Ever since we returned from our family vacation to Spain, people have been asking about our time in Barcelona. Everyone seems to be going – or wants to be going – to the Catalan city these days. And for good reason: who wouldn’t want to go to a European city set on the Mediterranean sea, with history-filled streets, cultural finds, excellent food and a bohemian beach-life vibe?
It’s all these reasons that brought me to the vibrant city 20 years ago, as a twenty-something studying abroad in Madrid. And it’s the same reasons that recently brought me back with my family and kids. Barcelona truly is a place for all types of people, and all ages. There is something for everyone in this fun, laid-back city, and there is so much to do with kids.
We spent 5 days in Barcelona, and my girls had a blast, from the beaches to the kid-friendly museums to the parks to the gelato, to even Barcelona’s own amusement park! Here’s our guide to the top things to see and do with kids.
Head to the Beach
A major reason families love visiting Barcelona, is its location on the Mediterranean sea. Anywhere there’s a beach, you can be sure to have happy kids. There are several beaches, Barceloneta beach probably being the most popular as it’s the closest to the city center. It’s easy to get to, and we just walked to it from our hotel in the Gothic Quarter. There are restaurants nearby, beach shacks and people selling umbrellas and chairs. We spent an afternoon on the beach, chilling and decompressing from all the site-seeing.
Visit Tibidabo Amusement Park
Tibidabo amusement park is one of the coolest places I’ve been to, and this is coming from someone who hates amusement parks and the crowds that go with them! My girls absolutely loved Tibidabo, it was probably their favorite part of the whole trip. Set atop the highest peak of Barcelona, we accessed the park by taking a furnicular up the hill to the entrance. Right away, the adventure began.
Once you arrive to the top you’re treated with incredible, panoramic views of the city, and rides that look like they might take off over the cityscape. One of the oldest amusement parks in Europe, it’s really like no other place you’ve been to.
Take a Stroll in Park Guell
In my post entitled Experiencing the Magic of Gaudi with Kids I explain why Antoni Gaudi’s work is just as enticing for kids as it is for adults. His whimsical, playful designs, full of colors and details, are beloved and appreciated by all ages. They come alive in Park Guell, a public park just outside the city center, where you can find gingerbread houses, animal mosaics, park bench mosaics, and lots of secret spots to run around and explore. Truly one of a kind, Park Guell is great fun to walk around. There are gardens to see as well, and a path that takes you up a hill and to the top where you can look out over the city.
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Explore the Neighborhoods, and the Food
Some of our best days were when we just aimlessly walked around, taking in the scenery of narrow cobble-stoned streets, architectural finds and the hustle and bustle of shoppers. We particularly enjoyed walking around the Gothic Quarter and El Born districts, where there’s so much character, history and beautiful buildings that even our girls were content on their feet.
We always made sure to make stops for a good lunch and gelato later on. Every restaurant we went to welcomed kids with arms wide open, we never had a problem. Catalonians love kids! The food in Barcelona is so fresh, from the fish to the produce, that every meal we had was delicious. Just as we did in Rome and Florence, we had gelato every day, and it’s always a great way to entice the kids to walk that much further.
Hang out in Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona’s main city park, here you fill find playgrounds, walking paths, a lake with row boats, street entertainers, and Barcelona’s zoo. We did not go to the zoo, but we did take a boat ride and wander around. Bordering the El Born neighborhood, the park is a nice respite from busy city life, and is very central and easy to get to.
Enjoy Art at the Picasso Museum
Also located in El Born is the Picasso Museum, one of the most well-known and extensive collections of Pablo Picasso’s work. Perhaps not for toddlers, but older kids will enjoy seeing many of Picasso’s pieces from when he was a young boy. My artsy younger daughter loved seeing the art, and my math-geared older daughter loved trying to figure out his age for each piece of work! Go figure.
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Explore the Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s greatest creation (and still being built), is one of the most stunning cathedrals in the world. Though kids don’t typically love going to churches, this one is so special and unusual that you’d be hard-pressed not to be wow’d by it. The colorful stained glass alone is sure to draw in the kids. You simply can’t go to Barcelona and not see the Sagrada Familia! We saw it on our own, but there are several tour operators that offer family-friendly tours.
Go for a Ride on Barcelona’s Port Cable Car
There is a cable car that travels between Barceloneta beach and Montjuic, also known as the Teleferico del Puerto. It lasts about 10 minutes, giving you amazing views of the city and Mediterranean Sea. It’s a really great way to see the city from up above. I wouldn’t say this is a necessary activity, but if your kids are into this kind of thing, then it’s great fun for them to do. Lines can be long, though, so be prepared for a wait.
Experience the under-water sea world at L’Aquarium
One of Barcelona’s most popular attractions, L’Aquarium is Europe’s largest aquarium, housing several different aquariums including the Oceanarium, mediterranean aquariums, tropical aquariums and more. We did not visit the aquarium, but know many families who do and say it’s – of course – a lot of fun for the kids and a great way to break up the site-seeing.
Take a Day trip to Montserrat
If you have the time, leave the city and explore Montserrat, the unusually beautiful mountain range and monastery an hour outside of Barcelona. This day trip was a real highlight for us. The thing that made it so fun for the kids was all the different modes of transportation it offered. We took the train out from Placa de Espanya, caught a cable car up the mountain to the base where the monastery is, and from there took a furnicular up to the top where we explored trails. It was adventurous and fun, and you can read more about it in my dedicated post Barcelona Day Trip: A Visit to Mesmerizing Montserrat.
Barcelona is a beautiful city, one that has that wonderful combination of city culture-meets-beach life. I keep telling people – if you want the perfect European city to take the family, where all tastes can be met – go to Barcelona! There is something for everyone.
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