Barcelona is a beautiful, vibrant and cosmopolitan city with so much to see and do. From stunning architecture to beautiful open spaces and amazing food….its a city worth exploring!
This was our first trip to Barcelona and we didn’t know much about the city so I looked at a couple of blogs on Barcelona before our trip…and one that I found very useful, and would highly recommend you take a look at if you are planning a trip to Barcelona is Barcelona Hacks. A lot of information and a very well organised website! Ash who writes the blog is very helpful and if you post any queries he will reply quite promptly!
We were there as a family with our two kids – our 6 year old Si, and Ri (we celebrated his 4th birthday in this beautiful city) and he had a wonderful time!!!
Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia region of Spain. Catalan and Spanish are the main languages but English is widely spoken by most people so we didn’t have any problems communicating with the locals.
Si is starting Spanish classes in school this week and is very excited it. She is looking forward to being our official translator on our next Spanish adventure!
Here’s what we did in Barcelona and would recommend….(will do a separate post on food and drinks!)
Hop-on hop-off Bus Tour
Barcelona is a big city and a great way to get a feel of it is to go on the hop-on hop-off bus. There are two companies offering hop-on hop-off bus services. We booked with the Barcelona Bus Turistic Hop-on Hop-off Bus. It has three different routes – Red, Blue & Green. The Green route does not operate in Winter so we only had the Red and Blue. You could book tickets for just one day and cover all the routes in a day which is what we did. Though I would recommend booking for two days so you can do one route per day and hop-off and actually see some places! And then hop back on to continue your journey…
Along with your ticket you get a pair of earphones to listen to the commentary (in one of 16 different languages). You also get a detailed guide with instructions about the attractions at each stop and a discount book for various attractions and restaurants all over the city.
Here are some pics of beautiful Barcelona taken from the top of the hop-on hop-off bus….
This is a very popular tourist destination and one of Gaudi’s creations. It was originally supposed to be a lavish housing development with 60 cutting edge houses with a touch of art. They struggled to sell even the show house so construction stopped and because the original plans didn’t materialise its now a park, open to the public!
The park has two zones….one is a free zone which is over 90% of the park and the balance 10% is the Monumental Zone which needs an entrance ticket where you can see some of Gaudi’s amazing work!
The free zone has a lot of ground to cover and you will also get some amazing views of the city!
How to get there: Its quite a hike to get to the park so be prepared! Or take a taxi once you get off the metro. Take the metro Green line (L3) to Lessops or Vallcarca and then walk uphill (about 15 minutes) to get to the park. Depending on which stop you get off at you will enter the park from either the front entrance (Lessops metro stop) and then cover the park going uphill or the back entrance (Vallcarca metro stop) and then cover the park going downhill. Either is fine….we opted for the Vallcarca and entered the park from the back and then moved downhill.
Its also a stop on the Bus Touristic hop-on hop-off bus….and then a bit of a walk.
Tip: Book your tickets and entry slot for Park Guell in advance! We booked ours with the Barcelona City Pass
La Sagrada Familia
This was Si’s most favourite part of Barcelona! Arguably one of the most iconic sights in Europe, Sagrada Familia is Antonio Gaudi’s colossal and famously unfinished church. Its his most famous work in Barcelona and this magnificent Basilica has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026!
The architecture is inspired by nature and geometry with natural light providing stunning visual effects. The evening light filtering in through the beautiful stained glass was mesmerising!!!
There is no doubt that the Sagrada Familia will be a breathtaking monument when fully finished. The only blemish is the built up city apartment blocks which surround the monument on three sides. If only the town planners had left some clear space around this beautiful monument…..
How to get there: The hop-on hop-off Bus Touristic stops here (Blue line). Or take the metro Purple line (L2) or Blue line (L5)….Sagrada Familia stop. No walking after that….its right there when you get off the metro!
Tip: Book your tickets and entry slot for Sagrada Familia in advance to avoid waiting in the long serpentine queues! We booked ours with the Barcelona City Pass.
Cosmo Caixa is an amazing science museum for the curious and childlike mind (that includes children and adults). It is a museum designed to stimulate your knowledge of science through interactive exhibitions and fun activities.
Its quite out of the way so its best to plan it on a day when you are likely to be that side. We clubbed it with our visit to Park Guell as they are both on the same side of the city.
Here children (and adults) are encouraged to try things out, touch things and learn by doing which was so much fun!!! The 1000 square meters of Amazonian rain forest is absolutely amazing!!!
We were there for just a couple of hours (second half of the day) but could have easily spent a whole day there as there was so much to see and do! A must visit if you are in Barcelona with kids!
How to get there: Closest stop is Av. Tibidabo (Brown line L7). We were at Park Guell earlier so took the Green Line (L3) to Penitents and walked from there (about 20-25 minutes) and on the way back after a lovely evening meal took the Brown Line (L7) back to our hotel.
Tip: Try and get there earlier in the day so you have enough time to explore at your own pace or better still spend the whole day there – you won’t regret it! We will probably do that when we are in Barcelona next!
Poble Espanyol is a full scale reproduced beautiful Spanish village built in 1929 representing various regions of Spain. Poble Espanyol sits near the top of Montjüic Hill…giving you the pleasure of enjoying some of the city’s best panoramic views!!
There is an entrance fee to get in (slight discount using the discount book received on the hop-on hop-off bus).
I had read a lot about Poble Espanyol and my expectations were quite high. The village is very quaint and pretty but overall I was disappointed as most of the shops were closed and the village was quite empty! We went on a Sunday which is when its open till midnight and I was expecting the place to be buzzing! Though in hindsight I think we may have chosen a wrong day to go (Sunday 30th December!).
