Europe is a big place. So much history, so much culture, so many “must-sees.” How does a parent know where to start? The answer? Dive in anywhere you want and it will be great! The adventure is in the discovery! However, if you’re looking for some specific recommendations of museums on the continent that are a wealth of information and fascinating with kids, here is our top five in the “kid tested, parent approved” category:
The Imperial War Museum in London, UK
We stumbled into this museum by accident one afternoon when we were looking for something to fill a few hours. One of the best things about London is that so many of their excellent museums are free, making them big-family friendly! We were delighted to find this museum uncrowded and geared to every level of learning. The boys spent a long hour in a mock up of the interior of a submarine while the older girls went with Dad through the holocaust exhibit in preparation for our visit to Germany later in the summer. The exhibits on the effects of WW2 on the country of England are phenomenal and of all of the amazing things we saw in London, this smaller museum ended up being one of the highlights of our city tour.
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, NL
For weeks before we arrived in the Netherlands we spent evenings in our tent reading The Diary of Anne Frank aloud. We wanted our kids to see the war through the eyes of a real child. Of course when we arrived in Amsterdam a visit to the house where she and her family lived out much of the war in hiding was on our short list of museums to visit. I dare you to visit this little home and come away without tears in your eyes. Snippets of her diary narrate the tour. Household items, a beautiful ceramic toilet, blacked out windows, all tell the story of a childhood lost. Our kids made a connection that day with a little girl who’d walked those halls as her cage, that they could never have made through the book alone.
The Museum of Art History in Vienna, AU
The Kunsthistorisches Museum as it’s called in German, is a treasure trove of fantastic art, much of it European, but from around the world as well. Pay attention to their special exhibit calendar. When we were there we lucked into an exhibit of Van Gogh’s early sketches, many of which had never been shown in public before and others that were being archived for at least 50 years after the exhibit closed, due to deterioration. This is the museum in which our kids fell in love with impressionist art and came to know the difference between Van Gogh and Monet, among others. There is quite a selection of educational material in their museum shop as well!
The Technical Museum in Brno, CZ
You might not know it, but Brno was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. It’s not a surprise, then, that there is an excellent, if under advertised museum in the city that houses all sorts of technical history, from working steam engines, to every kind of machine associated with production and technical growth through the industrialization of Eastern Europe that you can imagine. Our kids spent hours working the machines, fiddling with the moving parts and listening to their Dad explain every aspect of the physics behind them that their little brains could absorb for an afternoon. If you’re in Brno, you’re already off the beaten track in Europe, but if you’re in Brno, take the time to find this museum and delve into a portion of European history that is overlooked in many of the bigger museums in a hands-on way that your kids will love!
The Preau des Accoules in Marseilles, FR
This children’s museum, housed in a 17th Century Jesuit College has an ever changing kaleidoscope of exhibits. When we first entered we wondered if we’d wasted our time and money. It’s very small, and our kids were borderline “too big” for it. Two hours later, while they were parading around in the costume of French royalty from the turn of the last century, we realized that this little space is a hidden gem in Marseille. If your kids are weary of having plaques read aloud and parading through one more castle or cathedral, take them here. Let them play their way through history, perhaps take up a crayon and have a turn at creating their own classic French art, and absorb the culture in their own way. It only gets a byline in a few of the guidebooks, but if you’ve got little people and you’re in Marseilles for a few days, ferret out this hole in the wall treasure!
Michelle Geering is a travel writer for luxury holiday apartment website Worldwide Accom. They specialize in short term apartment rentals across Italy, France, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.