Barcelona is a child-friendly city. Kids are welcome in lots of places, elevators and ramps are available for little ones’ strollers, and visual stimulation is everywhere to keep them entertained. In fact, you don’t have to spend a lot of money — Barcelona is an open-air museum in itself!
Here are a few of my recommendations to take your kids when you need some inspiration.
1. Parc de la Ciutadella (Ciutadella Park)
When we urbanites tire of cement and tall buildings, we head to this centrally located, grass and tree-covered oasis. Not just a beautiful tree-lined park to stroll, the Parc de la Ciutadella’s 70 acres of land offers several activities that children can enjoy.
In the middle, you can find a small, picturesque lake with green foliage, calm waters, and ducks quacking around. Here you can rent a small row boat for a half an hour and enjoy the fresh air and scenic beauty. You can also find a mammoth sculpture, an impressive fountain, ping pong tables, a cafe and restrooms.
Inside the park there’s also a bustling playground for little ones with the popular ludoteca. (A ludoteca is a free playing space primarily for 2 to 6 year olds, where children can explore with large tires, oversized buckets and spools, wheelbarrows, kiddie pools, and more.) It’s open from 11:30am-1pm, but check the schedule for details.
Oh, and the park is also a great place for people watching. Just bring some lunch and a picnic blanket. You’ll see tourists, families, and los hippy sitting on the grass, reveling in the park’s charm.
2. Las Ramblas
Known for its colorful flower shops, souvenir shops, and shady pickpockets, Las Ramblas fails to bore the average Barcelona tourist.
You can’t help but leer at everything down this 1.2 kilometer stroll full of restaurants, cafes, bars and entertainment. Perhaps the most interesting displays are the sporadic street artists lined along the pedestrian mall. Children will stop in their tracks to ogle at the costume-laden entertainers standing like statues or imitating Elvis or creepy alien-like creatures.
While bustling and overcrowded, this street is always a unique, carnivalesque strolling experience, best enjoyed during the daytime. While any type of violence is very rare, it is advisable to be vigilant of your belongings at all times.
3. Font Màgica (Magic Fountain)
The Magic Fountain show near Plaça Espanya has attracted visitors with its high-reaching waters, colorful hues of lights, and classical music. Shows run in the evenings and are a great way to cap a busy day after checking out sights in the city.
A mesmerizing symphony of cascading ever-changing colors of water soaring up to 54 meters high, this nighttime spectacle are a kid’s favorite. The surrounding area is impressive as well as it sits in front of the majestic Palau Nacional de Montjuic. Operating hours vary by season, but check the schedule.
4. Parc de Montjuic
Notable parks of Montjuic:
Jardins de Mossen Cinto Verdaguer. Five minutes’ walking distance from the funicular, this is a great place to have a picnic. For some grassy runaround time, you can enjoy the large pond and its sloping grass around it.
Jardins de Joan Brossa. For a playground, check out where there’s are water pumps, sand pulleys and more. And one funky clown sculpture.
Walking around Montjuic, you can also find…
5. Castell de Montjuic (Montjuic Castle)
A 17th-century military fortress, the Castle of Montjuic is a cultural monument where kids can thrust their imagination into medieval history. Half the fun is arriving to this historic castle on a hill via funicular (as mentioned above).
Upon arrival, guests can cross the tall bridge to the castle and large cannons that kids love to climb on and pretend they’re fending off outsiders. The whole family can also enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of the city below. There is also a playground by the drawbridge with two extra-long fun-inducing slides.
6. Parc Laberint d´Horta (Labyrinth Park of Horta)
The oldest park in the city, the multi-leveled Parc Laberint d’Horta is an 18th-century neoclassical garden with plenty of ponds, fountains, gazebos, Moorish arches and statues of Greek gods. Most importantly, you can get lost in its winding maze.
At the entrance of the labyrinth, you have to find your way to the center, which is a statue of the Eros, the god of love. The park also has lots of green spaces for strolling and a decent playground. If you want to have a picnic here, seating areas are pretty limited — well-manicured lawns are mostly for admiring from a distance. There are a few benches around, so it won’t be too comfortable. Tip: if you have a stroller, enter through the right side where there’s a ramp. If you enter from the front, there is a high set of stairs that you’ll have to carry your set of wheels. There is an admission charge, but you can avoid this if you come on a Sunday.
7. Barcelona Beaches
More than just sand and water, Barcelona’s 4.5 kilometers of seven beaches have beautiful scenery and plenty of chiringuitos (bars on the sand), and are family-friendly spots. Although crowded during summer months, Barcelona’s beaches offer lots of space for kids to run around, build sandcastles, and take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. There’s even a small biblioplatja in Barceloneta beach, a small library with some kids’ books that you can check out while you’re on the sand, but you have to have a library card. It’s only open in the summer. For the modest, keep in mind that nudism is allowed on the beaches but rarely seen.
Port Olímpic. Kids can admire Frank Gehry’s oversized sculpture of a golden fish, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants a climbing frame.
Poblenou. There are also a few playgrounds. And the Rambla de Poblenou starts (or ends) here — it’s a pleasant pedestrian street full of restaurants, cafes and shops.