On a brighter note I had an amazing paella at one of the restaurants there!
How to get there: Hop-on Hop-off bus stops here (Poble Espanya stop on the red line). Or take the Metro Red line (L1) or green line (L3) and get off at the Plaza Espanya stop and its a 15 minute walk from there (uphill but not very steep!)
La Rambla is the heart of the city! Its a very popular colourful, bustling boulevard loved by both tourists and locals! Enjoy some tapas, sangria, churros and watch some street performances! And also watch your personal belongings as its one of the most common places to get pick-pocketed in Barcelona! We were thankfully spared that experience!
Starting at Plaça Catalunya and stretching all the way to the port….La Ramblas is a treat for adults and children alike!
How to get here: Take the Metro Red Line (L1) or the Green Line (L3) to Catalunya station where La Ramblas starts at Plaça Catalunya and then goes all the way to the port at the other end.
This is an obvious one if you go in summer…however the mild winter weather is also perfect for beaches! Barcelona has a long stretch of beautiful coastline and your visit to the city will be incomplete if you don’t make a trip to one of their famous beaches.
We took the tube to Barceloneta (Metro Yellow line L4) and then walked to the Barceloneta park where the kids played for a while and then went on the Barceloneta beach where we spent the rest of the day strolling and soaking in the atmosphere!
Its not going to be the shorts, bikini kind of beach experience in winter but still lovely to go for a stroll, play in the sand (if you have kids) or just enjoy the lovely winter sun lazing on the beach! Dip your feet if you like cold water…..we didn’t bother doing that! And the beach front is dotted with lovely restaurants and the lovely smell of paella and sea food is intoxicating!
We had our evening meal at a restaurant highly recommended for paella but to be honest I enjoyed the sangria much more than the paella here! And they had white wine sangria on the menu which we tried out and that was amazing! I absolutely loved it…much more than the regular red wine sangria (which is also like!). I generally like white wine way more than red so I’m not surprised I enjoyed that so much!
New Years Eve Celebrations
The Magic Fountain of Montjüic near Plaça d’Espanya was hosting Barcelona’s official New Year’s Eve celebration. This is a free event with music, lights and an amazing pyrotechnic display around the Magic Fountain
This is a family friendly event that is hugely popular with the locals. The show starts at 11.30 and lasts about 40 minutes but it attracts thousands so to get a decent spot we would have to get there very early and we didn’t think the kids would enjoy being out for so long waiting for the show to start at 11.30pm!
We reached Barcelona on 27th December and preparation of this celebration was well under way so the regular Magic Fountain shows had been suspended much to the disappointment of my 6 year old!
On 30th December we happened to be around the Magic Fountain in the evening (after our visit to Poble Espanyol) and were lucky to witness the full show rehearsal watching it from right in front of the Magic Fountain!
And on New Years Eve which is my little boy’s birthday (he turned 4!) we spent the day at Sagrada Familia and then had a lovely quiet evening meal at the hotel and were back in our room on the 18th floor from where we had a lovely view of the fireworks at Plaça d’Espanya and also in other parts of the city!
Spain has a New Year tradition of eating 12 grapes timed with the 12 new year dongs! It sounds much easier than it actually is!!! Here are our New Year grape boxes!!!
Things we would have liked to do….maybe next time!
Si was so, so keen on this since I had spoken to her about it. Unfortunately the fountains were closed on all the days we were in Barcelona (New Year’s Eve Celebration preps! and they were due to start the day after we were leaving!) I have promised her we will come back to Barcelona soon so she can see the Magic Fountain!
Do check the schedule in advance as timings and days are different for different seasons. Its supposed to be an amazing spectacle and if you have kids they will be enthralled with the experience! Located at Plaça Espanya, the magic fountain show features a water fountain that dances to lights and music.
Barcelona for Kids Walking Tour
I read about the Barcelona for kids walking tour only after we got back from Barcelona but its something I would definitely do on my next trip! A fun, friendly and educational private walking tour of Barcelona’s city centre designed for children. Its designed for children aged 4-12 so would have been perfect for us!
This is a foodie heaven…..can’t believe we missed it on this trip! Its not very child friendly and we were so caught out doing all the regular touristy stuff that this one (although it was on my agenda) got left out!!!
Its supposed to be one of the best food markets in the world with over 40,000 visiters daily! And lots of pick-pocketing so beware!!!
Parc de la Ciutadella
Located just east of the Gothic Quarter and close to the sea this beautiful park is supposed to have some stunning gardens and huge walkways! A must visit on our next trip!
Montjuic Cable Cars
I really wanted to do this on our trip and I’m sure the kids would have enjoyed it too! But sadly it got left out – well there is always a next time! We saw lots of cable cars when we were on the hop-on hop-off bus and it would have been an amazing experience to get some fantastic aerial views of the beautiful city!
Neel could have spent an entire day here but we just didn’t have the time and not sure the kids would have enjoyed it.
Another big miss for Neel. Both Si and Ri aren’t into football yet. For them “Messi” is more to do with food than football! Maybe a place to visit when they grow up.
Other things you can do with kids
Museu de la Xocolata
We had been to Switzerland in Summer so as a family we had an overdose of Chocolate Museums so gave this one a skip. However for most families this would be an amazing place to take kids.
L’Aquàrium de Barcelona
We go to the Sea Life Centre quite often in London so skipped The Barcelona Aquarium, but I’m sure the kids would have loved it if we went. If you are planning a trip with children you could include this in your agenda!
Zoo de Barcelona
You could also enjoy some wildlife at the Barcelona Zoo with 2,000 animals. A morning visit is recommended as that’s when they organise lots of activities for children!