It’s not difficult to see why Barcelona sits atop the list of Britain’s most loved city breaks. Just a short, affordable flight away, it’s an easy to navigate, easy to communicate with place, awash with culture, charm and good weather. Indeed, Barcelona truly has something for everyone, and its accessibility, colour and climate make it a fantastic place to take the kids. Whether you’re visiting for Messi, the mercados, mato or Miro, Spain’s second largest city won’t disappoint. Here are 5 IDEAL tips for a family holiday to Barcelona.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Barcelona is blessed with year round good weather, with the average temperature not falling below 14°C even in the colder winter months. At the other end of the thermometer, it’s only August you want to watch out for, as the mercury can tip 35°C and humidity can be an issue for the little ones. Take your pick from the remaining months! For us, Spring is the ideal time for families, as it’s warm but not stifling, and the chaos of the summer holidays and their associated crowds hasn’t yet begun. Ditto Autumn. Should you be hitting the big BCN in the hotter months, make sure your hotel or accommodation has air conditioning as standard.
This attention to timing also applies to the ideal day, and time of day, to explore the city. Because it’s such a popular city with tourists, visiting midweek is going to guarantee you the shorter queues and slimmer crowds at all the popular sites. And in general, getting up and out earlier in the day will beat the rush. On the flipside, anytime after around 4pm gets pretty manic on the busier streets.
Speaking of busy streets, there’s one which is busier than them all; Las Ramblas. It’s said to receive between 80 and 100 million pedestrians a year, and often gets a bad press for pickpocketing. But to believe the (negative) hype would be to deny your kids a real thrill ride of a stroll.
Firstly, one of the street’s most famous forms of entertainment; the mime artists. Have some change at the ready, as the kids will be drawn to these and other street performers (fire breathers, guitarists, dancers…it’s all here). Totally worth it, we think. Should the family be up for seeing more of the street performance but in a little less of the crowds, veer left off Las Ramblas and make for Plaça Reial, a square lined with cafes and ice cream sellers, with a fountain in the middle and loads to keep the little ones entertained.
Also make sure you visit the one and only ‘Boqueria’ market, often billed as the world’s best. Inside is a colourful, vibrant feast for all the senses with treats galore for the kids to nibble on. There are also convivial bars and nibbles for the adults. Hurrah!
Where you stay in Barcelona can have a huge impact on your holiday. If your squad have their heart set on maximum beach time, then it’s got to be Barceloneta; the area adjacent to the city’s four beaches. Anywhere else more inland, such as the popular Eixample and Gracia districts, are simply too far from the shore for casual strolling to the sand with the kids. Taxis will be needed.
That’s not to say those disctricts don’t have plenty to offer for families. Eixample, in particular, is modern, safe and one of the most family friendly areas in Barcelona. The wider streets and footpaths make it more manageable when trying to herd a young team around a crowded city. If you want to be in the thick of the action, then El Born and the Gothic Quarter (both in the old town) manage to straddle that sense of being in and amongst it with a more family friendly environment you perhaps wouldn’t find in some of the edgier areas. El Raval, for instance, though great fun for party animals, might not suit a family, as the vibe is noisy and hotel rooms on the smaller side. If space is a priority, consider family holiday rentals in Barcelona, giving everyone a little more room to roam about and let their hair down.
Barcelona’s most famous sons and biggest international export also happen to make a great family day out, even if you’re not attending a game. Yep, we’re talking about Messi, Griezmann and co. of course, at Barcelona Football Club. Now, if you can secure tickets for a match, we’re sure your children won’t be complaining. It’s actually surprisingly easy to get seats for matches which are less than blockbuster, as the stadium seats nearly 100’000. On occasion, you can simply rock up and buy tickets a couple of hours before kick off, but obviously as a family unit, this isn’t recommended for the risk of disappointment.
Instead, try over the phone (+34 90 218 9900 – English is spoken) or via the official website on the day of the game or those leading up to it. Often, you’ll get lucky. And look out for La Caixa ATM machines, which also allow you to buy match tickets through them. If you can’t catch 90 minutes of the beautiful game, then tours of the Nou Camp, including the club’s museum and trophy cabinet, are available and well worth dedicating an afternoon to. The kids will love it.
With so much to see and do in the city itself, it can be easy to forget that Barcelona has a beach. Actually, four, and mostly man made for the 1992 Olympic Games. That doesn’t detract from their splendour, though, and there’s certainly all the ingredients here for a great family day out of sun, sea and sand.
Though Barceloneta is the most easily accessible and perfectly family friendly, we’d recommend making the journey to Bogatell Beach, around 5km from the centre and a far more laid back and secluded affair (the other beaches tend to attract a party crowd – and who can blame them?). If you’re up for an even quieter time, with green space for picnics and even a children’s playground, then make for Nova Mar Bella, another ten minute walk north.