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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.

The Best and Worst of Barcelona with Kids

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’espanol.

La Boqueria food market along La Rambla in Barcelona with kids

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, breads, 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.

Rental row boats at Citadel Park in Barcelona with kids

Rental row boats 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 in Barcelona with kids

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. 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 in Barcelona with kids

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.

Park Guell's unique architecture in Barcelona with kids

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

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 with kids

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

Barcelona's famed food

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 with kids

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 and 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 brulee. 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)

Where to stay in Barcelona with kids

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 TravelMamas.com, 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 candy. In fact, we finally had to ask the sweet staff to stop offering lollipops 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 about in the hotel’s rooftop pool with its stunning view of the harbor spread out before us.

Barcelona with kids?

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

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.

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!

This story was originally published in 2010 and was updated in 2017.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. After living in Spain for a year, I have to agree the food is not a favorite. Individually, the wine, olives, Manchego cheese, and serrano ham are wonderful, and we made many meals of these ingredients. But the every day meals of pork pounded so thin it’s tough and dry and tapas full of mayonnaise-y sauces weren’t my thing. Well, I guess I did love the mayonnaise-y aioli on bread, but not with a lot of other things stacked on top. I miss the fresh fish the most, those little clams and mussels and a whole fish baked in salt (read my blog for that experience!)

    Barcelona was a hard place to eat with my kids too. The Anthony Bourdain restaurants are wonderful, I’m sure, but just not an experience to be had with little ones. We ate sushi the most there as it was not common in the part of Spain we lived in, and we all missed it. I cooked a lot in our small rented apartment with fresh ingredients from La Boqueria.

  2. I am not a huge fan of the food in Spain either. We took our then 15 month old to Spain and food was a struggle. Although we did learn she loved black olives and ham!

    • Hi phxbne,

      When you took your 15 month old to Spain, how did you manage to watch her and also be aware of pickpockets? I would like to go with my 15 month old as well but don’t know if it is manageable with all the pickpockets around to be alert for.

      • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

        Hi Pearl – I know your question was directed to phxbne but I thought I’d chime in anyway! We went with a 2.5-year-old and warded off pickpockets by using one of those geeky money wallets recommended by Rick Steves that you tuck into your shirt. It was hot, uncomfortable and looked lumpy under my clothes. I lived in the the South of France for a year and traveled throughout Europe without ever getting pick-pocketed simply by keeping my money/ID in a front pants pocket and always keeping a hand over my pocket walking through crowds. If approached by a gaggle of kids or someone unfamiliar putting something in front of you, turn around and quickly walk away. There are also some great pickpocket proof pants and shirts that are available now – check out ClothingArts. They are much more practical and attractive than the silly money wallet!

        • Hi Colleen, thanks for sharing your experience.. do you also keep your 2.5 year old in a stroller while walking through crowded places in Barcelona? Also, have you traveled with a toddler while expecting a second child? I want to go before there is an addition kid since travelling with one kid will for sure be easier than two…

          • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

            Hi Pearl –

            We actually found out we were expecting our second child while on our Mediterranean cruise/trip to Barcelona! We kept our toddler in the stroller but also let her out to run around in parks, etc. We had one of those safety harnesses (or backpack “leash”) that allowed her to get out and stretch her legs/explore and have some freedom without us needing to worry about her getting lost. Check out these options in the Travel Mamas Store: http://astore.amazon.com/travmama03-20?node=1&page=3

          • Hi Colleen,

            I might be in the same boat.. as with my first babymoon, I went after 20 weeks preggo since I wanted to make sure anatomy scan was all good before going.. This time (possibly babymoon #2), the thought of having to watch and toddler and preggo and being aware of pickpockets is a little bit overwhelming for me so I am googling to find more info. Thanks for your sharing again!

  3. I backpacked in Barcelona and loved it but not for the food. We were on a budget and many nights it was dinner or sangria and sangria won everytime. I did find a great bagel shop off La Rambla
    that made amazing sandwiches. Other than that we had paella once and it was no where near as good as the Paella in Nice.

