Best UK city breaks for families
Take the family on a fabulous foodie half-term break. We’ve selected three stunning UK cities that serve up great food and fun in equal measure.
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Book a holiday that will satisfy kids and adults alike with Good Food's favourite foodie city breaks. Get your fill of museums, good pubs and creative food for every palate. We've picked our favourite family-friendly hotels, local activities and kid-approved restaurants.
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Best for... world class museums and international cuisine
Scotland’s compact and beautiful capital is a joy to explore with children. Start with Mercat Tours' Gory Stories daytime walk (age five and over) for accounts of body snatching, witches and torture, ending in the creepy Blair Street Underground Vaults. An excellent antidote to the gloomy, if fascinating, vaults is The City Cafe across the road, with American diner décor, burgers (£9.50-11) and milkshakes. The National Museum of Scotland is a wonderful mish-mash of science, fashion, nature, art, technology and design. Once you’ve had your fill of dinosaurs, stars and stuffed foxes, head to Mary’s Milk Bar on Grassmarket to choose treats from the daily changing ice cream menu (from £2 per scoop). Flavours are seasonal and the ice cream is freshly made every day by Mary, who trained in gelato-making in Italy.Cafe Hub, close to Edinburgh Castle at the atmospheric home of the Edinburgh International Festival, is popular but spacious, and has a very decent children's menu as well as delicious cakes. The nearby Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is open well into the evening — a good way to round off a day of sightseeing. The last Camera Obscura show starts 30 minutes before sunset. Allow at least two hours to explore the five floors of interactive, hands-on exhibits.
A short walk away is the excellent Italian restaurant Vittoria on the Bridge, which welcomes children in an authentic Italian manner (three-course kids’ menus £8.50, with £1 donated to children’s charity Cash for Kids). It’s just one of many places with an Italian connection in the city – including Scotland’s oldest delicatessen, Valvona & Crolla, founded in 1934 to serve the fledgling Italian community. The shop on Elm Row, near Leith Walk, is the perfect place to pick up picnic ingredients. Scandi-influenced Hemma has a lovely kids’ menu, table football and play area. It’s a popular place for weekend brunch, with families gathering over dishes such as brioche French toast (dishes from £4).Wander to leafy Stockbridge for the Royal Botanic Garden and the Sunday market in the Jubilee Gardens, with stalls offering street food, seafood and cakes. While here, try Tom Kitchin’s gastropub, The Scran & Scallie, which has a children’s menu of pub classics (dishes around £7), plus a playroom full of toys for when the grown-up conversation gets a bit dull. There are lots of good coffee shops here, too – pick up locally roasted beans (£6/250g) at Mr Eion in Dean Park Street. Where to stay
The Adagio Aparthotel is right on the Royal Mile, with almost everything a short walk away, plus the benefits of a centrally-located self-catering apartment and a fitness room, continental breakfast and table football. Get supplies from the small food market in a new public square right behind the building. Rooms start at £59. Get more information at accorhotels.com. For more info, see visitscotland.com.
Best for... King Arthur history, good food, pubs and otters
Winchester is the perfect-sized city for a half-term break. You can walk to most of the sights without exhausting yourself or the kids, there are green spaces everywhere for letting off steam, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities for a pit-stop with good food. People have lived in Winchester since the Iron Age, including the Romans and, more excitingly for kids, King Arthur. You can gaze up at the Round Table (not actually his, but who’s quibbling?) hanging in the Great Hall of the castle.The impressive cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried, has the longest Gothic nave in Europe, and if it’s been particularly rainy, visit Antony Gormley’s life-sized statue of a man in the crypt where he’ll be up to his ankles in flood water. Combining food and history, Winchester City Mill still produces wholemeal flour, and there are lots of activities for kids to take part in. Pick up a bag of flour as you exit via the gift shop. And they have otters; follow @WCMOtters on Twitter for sightings and the otter cam. Trainspotters should walk or cycle along the Viaduct Way Trail, a good long walk to work up an appetite for lunch, or drive out to Alresford for a trip on a restored steam train along the Watercress line.
