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Family Friendly Cities in England: 13 Of The Best Destinations

England may take your mind to the Tower of London, Big Ben, and the Buckingham Palace. But, just like France that we explored a couple weeks ago, there are plenty of family friendly cities in England scattered across the county that are perfect for your next family getaway.

Relax on the beach in the seaside town of Hastings, explore the museums in Birmingham, visit Liverpool’s parks and zoo, walk through Chester’s city center, and of course we can’t leave the Tower of London off the list. No matter what interests your family holds or what age you will be visiting with, there is something for everyone in England!

To help you narrow down your choices, check out these 13 family friendly cities in England as recommended by experienced travel bloggers around the world!

family friendly cities in england
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Photo by Aron Van de Pol on Unsplash

13 Family Friendly Cities in England

Hastings

Recommended by Bev & Shams from Bev & Shams Adventures

The beautiful seaside town of Hastings, is packed with so much to see and do, that’s ideal for a family day out or a holiday to the coast. Hastings is famous for the Battle of Hastings that took place in 1066, but the location of the actual battle is said to have happened a couple of miles out of Hastings in a small town called Battle. To visit the battle grounds, take a short 20-minute train journey or drive to Battle. 

If you just want to get down to the coast for the day, then having a picnic on the seafront, during a hot summer’s day is a must. But beware, during the summer, Hastings can get very busy, with the beaches packed with tourists from far and wide making the most of the hot sunshine. The best time to visit Hastings would be during the spring or autumn months. The weather is still glorious but without the crowds. 

There are many other things to do in Hastings, besides relaxing on the beach. The town is steeped in so much history, starting with the ruins of the Norman Castle that sits above Castle Hill overlooking the coast and the landscape around.  

What will really excite the children, are the smugglers Adventures. The caves would have once been used by smugglers over 200 years ago to hide, store and transport the smuggled goods around the country. Families will love the interactive displays, videos and the cold, dark caves, learning more about the smuggling adventures in Hastings. But fear not, there’s no longer pirates hiding their pieces of gold.  

Travel up the East Hill on the funicular railway, for one of the best views of the coast and the town below. 

Any trip to the seaside must include eating the famous fish and chips. Head to Hastings pier for the best fish and chips, but you must have mushy peas and curry sauce with it. 

beach in Hastings, family friendly cities in England
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Hastings. Photo Credit: Bev & Shams Adventures.

York

Recommended by Hannah from Get Lost Travel Blog

York is a fascinating city just waiting to be discovered by visitors of all ages. First founded by the Romans in 71AD, York’s long history has resulted in a wide variety of attractions. You won’t be short of things to do on your visit!

One of the top family-friendly things to do in York is visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre. You will be greeted by a Viking who will tell you about the York excavation where the Viking artifacts were discovered. Then, you will take a ride through the streets of Jorvik and learn about the day-to-day life of Vikings in York.

If you and your family have a sweet tooth, be sure to visit York Chocolate Story. York is the home of Rowntree’s and Terry’s of York (famously known for their chocolate orange!) At York Chocolate Story, you will be transported to the rainforests of Central America and follow the journey of cacao to York. You’ll even have an opportunity to try your hand at chocolate making!

The National Railway Museum is an attraction you will fall in love with, whether you are a train enthusiast or not. This museum is free to enter and has approximately 100 vehicles on display. You have a unique opportunity to get up close to the trains and climb aboard some of the most iconic vehicles in history.

York is a popular city which attracts tourists from all over the world, so it does get busy during weekends and school holidays. However, many of the attractions cope well with a high volume of visitors; simply book in advance to skip the line. If you are staying in York, get up early one day as this is the best time to see sights like York Minster and The Shambles without throngs of people.

trains at the national railway museum, family friendly cities england
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National Railway Museum. Photo Credit: Get Lost Travel Blog.

Manchester

Recommended by Rachel from Average Lives

Manchester is easily one of the best family friendly cities in England. There are educational, exciting and free museums, numerous great Manchester parks and large spaces to enjoy, and sensational sports to experience, and Roman ruins in its centre by the canals. 

The city is compact, and there is a free bus that can take you to all the main attractions. These include outstanding museums. Some of the most popular ones are the Science and Industry Museum for interactive exhibitions about Manchester’s contribution to the industry and its industrial past. The Imperial War Museum North to learn about the wars and conflict that have shaped our world. Finally, the National Football Museum, which is the largest football museum in the world.

If you’re a football fan, you can discover the two world-class stadiums of Manchester City and Manchester United. On the other hand, if you’re a Harry Potter fan or a lover of libraries, you should check out the mystical John Rylands library that looks like it is straight out of Hogwarts. 

