One of the great things about Barcelona is the local habit of including children in many seemingly adult activities. Going out to eat or sipping a beer at a terrazza (terrace) needn’t mean leaving children behind. Barcelonins take their kids out all the time and don’t worry too much about keeping them up late.
The spectacle of La Rambla fascinates kids as much as adults. By day and night, multitudes stream along this tree-lined pedestrian boulevard (flanked by two clogged traffic lanes), a stage for street performers (from flamenco dancers to fire-eaters and more human statues than you could knock over in one go), pickpockets, three-cups-and-a-ball tricksters and more. Fun for all the family!
Assuming your kids aren't scared of heights, head to the top of the Monument a Colom for dazzling views of the harbour; or catch the Transbordador Aeri cable car across the harbour from La Barceloneta to Montjuïc, another irresistible attraction.
The L’Aquàrium's 80m-long shark tunnel, 11,000 fish and special children’s activities are a guaranteed hit with the nippers. Outside there is an old-fashioned carousel and a replica of the prototype submarine the Ictineo, which was designed by a Catalan. Take a harbour tour from Port Vell aboard Las Golondrinas (‘swallow boats’). A sure-fire hit with kids and adults alike, these 90-minute tours of the harbour and along the beaches to the northeast of town give a totally different perspective on the city.
Of the city’s museums, the ones most likely to capture children’s imagination are the Museu Marìtim, with its old ships and cool audiovisual displays; the deliciously hands-on shrine to all things chocolatey, Museu de la Xocolata; the enjoyably creepy wax figures of the Museu de Cera (waxworks); and the interactive CosmoCaixa, a mecca for knob-twiddling kids of all ages. CaixaForum, a contemporary arts space, makes life easy for parents by accompanying its exhibitions with children’s workshops.
All the fun of the fair
Head to Parc d’Atraccions on Tibidabo for an endearingly old-fashioned ferris wheel ride. Too tame for your little hellraisers? Scare the willies out of 'em (and yourself) in the park's Hotel Kruger horror house, complete with ghouls and ghosties leaping out at you from the darkness.
Make a splash
You will be rewarded with squeals of delight at one of the city’s pools, such as Club Natació Atlètic-Barcelona, the Piscines Bernat Martorell, or any of the pleasant sandy beaches stretching northeast from the Port Olímpic marina.
In cooler weather parks can be a good choice. A roam around Montjuïc, including exploration of its atmospheric castle, should appeal, as do the Jardins de Joan Brossa, with their giant musical instruments. The sheer weirdness of Gaudí’s Park Güell will have older children intrigued, as will the nearby 4D cinema at the Gaudí Experiència, while younger kids usually like the dragon at Parc d'Espanya Industrial. Parc de la Ciutadella has everything one could ask for from a city park – a boating lake, playgrounds, acres of grassland, the Zoo de Barcelona, a rose garden and a vast fountain topped by a gilt chariot.
When bribery's required...
You can always resort to ice cream, sweets and toys! Take the kids to Cremeria Toscana in L’Eixample and El Born, seek out amazing hand-made lollies at Papabubble, find proper old-school practical jokes at El Ingenio or puppets at Taller de Marionetas Travi – good behaviour guaranteed.
Still feeling a bit unsure about taking on the world with kids in tow? Worry no more! Our popular Travel with Children guide will ease your worries and restore your wanderlust.
This article was published in January 2013 and updated by Sally Davies in May 2015.