    Sangria was awesome though.

  4. Dee & phxbne – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Barcelona’s cuisine!

    Allie – You crack me up! I love that Sangria won over dinner most nights. Ahhh…to be so young with such priorities again!

  5. I haven’t been to Spain, but I always thought the food is good there. It’s good to know. We plan to go there next year and we want to see the chocolate museum with our kids.

  6. Are you people on drugs? Don’t like food in Spain? Going to Mc Donalds to feed your children! Give me a break!!! Go to England and eat some boiled cabbage with corned beef…jeessus.

  7. My 18 month old loved the tapas in Barcelona and all of Spain. Educate yourselves a bit more and know what to order. There is a lot of variety and more to it than just the fried food and mayo, etc. you guys are too narrow minded and this article does a great disservice to some of the best food around. We had no issues whatsoever. As if Mcdonalds was better than tapas. Seriously people, really? Don’t be so ignorant. Read about the cuisine before you go.

    • I was reading the post, and was flipping out. People don’t like spanish food. Then after few minutes I thought maybe I’m too strict with other people thoughts about the food questions. But NO!! Just can’t be like this. And thank you Sofy for saying the truth. and Now I’m inspired to post my own opinion about this post.

      • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

        Anna – I look forward to reading your post. Please send a link to your story when it is live. I might also like a different flavor of ice cream than you. It’s okay to like different things. Everyone has different taste buds. And, like I said in my story, we rarely eat at McDonald’s at home. But sometimes you need to do what you need to do when traveling with a toddler.

  8. Well, I’m glad that some 18 month olds are so very cultured. Unfortunately, many toddlers are fussy eaters and parents do the best they can while traveling to get their kids to eat (usually something that is familiar to them). It’s not about being ignorant. Everyone has the right to their own food preferences. It is narrow minded to think that everyone should like something just because you do. This article was honest and describes a pretty realistic problem that many families face while traveling…and I’m thinking most toddlers would reject the cabbage and corned beef suggestion as well.

  9. Thanks for the comment, Juliana! I always find it interesting when people get so offended (and offensive) about something as simple as a different taste in food.

  10. Hi guys,
    Gotta say I’m a bit surprised on the food comments taking into account that Barcelona’s famous for it. Also taking into account that, as a cosmopolitan city, it has got all kind of restaurants from Mediterranean to Far Eastern; and fast food too, from tapas (which are also in this category) to McDonalds. Not to forget that, if budget allows, it has the greatest density per square mile of MIchelin-awarded restaurants in the World, even higher than Paris nowadays. It’s certainly very difficult not to find something that wouldn’t satisfy your palate -or your kid’s. But hey, I respect other people’s criticism, it’s only that I find it unfair to judge Barcelona’s gastronomy so lightly.

    In any case, please don’t take my comment as me being offended/defensive, I just would like to point out that, of the many ‘lows’ of Barcelona, food is certainly not one. Perhaps some people did little ‘searching’, as someone is suggesting. As in any major tourist destination, if you stick to the touristy places you’re likely to be served junk food while being exorbitantly charged.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thank you for your comment, Enric! I know many people love, love, love Barcelona’s food but we were not among them. My husband and I actually asked the hotel employees (not the concierge) for restaurant recommendations and specifically asked them to tell us where THEY go, not tourists. It may have also had to do with traveling with a toddler. Unfortunately we were unable to really delve deeply into the tapas culture there because we had to go to bed when things were just beginning to heat up in Barcelona.

  11. Thanks for the article Colleen, we’re going to Barcelona next week and it’s nice to be “prepared” while taking along our 21 months old daugther with. She’s quite selective in food (as probably lots of toddlers), so we’ll probably stick to her favorites ;).

    I’ve also heard about Barcelona as a gourmet city…not sure we’ll be able to experience it that way. Just to see messy little face with food all over will be a fantastic thing and if together with that we can explore some local specialities: great!