Alternatively, you can hunt for street art in the trendy Northern Quarter, which is where you will find some of the best places to eat, including Mackie Mayor for an array of independent restaurants or Noi Quattro for some of the best pizza in the city.

There is never a bad time to visit Manchester, but carry an umbrella because it can rain a lot. Although, if you want to watch live football matches visit between August to May, when the season is on. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, there are plenty of options for any budget. There is something for everyone from the fancy and historic Midland Hotel to budget hotels and a YHA hostel.

The Manchester Canals, family friendly cities in France
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Manchester Canals. Photo Credit: Average Lives.

Cornwall

Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels

Cornwall is a beautiful seaside town in the southwestern tip of England. It is the perfect family destination due to the many activities you can undertake including sailing, gorgeous walks or hikes with cliff views, relaxing at the beach, and more! It’s recommended to drive as there are many towns you’d want to explore and this is the easiest way to do it if you’re planning the ultimate road trip through Cornwall. 

The most noteworthy spots to visit include Mousehole, a fishing village that has an amazing seafood restaurant called the Rock Pool Cafe. You can eat a crab sandwich and see the view of the sea right in front of you. St. Ives might be the most popular destination in Cornwall and the most lively. Go here for the amazing shopping, the stunning beaches, and the great pasties which you can grab at St. Ives Bakery.

If you want to go the less tourist route, stop by St. Agnes which is one of the smallest towns and the quaintest. It offers quieter beaches, pretty English homes, and beautiful walks. Penzance is a great area to base yourself for a visit to Cornwall and you can stay at Hotel Penzance. 

Moousehole sea port with boats and houses. Family friendly cities in England
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Mousehole. Photo Credit: Jou Jou Travels.

Birmingham

Recommended by Karen from Marvellous Middle England

Located right in the middle of the UK, England’s second city is a great place to visit with kids. Having gone through a huge period of renovation over the past few years, the city is clean and modern with heaps of family friendly activities. 

Kids will absolutely love a visit to the Think Tank. Birmingham’s very own Science Museum with heaps of learning opportunities, a mini city and outdoor science garden. A trip to the Sea Life centre will make every little animal lover happy. For an insight into the city’s history, head to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, home to part of the famous Staffordshire Hoard and be sure to add a visit to the Ikon art gallery for their hands-on family friendly workshops.

If you need to cool off in the city there is a delightful splash play area in Centenary Square just outside the library and a walk along the many canals offer an opportunity to escape the city.

You’ll find plenty of family friendly big brand restaurants in the Bullring, Birmingham’s covered shopping area. Or for independent shops and restaurants, head to the Custard Factory in Digbeth and take in the brilliant street art while you’re there. 

For a fantastic family friendly place to stay, book the Hilton Garden Inn. It’s brilliantly located in Brindley Place, home to bars and restaurants and right on the canal. Making it easy walking distance to all the major sights of the city.

Birmingham is a wonderful place to visit in summer as there are plenty of places to explore outdoors. But I highly recommend a visit in November or December when one of the biggest German Christmas Markets sets up home in the city.

Find even more reasons to visit Birmingham!

Centenary Square splash pad in Birmingham
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Centenary Square. Photo Credit: Marvellous Middle England.

Liverpool

Recommended by Ruma from The Holiday Story

Liverpool is a metropolitan city that falls under the Lancashire county of northwestern UK. It lies on the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary, which is connected to the Irish Sea. Thus, it is an important port city in England. Several parts of the city were declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The town is also famous for being the origin of the most popular band, The Beatles. The Premier League football team Liverpool FC also helped in popularizing Liverpool worldwide.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the city government built buildings resembling ancient Greek and Roman architecture. These buildings are still standing tall and give off an elegant view. The city’s parks are a sight to see. There are coastal parks like Crosby Coastal Park, Victorian parks like Sefton Park, etc. The Birkenhead Park, designed by Joseph Paxton, was the first publicly funded park in Britain. For a peaceful yet informative afternoon trip, you can visit one of the many museums of this city. Even though it is a lively city, you can also have some wildlife experience in Liverpool. The Chester Zoo, built on 128 acres, is one of the World’s notable zoological gardens. Knowsley Safari also exhibits the wildlife of Yorkshire.

Summer is the best time to have a trip to Liverpool with your family. During this time, the beaches are where the tourist crowd resides. Southport is every children’s favorite. They have a funfair at Southport Pleasurable with rides and ice-creams melting every kid’s heart.

