1. The Food is Incredibly Kid Friendly.
Churros dipped in thick hot chocolate for breakfast. What kids would say no to that?! A Churro is a long sort of donut that is best warm, with a slightly crunchy outside, but soft in the centre. Churros and chocolate is Spanish breakfast heaven and there are plenty of Cafes and Patisseries in Barcelona ready to serve up this chocolately treat to your youngsters. Try Calle Petritxol in the Gothic Quarter where you will find at least three brilliant eateries to try Churros and chocolate.
Of course when you’re not eating deep fried dough dipped in chocolate there’s plenty of other dishes to tempt your young ones. The Spanish have the perfect solution for fussy eaters, Tapas! If you are not sure what will interest the kids simply order lots of small dishes so that they can try different things without having to have a full plate of it. Luckily Spanish Tapas dishes are rarely spicey, and there is always a potato and an omelet dish, so even the fussiest of kiddies will find something they like. Our children also enjoyed another local dish, Paella, which is a Spanish rice dish that is available in many variations so you’re bound to find one to please. Last but not least, the produce market on La Rambla is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds!
Bonus cool points are also awarded to Barcelona for it’s extremely well priced beer and wine. Because after a long day of sightseeing with kids in tow, who’s not going to need a bottle of wine? We found wine as cheap as €2.50 and a 6 pack of beer for €2.65. Not only that, most set lunch menus include a beer or wine for mum and dad, and being Spain, the Sangria is good and cheap!
2. The Locals love Kids.
Our children (aged 8 and 12) were welcomed everywhere that we went in Barcelona. Restaurants, Tapas Bars, Cafes, Churches, Museums and so on. Wherever we went, the locals had a big smile for our kids, and we were made to feel welcome as a travelling family. Waiting staff were genuinely pleased with our children’s excited reactions to the local cuisine, and applauded their willingness to try new things and say a little in Spanish. People were notably careful near our children on the crowded metro and offered big cheery smiles to invite them to share a handrail. In public spaces and parks there were often street performers and buskers that catered to children and encouraged them to join in. Oscar’s favourite was the giant bubble blowers that we encountered a couple of times in the city.
3. Even the Architecture is Cool.
A building that is meant to look like a dragon. Yup. Barcelona really is like a fantasy for children. Gaudi’s famous over-the-top fantastical architecture is all over the city. From the famous (unfinished) Sagrada Familia to the Casa Batlló (the dragon building) and others dotted about the city, even the kids will enjoy Gaudi’s flamboyant style of whimsical architecture. Not only that, there are hidden architectural gems everywhere, including a building that is decorated with dragons and umbrellas, and others with gargoyles, scrolls, frescos, decorative tiles and Art Nouveau ironwork. Attention to detail is a common thread in Barcelona’s stunning architecture.
4. The Transport System Makes Getting Around with Kids a Breeze.
Riding the metro is easy in Barcelona. The trains are frequent, fast and clean, and the system is comprehensive. We purchased 10 trip travel passes that allowed us to travel for less than €1 per trip (which lasts 1 hour 15 minutes and includes changes to other metro lines and buses during that time). These were an economic, easy way to explore the city. Our kids enjoyed riding the Metro, and quickly got the hang of it.
5. Spanish Isn’t Too Tricky.
Other than what was learnt from Dora The Explorer, and Buzz in Toy Story 3, our family does not speak any Spanish. We had practiced a few phrases, greetings, and so on, with IPod apps, (and I understand a little Italian which is sort of similar), but really that’s it. Yet we found the locals in Barcelona were pleased to share their language with us, and even taught us the difference for some words in the local Catalan dialect. Many people spoke a little English, and everyone was pleased to help us have a go and learn a few words and pronunciation. After a week in Barcelona we were getting the hang of some basic phrases and encouraged by how much we were able to communicate basic requests and responses in Spanish.
6. There are Plenty of Holiday Apartments.
Barcelona is bursting with holiday apartments. There are plenty on offer, (we used Booking.com to find ours) and often work out better econimically for a family. Ours had two bedrooms, a kitchen/living area, two bathrooms and a balcony to enjoy meals on. The benefits of using apartments when traveling with kids include the extra space compared with hotel rooms, a small kitchen to prepare some meals yourself, and a washing machine! This is a great help if you travel with a small amount of ‘carry-on’ luggage like we did, because eating all those Churros dipped in chocolate can be messy business. Having our own kitchen allowed us to prepare our own breakfast, then eat out for lunch (look for set menus at lunch for a tasty but cheap meal) and then enjoy a picnic style meal on our balcony of local delicacies from the nearby supermarkets at the end of a long day.
7. One of the Best Museums is Underground.
If you’re looking for a cool museum to visit, we recommend the Barcelona History Museum in the Gothic Quarter. Almost all the exhibits in the Museum are underground and are in fact excavated Roman ruins from the original Roman City of Barcino. The subterranean remains under the museum date from range from Roman Barcino in the 1st century BC to the Barcelona of the 13th century A.D.and to the early Middle Ages. We were able to walk along and imagine life in the streets of Roman Barcelona, look around a laundry from the 2nd century A.D. and see the remains of the city’s first Christian community, as well as other interesting spaces like wine and fish sauce production buildings. If your family loves Indiana Jones movies as much as ours does, both children and adults alike will enjoy this real life archeological site of significance. The fact that it is below a museum is almost as good as Indy’s exploration under a Venetian library in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
8. It’s Home to One of the Coolest Parks Ever Designed.
Gaudi’s Parc Guell is a great place to wander about on a warm afternoon. Like his other projects, the park is another display of whimsy that your children will love. Parc Guell is no ordinary park. Our kids noticed straight away that there were no flat areas of grass. The whole area is a terraced maze of plants, shrubs and trees enhanced by paths and odd structures that capture the imagination. Some of the park is free to visit, but it is worth paying the entrance fee to see the monument section, just remember to book ahead online to avoid disappointment. It’s as though Gaudi was releasing his inner child when designing the many captivating corners of the park, and it is easy to wander about for hours peeking around corners, following paths and imagining life in a real Gingerbread house. We recommend you pack a lunch and don’t forget the water bottles if it’s a warm day.
9. You Can Wander Through Real Life Diagon Alley.
As soon as we entered the labyrinth of narrow lanes in the Gothic Quarter our kids proclaimed that they had found a real Diagon Alley in Spain. Harry Potter fans will love wandering around this part of Barcelona. There seems to be something interesting around every corner, including cute little stores and boutiques, cafes and patisseries, medieval squares and buskers entertaining visitors. The narrow lanes are pretty as a picture and it’s easy to amble without purpose just waiting for a witch or wizard to follow into a Leaky Cauldron.
10. The Weather is Great for Most of the Year.
Our week in Barcelona in April was near perfect weather, sun shining and temps in the low to mid 20’s (Centigrade). Now we will be honest and say that the last time we visited it was in July and unbearably hot in the 40’s, but on the whole, most of the time the weather in Barcelona is mild to warm and just lovely. It’s proximity to both sea and mountains keeps the weather family friendly for most of the year.
Have we convinced you to visit Barcelona yet? It really is a cool city, but beware! It may just leave you and the kids hungry to explore more or Spain! 🙂