Barcelona is only a short flight from London. It incorporates a city break, a beach trip and has lots to do for adults and children. It makes it the ideal family weekend trip! Here are my 6 tips to help you plan visiting Barcelona with kids.
Barcelona with Kids Tip #1: Parc Güell
A trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Parc Güell, Gaudí’s public park composed of beautiful gardens and rich architecture.
Without even meaning to, we spent a whole afternoon in Parc Güell. Although the park is large and busy there is a certain peace and calm to it. We strolled all around the gardens following the park’s winding paths and had a picnic (and an improvised nappy change!) on one of the benches under the shade of the palm trees. We even found a little hidden play park where Eva had her first go on a swing.
Entry to the park is free. If you want to visit the Monumental Zone though, which is the area of the park containing Gaudí’s main buildings and mosaics, there is an entrance fee (with entry time slots). From the main terrace, surrounded by a long mosaic bench, you have views of Barcelona for miles. We found it worth the entry fee to experience the beautiful architecture. The unusual shapes and colours of the buildings and mosaics are sure to interest the kids too!
Parc Güell is a must-see for parents and children alike! The size of the park alone is a great way for the kids to burn some energy! And if you keep your eyes peeled you may even spot some of the park’s local parrots flying between the palm trees overhead!
Barcelona with Kids Tip #2: Walk Everywhere
My second tip for a visiting Barcelona with kids is to walk everywhere, where possible. We stayed in an apartment in a small district called Gràcia. It’s a beautiful little neighborhood with just the right mix of quiet and vibrant. Plus, we found everywhere fairly accessible from here.
On our second day we wandered down Las Ramblas to the gothic quarter. On our way, we stopped off along the way to admire the Gothic buildings and do some window shopping. We stumbled upon a beautiful Cathedral where we sat in the square to have lunch. This wasn’t part of our plan and these are the things I feel you miss out on if you take the Metro or a taxi straight to your destination. From here we headed down to the beach, again stopping off in shops and an amazing ice-cream café – Gelataria Italiana Giovanni – along the way! This was the only night we took the metro home, after we were all feeling a little drained from the sun, sea breeze and a huge pan of paella!
Barcelona with Kids Tip #3: Eat local and pack lunch
We are both big foodies! Generally when we travel, we prefer to look for where the locals go to eat. If you see a restaurant is full of tourists, chances are you will be paying tourist prices for lower quality food and dishes which may be stereotypical but not actually very traditional. Encourage your kids to try the local food. Tapas are a great way for them to try a little bit of everything! Look out for small bakeries and coffee shops too. On one of our wanders home after dinner we passed a bakery with GIANT chocolate croissants in the window! Well obviously this was the best advertising ever and I couldn’t resist but to go in and buy one!
Barcelona with Kids Tip #4: Pack lunch
Even finding spots popular with the locals, eating out for every meal when you are on holiday can get expensive. When we arrived in Barcelona we went to a local grocery store to stock up on some breakfast and lunch essentials. This meant that there was no rush (if there’s one thing I hate it’s rushing!) to get out of the apartment for breakfast in the morning whilst trying to get ourselves and a baby ready and also pack all the essentials for our day. It also meant we could pack snacks and a picnic lunch to take out with us! We could stop somewhere picturesque to eat along our way, and didn’t have to find somewhere to eat in a hurry when Eva started to get hungry. We would then find a restaurant for dinner either based on recommendations or just somewhere that caught our eye in passing.
Barcelona with Kids Tip #5: Barceloneta Beach
Usually when you go on holiday you choose between either a City Break or a Beach Break – well Barcelona offers both. Barceloneta is the main and most widely known city beach in Barcelona. Although you can get the metro down to the beach, it is only a short walk from Las Ramblas and there is a lot to see on the way. We passed the marina, which was worth it to see all the big yachts and cruise ships moored there. We also saw a few shops and lots of restaurants, giving us an idea of where we might stop for dinner later.
From the beach you will see the striking W Hotel in the distance. There are a few beachfront bars under the hotel which offer heated patios and a great view of the beach. On recommendations from friends we decided to try out Pez Vela Chiringuito for Paella. Although quite expensive for a small portion, it was definitely delicious and Eva loved trying it too.
The beach is great for kids, even if the water is not warm enough to swim. They’ll love playing in the sand! Afterwards, you can take a walk around the sea front, then down the Passeig Maritim to soak up the pleasant atmosphere. (Towards the W Hotel this area of the beach is quieter.) There are also several other city beaches in Barcelona if you prefer to avoid the crowds of Barceloneta.
Barcelona with Kids Tip #6: Go with the flow!
And my final tip, not only for visiting Barcelona with kids for a weekend but for life in general – just go with the flow! Some of our favourite moments of the trip were where we just strolled around with no particular plan, following the streets wherever they took us and taking in everything to see and do on the way.
I find that sticking to a rigid plan with a small child can sometimes lead to disappointment. You can’t always predicts those stops for feeds, nappy changes or even a (not so) nicely timed tantrum! If your kids wake up early, take advantage of the longer days to fit more in! Apparently entry to the Parc Güell Monumental Zone is free before 8am (and a lot quieter I would imagine) if you can get there that early!
If your kids are tired out enough from the previous day’s activities to have a holiday lie in, take advantage as you may not get to do this often at home. On our last day we planned to go out a bit earlier to see more, but Eva ended up sleeping until 10am after a particularly late bedtime the previous night! We missed half the plans for that day but with a 10 month old baby you can imagine lie ins like that don’t happen very often. We enjoyed every minute of it.
After dinner we strolled around the old streets after dinner, looking for a café to have an ice cream or cake for desert. It was lovely to see young people and families socialising in the plazas in the evening. Also, we didn’t worry too much about keeping Eva out past her bedtime. She would sometimes fall asleep in her pram, but more often than not she liked to stay awake. She loved taking in the new surroundings and basking in all the attention from the Spanish abuelas!
Barcelona with Kids: Food for thought
Our family weekend in Barcelona wasn’t your typical city break, ticking off all the tourist spots. There is no way you can see everything Barcelona has to offer in a weekend, and we wish we had gone for longer. We would love to go back some day to experience some of the things we missed out on this time. Fortunately, I can see it being a great family city break for a toddler, young child and even a teenager.
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