Want to get away with your family this summer – but without spending every moment with the little darlings? Here are the best kids’ clubs in Europe.
Le Dune Resort, Sardinia
Children aged two to 17 are catered for with or without their parents by the medal-deserving, spirited staff at this award-winning (and our personal favourite) kids’ club. Split across Baby, Mini, Junior and Teen categories, facilities include Village Fantasia (a 10,000-square-metre playground set among the dunes, which includes a pool, Indian village and cowboy fort) and Castello Duneland (a recently renovated interactive play area for younger kids with soft play, cinema and naptime area), plus an adult-free zone where older kids can socialise and enjoy an alcohol-free happy hour.
There’s an onsite aviary, where children can learn about birds and collect eggs, plus a garden where they pick organic vegetables for cookery workshops. Sports include football, beach volleyball, basketball, tennis, trampolines, a riding school, kayaking, archery and a climbing wall – while the resort itself has 496 rooms, six pools, 10 outstanding restaurants and a Blue-Flag beach with white sands and turquoise sea.
Club Med Da Balaia, Portugal
It’s not too often that you see a hotel offering flying trapeze lessons, let alone for children, but that’s what you get at Club Med. The other stand-out point of this hotel, located on the red sea cliffs of the Algarve, are the golf lessons which children can take at some of the region’s most renowned courses, with some supervised by PGA pros.
For tiny tots (aged four to 23 months), the emphasis is on sensory activities such as painting and music games, while older ones get increasingly hands-on. For those aged two to four years old, there’s mural painting, fun on the play equipment and treasure hunts. For four to 10-year-olds, there are creative workshops, from archery to water sports, and 11 to 17-year-olds get the greatest emphasis on sport of all. Open six days a week, the club elicits praise from families for its enthusiastic multinational staff, grab-when-you-want-it food, as well as the extravagant family-friendly evening shows. The hotel’s 389 rooms have all been refurbished since February 2018.
Pine Cliffs Resort, Portugal
Covering nearly two acres, the Porto Pirata kids’ club is heaven on earth for little’uns aged six months to eight years (including some with special needs – talk to the resort for further details), not least due to the enormous pirate ship, basketball court, mini golf course and two swimming pools.
There’s always something going on – water games, picnics, cooking and treasure hunts, to name but a few, and older kids rave about the tennis academy and golf lessons. Since Scott Dunn has got in on the act (it now runs kids’ clubs in three top European resorts), there’s also an opportunity for parents to use the kids’ club as a bonding experience. Based on the growing trend for more skills-based holidays, where families can try out new hobbies together, Scott Dunn’s Explorers kids’ club offers packages that include a private family cooking class at the exclusive cookery school, a private family yoga class, golf lessons and bike rental.
The Peligoni Club, Greece
Teenagers – often a tricky age group to appease on family holidays – will love the “over-13s only” Yard Bar, with its relaxed beach shack vibe and a great selection of mocktails, cocktails, milkshakes and everything from yard long pizzas to hot-dogs and burgers. Teen-focused sports galore include windsurfing, water-skiing, sailing in the clear Greek waters, and there’s beach volleyball, parent-free boat trips and mocktail making also on the menu.
For four to 12-year-olds, there are treasure hunts on the club’s Odyssey boat, raft-making and paddle boarding, and kids’ barbecues. Meanwhile, the creche takes tiny tots as young as three months (unusual for kids’ clubs), running not only during the day but from 7-11pm, allowing parents to dine a deux. New for this year is Petit Peligoni, a pack of parent essentials such as baby baths and blackout blinds so you don’t have to pack everything but the kitchen sink. It’s also partnered with Babease for organic veg-led baby food.
Phokaia Beach Resort, Turkey
A mock castle is the setting for the kids’ club at this 224-bedroomed Mark Warner resort, where the age range is one to 17-year-olds – although note that one to two-year-olds are chargeable at £180 per week, while older kids go free.
Run by British qualified, experienced childcare staff, toddlers get little trips out to the pool, beach and playground – with each child assigned a keyworker who gets au fait with their routine. Older kids are out and about most of the day, learning to swim, windsurf, sail and play tennis, among other activities. For teens, the Indy Club offers more age-appropriate activities such as beach cricket and stand-up paddleboarding.
Inside, the club is air-conditioned, with rooms packed full of toys and games to delight all age groups, while outside there’s every type of water sport equipment you can think of, with favourites including fun boats, mini windsurfers, kayaks and giant SUP boards that fit around 10 kids on them at once. The evening entertainment stands out here too.