Bold Street and Hope Street should be your go-to food destinations when in Liverpool. The restaurants and street stalls here offer various cuisines, including Indian, Italian, Lebanese, etc. For the night, you can opt for your regular hotels or go for the luxurious ones. Some of the historical buildings have also been turned into hotels for tourists.

statue of the Beatles, Liverpool
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Image by Atanas Paskalev from Pixabay

Sheffield

Recommended by Kerry Hanson from VeggTravel | Adventure Awaits

One of the friendliest cities in the UK is Sheffield, South Yorkshire. The whole of the Yorkshire region, no, in fact the entire North of England is friendly. Whether you’re going to the local shops or just out for a walk, expect to be greeted with ‘alreet luv’ as a subsite for hi or hello.

Sheffield is an old industrial city that is known as the steel city for its specialism in stainless steel.  Once a mining community, Sheffield has been redeveloped into a thriving cosmopolitan city centre. Due to it’s two specialist universities, Sheffield is a popular student choice and the night life is excellent. West Street is the main strip of late night bars where people start but there are bars and clubs scattered on roads nearby all throughout town.

If you’re looking for sophisticated bars and trendy restaurants then head to Ecclesall Road for a more laid back evening. The Lost and Found Bar is a top choice, although get’s busy quickly so pre-booking a table would be advised. This area also has boutique shops and a few large public parks and woodland areas, so is also good to visit in the day.

Sheffield has a tram service which makes it easy to get around. There are two large shopping centres, Meadowhall and Crystal Peaks that are worth a stop if you need some retail therapy. Sheffield is good to visit all year round, but Christmas is popular due to the markets in the town centre. July is also a good choice if you’d like to visit the Tramlines music festival which takes over the city.

Sheffield, family friendly cities in England
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Sheffield. Image by Stanislav Hedvik from Pixabay

Whitstable

Recommended by Joanna from The World in My Pocket

Whitstable is one of the most popular day trip destinations from London and one of the best family friendly cities in England. And no wonder, as it’s both beautiful and offers plenty of things to do. Due to its popularity, it often gets quite busy, so it’s important to remember to make your trip to Whitstable responsible.

Whitstable has a long beach covered with pebbles, perfect for families to sunbathe and children to play in the water. The further away you walk from the harbour, the emptier the beach will be. The promenade follows the lovely fishermen huts, which you can actually rent if you want to stay overnight.

The harbour at Whitstable is full of life and can be a perfect learning ground for kids. Because it is a working harbour, you can often see the fish being brought to shore in the morning or people tending to different activities on their boats. Here there is a small arts and crafts market but also a few restaurants from where you can taste the oysters for which Whitstable is so famous for.

If you want to try the native Whitstable oysters, you should know that they are only in season between September and April. The local Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, who farms the oysters, has their own restaurants in town, Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, and also supplies a few others, like the Forge or The Crab and Winkle. 

Whitstable Beach, family friendly cities in England
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Whitstable Beach. Photo Credit: The World in My Pocket.

Plymouth

Recommended by Suzanne from Suzanne Meandering Wild

Plymouth is located in Devon and is a coastal city with close ties to the Royal Navy.  Although it is in Devon, the River Tamar that passes on the western edge of the city is the border between Devon and Cornwall.  It is perfect for a family visit year round although in the winter the winds off the sea can be bitter.

The city is like many others but the heart of the city is centered around the Barbican area which is the historic dock and where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to America on the Mayflower in 1620.  This small area of the city has a number of old buildings and cobbled streets leading down to the harbour.  Behind the Barbican is the Hoe, a large grassy area with Smeaton’s Tower, an old lighthouse at the centre. Just below Smeaton’s Tower is the beautiful Tinside Lido which is an open air swimming pool and open during the summer months.  

Across the swing bridge from the Barbican and the Mayflower Steps is the National Marine Aquarium.  This large building is home to thousands of fish and marine creatures and is the perfect place to explore when the weather isn’t so good.  If you feel like getting on the water then nothing beats a ride on the small ferries that cross from the Barbican to Queen Ann’s Battery where there are walks along the cliff tops.  It’s compact size makes it perfect for family adventures especially as all of the main attractions are centered in one small area.  There are plenty of places to stay and eat.  Our favourite spot for a naughty snack is Cap’n Jaspers on the harbourside at the Barbican.

London

Recommended by Jacquie from Flashpacking Family

On the face of it, London, England’s capital city, may not seem like the most obvious place to visit with kids but look beyond the fast paced, concrete jungle and there are so many things to do for children of all ages.

Obviously, it is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world including the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace, but there are also lots of hidden gems in London that are worth exploring with kids.

During the summer months, the park playgrounds come alive. If you want to escape the heat of the city, look at the Diana Memorial Fountains in Kensington Gardens and Coram’s Field close to the British Museum where you’ll find fun splash parks.

