Explore Spain

Spain – Family holiday guide

Travel’s much cheaper these days and now we know Spain’s ancient cities, fascinating islands, intriguing regions and stunning mountains almost as well as the beautiful beaches.

So have we ‘done’ Spain? Not a bit of it – even Benidorm, the original attraction, has wild and magical Sierra Helada national park waiting to be discovered, less than an hour from the well-known resort’s crowded summer resorts.

But that’s Spain: just when you think it can’t surprise, it up and delights with something completely new, unexpected and perfect for families.


Why go on holiday in Spain?

  • Direct flights

    There are direct flights year-round from most UK airports to mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearics.

  • Unique architecture

    Barcelona is the only city in the world ever to have received a RIBA Gold Medal for architectural excellence – the award is normally given to an individual architect or single building.

  • UNESCO World Heritage sites

    Spain has 45 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third-greatest number worldwide.

  • National parks

    Spain has 15 National Parks. Teide on Tenerife is the largest and most visited, and Picos de Europa in northern Spain is a UNESCO Biosphere.

  • The Spanish coastline

    The Spanish coastline consists of over 7,000km, with 10 costas, including Costa Brava, Costa Blanca, Costa de la Luz and Costa del Sol.

  • Feria and festivals

    During summer, Andalusia alone has more than 100 feria – feasts or festival days – and the Basque country has even more, including San Fermin in Pamplona (including the famous ‘running of the bulls’) and Bilbao’s Aste Nagusia, held in the final week of August. Feria are only matched by weird-and-wonderful festivals like La Tomatina (tomato-throwing), held in the Valencian town of Buñol, El Colacho (jumping over babies), in Castrillo de Murcia, and, oddest of all, Santa Marta de Ribarteme (the festival of near-death experiences), in Las Nieves, Galicia.



Where to go

Barcelona

Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city and first choice for kids – even if they think Park Güell is just for fun or want to play all day on 5km of Mediterranean beaches.

  • Sant Gervasi, L’Eixample, Diagonal Mar and Barceloneta are all city seafront destinations for families, with everything from five-star seafront hotels to self-catering apartments. And sunny, beachy Costa Brava resorts are an easy drive east of the city.

Valencia

World Heritage-rich Valencia is one of Spain’s loveliest cities and does everything from kid-size adventures in Sierra Calderona national park, and watersports on huge city beaches, to major attractions like City of Arts and Sciences.

  • Valencia city centre has a good choice of three- to five-star family hotels.
  • Costa Blanca towns and villages – just half-an-hour south – have great self-catering and all-inclusive resorts. Try Dénia for cuteness and Benidorm for theme parks.

Madrid

Madrid is a great capital, home to Spain’s best museums and swept with acres of fabulous parks, gardens and historic plaza. It doesn’t have beaches, but it’s fantastic for kids in spring and autumn. Or visit at Christmas for street stalls, ice rinks and El Rastro, one of Europe’s biggest flea markets and a mecca for little comicbook collectors (nb, El Rastro is held year-round every Sunday and public holiday).

  • Try Barrio de Salamanca for grand family hotels (rooftop pools are a thing in this area). La Latina has more character and colour, and is good for aparthotels and fun with older kids.

The Basque Country

The Basque Country isn’t always as sunny as the south, but cities like San Sebastian are small enough to enjoy and big on excitement – La Concha, one of the world’s most beautiful city beaches, is here. And, out of town, it’s all cliffs and wild emptiness, little roads, pretty villages and plenty of freedom. Best for family ferias (festivals) in summer, Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and lovely campsites.

Andalusia

From the eastern Algarve border almost all the way to Murcia, Andalusia is magnificent. It’s home territory to the gentle Costa de la Luz and the legendary Costa del Sol. Ancient and magical Ronda is up in the mountains. Historic Cadiz and Malaga are on the coast. And, away from the blue sea and golden sands, kids can be enchanted by Moorish Granada and thrilling Seville. Best for beaches, all-inclusive family resorts, sugar-cube mountain villages and spectacular sierras.

Dramatic Galicia

Dramatic Galicia is a favourite with Spanish families in summer. Rugged and wild, it’s a playground of crags, sea-stacks, towering lighthouses, roaring seas, mysterious little islands and sweetly calm, sandy coves. Santiago de Compostela is the captivating medieval capital, one of the world’s most famous pilgrimages and the place to be at Easter to see the country’s most spectacular Semana Santa celebration. Best for impressive coasts, pretty fishing hamlets, historic hotels, cosy self-catering and extreme adventure.


What to do

  • Isla Mágica, Seville
    From Incas to pirates, Isla Mágica plays fast and loose with history, but the waterpark is wonderful.
  • Barcelona Zoo
    One of Europe’s best-loved zoos, in the city centre’s Parc de la Ciutadella.
  • Tower of Hercules, Galicia
    The world’s oldest lighthouse – built by the ancient Romans towards the end of the 1st century – is awe-inspiring and a thrilling lookout.
  • Oceanogràfic, Valencia
    Europe’s largest aquarium is all-round astonishing.
  • Parc de Montjuïc, Barcelona
    Barcelona’s monument- and museum-packed mountain is the city’s most popular day out for families – travel up by cable car from Barceloneta.
  • Parque de Atracciones, Madrid
    130-plus rides and thrills make this huge park a favourite with Madrid families at the weekend.
  • Sagrada Família, Barcelona
    Perhaps the most-visited site in the city, Antoni Gaudi’s inimitable spires are, and always will be, remarkable – always book in advance, and the guided tours are excellent.
  • Playa del Silencio, Asturias
    Mere beach doesn’t quite describe this phenomenon, and it’s in breathtaking Asturias, so all the more reason to go.
  • Malaga Noria
    Cool, soaring and 70m high, this Ferris wheel lets kids can scope out the entire Costa del Sol.
  • Las Lagunas de la Mata, Torrevieja, Alicante
    Plan to spend at least a day in this outstanding natural park, where you’ll find two salt lakes, one blue-green, the other a vivid pink.


Educational value for kids

  • Visit the Alhambra in Granada and try to work out even one of its puzzle messages.
  • The Picasso Museum in Malaga is superb – the artist was born in the city.
  • Take a self-guided Gaudi tour of Barcelona with older kids and see how many ‘lesser-known’ works you can find. There are quite a few, but start on Plaça Reial off Las Ramblas and look for lampposts.
  • Pick up picnic stuff for Barcelona’s beaches at La Boqueria – it’s Europe’s most famous food market, and kids can take cooking classes here.
  • Trek Andalusia’s Sierra Nevada in spring or go for inexpensive winter skiing.
  • See how many of Spain’s World Heritage sites you can tick off your list.
  • Costa de la Luz is loved by Spanish families for laid-back holidays. Discover Roman ruins on beaches, towering sand dunes and some of the country’s best watersports without crowds – you can hop over the border to Eastern Algarve from here, too.

 

Getting around with kids in Spain

Cities are easy: Spain has some of Europe’s best urban transport networks and fast inter-city train services. For coast and country, hire a car. Touring regions is irresistible and, if you’re in the south in summer, you can always escape to the cool of the mountains when it’s too hot by the sea.



Booking.com