Travels With Ted

Barcelona With Kids

Barcelona with Kids Boats in the Harbour

If you are expecting a magic formula for conquering Barcelona with kids, then I’m afraid you are in the wrong place. The key to travelling with kids is always flexibility. Things don’t always go to plan. We all have bad days. Does this mean that Barcelona with kids was a bad idea? Is any city break? We pondered this question for five days and concluded that it was worth it. We have experienced one of our bucket list destinations, and all four of us loved it. Well, most of it.

I am going to write a few shorter guides to some of the more significant sites. This is an overview of why you can and should take on Barcelona with kids.

Barcelona with Kids – Day 1

This was the first time we had flown with both children, so I was a little apprehensive. That bit went as well as it could have done. Finding our accommodation was not quite so straight forward. Do not trust Google to take you to the right location. Our two-storey, four-bedroomed apartment featured marble floors throughout. We spent many happy hours people-watching on our balcony.

Barcelona with Kids Ted at the Arc de Triomf
Ted at the Arc de Triomf

The apartment was close to the Arc de Triomf, so we made visiting it our mission for the afternoon. We had already passed by without looking in that direction. The substantial red-brick structure should have been hard to miss.

It was in front of the Arc that we encountered our first bubble man. They became a feature of our trip. The bubble men are street entertainers looking to make a quick Euro from excitable children. We met bubble man number two in Plaça de Catalunya later that evening.

Barcelona with Kids Esme and the bubbles
Esme and the bubbles

Nighttime is when Barcelona really comes to life, and we were fortunate to be out after dark a few times. On day one, we wandered through Plaça de Catalunya after dinner. The fountains had been switched on, and there were fewer people about. I’m a sucker for a bit of opening night magic, and this place had it. That was until Ted fell over chasing a bubble and gave himself a fat lip.

Day 1 Tips

  • The Arc de Triomf is worth meandering by if you are in the area. It’s outside Ciutadella Park (see day three) and not far from Plaça de Catalunya.
  • You probably won’t be able to miss Plaça de Catalunya. It’s situated at the top of Las Ramblas, and it’s where the airport bus drops you. We think this square (circle?) is worth a visit for the fountains.
  • Beautiful fountains are abundant in Barcelona so you won’t have missed too much if you don’t pass through or they are switched off.

Barcelona with Kids – Day 2 (Part 1 – Las Ramblas)

We had a slow start to our second day because some spectacular thunderstorms passed overhead. Our plan for our first full day was to take it slow. I wanted to walk down Las Ramblas and visit Mercat de la Boqueria. We were pleased to realise we were within walking distance.

We were prepared for Las Ramblas to be a tourist trap and sure enough, it was dominated by souvenir stalls on either side. David managed to steer Ted past the miscellaneous tat with only a minor tantrum. The architecture along the pedestrianised, tree-lined avenue impressed David and me.

I was worried that Mercat de la Boqueria wouldn’t live up to expectation, but it delivered. Was there beautifully presented fresh foods? Yes, there was. Were there all the colours of the rainbow? Yes, there was. Was I in market heaven? Yes, I was. The children were not quite as impressed. May fell asleep on David’s back. Ted complained until we bought him a cup of strawberries.

Barcelona with Kids Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria

I also picked up one of the best smoothies I have ever tasted and some delicious pastries for lunch. We went back the next day to try to replicate our success, but it wasn’t to be. The pastry stall hadn’t opened yet, and the smoothie I purchased from another stall wasn’t up to the mark.

We had a quick meander through the Gothic Quarter (wow) and then turned into the blinding sun to reach the bottom of Las Ramblas. Here we found two things we did not expect. One was an area of flower beds mostly filled with edibles. These had the gardener in David salivating.

Barcelona with Kids Las Ramblas
Food beds on Las Ramblas

Barcelona with Kids – Day 2 (Part 2 – The Mediterranean)

The second surprise was a column akin to Nelson’s. In Nelson’s place, Columbus was perched on top, pointing the way to the new world. Or not. The New World is actually in the opposite direction, but I suppose it wouldn’t make much sense for him to be pointing inland.

Barcelona with Kids Boats in the Harbour
Boats in the Harbour

Beyond Columbus was the Mediterranean. Several boats were offering trips out to see the Barcelona skyline, so we jumped aboard. In the few moments where we weren’t preventing the children from throwing themselves overboard, we were able to catch our first glimpse of the Sagrada Familia.

