While Greece doesn't cater to kids the way that some countries do, children will be welcomed and included wherever you go. Greeks generally make a fuss over children, who may find themselves receiving many gifts and treats. Teach them some Greek words and they'll feel even more appreciated.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Athens

With ruins to clamber over, plus museums and child-geared sights to explore, Athens is great for kids. You'll also find big parks and gardens, a variety of cuisines and family-friendly hotels.

  • Crete

The island's beaches are long and sandy, Knossos ignites kids' imaginations, and you can explore from a single base, side-stepping the need to pack up and move around.

  • Dodecanese

The magical forts and castles, glorious beaches, laid-back islands, and speedy catamarans linking the Dodecanese daily make it ideal for families. And the Italian influence means an abundance of kid-friendly pasta dishes.

  • Northern Greece

Offers slightly lower summertime temperatures, Ottoman patisseries and Halkidiki's beaches. Laid-back Ioannina makes a great base and Parga is popular with families. Sithonia is less crowded but also less family-friendly than the rest of Halkidiki.

Greece for Kids

Sights & Activities

While even the most modern Greek museums are often filled to the gills with relics and objects that not all children will appreciate, the ancient palace-like settings can be intriguing for kids to wander through. The stories behind the objects can also captivate their imaginations – ancient statues hauled up from the depths of the sea or helmets worn by gladiators. Generally more popular than the museums are the many ancient sights where kids enjoy climbing and exploring.

The beach is one of the best sources of entertainment for children in Greece. In summer, many of the larger, popular beaches have bodyboards, surfboards, snorkelling gear and windsurfing equipment for rent. Many also offer lessons or trips on boats or giant, rubber, air-filled bananas. While some beaches have steep drop-offs or strong currents, there is generally a calmer side to each island or a shallow, protected bay that locals can direct you to.

Most towns will have at least a small playground, while larger cities often have fantastic, modern play parks. In many cases, you can admire children's innate ability to overcome language barriers through play while you enjoy a coffee and pastry at the park's attached cafe. Some of the larger and more popular locations (such as Rhodes, Crete and Athens) also have water parks.

Dining Out

Greek cuisine is all about sharing; ordering lots of mezedhes (small dishes) lets your children try the local cuisine and find their favourites. You'll also find lots of kid-friendly options such as pizza and pasta, omelettes, chips, bread, savoury pies and yoghurt.

The fast service in most restaurants is good news when it comes to feeding hungry kids. Tavernas are very family-friendly affairs and the owners will generally be more than willing to cater to your children's tastes. Ingredients such as nuts and dairy find their way into lots of dishes so if your children suffer from any severe allergies, it's best to ask someone to write this down for you clearly in plain Greek to show restaurant staff.

Accommodation

Many hotels let small children stay for free and will squeeze an extra bed in the room. In all but the smallest hotels, travel cots can often be found, but it's always best to check in advance. Larger hotels and resorts often have package deals for families and these places are generally set up to cater to kids with childcare options, adjoining rooms, paddling pools, cots and high chairs.

Safety

Greece is a safe and easy place to travel with children. Greek children are given a huge amount of freedom and can often be seen playing in village squares and playgrounds late into the night. Nevertheless, it's wise to be extra vigilant with children when travelling, and to ensure they always know where to go and who to approach for help. This is especially true on beaches or in playgrounds where it's easy for children to become disoriented. It's also prudent not to have your children use bags, clothing, towels etc with their name or personal information (such as national flag) stitched onto them; this kind of information could be used by potential predators to pretend to know you or the child.

Dangers children are far more likely to encounter are heatstroke, water-borne bugs and illness, mosquito bites, and cuts and scrapes from climbing around on ancient ruins and crumbling castles. Most islands have a clinic of some sort, although hours may be irregular so it's handy to carry a first-aid kid with basic medicine and bandages.

