast and afternoon tea.

Sally Lunn’s is in one of the oldest houses in Bath. You can visit the original kitchen used by Sally, with its faggot oven and Georgian range. The buns themselves are delicious and served with a sweet or savoury topping. We chose lemon curd, ginger butter and the most incredible cinnamon butter we’ve ever tasted.

Sally Lunn’s, 4 North Parade Passage, is open every day from 10am until 9.30pm. Sundays, from 11am until 9pm and on Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm.

Raid the dressing up box at the Fashion Museum

You can try on corsets, top hats, Victorian dresses, bonnets and wigs in the brilliant dressing up room at the Fashion Museum. The museum has one of the world’s best collections of historic and fashionable clothes so you’ll find everything from Tudor shirts, 18th-century French silk dresses with hooped petticoats, Jane Austen-style Regency muslin frocks and beautiful satin shoes from the 1800s right up to the Roland Mouret Galaxy dress.

The Children’s Trail showcases ten historical fashion looks for kids and there are family workshops in fashion design on Tuesdays during the Summer holidays.

The Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street is open every day from 10.30am until 5pm, until 4pm from November to February. Adults, £8.75; children, £6.75.

Dance around the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms

My two boys could not resist dancing around the ballroom in the Assembly Rooms. This is where thousands of people gathered for parties and balls, including a fair few of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels. The ballroom is the grandest of the three rooms and contains the finest set of 18th-century chandeliers in the world. They are more than 8 feet high and in Georgian times they would have been lit with 200 candles.

The Assembly Rooms are free to enter on the days when there isn’t an event going on.

Have afternoon tea at Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms

Afternoon tea is a Great British tradition and has always been popular in Bath. You could have your tea in the elegant surroundings of the 18th-century Pump Room but Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms is a far more fun and laid-back setting for kids.

The entire restaurant has been decorated in the style of wartime Britain of the 1930s and 1940s so it’s all embroidered tablecloths, knitted tea cosies, wartime posters and mismatched china. The waitresses wear old-fashioned pinafores and headscarves and the afternoon tea is an absolute delight: a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and huge slices of homemade cake.

Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms, 6-8 Saville Row, is open every day from 10am until 5pm.

Take a boat out on the River Avon

Have fun messing about on the river for an hour by hiring a punt, rowing boat or canoe from the Victorian boating station at Bath Boating Station. You can take one of the Pulteney Cruise motorboats there from the centre of Bath.

If you’ve got more time, don’t miss spending the day cruising along the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal in a narrowboat.

Be a history detective at No 1 Royal Crescent

Find out what life was like for Bath’s richest and most fashionable residents by taking a tour around the first house to be built in Bath’s famous Royal Crescent. The rooms at No 1 have all been furnished as they would have looked in the late 18th century and children are given a History Detective Pack complete with magnifying glass, worksheet and fun activities to do in every room.

My two really enjoyed finding out that the Georgians didn’t leave the dining room to go to the toilet – the flush toilet hadn’t been invented so they had to go behind a folding screen and wee into a chamber pot. We also visited the Gentleman’s Retreat and the Lady’s Bedroom where we laughed at the wig scratcher which they needed because of all the head lice they had underneath their wigs.

Down in the Servants’ Hall you can dress up in Georgian clothes. There are additional craft activities on Family Fridays.

No 1 Royal Crescent is open every day until 5.30pm. Mondays, from 12pm; Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10.30am. Adults, £10; children, £4; under 6s, free.

Have a picnic in Royal Victoria Park

The large park in front of the Royal Crescent is a suitably grand place for a picnic and great for watching all the hot air balloons on a summer’s evening. The 57-acre park was opened by Queen Victoria when she was only 11 (before she became queen) and boasts a botanical garden, crazy golf, duck pond, bandstand with live music and a brilliant adventure playground with a zip wire and pyramid climbing frame.

For more information about visiting Bath, take a look at the Visit Bath website.

