The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered

This Christmas, we are taking our three children (all under 10) to Wellington, New Zealand, to stay with relatives. We don't want to be under their feet the whole time, so would like to know where we can go and enjoy ourselves in and around the city.

Q. This Christmas, we are taking our three children (all under 10) to Wellington, New Zealand, to stay with relatives. We don't want to be under their feet the whole time, so would like to know where we can go and enjoy ourselves in and around the city.

Donna Griffiths, Harrow

A. Wellington must be one of the most family-friendly capital cities in the world. The city centre may be only 2km in diameter, but it's packed with attractions for children, all of which are within walking distance of each other. Start at Te Papa (00 64 4 381 7000, www.tepapa.govt.nz), situated on the waterfront. This interactive museum is so popular that last year it attracted 1.5 million visitors, nearly half the population of New Zealand. Its imaginative exhibits use both cutting edge technology and ancient traditions to introduce New Zealand's natural and cultural heritage. Your children can tell stories through cartoons, try their hand at traditional weaving, learn a bit of the Maori language through song, and even find out what it's like to experience an earthquake first hand. (Open daily 10am-6pm; Thurs 10am-9pm; admission free.)

While you're in the harbour area, be sure to take a tour of the waterfront. Hire a four-seater covered four-wheel bicycle from the Enormous Crocodile Company (00 64 4 902 2243), which costs £5.40 for half an hour or £7.45 for an hour, and travel by pedal power; or rollerblade your way around with skates from Cheapskates on Chaffers Street Park or Ferg's Rock 'n' Kayak at Queen's Wharf (from £3 an hour). Get closer to the water by taking a ferry ride from Queen's Wharf to Somes Island and Days Bay, the city's most popular beach. Westpac Trust Ferries (00 64 4 499 1282) sails to Days Bay, stopping at Somes Island (Mon-Fri, 12pm, Sat – Sun three times daily) and costs £4.80 per adult and about £2.80 per child. Or stroll across the City to Sea Bridge for the most spectacular views of the city and bay.

Directly under the City to Sea bridge is Capital E (00 64 4 384 8502, www.capitale.org.nz), an events centre specifically designed for children. The programme here varies, but there's always something on; children can write and film their own TV programme in the Children's ONTV studio, compose their own musical, browse in the Hocus Pocus toy shop or attend a performance in the McKenzie Theatre, Capital E's National Theatre for Children. (Open daily 10am-5pm; admission prices vary for theatre, exhibitions and activities.)

If your family prefers nature to culture, then Wellington Zoo (00 64 4 381 6750, www.wcc.govt.nz/recreation/zoo) is well worth a visit, particularly to see endangered species, such as the Sumatran tiger, sun bear and New Zealand's national symbol, the native brown kiwi. The zoo is 4km from the city centre at the end of the Newtown Park bus route (bus 10 or 23). A family ticket costs £8 for two adults and three children. The centre opens 9.30am-5pm daily.

For wildlife in the heart of the city, try the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (00 64 4 802 4860), an area of native forest teeming with birds and wildlife. The sanctuary helps to re-introduce endangered species to the wild and, early in 2002, it plans to release some tuatara, a native New Zealand reptile that pre-dates the dinosaurs (10am-4pm daily; adults £1.80, children 90p).

Just outside Wellington, on the Red Rocks coastal walk, New Zealand fur seals are the main attraction. The walk takes two to three hours, or you can take a four-wheel drive tour (from £30). For information on the walk and for tours, contact the Visitor Information Centre (00 64 4 802 4860) in Wellington at 101 Wakefield Street.

A final "must" for all visitors to Wellington is the famous, flaming-red cable car (00 64 4 472 2199, www.wellingtonnz.com/cablecar), one of the city's oldest and most popular attractions (Mon-Fri 7am-10pm; Sat, Sun and public holidays 9am-10pm; adult return around 85p; child return around 55p). The cable-car, which departs roughly every 10 minutes, journeys up under the motorway, through three tunnels, past Kelburn Park and Victoria University and on to the top entrance of the city's Botanic Gardens.

Various walks begin from this point and it is also where the Carter Observatory and Planetarium are located. For further information on family activities in Wellington, contact the New Zealand Tourist Board (09069 101010, www.purenz.com) or visit www.wellingtonnz.com. For information regarding family-friendly accommodation and activities across New Zealand, visit www.familystophere.com.

As you will have discovered, there are no direct flights from the UK to Wellington; most visitors change planes at Auckland.

Q. I am planning a short break to Seville during the spring half term with my two teenage children. They are both interested in history. Can you suggest some sightseeing or activities that we can do together?

Siobhan Guiney, via e-mail

A.As the fourth-largest city in Spain, Seville offers an abundance of things to do and see. It also has a rich and varied history and, as you explain that this is of particular interest, firstly, I would suggest a visit to Barrio de Santa Cruz. Here you will find Seville's cathedral (the third-largest Christian church in the world after St Peter's in Rome and St Paul's in London), which contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus. On the eastern side of the cathedral is the Giralda Tower, the minaret of a mosque built between 1184-1198. Watch how the colours change with the light. Practically adjoining the cathedral is the Alcázar Palace with its fine Moorish architecture and gardens. The palace was the court for the Catholic monarchs Isabel and Ferdinand as they prepared for the conquest of Granada.

On the western side of Plaza del Triunfo you'll find the Archivo de Indias, which documents Spain's colonisation of the Americas. Continuing along this theme, another trip you might want to take is to the Isla de Cartuja, north west of the centre across the Guadalquivir river. As the headquarters for New World trade in the 16th century, Seville has a grand maritime history, and the museum here displays models of historical ships and explains Seville's role during the Age of Discovery.

This area was the site of Expo '92 and is now home to an Imax cinema that screens films on space travel. There is also an 88-acre theme park here, Isla Mágica (00 34 95 448 7000, www.islamagica.es), based on 16th-century colonial adventure. Highlights include a roller coaster and Iguazú, a ride descending into a jungle waterfall (so take waterproofs). Adult passes cost £12; children under 13 pay £8.

After all this, I recommend you retire to Café de Indias (opposite the cathedral) and indulge in the very Spanish tradition of churros con chocolate – doughnut-like strips served with warm chocolate.

Plenty of short-break operators sell Seville. Citalia (020-8686 3638; www.citalia.com) offers a four-night break (based on four people) at Hotel Murillo, with return flights from Heathrow, for £295 per person.

For more information, contact the Spanish National Tourist Office on 020-7486 8077 or visit www.touristspain.es.

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