Entertaining children in Spain has its challenges but overall this is a country where the little ones have a ball. Get the low-down on things to do when you’re in Barcelona with kids.
For parents who go to Barcelona with kids, it’s all too common to run into a problem: little Billy is hungry, and the local restaurants haven’t even set the tables yet. With Spaniards usually lunching from 2pm or later, and having dinner at anywhere from 9 to 11 at night, restaurant opening hours can make the country seem anything other than child-friendly.
Once inside a Spanish bar or restaurant, however, it’s a different story.
In his book Ghosts of Spain, British writer Giles Tremlett contrasts the treatment children receive here to the reception they get in his native Britain where some pubs are off-limits to youngsters. “Whereas small children turn British parents into social lepers, they elevate Spanish parents into privileged human beings,” he writes. “Rather than be shown the door or taken off to a ‘families only’ quarantine zone, you find the waiters’ attention and efforts doubling. There will be crayons, colouring books and delicacies for the kids. And when your child karate-chops his glass of mosto, sweet grape juice, onto the tiled floor, the waiter appears not just with a mop, but with a smile and a new, full glass.”
Barcelona as a child-friendly city of Spain
When you’re in Barcelona with kids, never fear. The city, as well as the country of Spain at large, is perfectly child-friendly once you get the hang of things. If your children are already bringing their Spanish playmates home, you may have gotten a taste of what Tremlett describes as Spain’s “spoilt star-turn – the child”, the “imperious little princes and princesses of the, now typical, one or two child Spanish family”. The Spanish over-indulgence towards children has one distinct advantage – your (of course, beautifully well-behaved children) can have a ball.
Most Spanish cities, towns and villages run regular children’s events and festivals. In big cities, a good source of information is the Guia del Ocio, which has a special section dedicated to children’s entertainment. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, its list of theme parks, children’s films, plays and suitable museums is a useful starting point, if only for the websites and opening hours.
To get you started, here’s a pick of some of our favourite ways to stay amused in Barcelona with kids.
Theme parks and funfairs for your kids in Barcelona
This is a slick, modern theme park where you can be flung around eight inverted loops on Dragon Khan (supposedly the largest roller-coaster in Europe) or get soaked on Tutuki Splash. There are also shows with bubbles, birds of paradise, Mexican and Chinese themes.
Port Aventura is about a 90-minute drive from Barcelona near Salou/La Pineda, off A7. Or, by public transport, there are buses from Passeig de Sant Joan and trains from Passeig de Gracia. Learn more at: www.portaventura.es
In complete contrast to Port Aventura, just behind Barcelona, is this more-than-hundred-year-old funfair. Located on the highest point of the city, the ride on the funicular railway is a must, even if your kids think the rides at Tibidabo are tame compared to other theme parks.
Get to Tibidabo by bus from Placa Catalunya. Details on their website: www.tibidabo.es
Visiting animals with your kids in Barcelona
The Barcelona city zoo used to be known worldwide for Copito de Nieve (Snowflake), the only known albino gorilla, but this celebrity animal died in November 2003. Now the big attractions are the dolphins and the penguins, which include some from the endangered Humboldt species.
The zoo is accessible by metro stops Barcelonesa, Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica, Marina and Arc de Triomf. Find out more at: www.zoobarcelona.com
Children can be mesmerized for hours here by 35 tanks containing some 11,000 fish and fascinating underwater creatures. One activity is strictly only for adults – the chance for qualified divers to go swimming with the sharks…
Get to the aquarium by metro stops Drassanes, Barceloneta. See more at their website: www.aquariumbcn.com
Sports and culture for kids in Barcelona
There are three screens here showing films using 3D, Imax and Omnimax technologies. This is the type of entertainment to wow mums and dads as well as teens. Visit by metro at Drassanes and Barceloneta. Learn more: www.imaxintegral.com
Barcelona Football Club Museum
This may the one museum the kids won’t turn their noses up at seeing. The Barcelona Football Club Museum boasts 3,500 square metres of exhibits, including displays on the history of Barca, temporary exhibits and even an art gallery. Visit by metro at the Collblanc stop. Learn more at: www.fcbarcelona.es
These, and many more activities, can keep you happy in Barcelona with kids. And, it can always help to join a mamas’ group to socialize and get tips from other expat parents and families. If your kids haven’t yet enrolled in school or daycare, you can see our article on Daycare and preschool in Spain.