Disclosure: We were very kindly given free admission to some of the sights mentioned but all opinions are honest and my own.

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How to make City Trips Fun for Kids: The Leap & Hop Travel Guides

Taking your children to visit cities can be a real headache. You want to look at the sights, see the museums and enjoy the food but you don’t want crotchety kids moaning about how tired and bored they are.

When you’re travelling with children, particularly if you want to see the cultural sights,  you need to find something to engage their interest.  I always try and hunt out the stories that will make the place, the history or the art come alive and turn it into a fun experience for all of us. We’ve gone hunting for dragons at the Brighton Pavilion, found out about the King who chopped off queens’ heads at the Tower of London and searched for the sea monsters carved into the stone in the cloisters of a Lisbon Monastery.

Travel is the best possible way to teach your children about the world they live in as they get the chance to explore different cultures, learn about history and try new foods. But it’s not always easy. You have to change your pace when you’re travelling with children, take things slower. You can’t walk around for hours. You also need to factor in tiredness, hunger and boredom thresholds.

But when you get it right and you see that excitement in their eyes when they’re experiencing something for the first time, you realise that far from slowing you down, travelling with kids can be even more rewarding than it was before.

The wonderful Leap & Hop travel guides are brilliant at helping to turn a grown-up trip into a fun adventure for children. The books include guides to the cities of New York, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong. They’ve been created to help kids get involved and excited about their travels with fun, interactive activities.

The Paris guide is wonderful. It’s packed with information about the city, with games and activities on every page to help kids discover more about where they’re visiting.  You can go on a scavenger hunt around a department store, take a quiz walk around Montmartre, design clothes for the fashion capital of the world and hunt for the ‘mascarons’ (carved faces) on the Parisian buildings you pass. There are spot-the-differences, colouring pages and word searches and it’s all really colourful and beautifully illustrated.

My kids and I loved the idea that you can turn the book into a very special travel scrapbook of your trip. There are places to stick ticket stubs and souvenirs, draw pictures or take photos of what you loved and hated eating while you were there.

The book is so jam-packed with information and things to do that you couldn’t possibly do it all on one trip so there will always be something to save for your next visit. The books are aimed at 7 to 14-year-olds although younger children would be able to enjoy some of the activities with their parents’ help.

My 10-year-old was delighted with it. “It’s an amazing book!” he told me. “You’d know every corner of Paris when you finished doing it.” He’s really excited about using it when he goes to the city for the first time.

The books have been written by Isabelle Demenge. She wrote her first guide to Cambodia when she couldn’t find anything suitable for her three children, aged 8, 6 and 3, for their family trip to the country.

“I wanted to make sure that the kids could enjoy the temples so I tried to think of activities that they would enjoy for each temple on our list: treasure hunts, i-spy games and doodle prompts. It was a big hit with my three boys and their two cousins and so every year I wrote another book for them for our big family vacation.”

Her boys loved the book so much that she now writes one every time they travel anywhere – even for a long weekend. There are now nine books in the series and Isabelle is planning more. “It’s great to see how all three of them are interested in different sections of the books,” she says.

You can buy the books from the Leap & Hop website for HK $170 (about £15). They are also available on Amazon. I’ll certainly be using them with my kids and I think they’d make wonderful presents for children travelling to those destinations.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I was very kindly given a copy of the Leap & Hop guide to Paris for the purposes of review. All opinions are, of course, my own.

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City Breaks With Kids: Wells

Your kids will need no persuading to visit Wells, the smallest city in England – it’s full of tales of dragons and witches. The medieval city in Somerset is also home to swans that perform tricks, spectacular caves and one of Britain’s most beautiful cathedrals. It makes the perfect place for an easygoing city break with children: it’s easy to walk around and there’s so much to capture their interest.

You’ll only need a day to see most of the sights but it’s such a lovely location that you’ll want to stay longer and use the city as a base to explore more of the area. Bath, Weston-Super-Mare and Cheddar Gorge are all within easy reach.

