City break Guide: Barcelona with Young children
Perhaps you went to Barcelona pre children and you'd love to return, or maybe it's somewhere that's always been on your 'to do' list. Whichever it is, don't hesitate in taking your children with you. Barcelona is a fab, colourful city that will welcome your young children with open arms.
Here's our low down of when to go, where to stay in Barcelona as a family and the best things to do with young children there.
• The best time to go to Barcelona
• Shopping for baby products in Barcelona
• Places to Visit with young children
• Eating out with children
• Family Accommodation in Barcelona
October and November are also worth considering but there is much more rain in autumn than in spring. Accommodation prices are also far lower outside of school holidays so do take advantage if your children are preschool age. Do be aware of Spanish holidays such as Catalan National Day on the 11th of September and Labour day at the beginning of May when the city gets very busy.
Some stores will also close at around 14:00 on Saturday and not reopen again until Monday morning. Some small supermarkets (not unlike British corner shops) are open on Sundays (or indeed 24/7) but you may be hard pushed to find baby products in them.
The Nepalese supermarket at 138 Carrer der Comte D’Urgell (nearest Metro Stations: Urgell and Hospital Clinic) has a very basic range of nappies and baby food should you find yourself completely stuck. See our further information on baby milks, food and nappies sold in Spain.
The bright and colourful lizard fountain on the main steps and the ‘gingerbread houses’ near the park gates are particularly popular with young children. The park is best visited early in the day (before midday) or during an early evening promenade before dinner at around six or seven in the evening. The park is not particularly near any Metro stations (although this will change in the future) so bus 24 from Plaça de Catalunya which stops right outside the gates is the best public transport option.
Barcelona’s famous Ramblas are actually a collection of avenues which lead from the city centre all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea. The street does get very crowded in summer however the street entertainers (including human statues and even human towers) can be a great attraction for kids.
Do keep an eye on your wallet, phone and other personal belongings while on Las Ramblas though as if a pickpocket is going to strike it’s probably going to be here. Also be aware that the street is full of vendors selling irritating squeaky toys which your children may coax/bully you into buying.
Many guidebooks recommend the Barcelona Aquarium (Metro: Line 3 Drassanes or Line 4 Barceloneta) as ideal for children. This may be true on a very hot day but there are better aquariums in the UK (and elsewhere in Spain) and admission is not particularly cheap at €18 for adults and €13 for children aged 3 and up (children aged 0-2 enter for free).
No guide to Barcelona would be complete without a mention of Gaudi’s great unfinished cathedral (Metro Lines 2 and 5 Sagrada Familia). Admission is not cheap at €13 per person however under 10s get in free. Trips to the top of the towers cost an additional €3 but please remember that children under six are not allowed to visit the towers. While young children are not renowned for being architecture buffs the interior is truly breathtaking and its stone floors and high ceilings make it a cool haven on very hot days.
Inexplicably missing from most guidebooks CosmoCaixa is one of Europe’s best science museums and caters particularly well for toddlers and pre-school children. It has a combination of great hands on exhibits and informative yet incredibly visual displays.
Some parts of the museum are only open at weekends. The museum is excellent value at €3 for an adult ticket (€2 for those who have already ridden the Barcelona tour bus).
There are times when it’s best to avoid big tourist attractions with very young children especially if they are feeling somewhat overwhelmed by it all exhilarating. Thankfully Barcelona is also blessed with many smaller attractions for young children including playgrounds dotted roughly every 250 yards along main streets. These provide excellent rest stops for you and a chance for the kids to let off steam. There will often be a café nearby selling cool drinks and ice-cream.
At €24 for adults and €14 for children aged 4 and over the City Sightseeing tour is not a cheap option. However it will take you directly to some harder to reach tourist attractions. Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia are served by the blue tour and the Olympic stadium is served by the red tour (the green tour doesn’t go anywhere worth seeing).
The Teleferic de Montjuic cable-car (Metro lines 2 and 3 Paral-lel) provides stunning views of the city and is far cheaper than its counterpart in Barceloneta. A return ticket is €9.60
One of the best things about Barcelona is that it lets you combine a city-break with a trip to the seaside. The city’s beaches stretch for several miles along the Mediterranean Sea and offer generally calm seas and warm water.
The beaches at Barceloneta (Metro line 4) are by far the busiest and are not recommended for very young children. However they do offer the best facilities and largest number of restaurants. It can be marginally quieter if you head towards the W Hotel but this is still a busy stretch of sand.
On weekdays the beach at Mar Bella (Metro line 4 Poblenou) is far quieter and more relaxed with a string of snack bars selling child-friendly food located along the shore. Do be aware that part of this beach is popular with nudists, although most of the people sunbathing here do elect to remain covered.
Finally if you want real tranquillity then take a train north from Barcelona towards Girona and visit one of the many small towns along the line. Not only will you get a much quieter beach than you could ever hope to find in Barcelona but you’ll also escape from the hustle and bustle of the city for a day. Llançà, while a long journey at just under 2 hours by train, is well worth the visit.
Finally here’s a trump card you can use to help keep your kids on side as you see the city. From June until September at 56 Carrer de Roger de Lluria (Metro line 4 Girona or lines 2, 3 and 4 Passig de Gràcia) there is a large, shallow paddling pool which offers a refreshing escape from the heat of the summer. Admission is €1.50 per person and children under 12 months enter for free. The water is shallow and staff are around to supervise things. Adults are also welcome to take a dip if accompanying children!
Eating in Barcelona can be difficult for children used to British meal patterns. In Spain it is not unusual for children to eat dinner as late as 10 o’clock and British children used to eating tea at five may find this hard to adapt to.
An excellent solution to this is tapas bars. These sell small snack foods many of which will appeal even to less adventurous children. Croquettes (croquetas) are small bite-sized morsels stuffed with potato, meat or another vegetable and covered in orange breadcrumbs. This gives them the very useful quality of looking exactly like chicken nuggets! But if your children are willing to try new foods, then let them experience it all. Tapas is great for trying and sharing which is gives children a fully sociable eating experience.
If you want the best food, head for where the locals seem to be eating. But if you're a little less adventurous, restaurants catering for tourists are plentiful around the Sagrada Familia and the beaches of Barceloneta. If you’re hiring a babysitter for the evening it may be best to feed the kids here before heading out for the evening. While not terrific value it is possible to feed 4 in a restaurant like this for under €70 if you eat around Barceloneta.
A great option is to buy from the markets. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are fabulous as is the fresh fish. Your children will love it too.
Hotel accommodation in central Barcelona can get very expensive in high season as there is simply not enough of it. All the usual international chains are represented along with Spanish chains NH and Barceló. Independently owned accommodation is thin on the ground due to the city’s status as a hub of international trade.
Therefore apartment rental is the best option for a city break with children. Apartments can be a particularly good option for those with kids as they avoid families being split up in distant rooms or all being squashed into one room, all having to 'lights out' at the same time!
Best of all, it gives you the freedom to cook for yourself and enjoy all that fabulous seasonal, local produce. And, of course, you can eat to your own timetable if your child doesn't take to Spanish eating times.
Furthermore they provide an excellent base to return to should the midday heat prove a little too taxing or if your little one needs a nap. An excellent range of apartments can be found at Oh-Barcelona.com. The company also has expert advisors you can contact 7 days a week to discuss your family's particular requirements.