City Breaks with Kids: Barcelona

Barcelona is the Spanish city the whole family will fall in love with. It makes a great choice for a city break with children not least because there is such a wide variety of things to do, from playing on the beach to admiring Antonin Gaudi’s flamboyant modernista architecture or visiting one of the world’s largest football stadiums.

Barcelona is a great city to get your kids excited about art and architecture – the bright colours and fantastical animals of Gaudi’s buildings really appeal to children. What’s more, the food is fantastic. Here’s my selection of the best activities in the city for families.

Take the cable car up to the castle

When travelling with children, I’m always looking for fun ways to get around and the Telefèric de Montjuïc is a great way to get to the castle. The Castell de Montjuïc was built as a military fortress and is perched on the hillside overlooking the port. There are wonderful views from here over the whole city. Under 14s can visit the military museum free of charge.

The Telefèric de Montjuic runs daily from 10am until 6pm (November to February), until 7pm (October, March to May) and until 9pm from June to September. Adults, €12 return; children, €8.80.

The Castell de Montjuïc is open every day from 10am until 8pm; until 6pm from November until March. Adults, €5; children, free.

Be inspired by the Sagrada Familia

My 10-year-old was so inspired by the beauty of the Sagrada Familia that he announced he wanted to be an architect after our trip. Visiting the Unesco World Heritage site is an extraordinary opportunity to see a church in the process of being built. I first saw it 15 years ago and was stunned by the progress that had been made on my last visit.

Gaudi devoted himself to the project from 1908 until his death in 1926, sleeping on site and working long hours. The Sagrada is laid out like the great Gothic cathedrals of the past. The interior is breathtakingly beautiful. You can really appreciate Gaudi’s use of light in the stunning colour of the stained-glass windows. Eight of the 18 towers planned have now been finished.  It is hoped that most of the structure will be completed by 2026.

The Sagrada Familia is open every day from 9am until 8pm, until 7pm in March and October, until 6pm from November until February. Adults, €15; under 18s, €13; under 11s, free. An audio guide is available for children aged between 6 and 12.

Buy the food for a picnic from La Boqueria food market

Your kids will love wandering down La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous street, stopping to watch the numerous human statues, musicians and dancers and visiting the animal stalls. Two thirds of the way down you’ll find La Boqueria, one of Europe’s largest food markets, where you can buy freshly squeezed juices, hams, cheeses, olives, tapas and mini fruit salads. Give older children some euros and get them to choose and order a selection of treats for the family. They’ll love the independence and it’s a fun way to get them to practise some Spanish. Then take your goodies to the grand Plaça Reial, just off La Rambla, and enjoy your picnic beside the fountain and palm trees.

Take a tour of Europe’s largest football stadium at Camp Nou

City Breaks with Kids: BarcelonaFC Barcelona has played at Camp Nou since 1957 and the tour of the stadium and museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city. You get to go through the players’ tunnel and see the changing room, president’s box, players’ benches and press conference area. In the museum, you’ll find the trophy cabinets with the European Champion’s League Cup and the five Ballons d’Or, confirming Lionel Messi as the best football player in the world.

Tickets for the Camp Nou Experience Tour cost from €23, adults; €18, children; under 6s, free. Check out the website for opening times.

Explore the magical gardens at Park Güell

You’ll feel as though you’ve entered a magical world when you wander around Park Güell. The two fairytale gatehouses at the entrance to the park certainly look like they could be made out of gingerbread – they’re based on designs Gaudi made for the opera of ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

Venture down the twisted pathways and you’ll find goblin shapes, a staircase flanked by multicoloured battlements and the huge mosaic lizard. Even the park benches are beautifully decorated with colourful shattered tiles. It can get really crowded in the park so it’s worth climbing further up the hill where you’ll find some peaceful shaded woodland with great views over the city.

Park Güell is open every day from 8am until 8.30pm, until 9.30pm from May 2 until August 28, until 6.15pm from October 30 until March 26. Tickets, adults, from €7; children, €4.90; under 7s, free.

Build a sandcastle on the beach

Barceloneta beach in the city’s old fishing district is only 10 minutes away from the centre. The large, sandy beach has a children’s games area and is also a great place to try seafood and tapas after a day on the beach.