For the month of August, kids can catch a top West End performance for free with the Kids Go Free initiative or you can catch the street performers in Covent Garden.

If you are a fan of Christmas, London is a fabulous place to visit in December. The London Christmas lights and the Christmas markets (the largest is at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park) bring a lovely sparkle to the city. If you are looking to try something very British at Christmas, then watching a pantomime at the London Palladium should be top of your list.

But one of the main reasons that it is such a great city to visit is that there are so many family-friendly restaurants in London, including some of the most exquisite afternoon teas. You will be totally spoiled for choice!

london bridge, family friendly cities in England
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London. Photo Credit: Flashpacking Family.

Nottingham

Recommended by Steph & Lewis from Book It Let’s Go!

Nottingham is the largest city in the East Midlands and there are many family friendly things to do in Nottingham that visitors of all ages will have fun no matter how long the trip. Nottingham can be enjoyed all year round with summer festivals along the embankment and the Nottingham winter wonderland in the Old Market Square taking place in December.

History lovers will enjoy visiting Nottingham Castle and National Justice Museum with the re-enactments of historic trials. Children will love the caves that stretch out under the city and learning the uses they have had over the years from wine cellars to Victorian slums. Wollaton Hall is also a must-see attraction, this open green space is just minutes outside of the city and has free roaming deer in the grounds. It is also the home of the Nottingham Natural History Museum inside the hall which is free for all ages to enjoy.

In the middle of the city centre families can enjoy learning the legend of Robin Hood around the city and tracing the footsteps of the famous outlaw. There is also plenty of shopping to do and unique experiences including a cat café and the lost city adventure golf.

For a special treat visit Dough Notts on King Street for handmade Instagram worthy doughnuts for the whole family to enjoy.

Wollaton Hall, family friendly cities in England
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Wollaton Hall. Photo Credit: Book It Let’s Go!

Chester

Recommended by Nele from The Navigatio

Because of its beautiful buildings, unique atmosphere, and interesting history, Chester is one of the best UK city breaks for families. The city centre isn’t very large, so you can easily explore it on foot in a day or two. While you’re never certain for a sunny day in the UK, your best chances are visiting between May and August.

Chester is very unique due to its beautiful Tudor-styled buildings. It’s a real treat to simply walk through the city centre and snap some photos of the Chester Rows, which date back to the 13th century. The cathedral is another must-visit. And best of all, you can enter for free!

With such a rich Roman history, Chester still has many sights where you can learn about its previous inhabitants. Chester’s city walls are the oldest, longest and best preserved in the whole of Britain – and you can walk them for free! They are over 2000 years old, and give you tons of great views over the city. Just outside the walls, you can also stop by the Roman Gardens and Amphitheatre. Especially on a sunny day, it’s lovely to walk through them.

Chester makes for the perfect weekend trip because you can see the city centre in one day, and visit Chester Zoo on the second. Especially when visiting with younger children, the zoo makes for a very fun day out. Chester Zoo is the most ethical zoo in the UK, as they fund many wildlife and preservation projects. That’s definitely worth supporting! 

chester buildings
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Chester. Photo Credit: The Navigatio

Southampton

Recommended by Mal from Raw Mal Roams 

Situated in southeast England, county Hampshire, Southampton is a wonderful city to enjoy with the whole family. From historical monuments, great outdoor activities and excellent shopping, there is a myriad of fun things to do in Southampton

Take a stroll along the historic wall of Southampton starting from the majestic Bargate, one of England’s best-preserved medieval fortification. Pop into the 15th century Tudor House which is jam-packed with exciting family-friendly activities that will keep all the family members engaged. 

If you’re in need of some shopping therapy, visit West Quay, which is Southampton’s biggest retail centre. And just next door there is a newly built Watermark leisure centre with a wide selection of different restaurants, a cinema and a bowling alley. The city also organises various activities in front of the Watermark centre in the summer, so it’s worth checking out this area for the best free activities! 

For outdoor enthusiasts, Southampton has many great places to let off steam. There is Go Ape park situated in the Itchen Valley Country Park with exciting zip lines, suspension bridges and Tarzan swings. Woodmill Outdoor Activity Centre features a peaceful stream perfect for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. Finally, the city also boasts many beautiful parks, excellent for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing picnic. Try The Common or Victoria Country Park.  

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Southampton, Jurys Inn is a great option right in the city centre. 

Victoria Country Park, best family friendly cities in England
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Victoria Country Park. Photo Credit: Raw Mal Roams.

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Discover some of the best family friendly cities in England that make the perfect getaway for your next family vacation
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1 Comment »

  1. These are all great cities with so much to offer. Manchester is my favourite. I live just outside of Blackpool and it’s a great place to visit.

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