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The Best and Worst of Barcelona with Kids

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Barcelona may be the friendliest city I have ever visited. Would I recommend a visit? Definitely! Would I go again? Probably not. Find out why in my surprising take on the best and worst of Barcelona with kids.

Park Guell's unique architecture in Barcelona
Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain (Photo credit: masterlu, Depositphotos.com)

Barcelona Basics

This widespread city is the capital of the Catalonia region of Spain. Catalan is one of its official languages, which sounds to me like a mixture of French, Spanish, and Portuguese. I always like to make an effort to speak at least a few words of the native language wherever I visit. Since everyone speaks Spanish as well, though, I didn’t bother tackling Catalan and instead got by with un poquito d'Español.

La Boqueria food market along La Rambla in Barcelona
La Boqueria food market along La Rambla in Barcelona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

La Rambla

Barcelona's most famous street is La Rambla, which is filled with vendors and street entertainers as well as a live bird fair. My favorite part is La Boqueria, a vibrant food market. You can pull up a stool at one of the grills or grab a cornucopia of fruits, veggies, nuts, bread, meats, and cheeses for your own little picnic at Parc de la Ciutadella.

I love a good open-air market, and this is one of the best I have ever visited. It's like the world’s best candy store for grown-ups. The burst of colors, scents, flavors, and upbeat energy – it’s overwhelming in its beauty. To me, this is THE best part of Barcelona. Beware, however, of pickpockets who target tourists in this area.

Museu de la Xocolata in Barcelona with kids
My daughter posing beside a “Finding Nemo” chocolate sculpture at the Museu de la Xocolata (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Chocolate Museum

Any trip to Barcelona with children should include a trip to the Museu de la Xocolata. Visitors can learn at this chocolate museum how chocolate came to be eaten and how it is made. The most fun, though, is browsing through various sculptures made of chocolate in forms. We saw a chocolate bull fighting scene, Mickey Mouse made of chocolate, and then 2.5-year-old Karissa’s favorite, Finding Nemo. Afterwards, you can (and should!) purchase a chocolate treat or two at the onsite café.

Rowboats at Citadel Park in Barcelona
Rowboats at Citadel Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Parc de la Ciutadella

Although the architecture in Barcelona is beautiful, the city felt a bit stifling to me due to its lack of greenery. To get your nature fix, take the kiddos to Parc de la Ciutadella. Rent a rowboat and take a spin around a tiny green lake. Be warned that there were no life jackets available when we visited, which made me a wee nervous while paddling about with a wriggling toddler.

After our boat tour, Karissa swung on the swings and dug in the sand at a crowded playground. Visiting a park is one of my favorite things to do when traveling anywhere with kids. Children make friends easily no matter the language barrier and it gives a nice glimpse into the everyday lives of locals.

A day at a Barcelona beach with kids
A day at a Barcelona beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Barcelona Beaches

If visiting during the summer, you’ll want to hit one of Barcelona’s beaches. Bring along some water shoes or pop into one of the shops to get an inflatable ring. The pebble beaches may be uncomfy for tootsies. My daughter liked digging with her bucket and shovel best. I liked soaking up some Mediterranean sunshine. And my husband? Well, as an American dude, he was thrilled to get his first peek at a few topless sunbathers. (Sheesh…men!)

Museu Picasso
Museu Picasso in Barcelona (Photo credit: Maria Rosa Ferre, Wikimedia)

Picasso Museum

My husband and I took turns trying to keep our toddler from destroying precious works of art at the impressive Museu Picasso. The famous painter Pablo Picasso grew up in Barcelona and this museum contains the most extensive collection of his early works. This isn’t necessarily the most kid-friendly destination but it is definitely worth a visit, especially if you're a big fan of Picasso's artwork.

The famous Catholic basilica of the Sagrada Familia
The famous Catholic basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photo credit: catalby, Depositphotos.com)

La Sagrada Familia Basilica

Construction of La Sagrada Familia Basilica began in 1882 and is still underway today. This unique church was designed by Antonio Gaudi, one of Barcelona’s most famous residents. The basilica should reach completion by 2026. Promise the kids you’ll stop for ice cream at the park across the street in exchange for good behavior at this one-of-a-kind architectural feat.

