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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This article is available as an app through GPSMyCity if you want to read it offline wherever, and whenever. Click here to download the article, as well as for GPS coordinates of the locations listed.
Linking up with FARAWAY FILES and CITY TRIPPING
It’s such a fabulous city isn’t it – perfect for a family break! We loved it when we visited with our son, I would definitely go back and check off some of the things on your list Corey that we missed!
Impossible to do it all, Joy! Next time!!
Great post, I hope you to to see the amazing fountain at Montjuic with the family.
Thanks for the comment – we were only in Montjuic for a very short time as we took the cable there and walked down. Will be sure to check it out next time!
Barcelona is so much fun and a wonderful place to visit with kids. I had forgotten about the shady Parc de la Ciutadella until you mentioned it too. Ahh take me there now! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
I think Barcelona has moved up to my #1 favorite European city..for now at least!
So many fabulous reasons to visit Barcelona with kids here, Corey. It really is a brilliant place for families. Mine loved all the Gaudi, the cable car and even the Sagrada Familia had a big impression on them. Tibidabo sounds like the sort of amusement park even I might like. Wonderful share for #FarawayFiles
Thanks, Clare. Yes, if I liked Tibidabo, you probably would too. We are definately kindred spirits when it comes to amusement parks!
Such a comprehensive post! While we’ve done some of these things, there are many here we’ve yet to try…definitely saving this for our next, hopefully soon, visit! #farwayfiles
It’s been sounding like you guys may make it there soon – hope you do!
Love this post, I didn’t realise there was so much to do in Barcelona with kids! I loved the architecture in Barcelona when we visited. I can recommend visiting Casa Batillo, which is one of Gaudi’s buildiings. They have a fab augmented reality IPAD tour for kids if you go again. It really makes the tour interesting for younger ones. #CityTripping
Good to know! Casa Batillo was actually a big regret of ours – just can’t do everything..
The way everyone is headed to Barcelona is how here in Germany everyone is going to Croatia. It’s crazy how people zoom in on one location! But obviously for good reason, Barcelona is amazing! #CityTripping
I’ve been thinking the same thing – 2 years ago it was Iceland, the past year it’s been Barcelona, Croatia and Norway. I almost didn’t want to go for that reason but glad I went!
Barcelona is one of the most enchanting places for adults and kids alike. I still can’t get over your amusement park pictures, those rides look insane!
Insanity! I was so caught up in taking photos of them I missed actually riding some of them!
There is not doubt Barcelona offers a lot to visitors. There are certain things that are unique to the city. I am glad you spent five days there because it is not a place to rush things. I am a Madrid person. Therefore, I have never been a fan of Barcelona but cannot deny its appeal. #citytripping
I like both cities for different reasons. I lived in Madrid for 6 months when I studied abroad in college, and it will always have a piece of my heart. I can understand why you love it. But I think I may be more of a Barcelona girl!
I’d love to go back to Barcelona with my daughter – I’ve been a couple of times myself, always out of season and always have such a great trip. It was a hugely cloudy day when we went up Tibidabo though, the only view we got was white which was quite spooky! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping
Oh no. Definately go back to Tibidabo on a sunny day – I think you will have a change in heart!