The best of Barcelona…
Barcelona is a wonderfully vibrant destination for families. Home to some of Spain’s most iconic architectural treasures, large parks and incredible food, it will delight any foodie parent and culture lover. Even better, the Spanish culture encourages parents to include children on all outings, so you’ll find little playgrounds on almost every plaza. Kids are even welcome in the smallest tapas bar! My parents live two hours outside Barcelona, and every time we make the trip from New York, we try to spend a few days soaking up its Mediterranean coastal vibe.
Here’s a list of our all favourite spots, highlighting kid-friendly activities, must-see sights, fun playgrounds and, of course, where to tap into the local culture and sample the freshest seafood, pastries and ice cream. Looking for even more insight into Barcelona? You can find a number of parent-tested and kid-approved full-day itineraries on nugget.
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Places to Eat
To experience Barcelona, you have to sample the food. From bustling markets to small tapas places, here are kid-tested restaurants that won’t disappoint your taste buds.
This iconic indoor market situated in the heart of the city is a feast for the senses. It’s a tangled maze of temptations, bursting with stalls offering fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, and tapas bars. La Boqueria bustles with activity and is an exciting starting point to experience the local culture first hand. Children exploring the market will enjoy sampling local produce offered by the many friendly vendors. But make sure to hang on to your little ones, as the market gets crowded. For more insights on Barcelona’s premier food market check out this nugget itinerary.
La Boqueria, La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain, www.boqueria.barcelona/home
You can’t visit Barcelona without eating paella. We love Kaiku and eat here almost every trip. Conveniently situated just a 15-minute walk from the Barcelona Aquarium, along the Barceloneta promenade, Kaiku serves fresh and locally sourced seafood. If the weather is nice, grab a seat outside, enjoy the ocean view and let the kids run around the adjacent Plaza del Mar.
Kaiku, Plaza del Mar, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, www.restaurantkaiku.cat
Tucked away on a side street off of Barcelona’s busy La Ramblas, this brunch spot is popular with local families enjoying tropical dishes and handcrafted fruit smoothies from around the world. The staff is very welcoming (which you’ll find true almost everywhere in Barcelona) and the fun interior, featuring crates of oranges and wooden beach chairs, will delight little explorers. The food is as artfully presented as the modern design of the main dining room. The berry pancakes are a favourite with kids while my top pick is the lamb burger. Off the dining room is a little courtyard that is perfect for toddlers to burn off some energy while waiting for the food.
Trópico, Carrer del Marquès de Barberà, 24, 08001 Barcelona, Spain, www.tropicobcn.com
Palosanto is a tiny eatery that serves traditional tapas. Often busy with locals, we love the cosy feel and thoughtful staff – it’s almost as if you’re dining at a friend’s place! Our son loves the croquettes and meatballs, and my personal favourite is the traditional potatoes with spicy sauce. If you are looking for a low-key restaurant where you can dine surrounded by locals, this is it.
Palosanto, Rambla Del Raval, 26, 08001 Barcelona, Spain (El Raval), www.facebook.com/PalosantoBc
La Cova Fumada
This iconic neighbourhood joint is for the adventurous families looking for an authentic tapas experience and stellar seafood. The rustic restaurant is small, with the menu written on a chalkboard on the wall, and its staff doesn’t speak much English. But the food from the open kitchen is absolutely delicious, so the spot is worth trying (even though there are no high chairs). The menu features roasted artichokes, pan-seared fish, grilled langoustines and more – everything is amazing. Our son polished off an entire plate of calamari, one of the freshest we have ever tasted. As a testament to its longstanding presence (and popularity), there are no signs, so look for the crowd of people waiting outside. La Cova Fumada gets very busy. To eat here with little ones, come early, way before the locals sit down for dinner. Last time we arrived at 5:30 p.m. and there was already a 15-minute wait. Thankfully, there is a little playground across the street so your kids can run around while you wait.
Top Tip: The opening times can be a bit erratic and the owner sometimes closes early if he doesn’t feel like staying late. Dinner is served only a few nights a week.