Barcelona with kids?
Daddy and daughter hanging out at Park Guell (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Park Guell

Gaudi designed Park Guell as a high-end residential area for the Barcelona elite. Today it's a tourist attraction filled with lovely paths, some breathtaking architecture, and a great view of the city. Although incredibly pretty, there isn't a whole lot to “do” at Park Guell besides walk around. And, it's a bit of trek to get there. If you're on a tight schedule, this one can be skipped during your visit to Barcelona with kids.

A Catalonian lunch of Paella in Barcelona
A Catalonian lunch of Paella (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Dining in Barcelona with Kids

I have friends who have traveled to Barcelona (without children) who rave about the array of tapas bars. The Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain has called Spanish cuisine, “the best food in the western world” and here’s a video of Samantha Brown enamored with a garlic-slathered piece of fish along Barcelona’s harbor. (I think my family ate at this very restaurant!)

Our experience, however, was quite different from theirs. Our toddler hated all Spanish food. She refused to eat anything in Barcelona. This includes items she loves at home like pasta with red sauce, a fried egg served with French fries, and bread with a mild cheese from La Boqueria. In Barcelona, she lived off of fruit, ice cream, and chicken nuggets purchased on a daily trek to McDonald’s in an attempt to get some protein into her belly.

We couldn't find a green space in which to eat so made a picnic from our La Boqueria finds on these stairs in Barcelona
We couldn't find a green space in which to eat so made a picnic from our La Boqueria finds on these stairs (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of the food in Barcelona either. I found tapas to be confusing. Tacos were white bread served with cheese. Meanwhile, a crepe was a plain egg omelet. Plus, tapas were too dang greasy for my liking since many came deep-fried. The paella was decent but filled with too many odd creatures from both land and sea for my comfort. My favorite meal in Barcelona actually took place at an Italian restaurant. Now, the Crema Catalana was a different story. It was like a cross between flan and crème brulée. Muy delicioso!

Keep in mind that people in Barcelona typically eat dinner quite late in the day. Restaurants may be closed during what most Americans consider dinnertime. Add jet lag to the mix and it can be difficult to find the food you want when you want it. If you can, plan to eat your final meal with the locals between 9 and 11 pm.

The rooftop pool at the Grand Marina Hotel in Barcelona with kids
The rooftop pool at the Grand Marina Hotel (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Kid-Friendly Accommodations in Barcelona

My family visited Barcelona before our Disney Mediterranean Cruise and Disney recommended Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel. It certainly did not disappoint! We were given a free upgrade to a one-bedroom suite both on our pre- and post-cruise stays, just for asking. (And this was before I launched Travel Mamas, so it’s not like we got special treatment!)

The staff was beyond courteous. The décor was at once modern and elegant. And, the location was super convenient. Every time hotel employees saw our daughter, they cooed at her and handed her a lollipop. In fact, we finally had to ask the staff to stop offering candies to our little one! Plus, our room was HUGE, especially considering European standards. One of my favorite memories of our stay in Barcelona was splashing in the hotel’s rooftop pool with its stunning view of the harbor spread out before us.

For additional options, take a look at hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or these Barcelona accommodation recommendations from The Broke Backpacker.

Get help planning a trip to Barcelona with kids from our partner, Ciao Bambino

The Verdict on Barcelona with Kids

To make the most of our costly air tickets to Europe for our cruise, we decided to extend our stay in Barcelona by a few days before and after our sailing. This really gave us a chance to explore this welcoming Spanish city. The best thing about Barcelona is its people. Everyone we met was friendly and genuine. They definitely went out of their way to make sure we had a good time in their town.

There is plenty to experience in this vibrant city. I highly recommend visiting Barcelona with kids. As for me, I’ve been to Barcelona twice and that’s probably enough for me. The food wasn't my family’s favorite and I felt a little nature-starved here. Plus, I feel like I’ve already experienced what I wanted to explore in Barcelona and the world is filled with places I have yet to see.

The pooping log, or tió de nadal, is a wacky Christmas tradition from Spain
Tió de nadal is a wacky Christmas tradition from Catalonia, Spain (Photo credit: Justine Ancheta, Latitude 41)

Explore More of Europe

Learn about Catalonia's unusual holiday tradition in this round-up of wacky Christmas traditions in Europe.

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For an active family vacation, explore bicycling in the Netherlands with kids.

Take a look at the most romantic things to do in Southern Spain.