PLACES TO PAY TO PLAY (but they’re fun for parents too)
Sponsored by the Spanish bank La Caixa, the CaixaForum structure is an old textile factory-turned-cultural center with galleries and exhibits of modern art. This is a great museum to visit if parents want to absorb art and culture while children can also learn and enjoy as well. While it’s primarily and “adult” museum, there are enough separate kid spaces so that children don’t have to feel confined to one enclosed area.
Each art gallery has a CaixaForum Kids section, a sophisticated and educational space that offers more than papers, feathers, and glue. Kids can learn about the exhibition and further explore the art represented in each featured gallery — translating the art into their own terms. They can create their own pieces for display in the space or to take home.
CaixaForum Kids also offers cultural shows, concerts, family workshops and films throughout the year.
9. Barcelona Zoo
This is our go-to place when we don’t have any real weekend plans. Centrally located in the beautiful Parc de La Cuitadella, the Barcelona Zoo is home to more than 400 animal species and 4,000 different animals. Opening its doors in 1892, this zoo has grown to care for the typical giraffes, zebras and elephants but also houses such curiosities like the Eastern bongo, komodo dragons, giant anteater and pygmy marmoset.
You can spend the whole day at the zoo. It offers several restaurants, picnic and grassy areas (you can bring your own food), pony rides, a petting zoo, and two large playgrounds. One of the playgrounds is for older children, and also features an adventurous zip-line.
Peacocks also run freely around the park. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a happy one spreading his feathers. A lively dolphin show also runs a few times a day – there’s usually a long line, but there’s plenty of space and every seat is a good one. You can also rent electric cars if you’re feel like kicking back for a bit. With plentiful space to roam, the Barcelona Zoo is comfortable and enjoyable even on its most busy days.
TIP: If you live in the city, it’s worth it to buy a family membership. In just three visits in one year, we already have our money’s worth!
10. Museu Blau
Located at the Parc del Forum by the sea, the Museu Blau is a low-cost museum for the family to enjoy natural science.
The permanent exhibition, called The Planet Life, shows the beginning of organisms in its evolution until today. The most impressive part of the museum for me are the interminable rows of 4,000 fossils and taxidermic animals, where you can look closely into the eyes of an African lion without getting mauled.
Children up to 6 years old can also enter a special Niu de ciencia (Science Nest), an interactive room where kids can get hands-on experience observing pods through a microscopes, handle a shark’s jaw, or discover the plumage of various birds. Its location is ideal if guests would like to visit a local shopping center nearby, the Centre Comercial Diagonal Mar.
11. Poble Espanyol
A miniature version of a Spanish village, the Poble Espanyol is an enclosed but expansive open-air museum, imitating streets and architecture of real pueblos around the country.
117 buildings, streets and squares are represented in this popular town, where you can have lunch, peruse the artisan shops, or join in the activities. On Sundays, there are family shows. Families can also participate in Ghymkana, a treasure hunt around the village. As a temporary detective, you’ll be loaned a rucksack, a guidebook and investigative tools for a real search for interesting things. It’s available in Spanish, Catalan, English and French.
12. Parc Guell
It’s a real-life Candyland. Although there are no playgrounds at this park, it’s worth a trip for children to enjoy the stunning, visual feast of this emblematic landscape. Children will appreciate the designer Gaudi’s vivid imagination, as rocks are artistically constructed in the shape of a woman, terraces are made to imitate birds’ nests, and colorful mosaics line the terrace in winding shapes. Hours can be spent here as you explore colonnaded footpaths and spectacular views of the city.
The drawback: the park is not stroller-friendly as it is quite multi-leveled with only stairs as access. The main entrance is accessible after a 20-minute uphill walk from the Lesseps metro stop. Consider taking the public bus (24) from Placa Catalunya to arrive, which is located on a higher level on the side of the park.
This is one awesome place…and huge! You don’t really have to love science to appreciate the richness of information in this museum.
A bit outside of the city center, the CosmoCaixa science museum is worth the trip of exploration. Its permament exhibits the Geological Wall (70 pieces of nearly 90 tons of rock), an impressive planetarium, a stunning indoor rainforest with over 100 species such as anacondas, alligators, and poisonous frogs.
One fun place is the the Sala de la Materia encourages hands-on experimentation of matter. Kids can test Newton’s Law, discover how sound waves work, and understand the Big Bang theory. There are over 200 of these fun interactive models to play with. Lots of fun buttons to press!
14. L’Aquarium Barcelona
Located at Barcelona’s waterfront, the Barcelona Aquarium in Port Vell is the largest Mediterranean-themed aquarium in the world.
It has over 11,000 organisms from 450 different species. Kids will love to catch daily feeding times of the sharks, penguins and the ravenous rays. There’s a large tunnel housing the oceanarium. Perhaps the best spot for little ones is the interactive Explora! children’s area, where you can observe waves of the Costa Brava or learn about the marshes of the Ebro Delta. Children can also touch a sea urchin, climb on a faux sea turtle, or run around outside and explore inside a play shark’s jaw. Children 2 and under are free.
15. Tibidabo Amuseument Park
Over 100 years old and the only large amusement park in Barcelona, Tibidabo Amusement Park sits atop the Tibidabo mountain looking down on the urban landscape. With a mixture of classic rides and modern rides for thrill seekers, including a pirate ship, a roller coaster and Hurricane. There are a multitude of rides for little ones, including a small train, a flying airplane or a mini roller coaster. There is also a cooling water ride for those hot and humid summer days.
There you have it! Can you add any other fun places to this list?