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Earlier this year my mom, five-year-old and, I went to Spain together to have fun and explore a new destination together. We started our trip with three nights in Madrid staying at both the Westin Palace Madrid and the Radisson Blu Madrid Prado (see linked reviews). While we were in Madrid we focused on these family friendly activities, and had a blast playing in parks, eating, visiting a palace, and more.
After our time in Madrid came to a close, we took a very enjoyable high speed train the 2.5 hours or so from Madrid to Barcelona (read about that portion of the trip in the post (Taking the Train in Spain: Madrid to Barcelona) and arrived ready to start our time on the Mediterranean Coast. We stayed in a junior suite at the Le Meridien Barcelona using a combo of SPG points and a cash upgrade, and it made for a fantastic “home base” for us to explore the city. That said, our purpose of going to Barcelona wasn’t to sit all day in a hotel room. Our purpose was to go out and explore, and here are some “family friendly” activities we took part in during our two days in Barcelona.
Explore La Rambla and Nearby Areas:
Our hotel was right off La Rambla, a very busy and popular pedestrian street in Barcelona. There are tons of places to eat, kiosks to shop, etc. all along La Rambla. We even happened upon a parade!
We had fun shopping all along La Rambla at some pop-up shops and kiosks for little inexpensive leather bracelets, jewelry, art, etc. Be sure to have cash since these little shops are unlikely to accept credit cards (though most restaurants and brick and mortar stores did accept our credit cards).
Since we were traveling with a 5 year old, we didn’t have the luxury of hunting down the “best” places to eat or drink in Barcelona, but instead were kept happy by some of the casual options available all along La Rambla.
Do be aware that La Rambla is also known for pick-pockets and the like, so be alert and don’t have your valuables, phones, passports, etc. easily accessible. We did not (thankfully) have any issues with this on our trip, but we did get warnings from virtually everyone we encountered to be vigilant in this area. It is not known for violent crime, but most of us don’t want to deal with petty theft either!
Head to the Beach:
Even though it was too cold on our early spring visit to actually enjoy the beach in the traditional sense, we still made our way down to the beach to see the Mediterranean for the first time. If you are visiting during a warmer month then of course more traditional beach activities with bathing suits and sand shovels would be in order!
We were also able to spend some time playing in small parks that were located near the beach!
Visit Sagrada Familia:
Whether you are in Barcelona with adults, kids, or both, a “must visit” has to be Sagrada Familia. It is a Roman Catholic Church, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that began construction in the late 1800’s and is still under construction today with a 2026 estimated completion date. Gaudí worked on the project until his death in 1926 and it’s very unique design is breathtaking whether you are a church-goer, a fan of architecture, or just like rainbows (like my daughter).
Lines to gain entrance can be quite long, so I recommend purchasing a timed admission ticket in advance online. Adults were 15 € and children under 11 were free. You can get audio tours or other add-ons for an additional fee. With our timed admission tickets purchased in advance we didn’t wait more than 5 minutes or so to get into the basilica.
We spent no more than an hour there, but it was thoroughly enjoyable – even for the younger crew who was convinced there must be where “Rainbow Dash” ( a My Little Pony for the non-parents-of-five-year-old-girls out there) lives.
Eat and Drink at La Boqueria:
Another “must visit” is the La Boqueria right off La Rambla. This market has origins dating back to the 12oo’s – yes, the 1200’s. That alone makes it a must visit, but it is also very alive and vibrant today. The market has seemingly endless stalls that sell everything from fish, to meets, to eggs, fruits, vegetables, breads, pastries, artisan crafts, wine, fresh fruit smoothies, and more.
Our personal favorite item was the 1 – 2 € fresh fruit juices that were sold at many of the stalls. I wish we had fresh juices that easily available and affordable back home!
There were many other stalls that were fun to look at as well, though it is worth mentioning that the amount of “ready to eat” food was much lower than at the Mercado de San Miguel we visited in Madrid…though Little C loved the Dunkin Donuts that was adjacent to the market. Nothing says authentic Barcelona breakfast like a pink sprinkled Dunkin Donut…
Take a Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour:
Barcelona is a big city, so unless you have a lengthy visit, you are unlikely to be able and see all the parts of the city. Since we only had two days (and a five year old and a pregnant lady), we only got a chance to see some of the parts of the city by bus. In our case this included parts of town that hosted the 1992 Olympics. I wish we could have spent more time up there, but being able to at least see different areas of town from a bus while my daughter slept on my shoulder was better than nothing!
Be aware that since the city is so big, the bus route takes a couple of hours to go all the way around. There are also a couple of companies than run the bus tours and a couple of different routes, so you need to study the route maps a little bit before just assuming it will take you where you want to go. This is in contrast to Madrid when the bus routes were a bit shorter and more straight-forward.
There are many other family friendly activities that either weren’t running while we were there or we simply didn’t have the time/energy to enjoy on this trip. These include:
Even though we didn’t get to take part in everything Barcelona had to offer on this first trip, we had a great time and didn’t have any trouble finding things to entertain all three generations of travelers on the journey! What are your favorite Barcelona activities?