The Best and Worst of Barcelona with Kids

Save These Things to Do in Barcelona with Kids

For future reference, keep this list of tips for visiting Barcelona with kids. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What are your thoughts about visiting Barcelona with kids? I know some of you must think I'm nuts for poo-pooing Barcelona's food. Go ahead…add a comment!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. We will only have a couple days in Barcelona. Would you suggest taking the tour of La Sagrada with school-aged kids? It’s kind of pricey, and don’t want to do it if the kids wouldn’t appreciate it anyway, or if it turns into a nightmare, waiting in crowded areas/lines with kids. My kids are 7 and 10. Thank you!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Hi Amy – If you are going during peak season (summer), I would definitely recommend buying some skip-the-line tickets if you want to visit La Sagrada Familia. If visiting during off-season, though, you can probably just play it by ear and skip a formal tour. You can always swing by the cathedral to see it from the outside and snap some photos, even if you don’t go inside. This church is so unique and such an icon of Barcelona, I think it’s worth seeing even if only from the outside. Your family might enjoy a short tour but anything very long and detailed would likely bore kids, especially your youngest. You know them best, though! Have a wonderful time in Barcelona, no matter what you decide to do!

  2. Colleen – I know this post has been haunting you for almost a decade but as a mom of a picky American 13(!)-year old, I wanted to tell you that I truly appreciate your post. Our family will be eating a lot of pizza in Spain and that is just fine. 😉

    • Colleen Lanin says

      LOL! You never know, your young teen just may love the food in Barcelona! If not, there are definitely options to please a picky palate. Enjoy the beautiful and friendly city of Barcelona! 🙂

  3. Michelle says

    Great article! So many places where I would like to go with my son! Thank you for that!
    I was in Barcelona 2 years ago with my husband. We booked a free walking tour because we wanted to see all sights of the city but didn’t know where to go. Now we can return in beautiful Barcelona with our son and your tips very useful. Really appreciate that, thanks a lot!
    Have a nice day!

  4. muhafazakar villa says

    I haven’t been to Spain before, but I always thought the food and the city is good there. It’s good to know. Thanks for your advices and tips. They will help me to decide. We plan to go there next year and we want to see the chocolate museum with our kids.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Many people love the food in Barcelona. I hope you have a wonderful time during your visit!

  5. Hi,

    Thanks for this amazing post. Lots of useful information. I am traveling to Barcelona for 4 days with a 4month old baby.
    I was concerned if it is a good idea or I should look for some other baby friendly location.
    Are there diaper changing tables in restaurants? Is it a good idea to take the stroller or carrier? or both?
    Which area should I stay? I want to cover – beach, la rambla, Sagrada familia, parc guell, local streets for eating and walking around to get the feel of the culture.
    To easily commute what is the best location to stay?

  6. Your pictures make me fall in love with Barcelona. It looks amazing place.

  7. Is that worst if i go there alone or with a friend? Not with kids!

  8. Lady Espinal says

    Hi Colleen. I agree with you as far as the food is concerned. My children and I are vegetarian which makes it a little harder but luckily we found a couple of meditteranean restaurants. One thing I must add was my disappointment at the beach. I researched which was the most kid friendly beach and read to go to Nova Mar Bella beach. To my dismay, my children saw nude men and women. I don’t mind the topless scene but I shouldn’t have to expose my children to mens’ and womens’ genitalia at the tender age of 7!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Yikes! I’m sorry to hear about your beach experience in Barcelona. We saw topless women at the beach in Barcelona but didn’t see any nude beach goers, thankfully.

    • marendins says

      It seems your research went wrong, Nova Mar Bella is a nudist beach…

    • Hahahahaha!!! So funny you find a nude body something to hide to kids when they love to be nude!! In Barcelona we think our bodies are not something we must hide. Anyway, it is good thing we have beaches for different tipes of thinking. Here one can choose to wear or not to wear a swimming costume. We are free to choose. So yes, your research went wrong! 🙂

  9. Give Park Guell a miss, eat at McD’s and then go on a Disney cruise… When in London, should one avoid Tate Modern and eat on Oxford Street? In Venice should one avoid the Guggenheim and eat on St Mark’s Square? Next you’ll be saying you were disappointed with the steak frites on the Champs Elysees.