Eat churros with chocolate

City Breaks with Kids: BarcelonaYou can’t come back from Barcelona without trying churros, the Spanish version of doughnuts, dipped into a cup of thick and creamy hot chocolate. They’re normally eaten for breakfast but they make a great afternoon treat while you’re exploring Barcelona’s historic quarter. One of the best places for churros and chocolate is Granja La Pallaresa, Carrer de Petritxol, 11, on a picturesque street in the Barri Gòtic.

Find all the animals hidden in the Casa Batlló

Children will love searching the inside and outside of the Casa Batlló for dragons and other animals. Some people say that in ‘The House of Bones’ Gaudi was representing the story of St George killing the dragon. Its colourful exterior is covered in dragon’s scales, with the skulls of his victims shaped into the wrought-iron balconies. The hump-shaped rooftop evokes the monster’s spine and even the banisters on the stairs are carved into the shape of a huge animal’s spine. Look closely and you’ll notice that the skylights are shaped like tortoise shells.

We also loved the central atrium of the building where tiles in varying shades of blue make you think of the surface of a lake with waterlilies on top.

The Casa Batlló is open every day from 9am until 9pm. Adults, from €22.50; children, from €19.50; under 7s, free. The price includes an audioguide. 

See some of Picasso’s childhood drawings at the Museu Picasso

You can see some of Pablo Picasso’s earliest sketches at the Museu Picasso, set in five medieval stone mansions near the Barri Gòtic. Picasso lived in Barcelona as a young man and this collection concentrates on the work from his early years although one of the highlights are the 57 canvases he painted based on Velásquez’s ‘Las Meninas’.

After your visit it’s well worth going for a wander around the Barri Gòtic, the oldest part of Barcelona. Its streets grew inside the original Roman walls and it’s one of the best preserved medieval centres in the world.

The Museu Picasso is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am until 7pm, until 9.30pm on Thursdays. Adults, €11; children, free.

Tip: It’s well worth booking online for a lot of the sights mentioned. You can usually get a small discount and it should save queuing up for tickets when you arrive.

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56 thoughts on “City Breaks with Kids: Barcelona

  1. Love Barcelona. We took our boy some years ago and did most of the things you mention. I think a return visit beckons to see how the Sagrada Familia is progressing and to see inside Casa Battlo which we only saw from the outside last time.
    #citytripping

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    • The Casa Batlló is really impressive on the inside, full of colour and curves. Barcelona’s one of those cities that you can go back to again and again – and always find something new to enjoy.

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  2. Great round up of the best Barcelona has to offer kids; I absolutely agree that it’s one of the best cities to take children to. And guess what….this time next month I’ll be there with about 60 kids!!!! I’m accompanying my son’s class and another class from his school on a week long trip…Barcelona with 60 ten year olds, are you jealous??? Last time I went the Sagrada Familia wasn’t open so the only time I’ve been in was about 14 years ago, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the changes. #citytripping

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    • Thanks so much Phoebe. I’ve been on a school trip to Barcelona and it’s absolutely exhausting! You’ll want to sleep for a week afterwards. Great experience for the kids though.
      The first time I saw the Sagrada Familia it looked like a building site. When I went recently I nearly cried when I saw how beautiful the interior was. There was such a difference.

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  3. I went to Barcelona a few years ago with my sister and absolutely loved it! It was fun to read through your post and see your personal recommendations. My sister and I absolutely loved Park Güell. It felt like something out of a story book. I also smiled when I read about how your son wants to be an architect after visiting Sagrada Familia. What a special experience for him!

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    • I know! It would be a great choice of career if he still fancies it when he’s older. At the moment, it’s either an architect, a writer, set designer or…breeder of fantastical creatures!! We all loved the colours and crazy designs of the Gaudi buildings but Park Güell was definitely a particular favourite.

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  4. Brilliant timing Clare as my hubby has a work trip to Barcelona coming up I am trying to convince him to bring our whole family. Barcelona is a special place for us as we got engaged atop the mountain in Montserrat and spent the rest of the day pintxos eating in the Placita de la Seu in the shade of the cathedral. Happy days x

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  5. I loved Barcelona even on a less than successful trip (rain and an ill husband) so would love to go back with my daughter – I’m sure she’d enjoy the Gaudi colours and details, not to mention the beach (and churros!) #citytripping

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  6. Great suggestions! I love that your son wanted to be an architect after seeing the Sagrada Familia! I love how travel inspires the younger generation like that. We went for a day trip to Barcelona last year but need to probably explore it with my daughter – no doubt she would love all of Gaudi’s work (as I do). Thanks for linking to #citytripping

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    • Travel can be inspiring in so many ways, can’t it? Both boys are still thinking about being architects alongside fantastical creature breeders, zoo keepers and, rather worryingly, Dark Lord of the Sith.
      Barcelona’s definitely a city you’ll want to stay a while in – there’s so much to see and do.

