Independent Families: 'Our solution to peak prices: short breaks'


Q. Some friends of ours took their children on a series of weekend breaks last summer prior to the end of term to avoid paying peak holiday prices. We would like to do something similar with our children, aged five and eight, this year. Can you suggest somewhere we could visit either for a day or for a weekend? We would like to spend no more than three hours travelling each way.


Mrs M Rogers, Wiltshire

A. For a weekend break with plenty of culture and family entertainment, I would suggest Prague. With its soaring spires, cobbled streets and tiny squares, it is picture-postcard pretty and has become an incredibly popular short-break destination. It is only two hours' flight from London, and a number of low-cost airlines serve the city from around the UK.

From the airport, you can either take a taxi to the city centre, which costs around 600Kc (£14) or jump on the 119 bus to Dejvicka station for just 20Kc (50p). From here it's an easy two- or three-stop hop on Prague's efficient, clean Metro system to the centre (00 420 296 191 111; www.dpp.cz).

Prague is easy to negotiate on foot. The centre is compact with the River Vlatva winding through its heart. Stare Mesto or the old town is to the north-east, while across Charles Bridge you'll find Mala Strana huddled below Prague Castle up on the hill. Largely pedestrianised, the centre is safe for children, and there is plenty to keep them amused including musicians and puppet shows.

A good place to start is with a trip up Petrin Hill, a refuge of greenery away from the crowds. There's a funicular railway to the top, from where you get a fantastic view of the city. There's also a mirror maze, which is popular with children, and Petrin Tower, a one-fifth-scale model of the Eiffel tower - the 299-step ascent is not for the faint-hearted. You can also visit the Stefanik Observatory (00 420 257 320 540; www.observatory.cz), there are ponies to ride and it's a gorgeous walk to a playground at the bottom.

Dotted along the River Vltava are several small islands, including Slovansky where you can hire a rowing boat (from 150Kc, or £3) to get an alternative view of the city. Also on the island is the magnificent 19th-century Zofin Palace (00 420 222 924 112; www.zofin.cz) which has a play area next to the restaurant outside. On Kampa Island, with its grassy, tree-lined spaces, there's another good playground and some excellent restaurants suitable for families. It's a good place for an afternoon ice cream and a rest.

Prague Castle (00 420 224 373 368; www.hrad.cz; open daily April-October 5am-midnight; adults 350Kc/£8 including a full tour and 220Kc/£5 for abbreviated tour) is also fascinating. The changing of the guards takes place hourly until midnight while inside the complex you will find the impressive St Vitius Cathedral, a row of tiny houses known as The Golden Lane (which most little girls fall in love with), a toy museum, cafés and a safe, empty space for children to run around in.

Day two could involve a visit to Prague's superb Zoo (00 420 926 112 111; www.zoopraha.cz; metro to Holesovice Nadrazi, then bus 112) in Troja. Admission is 270KC (£6) for the whole family and the enclosures are beautifully maintained. A baby hippo was born here last month. A walk around the Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesty) is a must - you may remember seeing Tom Cruise and about 10,000 gallons of water burst through a café window here in Mission: Impossible - and the hourly display of the Square's Astronomical Clock should amuse the little ones. A horse and cart ride from the square, through the old Jewish Quarter is great fun and adds a touch of cheesy elegance to your day. Finally, try taking your children to a Laterna Magika show - it's a mixture of film, visual effects and theatre (00 420 224 931 482; www.laterna.cz; 8pm Monday-Friday and 2pm and 8pm Saturday; adults 680Kc/£16 and children 300Kc/£7) on Narodni 4 next to the National Theatre. The website lists the different performances.

Prague hotels range from the magnificent (Hotel Pariz; 00 420 222 195 195; www.hotel-pariz.cz) to the truly grim. A good option is to rent a small apartment - these tend to be in grand old buildings with clean, comfortable, refurbished rooms. There are also several offering hotel facilities. The website www.marys.cz lists plenty of family friendly options such as Bilkova 18 in the Jewish quarter, which sleeps four and costs at €149 (£106) per night between March and November. Further information on all Prague's attractions, hotels and restaurants can be obtained from the tourist office: 00 420 224 212 209; www.prague-info.cz.

For a day trip I'd recommend Brussels. Under three hours from London by Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com) and with a day return costing around £59 at a weekend next month (£50 for children aged four-11), the city is much more than the capital of Euro bureaucracy, boasting spectacular architecture and acres of parks and woodland. Oh, and fantastic chocolate. The historic Grand Place is the place to start: a vast, pedestrianised square lined with exuberantly ornate houses, it is widely held to be one of Europe's finest and is scattered with numerous cafés selling delicious Belgian beer and moules-frites. Don't miss the Manneken-Pis fountain on the left hand side of the square: the statue of a little boy urinating is a beloved figure in Brussels that will guarantee some naughty giggling. He has a wardrobe of over 250 outfits which are changed regularly.

Also worth a look are the Royal Palace (00 32 2551 2020; www.monarchie.be; open 25 July-10 September, Tuesday-Sunday 10.30am-4.30pm; free) and the imposing House of Parliament (00 32 2551 2020; www.lachambre.be; Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm; free). In between is a pretty park with fountains, trees and a lovely playground. If you haven't filled your bags with chocolate and Belgian lace then the antique shops of the Place du Grand Sablon are worth a detour, and it's also a lovely place to grab some lunch, providing the sun is shining. You could also take your children to see the newly reopened Atomium (00 32 2475 4777; www.atomium.be; open daily 10am-6pm; €7/£5), a monument built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair representing a molecule of iron.

Finally, if you want to see a different face of Brussels, head to the stunning Bois de la Cambre, a leisure park open to joggers and cyclists, immediately south of Ixelles. This forest and lake is where the Bruxellois stroll in their chic clothes, walk their tiny dogs, and walk off all those waffles and chocolate. Contact the Belgian Tourist Office for further information: 020 7531 0390; www.belgiumtheplaceto.be

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
news

As anti-Semitic attacks rise, Grant Feller re-evaluates his identity

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Service Charge Accountant

    30,000 to 35,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: We are currently recruiting on...

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?