    Greetings from DK

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Nicoline,

      Have a wonderful time in Barcelona! It’s such a friendly city, I know you will have fun!

  12. Cynthia Whipple says:

    Hi there! I LOVE that you included McDonald’s in this article. However we feel about Mcdonald’s, it’s amazing how comforting it is when in a situation with a picky eater and limited choices. I feel sometimes that no city is worth visiting unless it has a McDonalds, or at least in my youngest son’s opinion. I enjoy reading those opinions above of people who would criticize your information. I am sure it must be nice to live in their perfectly manicured, highly enlightened world. Bless their hearts. In the meantime, thank you for giving your honest review of Barcelona. We’ll add it to our research as we, too, consider a cruise to this area!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Cynthia – You crack me up! When I lived in Europe for a year, I sometimes headed to McDonald’s when I felt homesick for the U.S., which is funny because I rarely eat at McDonald’s! But you’re so right; McDonald’s can feel comforting in a foreign locale. Have a wonderful Mediterranean cruise!

  13. I think there’s a major difference between difference in tastes and ignorance. I think you should ashamed of yourself taking your toddler to mcdonalds, it says everything about American culture. Try giving them a wise variety of fresh food and they won’t want to eat that rubbish masquerading as food.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Belinda,

      There is a difference between being kind and being a jerk. Have you ever been to McDonald’s in your life? Do you even have children? I, my dear, am not ignorant. I am very well traveled, educated and intelligent. Thank you for stopping by my blog to say mean things.

      Best,
      Colleen

  14. Marendins says:

    Tapas are not local food. They may bevbery Spanish, but Barcelona just happens to be a Catalan city.
    Paella and Sangria are sure to get you into a tourist-trap. Kind of like looking for flamenco and bullfights. If you came to Barcelona looking for that, you got the wrong place. Again, it’s a Catalan city.
    If you want to know about Catalan food you should try esqueixada, pà amb tomàquet, escalivada, bacallà a la llauna, anxoves de l’Escala, arròs caldós, etc. No need to go to fancy restaurants sporting one or more Michelin stars. Any restaurant claiming to serve “cuina de mercat” (market’s cuisine) is a good bet.

    Regards from Barcelona

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Marendins – Thank you for the tips on Barcelona’s cuisine. I will know what to order if we visit again!

      • Maradins – Thank you for offering constructive and helpful tips, not mean-spirited criticisms like a few of the others. My family travels a lot and I always LOVE to get suggestions of dishes to try and now my mouth is watering in anticipation of our trip to Barcelona!
        Colleen – Good for you for not taking the nasty comments lying down! While we haven’t resorted to McDonald’s when visiting big cities (but, alas, definitely yes while on road trips when we don’t want to stop for long), we have bypassed more gastronomically-adventurous restaurants in favour of ones which offer pizza, pasta or similar foods more palatable to my picky daughter. For a foodie like me, this is tortuous but still preferable to dragging a hungry and, therefore, cranky child around on what would otherwise be a wondrous adventure! Stopping by a grocery store or market for fresh snack food (which might end up being lunch AND dinner for the children!) is also a great strategy that works for our family. Thanks for the great tips about what to do / where to go while in Barcelona!

        • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

          Hi Kim – Thank you for the comment! Hitting up the grocery store while traveling is a great tip when traveling with picky eaters – good for the budget too!

  15. I like that you were honest and said that some of the food wasn’t to YOUR liking. It’s your opinion, and thank you for sharing it. traveling with a toddler is not always easy, especially when it comes to food! I know that too well 🙂

  16. I recall with horror that my family ate almost exclusively at McDonald’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown and at the Vancouver World’s Fair on a couple of trips when I was young. I grew out of it. As a parent, I have taken my kids to McDonald’s when I would rather have eaten local cuisine. Thankfully, my kids are now starting to grow out of it too.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Allison – The funny thing is that my daughter is the much more adventurous eater of our two kids. I wonder how she would fare if we returned to Barcelona now that she is several years older!

