Family Vacations to Barcelona, Spain

Family Overview - Barcelona, Spain
Even children are enthralled with Gaudi's creative architecture (Getty/Martin Child)

Barcelona Family Travel Tips

  • People watch and stroll Las Ramblas, the city's premier boulevard.
  • See works by Spanish masters Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso at local museums.
  • Meander through the Old City.
  • Explore the waterfront with its aquarium and beaches.

Barcelona's flamboyant mix of wide boulevards, medieval neighborhoods, and beaches give teens plenty of places to meander, and afternoon siestas and late-night dining match teen scheduling preferences.

Teens love people-watching and Las Ramblas, Barcelona's premier promenade, offers some of Europe's best. Stretching for one mile from the Plaça Catalunya to the Plaça Portal, near the waterfront, the broad boulevard divided by a center pedestrian walkway contains a lively blend of cafes, shops, flower stalls, and street performers. It's a place where you might spot an organ grinder cranking out music for his dancing dogs or a mime covered from head to toe in silver paint impersonating a statue. At La Boqueria, a popular produce market just off the Ramblas, fruit vendors shout the merits of the pyramids of ripe grapefruit and cherries, and fishmongers slice slabs of salmon and haddock.

Three more areas to explore are Montjuïc, site for some of the 1992 Olympic events; Barri Gòtic, the old city; and the revitalized waterfront. You can ride a funicular to the hilltop sites of Montjuïc. Rising 699 feet above the city, the large urban park is a mix of greenery and museums. The Fundació Joan Miró is filled with the witty and colorful paintings, graphics, and sculptures by the Spanish master. Highlights of the hilltop Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya are the Roman frescoes, icons, and other religious art from the 13th to 15th centuries. Also on Monjuïc, Poble Espanyol's more than 100 structures represent Spanish architecture throughout the ages. Young children tend to like the ersatz structures, inexpensive souvenirs, and festival atmosphere. The Museu Picasso displays many of Picasso's early works, even some he did as a teenager.

For real but fantastical architecture, check out renowned architect Antoni Gaudí's buildings, especially his Sagrada Familia. Teens always have something to say about the unfinished cathedral's twisting shapes, spiral staircases, and otherworldly feel. The Barri Gòtic is a warren of narrow alleys lined with centuries-old stone walls, some of which date to medieval times. Visit the Catedral de Barcelona, begun in the 13th century, during the day, but come back at night when the cathedral's lighting make the arches and the intricate stonework seem weightless, as if made from paper cutouts instead of stone.

L'Aquarium de Barcelona, the biggest in Europe, anchors the city's waterfront. Wall size tanks display colorful fish from the Red Sea and the reefs of Australia and Hawaii. Walk through the acrylic tunnel and see sharks and fish zig-zagging around you. For sand castle building or swimming, head to Barcelona's beaches. Then get some exercise by doing laps at the Piscina Bernardo Picornell, the pool built for the Olympic athletes to race.

Tip: The Barcelona Card offers free admission to many city attractions as well as free public transportation.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »