Having revolutionised the holiday market in the Netherlands more than 30 years ago and now the market leader in short breaks with kids, Center Parcs Europe offers 24 holiday villages in easily accessible locations on the Continent at competitive prices. There are 9 Parcs in the Netherlands, 6 in France, 6 in Germany and 3 in Belgium. Most are just a few hours drive from Calais. All boast natural environments and while there are man-made attractions to keep everyone entertained, the overall feeling is of being back with nature.
Scroll down to see our hand-picked recommendations for self-catering holiday villages in some fantastic locations around Europe.
What does Center Parcs Europe Offer
Center Parcs Europe are decked out stylishly, and that includes the accommodation. Your kids will love the wooden chalets on stilts nestled around the edge of a lake, log cabins in the woods and even houseboats and jungle cabanas! On the whole, this is an eco-friendly experience with stylish accommodation but there are a few choices shamelessly hell-bent on appealing to the youngsters – and it works! New Generation Kids’ cottages are decked out in bright primary colours and have playrooms stuffed to the rafters with toys. You’ll find fenced decking to keep everyone safe and your kids can enjoy their own playhouse and slide.
You don’t have to set a foot outside the resorts if you don’t want to. Shops and restaurants are plentiful and the huge list of activities to keep everyone busy ranges from the healthy and the wholesome to the downright peculiar. Children’s creativity and resilience is harnessed and they’ll love the challenges. Water sports abound, from banana boats to dinghy sailing and canoeing. There’s also abseiling, tennis, cycling, archery, indoor sports, horse riding as well as battling it out over the likes of Paint Ball and Aqua Battle, which takes place on a floating platform and involves swimming, diving, jumping, balancing skilfully and solving puzzles – and getting wet! All perfect for breaking the ice and making some friends.
The Kids’ clubs pull out all the old favourites; face-painting, story-telling, painting, crafts and cooking as well as the inspiring Wannabe Programme (where dreams become reality). When it does rain, there’s still plenty to do, the most obvious one being to head to the watery sub-tropical paradise of Aqua Mundo (included) and ignore the irony. Kids and grown-ups will happily hang out here all day, trying out the slides and riding the waves.
Which Parcs to Consider
The Parcs are generally highly rated by families. The closest ones to Calais are De Vossemeren and Erpeheide in Belgium. In the summer you can also enjoy very nearby beaches in the Netherlands at Port Zelande and Park Zaandvoort or Park Nordseekueste in Germany. Need a city fix? Combine De Eemhof with Amsterdam or Villages Natures with Paris and Disneyland. De Kempervennen (next to an indoor ski centre) and De Vossemeren are a short drive from the brilliant Efteling theme park near Eindhoven. Further afield is a recent addition, Park Allgau in the German Alps.