If you are looking for an amazing family adventure, give Barcelona with kids a try!
Barcelona With Kids – Food and Fun
Traveling to Barcelona with kids will make unforgettable family memories to last forever. From the food to the spectacular sights, Barcelona should be on your family travel bucket list. If you are planning a trip to Spain, I guarantee that a trip to Barcelona will bring back an appreciation for all sorts of new tastes and experiences that you cannot get in other parts of the country. Barcelona is the capital of a region within Spain called Catalunya. If you listen closely, you will hear Catalan in addition to Spanish, and you will experience food and culture different than anywhere else you might roam.
Barcelona – Getting There
During peak season – May through September – more U.S. cities offer direct flights to Barcelona. If you are traveling off-season you might need to make a connection. Barcelona, located in the northeast corner of Spain, on the coast, is accessible by plane or even high speed train. When I traveled to Barcelona with my twins (12), we flew direct to Heathrow and spent a few days in London before taking another flight to Barcelona. A quick visit in London was a great way to get my kids acclimated to being abroad without being in a new time zone, a new country, and being immersed in another language. By the time we were heading to the airport to say bye to England and start the Spanish portion of our adventures, the kids were feeling pretty confident as international travelers and they were also no longer jet-lagged. Win-win for mom.
Barcelona – Where To Stay
Barcelona has a lot of options when it comes to places to stay. AirBnB is popular with many visitors but there are also a wide array of excellent hotels- large recognizable chains as well as small boutique spots. We stayed at the Hilton Barcelona in Barcelona’s financial district and were very happy with our beautiful room, delicious snacks and wine at happy hour. The staff was always kind and helpful and welcomed our children. Our friends stayed at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos – complete with palm trees and beautiful pools (indoor and out) and lounge chairs if you are into that sort of thing. I confess that the Fairmont was my first choice but they were sold out by the time I committed to booking a hotel. Next time…
Barcelona – Getting Around
From the neighborhood around our hotel, it was very easy to walk to good food and some shopping and we could also easily get to a bus or the underground subway. We purchased 10-ride Metro cards that could be used by the three of us – myself and the twins – as we popped from place to place around the city. We found public transportation to be so easy, affordable, and convenient. If you are a fan of Uber, Uber was our go-to option for getting to our dinner reservation on time or getting to the train station with our bags.
Barcelona – What To See
Barcelona is home to 9 UNESCO world heritage sites so there really is no shortage of things to see but, with limited time, you probably can’t see it all! With that in mind, Barcelona is famous for two very important people – Antoni Gaudi and Pablo Picasso. Gaudi, a renowned Modernist architect, has over 30 buildings scattered about Barcelona but two spots in particular are worth a special visit – Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia, and, if you have to pick just one museum on your trip, the Pablo Picasso museum is a manageable size and the kids will enjoy it as much as the adults.
Park Guell – Even in the pouring rain, we loved hiking through Park Guell. This colorful park designed by Gaudi overlooks the city of Barcelona. The views were spectacular and there were a lot of opportunities to wander around various paths curving around the park.
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia – At first, I was skeptical. Could the Sagrada Familia live up to the hype – and the price tag? I knew I had to visit and climb the tower, but I was hoping I wouldn’t regret it. Thankfully, the Sagrada Familia did not disappoint.
In order to secure a time to climb one of the Basilica towers, you must make your reservations ahead of time. Your ticket includes a pre-recorded headset so you can take a self-guided tour. We all enjoyed this immensely. I would say that kids 10 and over will get a lot out of the self-guided tour – it’s easy to understand and my children enjoyed controlling their own pace. We all loved the views once we reached the top of the Passion Tower. The views of Barcelona were stunning. When we came down, and sadly decided we had explored enough, we rewarded ourselves with gelato.
Beautiful Views Everywhere
Sardana Dances and Street Performers – The traditional national dance of Catalunya is the sardana. We happened across a group performing a traditional sardana dance in front of the Barcelona Cathedral alongside a few “gegants” – or gigantes – giants. These big-headed gegants are a rather terrifying cultural tradition and while I hope you have the opportunity to see some, be warned that they might give you nightmares.