Try to catch the swans ringing the bells at the Bishop’s Palace

The medieval Bishops’s Palace in the centre of Wells has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years. The swans that live in the moat here are famous for ringing the bell beside the gatehouse when they want to be fed. They were first taught this by a bishop’s daughter in the 1870s and the tradition has been kept up ever since. The nine cygnets born here in early May are already learning the skill.

The Bishop’s Palace is worth a visit in its own right. Set behind an imposing gatehouse with a portcullis and drawbridge, you can walk around some of the palace’s most impressive rooms, dress up in bishop’s clothes from the dressing up box and hunt for dragons on the staircase.

The Bishop’s Palace is open every day from 10am until 4pm, until 6pm from March until October. Adults, from £7.25; children, from £3.05; under 5s, free.

Walk down the oldest medieval street in England

Vicars’ Close is believed to be the only complete medieval street left in England. It was built in the early 14th century to provide housing for the Vicars Choral who sang daily worship in the cathedral and the cathedral choristers and organists still live in the houses today – it’s the oldest street in Europe that is still being used for what it was built for.

You can walk all the way up the street to the chapel at the end. The houses themselves are charming, with roses climbing over the door and cats sleeping on benches in the pretty cottage gardens.

Watch the knights jousting above the cathedral clock

Wells Cathedral is one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Britain. Its stained-glass windows are some of the most beautiful in Europe. Don’t miss the clock – it’s the second oldest surviving clock face in the world and every 15 minutes the jousting knights gallop around the turret above the clock face. The same poor knight has been knocked down every quarter of an hour for over 600 years.

Wells Cathedral is open every day from 7am until 6pm, until 7pm from April to September. Entrance is free but donations are welcome.

Visit the witch at Wookey Hole

Britain’s most spectacular caves are only two miles outside of Wells. The legend of the Witch of Wookey has fascinated visitors since medieval times when an old woman lived alone in the caves with her dog and some goats. The locals believed she was a witch and everything that went wrong in the village was blamed on her.

The Abbot from nearby Glastonbury Abbey sent a monk, Father Bernard, to exorcise her. He entered the caves armed only with a Bible and a candle. While she screamed curses at him, he sprinkled holy water over her and she turned to stone. You can still find her figure in the cave called The Witch’s Kitchen.

The caves themselves are millions of years old and were lived in by cavemen 50,000 years ago. They’re full of stalactites, stalagmites and stunning waterfalls of crystalline stone.

Wookey Hole has a range of other attractions too, including a Sci-Fi circus show, Valley of the Dinosaurs with 20 life-sized dinosaurs and a wizards’ play barn.

Wookey Hole Caves are open every day from 10am until 5pm. Adults, from £15.73; children, from £11.90. 

See the chained library in the cathedral

Ever wondered what the Restricted Section in the library at Hogwarts might look like? Climb up the stone spiral staircase in the cathedral and you’ll find one of only four chained libraries left in the UK. Centuries old leather-bound books are attached to the shelves with heavy chains.

Built in the mid 15th century, it’s the longest medieval library in England and over half of the books are in Latin and Greek. There’s a copy of the first ever world atlas, the first mathematics book published in England in 1522 and Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, written while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Climb a tree in the Bishop’s Garden

The 14-acre gardens in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace are absolutely delightful and the perfect place for hide and seek. Children are encouraged to climb the trees, walk along the ramparts and play in the new activity area, The Dragon’s Lair.

There’s a sensory trail around the grounds encouraging you to listen to the sounds of the waterfall, smell the flowers and touch the knobbly trunks of the mulberry trees. Wander deeper into the gardens and you’ll find the natural springs that give Wells its name. If you look closely you can sometimes see water bubbling up from the Bottomless Well – the water bubbles up at a rate of 100 litres a second.

