In this cosmopolitan European center, kids and parents coexist happily — that is good news for moms and dads
Spanish culture celebrates the family, and this is especially true in kid-friendly Barcelona. From architect Antoni Gaudí's whimsical structures that seem straight out of a Dr. Seuss book to La Rambla, a pedestrian mall where street performers draw crowds of all ages, Barcelona clearly embraces its inner child.
What's for Dinner?
This is a place where you can sit down for tasty fare at a relatively inexpensive restaurant, while your kids are happy as clams running around a gorgeous 14th-century plaza nearby. The eateries that hug the edges of Barcelona's many squares are family destinations themselves.
Spaniards love eating dinner late — as in 10 p.m. late. If it's 6 p.m. and dinnertime is calling, answer it with tapas, the Spanish small-plate specialty. The "little bites" are just right for little appetites and are another way to introduce your children to different food and cultures. Plus, you have an excuse to enjoy a glass (or two) of wine or cava, the local sparkling variety. Spanish wines are yummy and inexpensive.
Things to Do, Things to See
Parc de la Ciutadella, just east of La Rambla and the Barri Gotic, is a magnet for locals and visitors. There's a life-size woolly mammoth to climb (and to pose with for photos), as well as glistening gold sculptures to ogle, pedal boats and bicycles to hire, gardens to explore, playgrounds to romp in and places to picnic.
The woods of Parc de Montjuic overlook Barcelona's downtown and hide the Fundació Joan Miró, a museum fitting for the famous artists whose work will engage kids as much as it does adults. Montjuic was a key site for the 1992 Olympics and is home to the impressive 17th-century fortress Castell de Montjuic. Half the fun can be getting there; a red cable car leaves for Montjuic from the beach in Barcelona.
This is the home of FC Barcelona, one of the world's most famed football — OK, for you Americans, soccer — teams. Your kids probably already know that. And they'll probably insist on a visit to the team stadium. Do it. You'll get a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek into the locker room, explore the arena and check out the memorabilia and videos in the museum.
Hit the Beaches
Barcelona's wide white-sand beaches, by the way, are consistently rated among the best urban beaches in the world. Have a swim, build castles and then head over to the nearby Barcelona Aquarium at the port, another guaranteed hit with the kids.
It can be a hike to get to Parc Güell in the city's northern reaches, but the effort is worthwhile to check out the fairytale-like home of Antoni Gaudí. Kids will love the fountains, tree-like pillars and mosaic salamanders and dragons he designed for the park.
The best part of all this? Barcelona is a city by the sea, so it's just minutes from your cruise ship to all that this wonderful Spanish city has to offer.
3 Best Bets for Kids in Barcelona
- FC Barcelona stadium
- Parc de la Ciutadella, near La Rambla
- Parc Güell