Barcelona is the kind of city where you can spend a week and do what seems like everything, or come back year after year and still find more to explore. It’s extremely walkable, friendlier than some of Spain’s other cities and filled to the brim with things to do if you have kids in tow.
You won’t find suggestions like zoos and aquariums here because, well, you can do things like that just about anywhere in the world. Instead, fill your family’s time with things that are quintessentially Barcelona.
Things to do with kids in Barcelona
1. Do the hop-on, hop-off bus.
The hop-on/-off bus will get you to every major tourist attraction in Barcelona. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
Barcelona Bus Turístic features three routes that each take about two hours from start to finish (without hopping off). This is a fantastic way to get your bearings when you first arrive in Barcelona, learn a little local history and figure out what you’d like to revisit later during your stay. Better still, research the routes ahead of time and map out a few stops to take advantage of this easy-to-use city transportation.
2. Cortados for days.
Look, you’ve travelled to Europe with your kids and you need to acclimatize to your new time zone quickly. Kids may rebound faster than Olympians but, for you, a cortado is the answer. This miniature-sized espresso-based java is the perfect pick-me-up if you feel yourself starting to fade. After seven days of “research,” the clear winner came from Pink Soda Café.
3. Take a free walking tour of Gaudi’s architecture.
You might not think an architectural tour would wow littles, but Gaudi’s whimsy is super kid-friendly. Marvel at what should be more aptly described as this mastermind’s art-chitecture during a two-hour guided tour with Runnerbean Tours, where you pay by way of gratuities once the tour concludes (somewhere between 5 to 15 Euros per person is a good range).
Be on the lookout for the chimneys that inspired George Lucas’s Stormtroopers:
Do you see what I see? (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
PRO TIP: What to wear in Barcelona depends heavily on your daily itinerary. Walking tours in the summer months are best served with sturdy, comfortable footwear like running shoes and quick-dry fabrics. Remember to keep valuables close — pickpockets are notoriously stealthy in Barcelona.
Have lunch at one of the world’s oldest food markets: Le Bouqueria. Just be prepared for a bit of a wait if you want to pull up a stool at the more popular mini-restaurants, like El Quim de Bouqueria (where the gazpacho and oxtail risotto will blow your foodie minds). Then grab a fresh juice from one of the market vendors for a Euro and wander the many aisles and stalls. This is a great place to buy the Spanish olive oil and saffron you’ll want to take home.
Tapas, tapas, tapas. If your kids are younger (say 12 and under), El Nacionale is a great spot to experience tapas with its four culinary areas under one beautiful roof. La Tapería has a variety of cold and hot dishes and the servers are endlessly coming out of the kitchen “Malaga-style” with some singing and others chanting like auctioneers. It’s entertaining and delicious! Teens and young adults will enjoy La Pepita or El Xampanyet (Carrer de Montcada, 22), both of which offer more adventurous dishes and hip, authentic environments
During peak times, El Xampanyet will be standing-room only. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
For the foodiest of families with older kids, Italian-Spanish hybrid Cera23 is a must. The Cecína de León and Meloso de Ternera were mind-blowing
But not just any paella, because it is not created equally everywhere. La Mar Salada’s is tops and they have daily specials and a seasonal menu with offerings that are heavy on the seafood and richly flavoured.
Paella, baby. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
Iberian ham is your friend. Always. If you see it on a menu, I can almost guarantee that it’ll be amazing. Because when are acorn-fed pork byproducts ever a disappointment? Never!
Parking Pizza. Every pizza we tried was better than the last.
Photo credit: Andrea Traynor
5. Don’t forget about the sweets.
It’s all about the gelato, people. Italy might be the home of gelato, but Barcelona’s got it nailed. More of my not-at-all scientific research led me to Oggi Gelato, which is brimming with both classic and unusual gelato flavours — from stracciatella to ricotta.