Find the dragon mosaic on a walk into the countryside

Myths and legends surround this part of Somerset and there’s a story of a dragon in the 13th century who terrorised the locals by eating children and sheep. It was eventually killed by Bishop Jocelin but before it died it warned the people of Wells that if it was not honoured every 50 years it would come back to life. Local schoolchildren made a mosaic to show the dragon that it had been remembered.

You can find the mosaic by taking a lovely walk into the countryside from the Bishop’s Palace. The 45-minute walk take you through fields and woods, through kissing gates and past pillboxes left over from the Second World War.

You can download a copy of the walk from the Wells Tourist Office website.

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City Breaks with Kids: Barcelona

Barcelona is the Spanish city the whole family will fall in love with. It makes a great choice for a city break with children not least because there is such a wide variety of things to do, from playing on the beach to admiring Antonin Gaudi’s flamboyant modernista architecture or visiting one of the world’s largest football stadiums.

Barcelona is a great city to get your kids excited about art and architecture – the bright colours and fantastical animals of Gaudi’s buildings really appeal to children. What’s more, the food is fantastic. Here’s my selection of the best activities in the city for families.

Take the cable car up to the castle

When travelling with children, I’m always looking for fun ways to get around and the Telefèric de Montjuïc is a great way to get to the castle. The Castell de Montjuïc was built as a military fortress and is perched on the hillside overlooking the port. There are wonderful views from here over the whole city. Under 14s can visit the military museum free of charge.

The Telefèric de Montjuic runs daily from 10am until 6pm (November to February), until 7pm (October, March to May) and until 9pm from June to September. Adults, €12 return; children, €8.80.

The Castell de Montjuïc is open every day from 10am until 8pm; until 6pm from November until March. Adults, €5; children, free.

Be inspired by the Sagrada Familia

My 10-year-old was so inspired by the beauty of the Sagrada Familia that he announced he wanted to be an architect after our trip. Visiting the Unesco World Heritage site is an extraordinary opportunity to see a church in the process of being built. I first saw it 15 years ago and was stunned by the progress that had been made on my last visit.

Gaudi devoted himself to the project from 1908 until his death in 1926, sleeping on site and working long hours. The Sagrada is laid out like the great Gothic cathedrals of the past. The interior is breathtakingly beautiful. You can really appreciate Gaudi’s use of light in the stunning colour of the stained-glass windows. Eight of the 18 towers planned have now been finished.  It is hoped that most of the structure will be completed by 2026.

The Sagrada Familia is open every day from 9am until 8pm, until 7pm in March and October, until 6pm from November until February. Adults, €15; under 18s, €13; under 11s, free. An audio guide is available for children aged between 6 and 12.

Buy the food for a picnic from La Boqueria food market

Your kids will love wandering down La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous street, stopping to watch the numerous human statues, musicians and dancers and visiting the animal stalls. Two thirds of the way down you’ll find La Boqueria, one of Europe’s largest food markets, where you can buy freshly squeezed juices, hams, cheeses, olives, tapas and mini fruit salads. Give older children some euros and get them to choose and order a selection of treats for the family. They’ll love the independence and it’s a fun way to get them to practise some Spanish. Then take your goodies to the grand Plaça Reial, just off La Rambla, and enjoy your picnic beside the fountain and palm trees.

Take a tour of Europe’s largest football stadium at Camp Nou

City Breaks with Kids: BarcelonaFC Barcelona has played at Camp Nou since 1957 and the tour of the stadium and museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city. You get to go through the players’ tunnel and see the changing room, president’s box, players’ benches and press conference area. In the museum, you’ll find the trophy cabinets with the European Champion’s League Cup and the five Ballons d’Or, confirming Lionel Messi as the best football player in the world.

Tickets for the Camp Nou Experience Tour cost from €23, adults; €18, children; under 6s, free. Check out the website for opening times.