La Cova Fumada, 56 Carrer del Baluart, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Things to Do With the Kids
Here are our favourite kid-friendly activities that parents are guaranteed to enjoy as well.
Ciutadella Park is to Barcelona what Central Park is to New York, and Hong Kong Park is to Hong Kong Island (but far more picturesque!). It’s the green centre of the city and offers an idyllic retreat after exploring the narrow streets of Barcelona’s historic centre. Aside from the monumental fountain and collection of public art, Ciutadella Park also houses the city’s zoo, two playgrounds and a lake in which you can rent a rowboat. With live performers and entertainment artists blowing bubbles for the kids, it’s easy to spend an entire afternoon here. Grab a picnic lunch and people-watch while your kids make friends with the local children at the playground. For a fun photo op, look for the giant mammoth sculpture. And be sure to be on the lookout for the green parrots that fly wild. Our son loves them. Planning a day out? Here’s a full day itinerary of what to do in Ciutadella Park.
Designed by renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, Parc Güell is a must for any first-timer to Barcelona and perfect for families. Gaudi’s unique use of colours, shapes and textures translated into mesmerising tile work and unique architectural features, promising magic and inspiration to the park’s visitors. Despite the crowds, it’s a wonderful place for little ones to explore, and older kids love it, too. And if you want to get away from it all, there’s even a playground with lots of shady trees. The perfect spot to rest and escape the summer heat.
Top Tip: The park has many long flights of stairs, so opt for a carrier instead of a stroller for your baby when visiting.
If you’re looking to escape the summer heat or rain, the Barcelona Aquarium will delight children of all ages. Though not the biggest aquarium in the world, the exhibits of local marine life are well done and educational. The 80m underwater tunnel offers up-close encounters with sharks and Mediterranean fish species, and the interactive kid’s area will keep little ones busy for a while. My son loved walking in and out of a life-sized sperm whale. For a full day of maritime adventures visit this nugget itinerary. Just be sure to purchase your tickets in advance, to skip the line at the entrance.
Barcelona Aquarium, Moll d’Espanya del Port Vell, s/n, 08039 Barcelona, Spain, www.aquariumbcn.com/en
Castell de Montjuïc and Port Cable Car
A military fortress dating back to the 17th century, Castell de Montjuïc serves as a symbol of Barcelona’s struggles throughout its history. Today, it provides an expansive view of Barcelona and the sea beyond. You can spot iconic landmarks such as the Sagrada Familia, while children will love to watch the city’s industrial port with its giant container and cruise ships. From Castell de Montjuic you can explore the museum and many parks nearby. We enjoy Mossèn Costa i Llobera Gardens, which is a free botanical garden full of desert plants. Art lovers should also stop at the Joan Miro museum. For more insights on exploring Montjuïc castle check out this Barcelona mini-adventure. Once you’re done exploring Montjuïc, take the port cable car down to the beach and enjoy a different view of the harbour. Our son loved the ride down!
Castell de Montjuïc, Ctra. de Montjuïc, 66, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Zona de Jocs at Tibidabo Amusement Park
Little kids will love the Zona de Jocs at the Tibidabo amusement park. Situated at the highest point of Barcelona atop Mount Tibidabo, the children’s play area above offers unrivalled panoramic views of the city’s urban landscape. It’s a dedicated area for little ones, where parents will find various rides on a pay-per-ride basis (you don’t need tickets to the amusement park to visit the children’s area). Kids can enjoy a retro carousel, a miniature train, and a few other toddler-friendly rides. There’s also a playground with fun slides built into the mountain.
Tibidabo Amusement Park, www.tibidabo.cat/en
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Sassy Mama’s Senior Editor says renting e-bikes and doing a Gaudi tour was the highlight of her family’s trip to Barcelona. If you have older kids (and even not-so old, but old enough to ride a bike), this is a fab way to visit the city. The bikes are electric (it’s in the name: E-bike!), which means if you’re going up hills (and, truly, you don’t do this much) the kids can switch on the electric bit and get a ‘push’ up the harder parts! No complaints from the kids about the ride being too hard, and you get an incredible look at Gaudi’s finest architecture, as well as Barcelona itself.
