The Best and Worst of Barcelona with Kids

Barcelona may be the friendliest city I have ever visited. There are many attractions for the whole family to enjoy in the Catalan capital from the green Parc de la Ciutadella and the famous La Rambla pedestrian-only street to a chocolate museum. 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,

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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 Market along La Rambla in Barcelona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

La Rambla

Barcelona’s most famous street is La Rambla. It 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. Then find a picnic area at Parc de la Ciutadella for an affordable lunch.

I love a good open-air market, and this is one of the best I have ever visited. With 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 that 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 family trip to Barcelona with children should include a stop at the Museu de la Xocolata. Visitors can learn at this chocolate museum how chocolate came to be eaten and how it is made. Afterward, you can (and should!) purchase a chocolate treat or two at the onsite café.

The most fun, though, is browsing through various sculptures made of chocolate in forms. We saw a chocolate bullfighting scene, Mickey Mouse made of chocolate, and our daughter’s favorite, Finding Nemo.

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

Parc de la Ciutadella

Although the architectural styles in Barcelona is beautiful, the city center 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 with kids. Parks offer free entry and it’s nice to take a city break. Young children make friends easily no matter the language barrier and it’s the best way to get a glimpse into the everyday lives of local families.

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

Barcelona Beaches

If visiting during summer months, then you’ll want to hit one of Barcelona’s beaches. You could easily spend a whole day or more splashing and playing with older kids and younger kids alike along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

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,

La Sagrada Familia Basilica

Construction of one of Barcelona’s most popular tourist attractions, La Sagrada Familia Basilica began in 1882 and is still underway today. This unique church was designed by Antoni Gaudi, one of Barcelona’s most famous residents. The basilica should reach completion by 2026. Get more out of your visit by purchasing La Sagrada Familia tickets in advance with audio guide.

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 Güell

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 showcasing Gaudi’s work, and great views 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 a trek to get there. If you’re on a tight schedule without enough time, then this one can be skipped, especially if visiting Barcelona with younger children.

Family-Friendly Tours

From skip-the-line tickets and guided walking tours to boat trips and day trips from Barcelona, GetYourGuide has got you covered. Take a look at our trusted partner’s most popular Barcelona tours for families.

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) and 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. Many of the tapas we tried 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. In fact, 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, then 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 Cruise in the Mediterranean and Disney recommended Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel. It’s a great place for the entire family, just a short walk from the Las Ramblas area. The décor was at once modern and elegant, too.

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 any special treatment!) Our room was HUGE, especially considering European standards.

The staff was beyond courteous. 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!

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 the best hotels for families in Barcelona at 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 family holiday 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 are plenty of family-friendly activities in this vibrant city, too. I highly recommend visiting Barcelona with kids.

As for me, I’ve been to Barcelona twice and that’s probably enough. 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.

Horse drawn carriage rides in Plaza de España
Horse-drawn carriage rides in Plaza de España in Seville, Spain (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Explore More of Spain

Ironically, Spain has become one of my favorite countries on Earth and I hope to live there someday! Discover my suggestions for exploring the amazing city of Seville with kids.

Explore more of Spain with this list of the best things to do in Málaga.

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

Learn about an unusual Catalonian holiday tradition in this round-up of wacky Christmas traditions in Europe.

The Best and Worst of Barcelona with Kids

Save These Fun 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 on 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!

A Note from The Travel Mama: This story was originally written in 2009 and is regularly updated to reflect the current top things to do in Barcelona with kids.

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  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!

    1. 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. 😉

    1. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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?

    1. Hi Yogini – Barcelona is very baby-friendly. We brought our daughter in her stroller and had no problems navigating the sidewalks or finding changing tables when she was a toddler. It might be a good idea to bring a baby carrier too so you have options. We absolutely loved our hotel, Eurostars Grand Marina: It was walking distance to La Rambla and all sorts of restaurants, but far enough away from the action that it wasn’t noisy. It was a very friendly and modern hotel, and all the staff doted on our daughter. Plan to take some cabs while there because blocks are unusually long so what may appear walking distance on a map is actually quite a distance away. Enjoy your trip to Barcelona with your little one!

  6. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. 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! 🙂

  7. 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.

    1. 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.


  8. 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.

    1. 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!

  9. 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?
    Christelle de Villiers

    1. 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:
      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!