Explore the magical gardens at Park Güell

You’ll feel as though you’ve entered a magical world when you wander around Park Güell. The two fairytale gatehouses at the entrance to the park certainly look like they could be made out of gingerbread – they’re based on designs Gaudi made for the opera of ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

Venture down the twisted pathways and you’ll find goblin shapes, a staircase flanked by multicoloured battlements and the huge mosaic lizard. Even the park benches are beautifully decorated with colourful shattered tiles. It can get really crowded in the park so it’s worth climbing further up the hill where you’ll find some peaceful shaded woodland with great views over the city.

Park Güell is open every day from 8am until 8.30pm, until 9.30pm from May 2 until August 28, until 6.15pm from October 30 until March 26. Tickets, adults, from €7; children, €4.90; under 7s, free.

Build a sandcastle on the beach

Barceloneta beach in the city’s old fishing district is only 10 minutes away from the centre. The large, sandy beach has a children’s games area and is also a great place to try seafood and tapas after a day on the beach.

Eat churros with chocolate

City Breaks with Kids: BarcelonaYou can’t come back from Barcelona without trying churros, the Spanish version of doughnuts, dipped into a cup of thick and creamy hot chocolate. They’re normally eaten for breakfast but they make a great afternoon treat while you’re exploring Barcelona’s historic quarter. One of the best places for churros and chocolate is Granja La Pallaresa, Carrer de Petritxol, 11, on a picturesque street in the Barri Gòtic.

Find all the animals hidden in the Casa Batlló

Children will love searching the inside and outside of the Casa Batlló for dragons and other animals. Some people say that in ‘The House of Bones’ Gaudi was representing the story of St George killing the dragon. Its colourful exterior is covered in dragon’s scales, with the skulls of his victims shaped into the wrought-iron balconies. The hump-shaped rooftop evokes the monster’s spine and even the banisters on the stairs are carved into the shape of a huge animal’s spine. Look closely and you’ll notice that the skylights are shaped like tortoise shells.

We also loved the central atrium of the building where tiles in varying shades of blue make you think of the surface of a lake with waterlilies on top.

The Casa Batlló is open every day from 9am until 9pm. Adults, from €22.50; children, from €19.50; under 7s, free. The price includes an audioguide. 

See some of Picasso’s childhood drawings at the Museu Picasso

You can see some of Pablo Picasso’s earliest sketches at the Museu Picasso, set in five medieval stone mansions near the Barri Gòtic. Picasso lived in Barcelona as a young man and this collection concentrates on the work from his early years although one of the highlights are the 57 canvases he painted based on Velásquez’s ‘Las Meninas’.

After your visit it’s well worth going for a wander around the Barri Gòtic, the oldest part of Barcelona. Its streets grew inside the original Roman walls and it’s one of the best preserved medieval centres in the world.

The Museu Picasso is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am until 7pm, until 9.30pm on Thursdays. Adults, €11; children, free.

Tip: It’s well worth booking online for a lot of the sights mentioned. You can usually get a small discount and it should save queuing up for tickets when you arrive.

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Seven Foodie Treats to Try in Lisbon

Seven Foodie Treats to try in LisbonFor me, trying lots of different foods and flavours is one of the joys of travel. Lisbon’s a great city for foodies of all ages whether you’re interested in wandering around the food markets, eating lots of cake and ice-cream (always a hit with my boys) or trying the local fish dishes. Here are seven of the best things to look out for when you’re in the city.

Eat bacalhau in a local restaurant

Seven Foodie Treats to try in LisbonBacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod, and salted or dried cod dishes are so popular that they’re the traditional Christmas dinner in some parts of the country. There are said to be over 1,000 recipes in Portugal alone.

One of the best places to try it is at a small, local restaurant like A Primavera do Jerónimo, which is hidden down one of the narrow streets of the Bairro Alto. You’ll find plenty of bacalhau dishes here alongside clams, squid, swordfish, ray, pork tenderloin and the wonderfully named ‘grilled secret black pig’.

The food isn’t fancy but good, traditional Portuguese fare. Service is very welcoming, especially to children and the setting is relaxed and low-key – there’s only room for a few tables and the tiles on the wall are decorated with Portuguese proverbs.

