Easy to reach and with the Mediterranean in play, Barcelona vacations mix beaches and urban adventure for kids. Barcelona local, Tara Stevens, lets Family Traveller in on her city’s family secrets.
Get wise to street art on Barcelona city breaks
Barcelona is a hub for some of Europe’s best street art, from Joan Fontcuberta’s iconic, ‘The World Is Born with Each Kiss’ – made up of 4000 tiled images supplied by city residents – to Keith Haring’s AIDS mural: a carbon copy of which became a permanent fixture outside the MACBA in the early 90s.
Throw in Lichtenstein’s, Cap de Barcelona, and Fernando Botero’s cartoonish Gat de Raval sculptures, and there’s lots to explore on your own. But artsy kids will get a kick out of Kids-Cat tours, which whirl them through some of the best graffiti in the city, then offer hands-on workshops where they can let loose with a spray can themselves.
Take home cooking skills and tour La Boqueria
Give your kids the chance to learn about shopping for fresh ingredients, how to hold a knife, measure ingredients properly and deliver Spanish family favourites like gazpacho, paella and sugar-drenched churros.
Research shows that children who learn to cook at a young age are more likely to have healthy eating habits throughout their lives, and it’s a great way to deep dive into the local culture and get lunch made for you at the end. Cook & Taste offer classes in English to fit your family’s interests and skill level or, if time is tight, they also do kid-friendly tours of Barcelona’s legendary food market, La Boqueria.
Add quiet beaches to Barcelona city breaks
Summer on Barceloneta beach can be crowded, but locals know plenty of quieter spots for splashing about. Parc de la Crueta Coll is a low-key swimming hole created in an old quarry in 1987. Though more suited to paddling than laps, it’s a dreamy, comparatively peaceful place and just a short walk north of Parc Güell.
Alternatively, do what Barcelonians do and hop on the train at Plaça Catalunya for Costa Maresme. The beaches here are cool, calm and uncrowded, yet only 30 minutes from the city centre. Most have chiringuitos where you can retreat from the sun for lunch, and Ocata beach has a large, children’s play area complete with climbing frames, while the beach at Arenys de Mar offers paddleboard rentals and tuition from SUP Addict.
Take your pick of the city’s pretty parks
You don’t have to dig too deep to discover green space on Barcelona city breaks. Montjuïc alone can fill an entire day with its parks, botanic gardens and museums like the Joan Miró, MNAC and CaixaForum, and you’ll find plenty of spots to picnic in the shade along the way. Nightly, light shows at the Magic Fountain near Plaça d’Espanya have kids in raptures and make a lovely end to a day out.
An alternative to super-busy Parc Güell, Parc del Laberint d’Horta sits a little further north in Horta-Guinardó. It’s the city’s oldest park and home to a fairy-tale maze where families can get joyously lost.
If we haven’t found your perfect vacation stay yet, take a look at Plum Guide Barcelona for more than 300 handpicked vacation rentals in the city. You’ll find everything from historic apartments to pretty townhouses and if your heart’s set on a rooftop pool, you’ll find those too.
Stop for traditional Catalan barbecue with views on the side
Hop on board the Rodalies train from Placa Catalunya to Peu de Funicular, then take the funicular halfway up the hill – press the button marked La Carretera de les Aigües to make sure it stops. Turn left as you leave the station and after a five-minute stroll you come to a sign that says Can Martí: pointing up a steep set of stairs.
Can Martí Restaurant is well worth the climb for its stupendous views and a uniquely Catalan lunch of carns a la brasa (BBQ meat), calçots (grilled onions), hearty plates of beans and jugs of local wine for the grownups. If you feel like some post-lunch thrills, vintage Tibidabo funfair is about 20 minutes walk north of Can Marti.
Step into the mind of Gaudi and have a wander around
Virtual reality and AI have brought a whole new dimension to Barcelona’s most famous sights, including light mapping on the façade of Casa Batlló: the Gaudi masterpiece on Passeig de Gràcia in Eixample.
Plus, cleverly designed tours for families have recently been introduced to the Casa too. Designed to plunge kids into an immersive digital world they bring Gaudí’s creative process to life and allow them to interact with his universe thanks to virtual reality, incredible holograms, moving paintings and other innovations.
Make the sweetest memories on Barcelona vacations
In Poblenou a quiet transformation is taking place thanks to the arrival of the Design Museum, revamped Els Encants flea market, and a slew of fresh new businesses.
Among them is Mamá Heladera, an ice-cream shop where flavours are created to evoke memories of a Catalan childhood with such poetic names as “Swing under the pine and eat red currant popsicles’ and ‘Mother of milk and honey’. They also offer a two-hour ice-cream workshop and tasting so kids get to learn how they produce such unique flavours, and, best of all, get to taste them.
Play hard in Barcelona, sleep tight in funky family hotels
Generator Barcelona is more hostel than hotel, but private rooms have funky bunkbeds, super-slick bathrooms and work well for families. Plus, if you’re travelling with teens, give yourself some cool points.
Casa Camper features fun stuff like in-room hammocks and motivational stairway messages. It’s also in the Raval district, which you can spy on from the soaring roof terrace. And kids will be thrilled with their welcome backpacks.
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