If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll probably know I’m not a big fan of adventure travel. I’m also not very outdoorsy. You see, the thought of sleeping in a tent makes me feel so sick to my stomach that I’d no doubt be able to write off a communal campsite toilet for a month. And the only mountains I dare to tackle are those made out of washing.
But what I do love is a good weekend city break. I like beautiful buildings, interesting museums and sitting off in pavement cafes while people watching and sipping cold beer. All things, it turns out, you can still enjoy avec uno bambino when in continental Europe.
Barcelona, with its easy to navigate streets and super baby friendly airport security zone is, in my humble opinion, a great place to start if you’re new to exploring city destinations on your family jollies.
Here are five things to see and do in the city that tick the family win box:
#1 Visit the Sagrada Familia
Being the beautiful work in progress that it is, you need tickets to visit the Sagrada Familia. It’s one way to keep the funds flowing for the ongoing construction work.
As a result, the tourist attraction set up means Gaudi’s masterpiece, despite its classification as a basilica (one up from a cathedral dontcha know) doesn’t feel too churchy. This in turn makes it much more family friendly than you’d expect. There’s no need to worry about shouting babies! Of course, it is still a place of worship and there are places for quiet reflection inside. Just keep your distance so as not to disturb anyone saying a prayer. Unless you want to say one yourself of course!
Book your tickets online if you can – queuing is definitely not a family friendly activity. And if you have a buggy you’ll be guided to the special assistance ramp access area which will make your visit a lovely smooth ride. Once you’re done, head over the road to the square of Placa de Gaudi where you’ll find a lovely park complete with well kept kids playgrounds. Perfect for letting the little ones run around for a bit while you admire the backdrop of this building beauty.
#2 See the City from Parc Guell
Gaudi’s Parc Guell is another place you’d be wise to prebook online for – they limit the number of visitors who can access the monumental zone in one go, so you need a timed slot. But there is more to see than just that zone, so you can make a day of it by bringing a picnic and enjoying the wider park area which is completely free to enter. Again, there’s a great playground for wee ones. The only drawback really is that there are hills in the park and then plenty of steps in the monumental zone itself. But if I got through it on a dull rainy day with a baby and a buggy and still lived to recommend it, you can rest assured it’s totally doable and completely worth it for the views over the city.
#3 Hop on a Tour Bus
Ok so I know this isn’t Barcelona specific, but kids seem to love buses and trains and the tour bus was a big hit with Holiday Baby who appeared to love car spotting more than sightseeing! It was really easy to use the bus, even with the buggy and it helped us get from A to B given that there can be a fair bit of distance between the places you want to visit (for example – it’s about a half hour walk from Placa Catalunya to the Sagrada Familia) and although the tour bus isn’t exactly an express service, it can be a lot easier than toddler pushing.
There are two main bus companies to choose from in Barcelona – City Sightseeing and Gray Line. They pretty much cover the same ground, just via slightly different routes and sometimes in opposite directions. My tip would be to study the maps and choose the service that best fits you for an accommodation drop off following a busy day. It might come in handy when overtiredness strikes!
#4 Take a Trip to the Barcelona Aquarium
Alot of the time kids don’t really care where they are as long as they’re doing and seeing stuff that entertains them. The Barcelona Aquarium is great for that. As aquariums go, it’s vast and a great option for if the weather takes a turn for the worse. It’s also in a lovely waterfront position so you can take a walk around the marina and play spot the poshest yacht either before or after you visit. Oh and they serve booze in the cafeteria. Handy because mums and dads can sometimes use a lunchtime treat. It’s a holiday after all!
#5 Explore Parc de la Ciutadella
A visit to this park can easily be combined with a stroll around Barcelona’s gothic and El Born quarters. Maybe do what we did and have a long leisurely late lunch (read: stuff your face with tapas around 3 o’clock) and then walk off your food baby in the park. It’s lovely! There’s a boating lake, plenty of green space and the Barcelona zoo. Oh and once again, there’s a decent playground for the little’uns.
But no matter what you decide to do, or wherever you decide to go (whether that’s Barcelona or not), the most important thing to remember is that big cities all over the world are full of children who are born and grow up there, which means they’re bound to cater to family life. So please don’t be scared of city tripping with your kids – I really believe it’s a great way of raising them to be culturally aware from a young age. Go for it!
Basic tickets for the Sagrada Familia cost €15 for adults (babies are free, but they still need a ticket). Buy them here.
Entry to the monumental zone at Parc Guell is €7 if you pre-book online
The Barcelona Aquarium costs €20 per adult (children under 3 go free, 3-5 year old kids cost €7 and 5-10’s are €15. You can save a few euros by booking online.
A two day ticket on the City Sightseeing tour bus costs £31.50 online (book here)