A Primavera do Jerónimo, Travessa da Espera 34.

Taste gourmet treats at the Mercado da Ribeira

The Time Out Mercado da Ribeira is the place to go if you want to try a selection of different foods from some of Lisbon’s top chefs. The gourmet food hall has only been open for two years but it’s rapidly become one of the city’s most popular places to eat. It’s a great way to taste all kinds of foodie flavours, from gourmet burgers, fish and chips and sushi to fabulous salads, steaks and cheeses.

You can order wine by the glass or have one of the fantastic fruit juices. It’s a massive area and it can get really busy at peak times so come early or be prepared to wait for a table.

Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho 50.

Drink port in a palace

Port is a Portuguese fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. I’d only ever drunk the heavy, sweet red wine as an after dinner tipple before my trip to Lisbon so it was a revelation trying the delicious white port. It’s much less heavy than the red and makes the perfect before dinner drink.

The ideal place to try it is Solar do Vinho do Porto, a cavernous bar with the atmosphere of a gentlemen’s club, in an 18th-century palace with vaulted ceilings and white leather sofas. You choose your port from a 20-page menu and are served by waiters who are either very grumpy or take their port extremely seriously. For a couple of euros, you can order a glass from a selection of every kind of port, from vintage to the more everyday. You can also buy bottles to take home.

Solar do Vinho do Porto, Rua Sao Pedro de Alcântara 45.

Have an ice cream from Santini’s

Seven Foodie Treats to try in Lisbon

 

A holiday is a good excuse to eat ice cream every day, right? Some people consider Santini’s to be the best ice cream in the world. See if you agree by joining the queue outside the shop on Rua do Carmo in the Chiado area, one of Lisbon’s main shopping streets.

 

 

 

Buy the goodies for a picnic from a food market

Mixing with the locals at the food markets is one of my favourite pastimes when I’m travelling. The covered market at Campo de Ourique is a great place to browse a range of food stalls from fresh fish, hams, cheeses and breads to freshly prepared pasta, tapas and sushi.

We like to buy all the things we need for a gourmet picnic and take it to the nearest park for a feast. The nearby Jardim da Estrela is a particularly good choice but if you want to eat straightaway, there’s a lovely seating area in the middle of the market. The Campo de Ourique is a much smaller and less crowded option than the vast Mercado da Ribeira.

Indulge on pastries

You’ll find pastry shops, pastelarias, on every street corner in Lisbon but the one cake you mustn’t leave without trying is the pastel de nata, the famous puff pastry tart filled with custard cream.

These pastries were first created before the 19th century by the monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém. At that time, convents and monasteries used large amounts of egg whites to starch clothes so it was quite common to use the leftover yolks to make cakes and pastries.

The monks started selling the pastries to make some money and the recipe was eventually sold to a sugar refinery who opened up the Fabrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837. This is still the best place to buy the tarts, warm from the oven and sprinkled with cinnamon. There’s always a queue for takeaways but you can bypass the queue if you eat at one of the many tables inside.

Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, Rua Belém 84-92

Try a prego made out of fish

In Portuguese cuisine, a prego is a steak sandwich, a bit like a burger. The traditional prego has been given a delicious twist at O Prego da Peixaria, a restaurant near the university’s botanical gardens. Here you can try pregos with soft shell crab, salmon and cuttlefish, tuna steak, cod or shrimp. They’re all gorgeous and come sandwiched between a variety of unusual home-made breads like carob or black bread. Don’t miss the sweet potato skinny fries on the side.

The restaurant itself is really lively, with walls covered with potted herbs and colourful graffiti. It can get really busy so come early, particularly if you’ve got kids. Mine loved the fresh juices with their fish burgers.

O Prego da Peixaria, Rua da Escola Politécnica 40.

For more information about visiting Lisbon, take a look at the Visit Lisbon website.

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