For me Park Guell was one of the highlights of Barcelona, though once again I was struck by the absence of park-like spaces the way we know them in Australia. You could sit on benches, including the beautiful mosaic benches shown below, but there were no big open grasses spaces to sit. There was plenty of garden space, but it was for looking at from the outside, not for sitting within. However, the structures were amazing, and we took a gazillion photos just here.
Of course, it wasn’t originally designed as a park. Gaudi was commissioned to design a fabulous garden city, in which individual plots were to be sold for houses to be built on. However, the plots never sold, and eventually Josep Guell, who owned the land, donated it to the city of Barcelona to be a public park.
Once again, before we were travelling with the kids, we didn’t spend as much time exploring the park as we might have on our own. They enjoyed it for a while, but eventually the need for ice creams outweighed the need to see more mosaics!
Having been here now for 5 nights, I can say I am really glad we’ve arranged our trip this time to – mostly – be spending around a week in each location, although already this time in Barcelona seems to be rushing by.
Last time we travelled overseas, we had just Liam, who was then not quite two, and we had a number of stops of two-three nights. There were good reasons for that, namely, trying to fit people in, not wanting to put people out by staying with them for too long, and having limited money for accommodation on the places where we couldn’t stay with anyone, for whatever reason. But by the end of five weeks, we were all feeling a bit tired and cranky.
You’d think those reasons would be more true this time, traveling with three kids, but somehow it hasn’t worked out that way. We are still spending the shortest times in the places we have to pay for accommodation, and we’ll have the road trip up to Portland to visit my brother and his family, where we’ll stop a night or two on the way up and one on the way back, with only four days there (they have a new baby and no older children so we didn’t even ask them to put us up), so that will be quite disruptive for the kids, but mostly we’re spending a good chunk in each location.
There are a couple of people we visited last time who we are just not managing to fit in this time, which I’m sad about, but with three kids and the longer overall trip (there was no Europe component last time), I think it’s more important than last time for them to have time to settle.
The time in Barcelona *is* flying though, and our kids are going to really miss having the other kids to play with when we get to Greece.
Traveling with kids is definitely different to traveling without them. Of course that’s not news. And I’ve traveled with kids before, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I supposed I haven’t traveled to places where I want to behave like a tourist before – sightseeing.
Today we went to the Sagrada Familia, which was amazing. This is a church designed by Gaudi, which has been under construction since 1882, with completion expected around 2020. Some people come back to Barcelona every few years to see how it’s progressing. I think we took about 100 photos.
Even at 10 in the morning the line to buy tickets to enter the church was around the block, but there were far fewer tour groups waiting than when we visited two days ago and decided not to go in, an hour or two later in the day. But, the line moved quickly, and once inside it didn’t feel particularly crowded, if also not particularly reverential.
Tickets cost us €12 each and the kids were free, all being under 10. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go up in the lift into the spires, because a) under 6 year olds can’t go up, so someone would have had to stay down with Mikaela and Eliane, and b) the next time we could go was 1&1/2 hours away – tickets were sold out until then.
An hour and a half seemed too long to wait, and we were not wrong in our assessment – the two younger kids were over it long before that, especially Eliane, who woke up tired and grumpy today, after a short nap yesterday and an unsettled night. There really wasn’t a lot in the church for them to do – when you’re 1 or even 5, it’s pretty much a case of seen one amazing glass window, seen ’em all.
Liam had his own camera and so enjoyed taking photos himself, while Chris and I took turns with child supervision and church appreciation. That was okay, but we simply weren’t at leisure to read the various plaques or spend any time in the museum (underneath) and so on. We walked through the museum, but only to find the toilets!
While the Sagrada Familia was well worth the visit, for Liam as well as us grown ups, I would love to go back without the kids (or without young kids at the very least) to be able to really appreciate the church in all it’s glory. After the money and energy that has been poured into this church, which was Gaudi’s last and some say greatest work, I imagine it will always be a tourist attraction. But I would like to think that there will be facility for it to be used as it was, I’m sure, intended, not only to hold services, but for the devout (or even not so devout) to sit in mediation or prayer in what should be an amazing atmosphere – if ever there is a time when it is not crawling with sightseers and their cameras.
Speaking for which, here are just a few of the photos we took:
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Tourism is a huge industry in this city, which is the 16th most visited worldwide and the fourth most visited in Europe. Each year, several million people visit beautiful Barcelona. It has something for everyone, making it the perfect destination for an overseas family vacation. To make planning more efficient, we have compiled the top 10 things to do in Barcelona Spain. Be sure to include several of these in the travel itinerary so the kids will enjoy the trip as much as the adults.