  17. i have heard such great things about Barcelona – we definitely need to go!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Jessie – Yes, there is so much to love about Barcelona. I hope you get a chance to visit with your family some day!

  18. You had me at Chocolate Museum! It’s always a difficult decision for me to travel somewhere that I’m not crazy about the food. I’m sorry your culinary experience wasn’t superb, but I guess it could happen to best of us!

  19. Dear author of the post,
    I’m russian. Live in Barcelona over 17 years. Work in tourist industry, with deep knowledge of catalan and spanish traditions, and have a lots of international friends who come to Barcelona again and again and over again. And maybe in most part because of people and (oh no…) FOOD! I’m also a mother of two healthy daughters 2,5 and 4,5 years, who eat at Mc Donald’s once in their lives. It’s a shame to go to eat to Mc Donald’s coming to Barcelona!!! (I’m not ecologic, vegetarian freak food control at all!) There is so many many many, just huge lots of different food you can taste, which is not fried at all!! Vegetables, fresh fish, owen cooked food, soups, omlettes… I could write a book. But of course I wouldn’t do it so professionally as other thousand of people already did! Maybe if you took 30 minutes before traveling to find out about spanish kitchen You would be very surprised there is a “thing” called mediterranean diet. It has been defensed by UNESCO!!!
    Maybe you are experienced traveller, maybe experienced traveller with children. BUT. It’s no good to give your opinion about a food in Barcelona, while you re eating in Mc donalds and most of food you tried is around LA Rambla!!! Eat in la Rambla is a crime! This is not Spanish, not catalan, no nothing. But even much more crime to feed your children in Mc Donalds!! Better would be fried tapas, believe me!!! Please, do not base your opinion about Barcelona after 10 days. If you visit a Boqueria, it doesn’t mean your are an expert in Barcelona foods!
    Love Barcelona- Love Catalonia!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Dear Anna – My name is right at the top of the post. It’s Colleen. If you will notice, I mentioned in my post that many people love the food in Barcelona and even linked to a video of Samantha Brown singing the praises of Barcelona’s cuisine. I am not an idiot and of course I have heard of the Mediterranean diet. We did not restrict our dining solely to areas near La Rambla and sought out places frequented by locals by asking locals where they go to eat with their families. I do not claim to be an expert in Barcelona’s cuisine. Rather, I shared my thoughts on my family’s experience. Like I said, we loved Barcelona, and the city’s friendly residents in particular.

  20. Rebecca P. says:

    Thank you so much for the great Barcelona Story. Too bad your writing gets a bit lost in all the mean comments. I will not give my opinion about the food. I think we had enough of that 😉 (And well, I have a son of 2years old that LOVES to eat thing he doesn’t know, so he really liked everything in Barcelona, yes, I feel blessed)
    The only thing I would recommend, is to rent an apartment next time. We rented an apartment in Barceloneta, walking distance from the beach. It was such a great experience, we really got to know the culture, our neighbours… I felt more personally involved with the city than I would feel in a Hotel (could be my personal preference I don’t know) Barcelona Point helped me so much, not only with booking the apartment, but I also got a lot of advice about the city, places that are perfect for kids and so on.
    I would go back immediately if I could. Loved reading your story!
    Greetings Rebecca

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I’m so glad you like the story, Rebecca! And I’m glad your son liked the food too! I will keep an apartment rental in mind if we ever visit Barcelona again. It’s always nice to have extra room and a kitchen while traveling.

  21. I am booking a 2 night stay at an apartment in Barcelona before a cruise. We have 2 boys aged 10 and 11. What would be the best area to stay in? I am looking at El Born, Raval?? Suggestions?

  22. Hi Colleen,

    Thanks for sharing.

    I’m booked on Disney’s med cruise departing from Barcelona in August and we too have planned to arrive a few days earlier to do some sightseeing. My daughter is 5 and from experience, her preference with western food revolves around mainly nuggets, pizza, chicken wings and garlic bread. I, on the other hand want to book dinner at tickets (Alber Adria’s tapas restaurant) and indulge in all food basque and catalan. Most of the time, she wins -sigh-.