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  7. Barcelona has so much to do! I was there 4 days last fall and wasn’t able to tackle all the things I had on my list. I want to visit Casa Batllo. I was able to visit the Palau de la Musica Catalana (not sure if you have seen my post about it). That place is a masterpiece.

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    • Sometimes it’s best to leave a few things for next time! Do go to the Casa Batllo – we really loved it. I’ve heard so many great things about the Palau de la Musica Catalana so I really must go on my next visit. I’ll read your post to get some good ideas! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  8. Can you believe I did not try any churros? There was just too many good tapas that we were always full before it was time for dessert. Will make sure I try them next time.

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  9. I am a great fan of Gaudi’s flamboyant and I think there is no better place than Barcelona to introduce your kids to it. Beautiful photos, Clare!

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  10. Great guide! As you know we had wanted to go there this summer but had to put it on hold, so hopefully we’ll make it there next summer- definitely earmarking this! My one Sagrada Familia story is last time I was there was in my 20’s with some friends and we took the elevator to the top late in the day, and the elevator guy forgot about us! It was the last elevator shift and no one came for us so we had to walk all the way down, a lot of it on a spiral staircase. It was the craziest thing! I will never forget that, and it’s always been my “crazy” Barcelona story.

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  11. You are so right – Barcelona is a magical magical city and our teens and tweens loved it! We did all the same things and also recommend, but missed the Park Guell, so I guess we’ll have to go back! Cheers from Copenhagen – Erin

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  12. I’ve been to Barcelona without kids, but I’d love to go back with them and let them play on that beach! They would love the Park Guell too and the churros with chocolate. Another place to add to the list….

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  13. Brilliant tips! Living here has meant Spain has been badly neglected, we so need to go again soon. Haven’t been to Barcelona for a few years now, and now we have children to take! 🙂 #mondayescape

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  14. I’ve never really thought of Barcelona as a family destination but it makes perfect sense now I’ve read this! And my two would LOVE the churros 🙂 Thank you. #MondayEscapes

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    • Thank you so much! Barcelona’s one of those cities that’s brilliant for both adults and children – it’s got so much to offer – and can take lots of revisits over the years.

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  15. Barcelona is my favorite city, I could never get tired of it! I think kids would also love the Montjuic Magic Fountain or the Tibidabo Park 😀

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  16. We’re off to Barcelona next week so I really enjoyed reading this. We’re definitely going to hit the beach and park but I hadn’t considered the castle. I also love the idea of grabbing a picnic from the market. Thanks for the inspiration! #MondayEscapes

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  17. Gaudi is such an inherently child-friendly artist! I haven’t been to Barcelona since I was 22 and this post has reminded me of how wonderful it is. I’m sure my kids would love it (and it would be great to inspire ambition in them like your son!)

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  18. What a great guide. In fact for adults too, as I did most of these on my trip to Barcelona – my husband loved Camp Nou! You can’t help be moved by the sight of the Sagrada Familia and my son is already a big fan of churros! So I am in fact 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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  19. I don’t have kids but most of those ideas sound like a lot of fun to me as an adult! I have been to Barcelona, but to be honest I didn’t have the most enjoyable visit but would love to return and see Barcelona again. I think I would have a much more positive view of the city on a subsequent visit. ~ Jessica

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    • You’re right, I think most of the ideas are great for adults too. I do think Barcelona’s one of those cities you need to visit more than once – there’s always going to be something different to see. Hopefully next time will be a much better experience for you. Thanks so much for commenting.

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  20. I don’t have kids (yet) so I don’t ever really think of destinations as kid-friendly or not, but now that I’ve read this post, Barcelona really is so family-friendly! There is so much to do in this city and so much stimuli to choose from! Park Güell is one of my favorite places in Barcelona and would be so fun to visit with a family! Also, Picasso’s childhood drawings would be an awesome thing to see! Thanks for sharing and linking up for #wanderfulwednesday! 😀

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