    I was hoping for some insight into visiting Barcelona with a family, but you don’t seem to have researched your visit before going as one might reasonably expect a ‘travel writer’ to do. Anyone can simply turn up in a city… I think this may be why you have experienced such comments. I am visiting Barcelona with my four children, and always get recommendations for good restaurants and insightful tips of where to visit before travelling – I was expecting to find such information here. Perhaps you would get a more authentic and enjoyable experience when visiting Europe with a little research prior to visiting. Perhaps then we might be able to dispel so many of the myths Americans peddle about Europe. (Corned beef and cabbage in England? Really? Not your comment, I know). It would perhaps mean that more Americans would own passports and feel inspired to see the world… and us Europeans might feel less inclined to cultural condescension.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Siobhan (my niece has the same name as you!),

      For the most part, I loved Barcelona and all that it has to offer.

      As for Park Guell, I said, “if you are on a tight schedule, this one can be skipped.” If someone is on a tight schedule, not everything can be squeezed in, but I did not say to avoid this attraction.

      When it comes to the food in Barcelona, I offered up examples of people who adore the food there, recognizing that we are the anomaly. Apparently my family has different taste buds than yours does. People differ from each other and that’s okay.

      Yours,
      Colleen

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      At your request, Siobhan, I have removed your last name from your comment.

  10. Chaitali Patel says

    Thank you for this very useful post Colleen! I am planning my friends’ trip to Spain and you have answered so many of my questions. I do have one more though – did you use a stroller in La Boqueria and in Park Guell? I am concerned whether taking a stroller through these 2 places might be a good idea – both my friends have toddlers less than 2 years old.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Chaitali – We used a stroller in La Boqueria and Park Guell but let our little one out to rome around with us. I’d recommend bringing a stroller for sure!

  11. Christelle de Villiers says

    I was a bit disappointed that the majority of the posts here are concerned with food preferences….
    Traveling with tods – these are the questions that come to mind:
    1.) are clean public baby changing facilities readily on hand, and if not, are there alternatives?
    2.) how did you deal with the language difference. English is our second language, and we know no Spanish, yet my son communicates with anyone and everyone.
    3.) if you need formula, nappies etc. where would one go?
    4.) public transport tips….? If any
    5.) many of the places mentioned as a must visit in the original article have long queues to gain access (we’ve been to Barcelona before and must say of all the cities we’ve visited this is the only one we consider returning to)…. How did you deal with queues and energy filled tods?
    Regards,
    Christelle de Villiers

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Christelle,

      It has been a long time since I visited Barcelona but I will do my best to answer your questions.
      1) My daughter was 2.5-years-old and potty trained when we visited so I didn’t pay close attention to whether there were baby changing stations readily available. It’s a clean, family-friendly city so I’m going to go with yes!
      2) Your name sounds very French, so I am assuming your native tongue is French, yes? Between your understanding of a romance language and your command of English, I am sure you will get by just fine. Knowing key phrases in Spanish (or Catalan) is, of course, helpful and polite.
      3) Again, I wasn’t searching for these things during our visit but I assume you will find all you need at the local grocery store or pharmacy.
      4) We stuck with taxis and walking during our stay. Here’s information about Barcelona public transportation: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/transport-in-barcelona.html
      5) I don’t remember long lines being a problem in Barcelona. When traveling with toddlers and babies I find that short site-seeing visits are best, interspersed with play time at parks and naps (either in the stroller or back at the hotel).
      I hope that helps! Enjoy Barcelona!

  12. thank you for the great article. We will be arriving off of a Disney cruise with our 5 year old and so many of these things she will enjoy.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      My pleasure! Thank you for the comment, Jen. I’m sure your 5-year-old (and her mama!) will LOVE your Disney Cruise!

  13. Vortex of Bloggery says

    Interesting article – the Title drew me in! Yes – I want to hear about the Worst, it’s a great angle! I’m planning a trip to Barcelona this summer with my 6 and 8 year old. I’ve been to Barcelona many times as a solo adult, but this will be the first time with my kids. Yes, the food is AMAZING in Barcelona, especially if you don’t have kids in tow! I think people need to remember that you’re on a holiday and Mr Michelin isn’t looking over your shoulder, if you decide that McDonalds is going to make your kid happy today. Who cares? honestly. They’re going to grow up and discover these delights for themselves. Fortunately, my kids love Olives with a passion and bread, and cheese, and ham – so I think they’ll be alright on a basic picnic diet. Apparently, there are many family friendly restaurants in Poble Nou, which my friend who lives there is going to refer me to. I’ll report back! Chill out everyone and enjoy Barcelona!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Vortex of Bloggery – Thanks for weighing in! I hope your kids love Barcelona’s food and sights!

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