Barcelona makes a perfect destination any time of year because the summers are warm and dry and winters are mild and humid. Many hotels are family friendly, offering rooms that accommodate four or more guests. Family rooms at the Holiday Inn Express Barcelona sleep two children and two adults, while rooms at the Mur Mar Apart Hotel sleep six people. The Triunfo Hotel features triple rooms ideal for a small family and overlooks the Parc de la Ciutadella, a kid-friendly recreation spot.
Upon arrival, tourists can get an overview of the city by taking an open top, hop on, hop off tour bus. Even residents comment on the usefulness of this transportation because it provides a thorough overview of the layout of Barcelona. Travelers can use it to get around Barcelona, hopping on and off wherever they choose, or they may remain on the bus for the entire tour, passing by the most popular tourist spots. Daily tickets cost 23 euros for adults and 12 euros for children and two-day tickets are available at a discounted rate.
One of the first places adults will want to visit is the Gothic Quarter, which is the center of the old city of Barcelona. Many buildings in this area data back to medieval times, some constructed during the Roman settlement period. Particularly remarkable is the Sagrada Familia Church, under construction since 1882 with completion not planned until 2026. Kids will not last long on this sightseeing tour, so take them to the Barcelona Aquarium at Port Vell to get their fill of aquatic life. Special programs are designed for children of all ages.
Those who are staying at the Triunfo Hotel have the Barcelona Zoo across the street in the Parc de la Ciutadella. A wide array of animals is on display and the zoo features a picnic area, restaurant, ponies, a mini-train, and electric cars. By purchasing a Barcelona card, travelers receive free unlimited transportation on the Barcelona transport network and discounted admission to attractions like the zoo. Tourists prepay for attraction tickets and use this card to gain admission so they do not need to carry cash.
Most kids love amusement parks and Barcelona has several nearby. Tibidabo is one of the three oldest European amusement parks and it is located atop Tibidabo Mountain, providing breathtaking views of the city. Water parks are another kid favorite so the three swimming pools and more than 20 water slides at Illa Fantasia should not disappoint. This is one of the largest water parks in Europe and is just 30 minutes from city center via train. Families can dine at one of several park restaurants or bring their own food and sit at one of the 800 picnic tables in the park. They can even pick up their lunch at the supermarket next door and barbecue at this facility.
Four beautiful beaches are located within ten minutes of Barcelona, with Barcelonata being the closest. This beach can get very crowded, so get there early. For a bit more space, head to Icaria or travel 30 minutes via train to Sitges Beach. When on an adult-only vacation, explore the wild side by heading to Mar Bella, the unofficial nudist beach near the city. If the kids are too rambunctious to sit on the beach, how about a sailing adventure? Adults and children can take a sailing course together that will have them navigating the high seas in no time. Lesson costs start at 31 euros for guests ages 15 and older and 17 euros for children ages seven to 14.
It is not every day that the family visits a wax museum, so do it when in Barcelona. Museu de Cera is a magical place that pays tribute to some of the most important figures in world history. Emperors, queens, kings, inventors, sculptors, dancers, and musicians…all are captured in lifelike form using wax. Admission ticket prices are 9 euros for children ages five to 11 and 15 euros for visitors over 11 years old.
Architecture by the famed Antoni Gaudi can be found all around Barcelona. This talented architect even designed the Parc Guell, a beautiful park that features beautiful stone structures and amazing tiling. Kids will love the colorful dragon fountain that guards the entrance. They will also have fun climbing to the terrace at the top and looking out on the city. Adults will appreciate the interesting furniture in the on-site museum and the fact that admission to this large park is free.
When evening rolls around, the family can head to the Magic Fountain of Monjuic for a music and water extravaganza. This fountain has been a performance center since 1929, offering free shows to millions of tourists each year. Check the Magic Fountain Web site for show times because these change with the seasons. Before the show, the family can head to one of the chocolate restaurants for some churros and hot chocolate, a special treat that is particularly comforting during cold weather.
Ok, so we provided you with a bit more than 10 things to do in Barcelona Spain, but they are all well worth considering. Between the food, attractions, architecture, and other things to do and see, the family will be on overload. In between all the excitement, it is important to spend some quality time with each other. Barcelona offers plenty of shopping and dining establishments perfect for family bonding.