Fancy holidaying in Europe, the way the Europeans do? Here are our top five luxury European resorts that families from all over the continent flock to.
Four Seasons Cyprus
The Four Seasons in Limassol is nothing to do with the luxury international hotel chain of the same name, but its quality of service and standards are on a par with it. It is both independently owned and operated by Muskita Hotels Ltd.
The hotel manages to offer what most large resorts aspire to, but fail at: an air of intimacy. Staff remember your names and your children’s food preferences and always seem to be one step ahead of you. You won’t feel stranded here either: you can get to experience local culture if you want to. There are a few local shops and restaurants just across the street and you are just a short taxi ride from Limassol itself, with its stylish old town. There are also cute villages and less cute, but fun, adventure parks nearby too.
The hotel itself has fantastically spacious studio rooms, which are perfect for families, just be sure to secure one with a huge Jacuzzi tub. Then there are two meandering outdoor pools – there is something extra relaxing about being able to swim around curves and under bridges. One of the pools is adults only, perfect for when the kids are in the kids club. Talking of which, the kids club is very well equipped and easy for children to dip in and out of and all ages are taken care of with a teens programme too. There is also a heated indoor pool for the winter months and although I didn’t try it, a supposedly great spa too.
If I had to find one thing wrong with this hotel, it would be that the beach is not glitteringly golden. It can’t help that though and the dull coloured sand is ideal for sandcastles and the sea that gently laps it is perfect for a paddle.
You might not think of the UK as a beach destination. Okay if you want hot you have to check in anytime between May and September, but even then you could be unlucky and get cold weather. When the sun comes out, however, be it August or December, a British beach is beautiful. And Chewton Glen is the place to experience it. It’s a Relais & Chateaux hotel, but unlike many in the
group this property welcomes, rather than just accepts, children.
Not only are there mini towel robes and slippers, there are even mini wellington boots available here, as well as toys, bikes, kites and all the baby equipment you could need. Bordered by the New Forest, or what is now rather an ancient forest on one side and the beach on the other, there are endless opportunities for make-believe games and mini adventures. You can take off through the beautiful hotel grounds, sink into the golden sandy beach and end up having tea in a neighbouring castle’s grounds, for example.
Back at base, you’ll find wonderful family suites, a lovely warm indoor pool and an outdoor one if it’s hot enough; and, if you can off load the kids for an hour, the spa and its hydrotherapy pool is a must. You need to also find time for afternoon tea in one of the lounges, but leave room for dinner, there isn’t a hotel in the Relais & Chateaux group that doesn’t offer the finest of fine dining; but here as much attention has been paid to mini mouths too.
Perched on the edge of the Spanish island of Tenerife, the Abama really is a place to escape to. Sandwiched between the sea and the mountains and fringed by banana groves, there is nothing else to see within walking distance of this resort, but then there
really is no need to leave it.
This Ritz Carlton property has an air of refinement that sets it apart from other luxury family resorts. Although there is a full-on entertainment programme, including a newly renovated kids club that runs from 10am until midnight and features a theatre space, footie pitch and soft play area; regular cookery demonstrations, wine tastings, shows and live music, there is no pressure to join in and you’d only know about it if you sought it out.
With seven swimming pools, two naturally formed seawater pools, an impressive golf course, a tennis academy and a secluded sandy beach there is plenty to keep you occupied, whatever your age.
If you have young children, they have thought of everything, so you can pack light. Amongst the things available to borrow there are pushchairs, sterilisers, bottle warmers, bouncer chairs, walkers and by the pool and the beach there are baskets of floats, water
pistols and other water toys.
The resort is made up of villas scattered around the grounds and suites and rooms in the main hotel building. Although the villas are lovely and more intimately grouped around their own pools, they are quite a distance from the hotel itself, which is where the kids club, spa, most of the restaurants and the main family pool is based. Villa residents are given a golf-type buggy to help you to get from place to place, but with young kids I recommend you stick to the hotel.
Oh and you also want to book your evening restaurants for your whole stay as soon as you arrive. They are all excellent and offer a choice of cuisines from local specialities to Japanese, but they do get booked up.
Westin Dragonara, Malta
The holiday feeling gets you as soon as you walk through the doors of this hotel and catch a glimpse of the pool and the sea beyond. Part of the Starwood Group, a laid back vibe permeates this resort. Space is a major factor in this. The guest rooms are all generous and you never feel crowded in the public areas inside or out.
The Dragonara has two large outdoor pools and several knee-high kiddie pools and outdoor Jacuzzis. If you’re in a social mood, the Reef pool, is where the entertainment and children’s games happen and for a more relaxing experience there is the free-
flowing Bay View pool.
Beyond the pools there is an expansive deck area spread out over the rocks leading down to the sea, these are dotted with curtained sun beds and a multitude of stepladders that take you down into the warm waters of the ocean. It’s a great place for children to experience swimming in the sea, but your better off walking down the street to the public beach, as the hotel beach is tiny.
Nothing is too far away on the tiny island of Malta, just off the coast of Italy and the hotel offers a great base from which to explore it. We took the hop on hop off tour bus from right outside. There are also dozens of lovely local restaurants on your doorstep in the bustling town of St Julians, but the on-site restaurants are worth a visit too. Be sure to book a table at Quadro for fantastic food from and views of the sea.
The newest kid on the block, the Martinhal is the hotel that is the talk of the school gates across Europe at the moment. Built to blend in with the natural park and the coast that surrounds it, there is a variety of accommodation on offer from self-catering luxury villas to duplex suites and standard hotel rooms.
There is an attractive, well-equipped kids club whose popularity is the best testament to its success and this property really does take care of babies through to teens with wind-surfing lessons and dolphin watching some of the activities on offer for older kids. Oh, and there is a football and tennis academy on site too. Plus, tween and teen treatments available at the spa.
Within the grounds you will find five swimming pools, a beautifully un-spoilt beach and a variety of restaurants offering a selection of local and international foods. And when you want a night in whilst away you can just pick up a take away from the food store. I can’t think of anything they haven’t thought of.