It often feels like everyone has been to Barcelona but me, I’ve heard my brother’s highlights of Sonar festival and Mr A’s tales from researching race tracks for MotoGP video games he worked on and visiting friends in Spain. I’ve had so many Barcelona near misses, we had to fly out without time to explore at the end of our Carnival Cruise…I had to stay home for a friend’s wedding in the mountains. The more I hear, the more I think it is my dream city, but also the dream city for families. As my kids get older I am realising Barcelona is a place where it is easy to involve the kids in things that might seem like they are just for grown ups in other cities.
Avis just produced a really cool guide to Barcelona which has me dreaming of starting a Spanish family road trip holiday by exploring Barcelona, or basing ourselves on the Costa Barcelona. I love the idea of mixing beach, mountains, super cultural city, mind blowing architecture and tapas – the perfect recipe for a successful family city break, with something on offer for everyone. Having nailed Paris and Amsterdam with my two, I think we’re at a stage, aged 8 and 10 where we could really do Barcelona justice. Here’s how I am selling it to them:
Eat the best churros
We love to eat these at festivals or at Nottingham’s Christmas market, they always taste magically decadent – donut mix piped into long sticks, fried, sprinkled in sugar and dipped into hot chocolate sauce. According to the Avis guide Xurreria Trebol is the place to eat Churros in Barcelona, opened by Cecilia Martínez and her husband Juan Bacells back in the 1950s and is widely considered to be the oldest churreria in Barcelona. We need to pay homage, plus we have yet to try churros piped with piped with fillings such as ‘dulce de leche’ (a creamy caramel sauce) and chocolate.
A vintage theme park
Theme parks aren’t my favourite thing to do, but funnily enough, my kids love them. I would definitely make an exception for the mind blowing setting of Tibidabo Vintage Theme park on Barcelona’s highest peak. Built in 1899, it is Spain’s oldest amusement park and one of the oldest of its kind in the world – the red planes date back to 1928 and look incredible to ride and what a daring place to put a (strikingly colourful) ferris wheel. If you are looking for a way to persuade kids to climb mountains, this is it! Although you will probably want to drive there to make the most of all there is to do.
Serra de Collserola and Parc de Collserola are the world’s largest metropolitan park – the mix of mountains, sea and city in Barcelona really inspires me to visit. Tibidabo is looked over by Neo Gothic church with a huge statue of Jesus, the photo opportunities look mind-blowing, from instragramming vintage theme park loveliness or capturing Jesus looking down over the theme park into the city, there’s loads of amazing photo opportunities.
Eat Tapas, chase pigeons.
You’ve got to love the flexibility of tapas, if the kids get restless or the food isn’t right you aren’t stuck in one place for an entire meal. Plus a little bit of something every now and again is the perfect way to feed kids and to break up city sightseeing. I won’t be the first UK parent to wonder if it is ok to take kids into Spanish tapas bars, but research tells me that tapas places are first and foremost cafes, rather than bars, and that the Spanish really welcome kids and routinely take them along to eat too. Look out for squares where you can sit and eat while the kids enjoy letting off steam. The Avis guide recommends La Cova Fumada the old fisherman’s quarter of the beachfront neighbourhood of Barcelona – sounds like a great place for a wander, followed by some of the best tapas on offer!
La Rambla, Picnic and Park
La Rambla, Barcelona’s main street, is filled with vendors and street entertainers as well as a live bird fair. The La Boqueria food markets a great place to sample food or take your pick from fruit, veg, nuts, breads, meats and cheeses. I love the idea of chilling out after exploring, with a picnic at Citadel Park/Parc de la Ciutadella which has a boating lake, playgrounds, grass, the Zoo de Barcelona, a rose garden and a chariot topped fountain.
Modern art galleries and street art work really well for our family – Amsterdam’s Banksy exhibition and modern art museum really got us all talking. There is much more to Barcelona’s art scene than Picasso and Gaudi, (although they are top of my list still), Barcelona is a great city for modern art. You can mix park time and art too – experience Gaudi walking around the weird and wonderful Park Güell. Barcelona has loads of areas reserved for street artists to practice, and a crazy amount of talent, older kids might enjoy a Barcelona street art tour. Caixa Forum accompanies its exhibitions with children’s workshops. MACBA (the contemporary museum of art), CCCB (the centre of contemporary culture) and the Filmoteca (cinema and film archive) are all located all walking distance from a rather cool sounding place pointed out in the Avis guide, I love the sound of art shopping in Miscellanea.
There is still loads and loads more I haven’t mentioned to explore, the beach, Chocolate Museum, Science Museum, Aquarium and Zoo for starters.
Road Trip or Day Trip Ideas
Nestled on the east coast of Spain, close to the border with France, Barcelona could take you in all kinds of fantastic road trip directions! I have happy memories of exploring countryside, beaches and mountains in Northern Spain by car with my family, my friends couldn’t believe my photos were of Spain back then as Spain was mainly known for beach holidays.
- Travel north of Barcelona to the old towns of Gerona, Cadaqués, Llançà.
- Take the coastal route up to Colliure in France. Return inland to Perelada for a castle and wineries.
- Inland to Manresa, Montserrat, a unique mountain range, Lleida and/or Zaragoza. Tarragona has Roman remains.
- Build your trip around wine tasting, visiting Spain’s wine regions – Penes, Conca de Barberà, Priorate.
- Day trips Sitges (a lovely fishermen village) or Montserrat (a unique mountain range)
- Travel Loving Fam has a list of 15 family friendly places to visit a short drive from Barcelona
Thanks to Avis for collaborating on this mini guide to Barcelona.