Sani Resort, Greece
The 30-minute on-beach “babewatch service” – included in the price of your room – is the first thing any parent who’s been to this chic Mediterranean resort is likely to mention. And with good reason – it means you get free beach and swim time (like gold-dust for most parents) while your child has the time of their life playing on the beach and making new friends.
The British-run crèche takes children from four months to four years old and this age group can also have swimming lessons. Meanwhile, the mini club gets four to 11-year-olds doing everything from short excursions to cookie-making. The teenage club for 12 to 17-year-olds focuses on cooler pursuits such as DJing, volleyball, archery and sailing. The junior and teenage spa (with treatments) is popular, as are the sporting academies including tennis, biking, water skiing and Chelsea FCF Football Club (new last year).
No wonder families outnumber couples in this luxurious yet laid-back resort comprising five hotels, 40 restaurants and bars and so many pools that we lost count.
Sun Gardens, Croatia
This magnificent Croatian resort is as child-friendly as they come. Set on a hillside just outside Dubrovnik, with landscaped grounds and views over the Elaphiti islands, it features both hotel and private residences. Guests rave about the imaginative Scott Dunn Explorers’ kids club, which offers four to 11-year-olds the opportunity to do everything from treasure hunts to trips, while teenagers get at least 18 hours of water- and land-based activities (including paddle boarding, sea scooting, sailing, zip wiring and zorbing) split over six days and all pre-arranged once you arrive.
The sports academy, run by top coaches and occasionally celebrities, features football, tennis, water polo and basketball for seven to 15-year-olds. Your room will be kitted out according to your child’s age range and there’s a private beach. There are no evening activities for kids, but a babysitting service is available.
Marbella Club Hotel, Spain
Situated on Andalusia’s “Golden Mile”, this stylish hotel has renovated one of its top villas (formerly the private summerhouse of the hotel’s founder, Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe) to create a beautifully designed contemporary kids club where creativity is the name of the game. Seriously, you think it, they do it – from cookery classes in the open kitchen (plant to plate, as there’s also a veg and herb garden) to perfume making, art classes, flamenco dancing and pottery.
There’s also horseback riding, cycling, tennis lessons and archaeological digs. Catering for kids aged four to 14, the staff are young and charismatic and the programme is run by an ex-teacher. Fear not if you have a baby or toddler as there’s a nannying service available, plus the newly introduced “Tiny Tots Programme” which offers child-focused breaks outside of school holidays.
Given its glamour (it used to be a favourite hangout for Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn), the hotel is surprisingly laid-back, with 115 rooms and suites, 15 villas, and a variety of bars and restaurants.
The Ritz-Carlton, Tenerife
The so-called “Ritz Kids Village” is one of the biggest kids’ clubs in Europe. Parents can use the club with babies aged 0 months to four years, while four to 12-year-olds get a whopping eight zones to play in, with themes including astronomy, wildlife, sustainability, technology, theatre and arts and crafts across 305 square metres of indoor space and a private outdoor area.
The partnership with explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society keeps things principled and no stone is left unturned on the activity front, with archery, trampolining, outdoor cinema, cooking, gardening workshops, Olympic summer games and stargazing. Four all-new family suites recently launched too, just a short walk from the club.
A teens club opens later this year catering for 13-year-olds and upwards, including water sports. The resort holds three Michelin stars across two of its restaurants and there’s a spa, golf course, secluded beach and world-class tennis facilities – all to die for.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, France
Staying in an Oetker Collection hotel can require a second mortgage for mere mortals, but if you can afford it, this deluxe Riviera playground is breath-taking on every level – with its own stretch of private shore, parkland, pool and pontoon. The kids’ club is also VIP level, but what most impressed us is that it’s no add-on, with the “ambassadors” joining forces with key areas of the hotel to offer, for example, pastry and floral workshops.
There’s a big emphasis on magic too, with shows including magicians, acrobats, clowns and juggling. New for this year, the hotel is offering organised visits of Antibes Espace Mer et Littoral, a Natura 2000 protected area, workshops with the hotel gardeners on plants, trees and flowers and – bound to be a big hit – how to build an insect hotel. If your child is under four, they’ll need to be accompanied by a parent or nanny, otherwise it goes up to 13-years-old, but it’s only open from June to September from 3pm to 7pm.
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