    So after reading your post, i googled the location of the nearest maccers near our hotel. 😀
    Well, as long as she gets some familiar food in her belly, is well hydrated, well rested, has sun screen, i’m going to choose my battles and food will likely not be one of them – by negotiating with the girl La Sagrada or musees for ice cream and negotiating with my husband camp nou for shopping at zara/massimo dutti while he watches the kiddo 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!
    mel

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Melissa – You are going to have an absolute blast in Barcelona and on your Disney Mediterranean cruise! Maybe your daughter will like the Crema Catalunya? (I bet her mom will!) Bon voyage!

  23. Eva Cassi Fondevilla says:

    Hi Colleen,
    Glad you liked my birth town!! I wish you could come back again and then I would take you to some extraordinary restaurants, not necessarily expensive, for you to change your mind about Catalan and Spanish cuisine! Anyway, I am a Licensed Official Guide and a mamma also and I am starting to take off with more specialised and interactive tours for Kids. I normally have private tours for families so I have decided to make it really fun for the kids. I would love you to recommend my services to your clients!!! Well, I hope to meet you in a future. Big Hug Mami!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Eva – I loved Barcelona – especially the friendly people and the food market! It’s funny because one of my favorite restaurants in my hometown of San Diego is Cafe Sevilla, which serves tapas plus larger dishes from all over Spain. Maybe we just chose the wrong restaurants?! If I ever get back to Barcelona, I will certainly look you up for a foodie tour!

  24. Thanks a lot for this article as I will be travelling with a 2 year old and will be staying after our Royal Caribbean cruise. It seems that a few people in here don’t know what different taste means. What you like might not be the same for others that’s why this world is full of varieties. Stop judging a mother for trying to feed her child just because you don’t approve McDonald’s. And, no probably you are the ignorant ones not her. I have a fussy toddler too, so I do understand that sometimes we will give in to what they want to eat.

    Bless u

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Dali – From one mom to another, I thank you for your support. I hope you and your family will have a wonderful time on your cruise and in Barcelona!

  25. Hi Colleen,

    Thanks for this honest article. I have just returned from a short trip to Barcelona and loved it so much we want to go back again!

    For all the McDonalds haters out there I just wanted to share a video link from Jim Gaffigan which is hilarious in case you haven’t seen it already:)

    http://youtu.be/6YDTfEhChgw

    We did have to do a lot of our own research when it came to finding great restaurants but they do exist so make the effort before you go.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Dan – Too funny! So true…McDonald’s is selling those burgers to SOMEONE!

  26. Dear Colleen,
    As a parent I find your articles very useful as traveling around with kids is quite the challenge, my daughter also had a hard time with the food in Barcelona & being a Foodie myself I admit that it can be challenging just like in Italy to find the real genuine flavours, I would like to share with you and future visitors a Dine Drink & dance project for Barcelona, and shortly Rome, Florence, & Milan, where you can enjoy all inclusive tasting experiences (Wine & Sangria tasting too), let me know what you think
    http://www.dinedrink.dance
    Best
    Arthur L

  27. Dear all
    I have been in Barcelona three times with my children. The first two times, It was really hard to find some food that really liked them but we understood that they are used to diffferent food and we tryied to give them food that was attractive to their eyes and It worked! now they love tapas, spanish omellet and paella.
    In our last visit, the air company lost our twin stroller and our first day in Barcelona was a nightmare.
    We talked to the owner of the flat we had rented and contacted us to babytravelling. I hardly recommend them. We rented a twin stroller from them and after claiming to the air company, they paid for the hiring.
    they have plenty of products to make travelling with kids very easily. They are fast . Note this in case you have any problem or need travelling to Barcelona.
    Martha (France)