Barcelona e-Bikes, www.barcelonaebikes.com
Parc del Laberint
Visit the oldest park in Barcelona, the Parc del Laberint (Labyrinth Park) for some time outdoors. This incredible full-size maze is Barcelona’s version of Granada’s Alhambra. It’s situated on a beautiful royal estate and is surrounded by an exquisite landscape of gardens and fountains. Sassy Mama’s Senior Editor found this on her trip as well, and her family had a blast roaming the grounds without any crowds (which is rare in Barcelona, especially in summer). It’s a great place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon!
Places to Shop
Explore vibrant markets, discover the best places to shop for picnic supplies, and browse small boutique stores for kids.
Abracadabra Llibres per a nens
I worked in publishing for over a decade, and whenever I travel, I always visit local bookstores. Abracadabra Llibres per a nens is a gem. Aside from a well-curated list of books and toys, it has a little play area for kids and carries an excellent selection of foreign language books in English, German, French and Italian. Pick up a new favourite bedtime story!
Tip: If you’re running around town and need a quick stop, the bookstore also has a nice bathroom with a changing table.
Abracadabra Llibres per a nens, 5 Carrer del General Álvarez de Castro, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, www.abracadabrallibres.com
Mercat de Santa Caterina
Mercat de Santa Caterina is the perfect spot to pick up supplies for a picnic. Known for its quality and a vast variety of fresh produce, meat and flowers, Mercat de Santa Caterina draws in a steady crowd of local shoppers. Fun fact: its bustling stalls lay beneath a vibrant ceramic mosaic rooftop, which pays homage to Gaudi’s masterpieces in the city.
Mercat de Santa Caterina, 16, Av. de Francesc Cambó, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, www.mercatsantacaterina.com
Set in a charming neighbourhood, the refined Hofmann Pastisseria offers all forms of baked goods and colourful sweets. My family has a sweet tooth, and we always look for local treats. On my recent visit, Hofmann Pastisseria came highly recommended by somebody in the food industry. Even if you don’t like pastries, it’s worth a stop to look at the artfully created treats.
Hofmann Pastisseria, Carrer dels Flassaders, 44, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, www.hofmann-bcn.com/es
Often praised as THE place to purchase bread in Barcelona, Forn Baluard offers top quality of over forty varieties of bread. This neighbourhood bakery is a popular breakfast spot and our favourite place to pick up baked goods for our family picnics at the park.
Tip: You can watch them bake the bread on-premises.
Forn Baluard, Carrer del Baluard, 38, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, www.baluardbarceloneta.com/en/principal
Bateau Lune is a toy store run by passionate staff who believe in the importance of play. It focuses on sustainability sourced, eco-friendly toys. It also hosts events like magic shows and craft workshops to spark children’s creativity and imagination. If you can attend one of the events, it’s a lovely way to spend time with local families.
Bateau Lune, 7 Plaça de la Virreina, 08024 Barcelona, Spain, www.bateaulune.com
For more shopping spots, check out this family-friendly walking tour of my favourite shops in Barcelona’s El Born neighbourhood.
Where to Stay
We tend to rent apartments whenever we travel with the kids. On our recent visit to Barcelona, we tried yök casa + Cultura and loved it. It offers three luxury apartments in the heart of Barcelona, walking distance to public transportation, grocery stores and Ciutadella Park. Petz and Mari who founded yök casa + Cultura are lovely hosts and full of insightful knowledge. The owners are passionate about social responsibility and have equipped each unit with energy-saving technology and eco-friendly products. The beautifully designed interiors are eco-chic, and all of the furniture is sourced from local stores and designers. The best part is the homemade breakfast, served on the terrace on the top floor of the building.
If you prefer the experience of staying in a hotel, check out the family-friendly Hotel Arai in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. The four-star boutique hotel offers suites, family rooms and deluxe rooms with a kitchen. It also has a small outdoor pool with views over the city.