Barcelona is one of those destinations that you can enjoy whether you are on a romantic getaway, a family holiday or even a business trip! There are lots of family-friendly activities in Barcelona to explore. The city is full of beautiful architecture and history everywhere you look. The streets are dotted with authentic Catalan restaurants, quirky tapas bars and vibrant markets. We were always munching on something and I basically swapped water for sangria for the week!
When to go
We went in May which is perfect if you are going with kids. The days are long and you find yourself not really missing out on the nightlife because it is 10 pm and still bright! It was however too chilly for swimming. So if you want to spend some days on Barcelona’s beautiful Mediterranean beaches then aim for summertime.
Where to stay
Since I was there on business and my family decided to join me later for a few days, we stayed at the Hilton Diagonal Mar hotel. The hotel is nestled between the business district and the beach. What we loved about it was that it is was a few stops away from the heart of the city; La Rambla and Placa de Catalunya.
What to pack
The most important item to pack for activities in Barcelona would be comfortable shoes because you will be walking – and dancing – a lot. Sunscreen because as mentioned above the sun is shining for more than 12 hours during the spring and summer seasons. Also bring your appetite!
Recommended activities in Barcelona
Hop on a bus
I like a good old hop on hop off bus. There are lots of companies but the one we used was called Barcelona Bus Turistic. That way you can get a feel of the city and take lots of your typical touristy photos, without getting the kids overtired. If you buy online you get a discount and your ticket is valid on three different routes.
Go crazy on Gaudi
To be very honest with you, before planning our holiday in Barcelona, I knew very little about Antonio Gaudi except that he was an outrageous architect. It was only when I saw La Sagrada Familia in real life that I realised what a forward thinking genius he was.
What I love the most about this basilica is that no matter where you look you will be pleasantly surprised with intricate details and exceptional designs. You can easily turn this into a fun game with the kids – a more artistic version of I Spy! For some reason, the official website is not working. But you can still book tickets in advance from third party websites.
Our next stop was Casa Mila, sometimes referred to as La Pedrera, Spanish for “stone quarries”. We really enjoyed touring the Pedrera Apartment. It is crazy to think that people lived in these apartments in the early 1900s! I have a fear of heights so the view from the roof terrace was dizzying and the circular stairways did not really help! Tickets can purchased online for about £19.
Park Guell was next on the list. The walk uphill is at least 20-25 minutes. If you have young kids or have been walking around all day, then take a taxi or the shuttle bus service. If we had more time, we would have loved to visit the remaining Works of Gaudi which are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Explore the Gothic Quarter
The kids will love getting lost in the labyrinth streets of the Gothic Quarter and strolling the bustling La Rambla. The avenue is full of shops, cafes, and restaurants and some of the funniest street performers I have seen!
Make sure you spend at least an hour in the Picasso museum which is open every day except for Monday. Afterwards, head to the historical La Boqueria market for a well deserved treat.
Follow in Christopher Columbus’s footsteps
At the far end of La Rambla is the monument to Christopher Columbus. It marks his return from the expedition to the Americas. It depicts him pointing with one hand in the direction of the “New World”. You can walk around Port Vell basking in the sun and watching the boats. Then make your way to the Maremagnum shopping centre for some mandatory Zara and Desigual pieces!
Watch some football
If you or your kids are fans of football you must visit Camp Nou the home of FC Barcelona! First, we started with a the basic tour of the stadium and museum which cost around £22 per person. We spent another hour in the gift shop before attending a match between Barcelona and Deportivo. We even managed to get a glance of Messi! It was a mind blowing experience for us! This was our first football match outside of Egypt!
Go on a pilgrimage to Montserrat
We took a coach from Barcelona to visit Montserrat. You can also take a train and some pilgrims climb the mountain on foot! You can easily spend a day at this complex with roots dating to 888 AD. That way you get to explore the monastery, museum, nature park, churches and library. If your kids are too young you might want to skip the long queue to see the image of Our Lady of Montserrat aka La Moreneta or “the dark one”.
And chillax to recover from all your activities in Barcelona
Weather permitting, visit any of the public beaches and spend a lazy day drinking more sangria and pretending to watch the kids. In the evening, you can attend a Flamenco show. Some shows include drinks only and some include a 2 or 3 course dinner.
After spending almost a whole week in Barca, I have to admit that I had a hard time trying to get into my jeans before our flight home. I remember feeling so relaxed and inspired – and of course tanned – thanks to the amazing vibes of this captivating city. You might also be interested in other family friendly summer destinations in Europe such as Rhodes or Paris.