Barcelona with children, a city to be enjoyed as a family
The way the Mediterranean meets the mountains makes Barcelona a great place to explore with children, with all kinds of activities on offer and Gaudí’s flamboyant, colourful creations to see. Going beyond the traditional trip to the zoo, the aquarium or the CosmoCaixa, we’ve suggested some other ideas for activities that are perfect for children.
A ride on the sightseeing bus
The best way of discovering a large city with children is to take the sightseeing bus. This way they don’t get tired out walking long distances, are kept entertained, and you get to stop off at all the main tourist honeypots. You can hop on and off as many times as you like. In Barcelona, there are three different routes, each a different colour. The red route will take you to the Plaça d’Espanya, the Poble Espanyol, the Olympic Ring, the port and the Gothic Quarter. The green route goes via the port and then takes you all the way down the coast to the Fòrum, perfect for visiting Barcelona’s beaches. Last but not least, the blue route takes you to the Passeig de Gràcia, the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, the beginning of the climb up to Tibidabo, and Camp Nou.
Dramatized visits to Casa Batlló
There’s no-one better than Antoni Gaudí himself to show your children around his creations. They’ll be fascinated, as even before stepping into Casa Batlló they’ll see the façade on Passeig de Gràcia, which is sea of calm right in the centre of the city. The dramatized visits are on Saturdays, but if you go on a different day of the week then children will love visiting the place with the help of the SmartGuide that lets them explore the noble floor, the terrace, the attic and the roof terrace in augmented reality, seeing how it used to be furnished. When they reach the roof terrace, they’ll be raring to take on Saint George’s dragon, which they’ll spot between the chimney tops. It’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance to avoid the long queues.
Park Güell, Barcelona’s most colourful green space
Staying in the dreamlike world of Gaudí, we’ll discover one of the father of Modernism’s most ambitious projects. Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudí with the project that was to be a garden city of 60 houses and communal spaces. The project was never completed as it was difficult to sell the homes, but we were left with this incredible park, donated to the city hall by Güell’s descendants in the 1920s. It’s a large recreational area with children’s playgrounds and a picnic area, perfect for spending a day as a family. The dragon that stands on the main staircase has become a symbol of the city, as has the famous, undulating bench, covered in pieces of colourful tiles. Children will love running beneath the arches of the viaduct or playing hide and seek between the columns of the Pórtico de la Lavandera.
Tibidabo amusement park
Barcelona’s most legendary amusement park is right on the top of Tibidabo mountain. Even getting there is a great adventure for children, as you’re taken up by funicular railway. Open for more than 100 years, this park has managed to adapt and bounce back, meaning it’s still one of the city’s landmarks. With more than 30 rides, shows and street performances, and incredible views of Barcelona in the background, this is a dream for children and adults alike. As well as restaurants, there’s a picnic area and a panoramic viewpoint, 500 metres above sea level, where you can enjoy the Automata Museum and the aeroplane ride. This was Europe’s first amusement park, but it now offers rides that include virtual reality, a Lego zone and a large Ferris wheel, along with the renovated original attractions, such as the Hall of Mirrors and the L’Embruixabruixes aerial railway that includes holograms and mapping. Access to different attractions is restricted by height, divided up into different categories, with a fun system of animal names. Birds are children that are under 90 cm tall, those that are 90 to 120 cm are salamanders, those under 130 cm are foxes, and anyone taller is a wild boar.
On another mountain top, you’ll find this defensive fort, which you can get to by cable car. Children will love crossing the bridge that spans the moat, exploring the parade ground, the watch tower and the castle walls. Every weekend from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the castle organises a scavenger hunt for the whole family. Children will use clues to explore every corner of the castle, learning its history whilst they play. Each group is given a backpack with the instructions. It lasts for 90 minutes, and it’s free. It’s designed for children of between 5 and 16 years old.
The Magic Fountain
The Magic Fountain is the set of waterfalls that flow down to the Plaça d’Espanya. It puts on a show of light and colours, with over 7,000 possible combinations thanks to the different light fittings and pumps. The famous shows put on by the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc are coordinated to music that everyone will love, lit up in white, red, blue and green, whilst the water dances in the two central pools and the 20 surrounding ones. When night falls, the show begins. It doesn’t perform every day, and show times vary depending on the time of year, so make sure you check the calendar in advance.
The Poble Espanyol, an insight into traditional architecture
Very close to the fountains of Montjuïc you’ll find the Poble Espanyol. This is a group of buildings, each one characteristic of a particular Spanish province. They were built for the International Exposition of 1929, as were the fountains. 117 buildings recreate popular styles of construction from different areas of Spain, meaning you could find yourself stepping from the Camino de Santiago into a typical Andalusian neighbourhood and then seeing examples of traditional Catalan architecture. This is a place where children can see artisans at work and, thanks to the new audiovisual experience of Feeling Spain, they can take a virtual tour of Spanish culture. There’s a varied programme of family activities at weekends, and you can even take part in a game of riddles. Did you know that, according to the one-time president of Walt Disney, Michael Eisner, the Poble Espanyol served as inspiration for the creation of the Disney theme parks?
Camp Nou and the Barça Museum
Children will always love visiting a football stadium, but so will any grown-up football fan. You don’t need to be Barça supporters to be impressed by the huge stadium. You can emerge onto the football pitch through the same tunnel that the players jog through, and even sit on their bench. At the Barça Museum, you’ll see the trophies that have been won by the club. There’s also an area dedicated to their star player, Leo Messi. If you’re real football buffs, there’s a virtual experience which will allow you to relive the stadium’s most rousing moments and the very best goals from the stands.
Barcelona is, without a doubt, a city with huge amounts of activities to offer children. Add to all that the fact that it’s coastal, which means you can spend a fantastic family holiday enjoying its beaches and the port.