Once we returned to dry land, we headed to the beach. A poor sense of direction and a boat show meant another long walk. The beach itself was ok, but the golden sands I have seen in pictures were absent today. More thunder threatened, and after a quick paddle, we were ready to move on.

Our gentle introduction day to Barcelona wasn’t finished here. With the kids asleep, we set off around the edge of the zoo and into the Ciutadella Park. We didn’t realise at the time, but the golden monument/fountain was a Gaudi creation. Unfortunately, it was looking less impressive due to the industrial fencing surrounding it while repairs are taking place. This park also featured a mammoth, boating lake and no less than three bubble men.

Day 2 Tips

  • Aimlessly wandering about didn’t really work for the kids. Shame because Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and many other neighbourhoods are made for rambling.
  • If Ted had been a little older and/or a little more in the mood, he would have loved the Mercat de la Boqueria nearly as much as I did.
  • We were surprised by what good value the boat trip was. The kids were free, and we got to see some unique views.
  • If you’re in Barcelona with the kids, then it’s worth making more time for the beach and Ciutadella Park than we did. Both were great.

Barcelona with Kids – Day 3

We planned a day at the Sagrada Familia as more thunderstorms were forecast. However, when I went to book tickets there were none available. Fortunately, the storms came and went early anyway.

Instead, we were indecisive. The kids were still visibly tired from the previous day, adding to our indeterminacy. We eventually decided on the cable car across the harbour. We were first on, so we snagged the best spot. The ride gave us some incredible views of the city.

Barcelona with Kids David with a View
David with a View

The cable car did not, however, take us to the top to Castell de Montjuic. A second cable car was required for this. After a toddler tantrum and a cute baby Instashoot, we sat down to assess our options. We decided a slow walk back to our accommodation with treats along the way would be best. The kids needed a lazy afternoon in front of Spanish TV.

Of course, the kids were going stir crazy in the apartment by early evening, so we ended up tracking down a local play area.

Day 3 Tips

  • It’s so hard not to push the kids too far, especially if you have limited time. More fun will be had by everyone if they are well-rested.
  • There are several cable cars in Barcelona, so make sure you know which one you are getting on. I wanted to get up to Castell de Montjuic for the views. Next time…
  • There is always a play area around the corner in Barcelona.

Barcelona with Kids – Day 4 (Part 1)

The day finally dawned when I would get to experience the Sagrada Familia. This is the primary reason I wanted to visit Barcelona. Our entry tickets were for the afternoon, but we headed straight there. I wasn’t let down by the magnificent building, but the grumpy family did dampen my mood. Once again, we were trying to cram in too many sights in too little time.

Barcelona with Kids Ted at the Sagrada Familia
Ted at the Sagrada Familia

We played in the adjacent playground and were rewarded for having children with our own space to take pictures. With hours in hand before our time slot for entry, we set out for a stroll up Avenue de Gaudi.

A chat, a lolly and some magnificent art deco architecture turned everyone’s moods around. Throw in some tasty vegan food, and we headed back to the Sagrada Familia with happy hearts.

I’m running out of superlatives to describe the Sagrada Familia. It was nothing short of spectacular, inside and out. It’s something you need to experience first hand to really understand what all the fuss is about. Pictures don’t do it justice.

As we anticipated, Ted was overawed by the place. We gave him an old phone, and he spent the whole time taking pictures. Many pictures. His favourite thing was the light from the stain-glassed windows.

Ted's Favourite Thing - Sagrada Familia Light
Ted’s Favourite Thing – Sagrada Familia Light

David and I could have spent significantly more time studying every detail. We had to quit while we were ahead. May was complaining about being confined to the pushchair and Ted had run down the phone battery.

Day 4 (Part 1) Tips

  • Read more of my hints and tips for a visit to the Sagrada Familia with kids here.
  • Buy tickets well in advance. This goes for both the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell (see below). Both were sold out for the next day when I tried to book, and we couldn’t get our preferred time slots.
  • Giving Ted a phone to take pictures with was a stroke of genius.
  • Vegan fast-food restaurant La Trocadero was terrific. Even if you don’t usually eat vegan, it’s worth checking out. It’s just around the corner from the Sagrada Familia.
  • A chat and an ice lolly will fix most things.

