Barcelona, the land of Gaudi, Miro and Picasso. Muse for many writers and artists and perdition for those of us who like good food and even better wine. In any case, Barcelona did not disappoint. It was everything it promised to be. According to Lonely Planet, heaven for hostel hosted backpackers and to luxe city guides, the Shangri-La of fashion-forward socialites seeking the latest European trends.
For a family of four including 2 under 3 this place was the perfect combination of kid-friendly and parent pleasant. The hubby and I were able to enjoy sipping 1 euro sangrias while the boys ran around the different parks. Public transportation was a breeze to use and the wide sidewalks were perfect for strolling the kiddos. The many parks and benches scattered throughout the city proved to be the perfect snack-munching, diaper-changing, energy-busting spots for the kids and the gorgeous beaches gave us a little taste of the majestic Mediterranean beaches available in the Iberian peninsula.
It’s not a secret that I’ve always been in love with Paris but visiting Barcelona opened my eyes to a whole new scene. The atmosphere and vibe that Barcelona offers is hip and relaxed. Fun and elegant. Everywhere we turned we would find people both local and tourists smiling. That’s it, a flirty knowing smile is the permanent demure of this city. With so many secrets and surprises available at plain sight, Barcelona captured our souls and palates and made us extremely grateful to be enjoying what it has to offer.
As we did many times before, we got tickets for the double-decker tourist bus. This has been our favorite mode of transportation in many cities as it provides ample room for stowing a stroller in the bottom cabin and wonderful views of the city from atop all while stopping only in the places we want to visit. In Barcelona we chose the Barcelona Bus Turistic which was very affordable and allowed kids under three to ride for free. We hopped on the bus near the train station and started exploring this incredible city.
As we toured the city we were blown away by the numerous artistic expressions found everywhere we looked. Sculptures, intricate buildings, elaborate tile work, beautiful cobblestones, beautiful people. All part of Barcelona’s personality and essence.
The beautiful soft sanded beaches were a nice break from the concrete jungles we had been visiting. Although we only parcoursed the beautiful sunbather filled beaches, we knew that at some point we would be back to enjoy a bit of the Iberian sun.The water was warm and the people warmer as they didn’t mind a toddler running around throwing sand around. We took advantage of our time at the beach to sip fresh orange juices and get a bit of a tan.
After a couple of hours at the beach we headed back to the Port area where Barcelona’s architectural appeal became even more clear. The Port Vell , which is a continuation of the Ramblas, reminded me of my visit to Valencia years ago where the architectural prowess of Spanish-born genius Santiago Calatrava mesmerized me. The boys were more enticed by the antique boats on site than the landscape and Evan and daddy paid a few euros to go into the wonderful world of ancient naval vessels. Josh and I stayed safe on dry land and let the big boys enjoy their adventure. Evan was really upset when daddy took him out of the boat so they had to go in another vessel to satisfy his need for water.
Not far from the port you can find L’Aquarium which is one of the best aquariums I have ever seen. Definitely worth a visit and even more so if you want to take a break from the Barcelona sun and enjoy a nice air-conditioned space where the kids can play without you having to worry about them running away.
As we went back to the city center, Barcelona kept manifesting it’s charm. The boys enjoyed the plazas and small winding streets and I enjoyed the summer sales where Zara, Mango and Desigual were deeply discounted and I was able to get plenty of cute shirts for very few euros. Of course one of our favorite stops was at the ramblas where we avoided both the McDonalds and the expensive seafood restaurants and ended up eating or rather tapeando at the amazing La Boqueria market after the kids took a few bites of chicken nuggets from Burger King.
When in Barcelona, you have have have to see Gaudi‘s works of art. Unfortunately we were unable to visit the Sagrada Familia church this time due to time and toddler constraints but we were very lucky to get to see the amazing Parc Guell and the gorgeous Casa Batllo. Parc Guell is incredibly fun and interesting. There are so many areas to explore and many beautiful architectural details partout. Visiting Casa Batllo was like visiting a foreign fantasy land. I know I wished I could live there. Permeated with surreal elements, this house was thoroughly thought-out and we enjoyed visiting every room on every floor. Evan was very excited to visit this house just because a lot of the color-filled details were within his reach. Josh was enthralled by the glass work and the many colors and shapes on display.
Not far from our hotel we found the famous Plaza Espanya where the popular Magic Fountain of Montjuic presents a show every evening. The boys loved watching the water and light show and daddy and I loved sitting down on a perfectly manicured grass lawn and relaxing for a few minutes.
Even closer to our hotel was the Parque Espanya Industrial where fun architectural elements ranging from post-modernist to gothic and even a bit neo-classic converged to make a fun park for the whole family to have fun. I think we visited this place the three days we were there and we enjoyed hanging out with the Barcelonians and letting the kids run around.
Our trip to Barcelona was unforgettable. So much so that Evan still has a slight remembrance of the time he went on a boat and I still remember how much fun we had despite the fact that the kids were so young. I was so impressed to see Evan and Josh eat tapas like there was no tomorrow and was so happy to not have to rely on fast food for the boys to at least get a few pieces of food in their tummies. Barcelona was our first stop in Spain and it set the trend for the following weeks where a relaxed atmosphere and fun easygoing attitude made this part of our vacation the most memorable one. After all, what else could we ask for than a little bit of food, a little bit of wine, a whole lot of laughter and two exhausted happy babies every night.
Tips for visiting Barcelona with Kids
- Take the tour bus. It is super affordable compared to other places in Europe and perfect to take you to all the sight-seeing venues
- Avoid eating at the Ramblas unless you are eating at La Boqueria. It is expensive and there are small tapas joints all over the places. Tapas are your best friend! Kids love them!
- If you have a few hours, visit the pool by the beach. They have a nice kid area and is perfect for little swimmers. It is a bit pricey (about 20+ euros per person) but it’s worth it if you will be there for at least half a day.
- If your kids area old enough, visit the amazing art galleries available. There are some that specialize on a specific artist and some that exhibit a specific movement. I can’t wait to go back and take the kids to the many galleries.
- Don’t feel guilty if you do a little shopping, if you visit during the sale season clothes are amazingly affordable. The clothes for kids are cute and trendy and super durable. I got a few shirts and shorts for the boys are they are still going strong after a whole year using them and washing them with very rough water here in Jakarta.
- If you are visiting other cities from Barcelona, the high-speed train is awesome, but be aware that it is much more expensive than in France and Germany. Good alternatives are buses and cheap airlines. The buses are very comfortable and safe the cheap airlines, are cheap and that’s about it haha…
- Enjoy! You don’t have to plan every single minute. Barcelona will surprise you and you will find yourself having fun every single minute.