Winchester city centre has just about every well-known restaurant and café chain. River Cottage have an outpost called Canteen, there’s Rick Stein, and if you want a Michelin-starred meal, The Black Rat is where you should be. Prefer independent and local? There are plenty of choices, including some very fine pubs. The Wykeham Arms, near the cathedral, serves a warming pie with cheddar mash (£12.50) and sandwiches from £7.50. Up the hill behind the station, St James Tavern has some good vegetarian mains including spiced dhal with squash and ras-el-hanout carrots (£12.95). A list of local suppliers is written on a mirror, and there’s a kids’ menu, two courses for £9. For breakfast, lunch or tea try Forte Kitchen on Parchment Street. Door-stop sandwiches include a confit duck toastie with cranberry and Wensleydale (£8.25), there’s a cream tea for £8.50, and Scotch pancakes with roasted banana & salted toffee sauce for breakfast (£7.50). For brunch, keep an eye out for the Corner House, it was based at the other end of Parchment Street but is moving to a new town centre venue this year (part of the littlepubgroup.co.uk).Where to stayThe Winchester Royal Hotel, a former Bishop’s residence and convent, is close to the city centre and has rooms big enough for families. Special rate for Good Food readers: £89 B&B in a standard double or twin room based on two people sharing, Sunday-Thursday only, valid until 31 March 2019 (subject to availability). Quote GFWR18 when booking. Children under 12 stay free. The average rate in this period is £109 room only. For more info, see visitwinchester.co.uk.
Best for... fun historic sights and creative contemporary food
Most kids hate to walk but add in the chance to climb walls? Enclosed by the most complete Roman-medieval walls in the country, Chester is a great place to do both. Walk the walls’ two-mile stretch, following in the footsteps of Roman soldiers, medieval archers and Georgian promenaders (parts of the wall were widened to accommodate bustle skirts), while getting panoramic views of the river and city with its cathedral, castle and remains of a Roman amphitheatre. Tucked neatly into a tiny ginnel against the walls, Porta serves inventive Spanish food by Chester’s powerhouse Wright brothers, whose fine dining venue Joseph Benjamin is next door. Porta’s small plates include such family favourites as plump croquetas, patatas bravas and exemplary tortilla, along with grown-up dishes like chorizo lentil stew. Plates £2.50-£10 (no bookings).
Chester excels at good independents, such as the family-run Cheese Shop, a must for smoked Cheshire and golden Cheshire brie. Taste Cheshire Farmers’ Market, (every third Saturday) is another good place to sample the riches of the surrounding farmland. Raining? Retreat to the brilliant Storyhouse, a theatre, cinema and library-bookshop. Its restaurant The Kitchen serves refined eastern Mediterranean food including crispy halloumi and fattoush, from £3-7.
Well worth a visit, Chester Zoo is where BBC One’s Our Zoo found its subject, the first zoo ‘without bars’ when it was founded in the 1930s. Further east, in Northwich, displays at Lion Salt Works bring to life the story of the UK’s last inland open-pans, where salt extraction dates from Roman times to the 1980s. Stop in nearby Great Budworth – Cheshire’s ‘most picturesque village’ – for some of the ice cream that puts the county on the map, at New Westage Farm.
Where to stay
Right on the rows, Chester Grosvenor, home to the Michelin-starred Simon Radley, has double rooms from £165 per night, B&B. A la carte breakfasts are refined, and generous, served in the swanky new champagne bar area. For further family-friendly dining recommendations, check out our guide on the best restaurants in Chester. For more info, see visitcheshire.com.
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Assistance for this feature was supplied by The Adagio Aparthotel & Visit Scotland; The Winchester Royal Hotel & Visit Winchester; The Chester Grosvenor Hotel & Chester Tourism.
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