  28. It’s sad how much Barcelona has changed since in the last 25 years. Now the centre is unrecognizable as it has been taken over by the tourist trade. But this feeds the local economy so I shouldn’t complain really.
    My advice: You should never eat on the Ramblas, whether you go with kids or not- the food there is overpriced and just abysmal. I recommend you try to find places away from the centre and the tourist spots if you want to try good local food.
    Secondly, if you do some research on Google you can find out a lot about Catalan food (not paella or the tapas on bread which are normally from the Basque country). You will find that the famous dessert you love is Crema Catalana not Catalunya (which is the region itself!).
    A taco is a small piece or cube of cheese. Obviously it means something different in Mexico as do many food words such as tortilla, but this is very easy to research and needn’t be confusing.
    There are so many restaurants here in walking distance of the centre…As the mother of a fussy eater, I promise you that you can find a great range of options in this city. Before you have to resort to Mcdonalds, why not just find a good Italian restaurant? Surely that would be better.
    I do hope you go back and maybe stay somewhere else and try some other food. It would be a shame if your lasting memory of the place was bad food and Mcdonalds.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Ana – Thank you for telling me the correct desert name! I have updated the post accordingly. We did eat at a good Italian restaurant in Barcelona, as I mentioned in the post as being our favorite dining experience in Barcelona. The food was just one small part of our memories of Barcelona, and a small portion of this post as well. I loved the people, the sites and our hotel. I was not a big fan of the food, that’s all. My most lasting memories from Barcelona are La Boqueria (which I stated is my favorite open air market I’ve ever visited), rowing a boat around the pond at Citadel Park, and swimming in the rooftop pool at Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel. Believe me, when I think of Barcelona, McDonald’s is not the first thing that comes to mind!

  29. Catherine says:

    Hi Colleen,
    Thank you for sharing your experience about Barcelona. My family (my husband, our 14 month old, and I) moved to Spain last November. We live very close to Sevilla and travel to a new city in the country every weekend if we can. We plan on taking an extended trip to Barcelona in the upcoming months, so your blog will definitely be of assistance to us. I’m sorry that so many others have been terrible and unable to comprehend that toddlers, just like all of us, have different tastes in food. As a good parent, you do whatever you have to in order to ensure that they eat SOMETHING. We have tried many different foods from each place we visit (our favorite thus far being a little restaurant in Zahara), but overall the cuisine here can get tiresome because of the lack of variety of vegetables to accompany meals. Every time we go somewhere, I pack fresh fruit and vegetables for our son, but he is more than happy to try whatever we order. I live for certain tapas in Spain, but I really like finding the local restaurants that offer more. We try to avoid tourist restaurants at all cost, as well, because we so enjoy living off the economy, learning to do as the locals do, and experiencing all that we can. Again, thank you for your honesty and your suggestions about places to see in Barcelona. We cannot wait to experience yet another new city here in wonderful Spain.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Catherine – What an exciting adventure for your family to live in and explore Spain! Thank you for your kind words an insight to Spanish cuisine.

  30. Hi Colleen
    Thanks for your post. I read on another site
    about Barcelona being rampant with pickpockets- it’s made me a bit worried, any advice about that?
    I’ll be traveling with husband and 2 kids – 14 and 11 year old girls.
    Thanks

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Tamara – Pickpockets are more common in Europe than in the U.S., particularly in big cities. (My theory is this is because they have less guns in Europe; I’d rather be pickpocketed than shot!) I don’t know that Barcelona is any worse than any other big city in Europe. You can get a money belt that goes around your waist or beneath your shirt, but it seems pretty silly to me. Locals don’t do that! I tend to put my money/ID in my front pocket and keep my hand over my pockets while walking through crowds. Or, I wear a purse or day bag with a long strap that I can hold in front of me with one hand. Beware of swarms of giggling children who come up to you. They distract you while other kids go through your pockets. Also beware of anyone who puts something in front of your waist (a newspaper or piece of cardboard, for example). They’re doing that to confuse you while someone else takes your money. I hope that helps. Enjoy Barcelona!

  31. 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!

  32. 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!

  33. 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!

  34. 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!

  35. Siobhan says:

    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.

  36. 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! 🙂

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

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

  39. 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?

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