Barcelona with Kids – Day 4 (Part 2)

Our fantastic day didn’t end when we left the Sagrada Familia. We had big plans for the evening too. For the first time, we took the metro. We headed to Plaça d’Espanya to catch the Magic Fountains show.

Plaça d’Espanya is an incredible looking place. The view from Arenas de Barcelona (the old bullring, now a shopping centre) up to The Magic Fountain is one of the best in a city full of spectacular views.

The Magic Fountain Show
The Magic Fountain Show

The Magic Fountain show has water from the fountain dancing to music. From the opening song (Barcelona by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé) Ted was captivated. May, not so much. She was asleep within minutes. The show lasted for an hour, but most people left after the first couple of numbers. We had more staying power and took advantage of the thinning crowds to move into a better spot. When it finished, we returned to the metro wet and happy.

Day 4 (Part 2) Tips

Barcelona with Kids – Day 5 (Part 1)

I had ruled out visiting the Gaudi designed apartments because I knew the kids would only stand so much architecture. However, I couldn’t book tickets for Park Güell until the afternoon so we thought we should at least walk past. This turned out to be unusually tricky.

As we approached the first apartment, we began to notice large groups of locals gathering with National flags draped across their shoulders. A quick Google told us it was a National holiday. This didn’t affect us, except that the crowds were gathering for a march starting outside our second Gaudi apartment.

Barcelona with Kids Gaudi Apartments
Gaudi Apartments

The crowds were too much for the kids, so we took some pictures and got out of there quick. We decided to avoid the busy metro and walk. It’s doubtful whether another stroll was a good idea, especially on such a hot day but this was our last day in Barcelona, and we wanted to see all that we could see.

Day 5 (Part 1) Tips

  • Check for national holidays before you fly anywhere and prepare for disruption.

Barcelona with Kids – Day 5 (Part 2)

For me, Park Güell was second only to the Sagrada Familia on my list of places I wanted to visit in Barcelona. There are two sides to our visit. First, the downside. We were all tired, hot and a little jaded from our long week of sightseeing. The crowds were as bad as we had been warned they would be. Worse though was many of the paths had been closed for repairs making the park very difficult to navigate with a pushchair.

Barcelona with Kids Park Guell
In the Park Güell Restricted Area

On the positive side, there is a reason the crowds are drawn here. It is a beautiful place that on another day would have been full of magic for the kids. Ted loved meeting the lizard and running around in all the unexpected places there were to play. I have made a list of all the places we would like to see again in Barcelona. Park Güell is top of that list. Next time I will check for building work in advance and book my tickets earlier.

Day 5 (Part 2) Tips

  • Read more tips for Park Güell in this post.
  • As with the Sagrada Familia, book your tickets for Park Güell early to get the best time slots.
  • Check for building work. Although there’s probably not much, you can do about it.
  • It is possible to see much of the park without paying to go in, but I think it was well worth the money.
  • The entrance system does look a bit mad when you first arrive, but it does make sense, and the staff are accommodating.

Is Barcelona with Kids a Good Idea?

Quick answer, yes Barcelona with kids was an excellent idea for us. The children probably won’t remember the majesty of the Sagrada Familia. Or the view from the cable car. Or holding hands as they explored Park Güell. There’s no denying that we chose Barcelona as a destination for us. So why travel with children at all? Why not wait a few years and have an altogether easier, more relaxing visit.

Just because they won’t remember it doesn’t mean they didn’t get anything out of it. For us, the most important thing is quality family time. At home, work is intense and invasive, but on holiday we can step away and focus on family.

The chance to inject some culture into our lives is essential. We explained to the three-year-old that some people live differently, use different words and spend different money. Having his experience that first hand really drove it home.

I have two questions for you. First, having read this blog, do you think Barcelona with kids is a good idea? Second, where do you think we should go next? We’ve got some ideas, but we would welcome all suggestions.

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10 thoughts on “Barcelona With Kids

  1. Great tips! So helpful having first hand experience from others to go off of. Spain is ALWAYS on my radar!

  2. Never been to Barcelona with kids, I am sure they would love it though. I agree that sometimes we try to cram so much in and kids tire much quicker and complain more!

  3. Great post! It was so helpful. I’d love to take our daughter to Spain soon and will refer back to this post when we do!

  4. Love Barcelona although my husband did get food poisoning when we last went! We’ve never visited with my daughter but your pictures have got me itching to go back!

  5. Barcelona also delighted us with its sites and beautiful colors. The people are so warm and the food is so good.

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