Children's Highlights

Keep Busy

  • Boat trips Whether it's zipping over the sea in a catamaran, bobbing up and down in a fishing boat or sailing on a day trip to a secluded bay.
  • Kayaking Paddle alongside dolphins and visit pirate coves off Kefallonia.
  • Beach time Jump waves, build sandcastles and snorkel. Always ask locally for kid-friendly beaches; Patmos is a great place to start.
  • Cycling Use pedal-power along the flat, bike-friendly roads of Kos.
  • Playgrounds Every city has one and they are most often well maintained and shady.

Explore

  • Acropolis The home of the Greek gods is perfect for exploring early in the day.
  • Rhodes' medieval castles The island of Rhodes is packed with crumbling castles perched on cliffs above the sea – perfect for climbing and make-believe.
  • Knossos Young imaginations go into overdrive when let loose in this labyrinth.
  • Nisyros' volcano See it hiss and hear it bubble.

Eat Up

  • Yemista Veggies (usually tomatoes) stuffed with rice.
  • Pastitsio Buttery macaroni baked with minced lamb.
  • Tzatziki A sauce or dip made from cucumber, yoghurt and garlic.
  • Loukoumadhes Ball-shaped doughnuts served with honey and cinnamon.
  • Galaktoboureko Custard-filled pastry.
  • Politiko pagoto Constantinople-style (slightly chewy) ice cream made with mastic.

Cool Culture

  • Carnival season Fancy dress, parades and traditional dancing will keep even the oldest kids enthralled.
  • Football Snag tickets for a game to catch some national spirit. Athens and Thessaloniki stadiums draw the biggest crowds.
  • Hellenic Children's Museum Build, bake and investigate alongside Athenian kids in this museum's brand-new location.

Planning

When to Go

The shoulder seasons (April to May and September to October) are great times to travel with children because the weather is milder and the crowds thinner.

Before You Go

An excellent way to prepare your kids for their holiday and to encourage an active interest in the destination is by introducing them to some books or DVDs ahead of time. Lots of younger children enjoy stories of Greek gods and Greek myths while slightly older kids will enjoy movies like Mamma Mia or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for their Greek settings. You can also find children's books about life in Greece that include a few easy phrases that your kids can try out.

What to Pack

  • Travel high chair (either an inflatable booster seat or a cloth one that attaches to the back of a chair; these are light and easy to pack away)
  • Lightweight pop-up cot for babies (if travelling to remote locations)
  • Car seats (rental agencies don't always offer these)
  • Plastic cups and cutlery for little ones
  • Medicine, inhalers etc along with prescriptions
  • Motion-sickness medicine and mosquito repellent
  • Hats, waterproof sunscreen, sunglasses and water bottles

Shopping

Fresh milk is available in large towns and tourist areas, but harder to find on smaller islands. Supermarkets are the best place to look. Formula is available almost everywhere, as is heat-treated milk. Disposable nappies are also available everywhere, although it's wise to take extra supplies of all of these things to out-of-the-way islands in case of local shortages.

Transport

Travel on ferries, buses and trains is free for children under four. For those up to age 10 (ferries) or 12 (buses and trains) the fare is half. Full fares apply otherwise. On domestic flights, you'll pay 10% of the adult fare to have a child under two sitting on your knee. Kids aged two to 12 travel with half-fare. If you plan to hire a car, it's wise to bring your own car seat or booster seat as rental agencies are not always reliable for these, particularly on small islands or with local agencies.

If your kids aren't old enough to walk on their own for long, consider a sturdy carrying backpack; pushchairs (strollers) are a struggle in towns and villages with slippery cobblestones and high pavements. Nevertheless, if the pushchair is a sturdy, off-road style, with a bit of an extra push you should be OK.

Useful Websites

  • My Little Nomads (www.santorinidave.com/greece-with-kids) For plenty of recommendations and hearty discussion on visiting Greece with kids, visit David Hogg's site.
  • Travel Guide to Greece (www.greektravel.com) Matt Barrett's website has lots of useful tips for parents
  • Greece 4 Kids (www.greece4kids.com) Matt Barrett's daughter Amarandi has put together some tips of her own.