Photo credit: Andrea Traynor
You should also go in search of Museu de la Xocolata (museum of chocolate); forget the admission and just indulge at the shop. Words other than OMG can’t describe the chocolate-covered almonds dusted in a lemon-cacao powder.
6. Get tickets to go inside the Sagrada Familia.
But get them online ahead of time to avoid disappointment as time slots book up quickly (days in advance during some periods). And, no — looking at this massive church from the outside, while certainly impressive, isn’t enough and you really can’t say you’ve visited the Sagrada Familia unless you go inside, too. It’s actually hard to believe it’s the same building inside and out. Expect your kids’ jaws to be on the floor — and not just because the ceiling is 170 metres high.
The way the light trickles into the Sagrada Familia through hundreds of stained glass windows will make you weep. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
7. Check out Parc de la Ciutadella.
Spend some time in what was once Barcelona’s only green space looking for highlights like the enormous wooly mammoth statue or the elaborate fountains designed by Josep Fontserè — perhaps with a little help from Gaudi. Or just lounge like locals for hours in the sun.
The author, dwarfed by the mammoth statue. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
The park is also home to quite possibly the most beautiful school you’ll ever see, which sits directly across from an elaborate parliament building. (Warning: your kids might just want to transfer…)
8. See Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf.
Yep, there’s one here, too. And this one isn’t surrounded by a chaotic six-lane roundabout like it is in Paris, making it easy to get close. Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1888, the Arc is actually one of the gateways into Parc de la Ciutadella, so you can find it on your way in or out.
Photo credit: Andrea Traynor
9. Go to the beach and sun yourself under the Frank Gehry fish.
At 52 metres long, “El Peix” — built for the 1992 Olympics — is perched at the far end of La Barceloneta Beach, and an unmissable feature on the horizon.
Photo credit: Andrea Traynor
10. Wind your way between buildings to find the Picasso museum.
It will challenge what you think you might know about one of the world’s most profound artists, and the gallery is set up in a kid-friendly format. Again, get your timed tickets ahead of time to avoid disappointment. There are some fantastic colouring books available in the gift shop for kids who want to want to do their own take on Picasso’s work.
PRO TIP: Google Maps will save you as you try to navigate the winding, narrow roads making up much of Barcelona’s core.
11. See how the other half live at Port Vell.
Boats, boats and more boats. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
Gawk at the boats in the harbor — some of which are multimillion dollar yachts — and daydream.
Cable car tickets can be purchased for each leg of your journey or roundtrip. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
If the funicular ride isn’t enough of a draw on its own, this gallery devoted to all things wacky and wonderful à la Miró will be a crowd-pleaser. It includes indoor and outdoor spaces and is the most appropriate gallery for little kids thanks to its vibrant colours and peculiar sculptures.
Depending on where you’re coming from, it can be a steep walk up to the park’s entrance, so splurging on a taxi ride might be wise. Though it’ll be worth it to see Gaudi’s dream of residential suburbia — where ultimately only three homes were ever built.
Tour around most of the park for free or pay for a guided tour to get even more access. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
The imaginative Hansel and Gretal-inspired structures alone are something to see. Look for the mosaic-tiled animal and ask your kids whether they think it’s a gecko, salamander, lizard or dragon. With Gaudi, anything is possible…
14. Do it all from the best hotel in Barcelona.
With gorgeous rooms, a rooftop pool, and a complimentary buffet breakfast, the IBEROSTAR Paseo de Gracia’s central location is merely a bonus.
The IBEROSTAR Paseo de Gracia’s rooftop pool is a welcome refuge for families looking for a bit of downtime or who need to be “home” for a midday nap. (Photo credit: Andrea Traynor)
You’re at the foot of the best shopping along Passeig de Gracia and the property looks out onto one of the city’s main squares, Plaça de Catalunya, putting you within walking distance of nearly everything on this list.
Simply put: let Barcelona wrap your family in a cloak of history, art, food, and memories you’ll cherish forever.
Disclosure: Consideration may have been provided by brands mentioned in this post.