Things to do in Barcelona with Kids (That'll Make Them Love You More)
Thanks to its array of activities (and the fact that there's a Chocolate Museum, no doubt), Barcelona makes for a great city to explore with the whole family
Some say it’s not worth taking under 5s abroad. Apparently they won’t remember any of it. But what can you do? Leave them at home to look after the dog whilst you enjoy a long weekend in the Catalan capital? No. That is wrong (and illegal). So here are our suggestions of things to do in Barcelona with kids, big and small. It’s a playground for all ages.
Sun, sea and sand are time-tested ingredients for a summer holiday, so let’s kick off with the beach. The obvious, Barceloneta is the closest to the city, around a 20-minute walk away. Sunbathers, surfers, skaters and vendors selling massages – the golden sands are often heaving with humanity, leaving plenty for <s>you</s> the kids to gawp at.
If you have smaller children with you, Bogatell beach is a safer bet for your sanity. Quieter and cleaner (with far fewer tourists), it still has all the trappings to keep them entertained: volleyball, table tennis, and of course, the sparkling Med to paddle in. And when it’s time to take a break from the sun (remember: one to three, stay under a tree) try one of the many beach bars around.
When you’re ready to brave sugar highs and sugar lows, set out to the Chocolate Museum. It runs fun activities for children which are helpfully divided into age groups (for example, under 3s can try fruit and chocolate). Or if you’ve had enough of sticky hands, take them to Papabubble where they can watch people who know their stuff crafting candies of all descriptions. And, of course, they can sample a few.
Parks and recreation
When they need to let off steam, there are a surprising number of beautiful green spaces. Take Parc Güell. As well as the monumental zone, with its mosaic salamander and curvy walls, there are vast green spaces in which (for free) children can race around, whizz down slides or munch a picnic. Parc de la Ciutadella is the biggest park in the city, with over 17 hectares to explore. The kids might not be gob-smacked at the Catalan Parliament building, but they’ll love the mammoth, splashing about in a row-boat on the lake, and rampaging around the zoo. Or head to Parc del Laberint d'Horta and take a breather while they figure their way out of the impressive cypress labyrinth. Let’s hope they don’t get lost.
While the big hitters are definitely worth a visit, don’t forget the local parks and playgrounds on your doorstep. Try Gràcia for example. It’s peppered with neighbourhood playgrounds which often have pop-up crafting workshops. So let the children get creative. You may even find you have a little Picasso on your hands.
Fancy coming nose-to-nose with a shark? At Barcelona Aquarium you can walk through an 80-metre glass tunnel while sharks, stingrays and 8,000 fish swim just inches away. Explora!, its interactive area will be a hit for all ages, while eight to twelve years olds can experience ‘Sleeping with the Sharks’, an overnight stay at the aquarium (which they can boast to their friends about when they’re back at school).
La Sagrada Família
It doesn’t get much more impressive than Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece. From the outside, the scale of the giant basilica (111 metres and rising) is awesome. Step inside, and the building seems to have grown instead of being built, with tree-like columns (not for climbing) and the most vibrant stained glass you’ll ever see. While you devour Gaudí’s exquisite design, older kids will appreciate all the shady nooks where they can check their phone screens. And when you’ve had your fill of this UNESCO world heritage site, youngsters can run off some steam in the playground in the park near the Passion façade.
Cable cars and Montjuïc
Who doesn’t love a cable car? (Other than those with vertigo.) Barcelona has two, and your kids will love them both. Port Cable Car links Barceloneta with the Miramar gardens on Mount Montjuïc. Elbow your way to the front of the 20-person car to get the best views of the city on the eight-minute ascent. Or take the Telerific de Montjuïc up to the castle and get a birds-eye view of Barcelona. Finish off the day at The Magic Fountain display of music, lights and colour. It’s at the foot of the mountain and has daily shows.
While there are plenty of great things to do in Barcelona with kids, if you don’t feed them, they turn into animals. Tapas, it seems, is fabulous for lobbing off tables and smearing round faces. Luckily, the Spanish find children far more charming than they actually are, and are forever forgiving of mucky tablecloths. Try Xiringuito Escribà for the best paella on Bogatell beach or La Nena in Gràcia for artisan churros and games for the kids.
The corner of your street
Remember less is more (so says Marie Kondo and countless clammy, overtired under 5s). So take the time to slow down. (Who says a lazy roadside lizard isn’t as interesting as La Pedrera?) Let them while away their time watching bubble-blowing buskers, nosing round the local market, or clambering on climbing frames with the local kids.