Barcelona Markets – Barcelona is home to almost 40 fresh air markets. Markets are very much a part of the Catalan culture. La Boqueria is one of the best-known markets in Barcelona because of its proximity to Las Ramblas. If you are looking for any type of meat or fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, juice, olives, or bread – you can find it at the market. A current trend with neighborhood markets is to partner with a traditional supermarket. The supermarket helps fund some updates to the market structure and then the super market is strategically placed at the entrance to the market helping patrons get all their shopping done in one place. Need paper napkins or cereal AND fresh fish? No problem.
Time For A Day Trip? Visit Montserrat
If you have time while visiting Barcelona, take a day trip to Montserrat. We went to the Plaza Espanya train station, looked for line R5, and got a round trip ticket to Montserrat. In about an hour, we were at the base of a beautiful series of mountain ranges, patiently waiting our turn to get on the bright yellow cable car. You can access Montserrat via mountainside train or cable car. We unanimously decided that we had to take the cable car and it was a beautiful ride.
Montserrat has been one of the most visited pilgrimage sites of the Catalunya region for thousands of years. Montserrat is a beautiful, jagged mountain scene surrounded by hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty. After exploring the monastery and cathedral, we ate some lunch and went on a hike before walking around the cliffs again and just soaking up the beautiful views. Montserrat was one of the most enjoyable parts of our adventure. When we had our fill of the beautiful fresh air and gorgeous views, we got in line to take our yellow cable car back down to the train and return to Barcelona by dinner time.
Montserrat Travel Tip: The only down side to taking the cable car up and down from Montserrat happens at the end of the day … when you are tired and would just like to sit down on the train back to Barcelona. If you took the rack railway back down the mountain to catch your train to Barcelona instead of the cable car, you will board the train heading back to Plaza Espanya first. Those of us who took the cable car down the mountain did not get a seat on the crowded train and found ourselves standing for most of the hour. Something to think about.
Barcelona – What to Eat
The short answer to what to eat in Barcelona is everything! The kids and I planned to do a walking food tour on our first morning in the city through an amazing company called Devour Barcelona. I imagine that because we were traveling the very first week of May and taking this tour on a weekday morning, we had the pleasure of having the tour guide all to ourselves. Devour Barcelona has a variety of food (and drink!) tour options allowing visitors new to the city the opportunity to taste a wide variety of local food and check out some hidden gems that they might not find on their own.
We explored the neighborhood restaurants around an area called Gracia. Not only did we learn about – and taste – amazing food as we spent almost 4 hours exploring, we also learned a lot about the history of the separatist movement in Barcelona and the struggle some citizens have between welcoming tourists because of the dollars they bring but also feeling like their city and their culture is being sacrificed in the process.
Barcelona With Kids – Must try foods
When in Barcelona, you must try the fideua – it is very similar to paella but it substitutes thin noodles for rice. My personal favorite food was the crema catalan – this is like creme brulee but it is flavored with citrus and cinnamon. Absolutely delicious!
My son tried to eat anchovies every day – and I dare say he succeeded. My daughter was on a hunt for the perfect patatas bravas – crispy potatoes topped with a spicy red cream sauce. Julia learned to debone her own fish at dinner one night and the twins both could decipher a menu with ease by the time we left.
You must not leave Barcelona without finding churros con chocolate. My twins cannot have churros (ah, the gluten! churros are like donuts only better!) but they were in love with the super thick chocolate. It is like hot chocolate that you have to eat with a spoon because it is so thick! Believe it or not, we even found a Harry Potter themed chocolate shop within walking distance from our hotel. Win-win.
The twins were already making plans for their next international adventure before we had even left the airport. A trip to Barcelona with kids is an accessible and memorable adventure that will be enjoyed all.
For More Information …
For more information, my favorite travel books were Rick Steves’ Barcelona and Rick Steves’ Pocket Barcelona. Definitely check them out! Both were great resources and my kids enjoyed reading them as well.