I’m excited to share another CSH Travel Guide with you – this time for beautiful, sunny, kid-friendly Barcelona. We’ve been on a few city breaks with our now nearly 2 year old daughter, from Helsinki to Cadaqués, and have always enjoyed taking her along with us to design museums, coffee shops and unusual, arty places. Now that she’s an excitable toddler with her own mind, holidays certainly look a little different, but we still manage to find a balance between culture, calm and (mostly) fun for all the family.
I’ve always believed that a child should fit into your life, and you shouldn’t bend yourselves around them so much that you don’t recognise yourself. We love art and design (if I couldn’t sit still on the beach at Cadaqués, then there was always the Dali museum), and I want her to grow up with an appreciation for culture and history too. Even when she was six months old we were taking her around museums in a carrier – there’s a video at the Tate in London of dozens of ants crawling over sequins; she was absolutely mesmerised by it. We tend to go on a lot of city breaks and Barcelona as it happens is one of the best of them all.
Barcelona has to be one of the most kid-friendly cities I’ve been to. While Helsinki had free public transport for anyone with a pram, Barcelona has literally a playground around every corner. In most squares or quarters, you’ll find little parc infantils with climbing frames and sand pits – there’s even one right outside the Sagrada Familia. Tapas it turns out are perfect for hungry little ones who don’t know what they want to eat and get bored after five seconds. And everyone is so friendly and welcoming, from the waiting staff to a random woman on the beach who swung our daughter up and down on the sand.
Not to mention the sunshine, which always makes life easier and more carefree. We went at the end of December for the New Year and had one delightful day when it was 18C. It was heavenly to be able to walk out of the house in a light jacket and feel the sun on your face. I’d recommend it to anyone!
Someone on Instagram was asking me about my experience of travelling with a child and if I had any tips. I think first of all just go for it – take that trip even if it’s not necessarily the most child friendly of them all. Don’t let the addition of a child hold you back; you might lose a bit of peace and order, but you will gain a whole host of new and wonderful experiences with your little one. There are so many joys in travelling with children; they’re discovering everything with fresh eyes, and it can help you see and appreciate things differently. When they walk slowly down a street picking up each and every single leaf, it gives you a moment to take in the dappled light, the oranges on the trees or the architecture around you. It makes you stop and slow down.
Which is certainly what you have to do when travelling with a child: slow down and manage your expectations. You won’t be able to rush around and tick everything off like you used to. We now have to make sure our plans suit everyone in the family, so that might mean one coffee shop to every playground 🙂 You also have to add in a bit of flexibility and be open to plans changing if your little one is getting a bit weary and tired – it happens to us all! Always take plenty of snacks. Sometimes on a city break we’ll split ways so one person can go and see something they really want in peace and quiet for an hour, while the other one goes to a playground or chills at the Airbnb.
While we were in Barcelona we stayed in an Airbnb; they’re perfect with kids because they’re often well equipped and offer plenty of space. Plus for my own sanity I need to sleep in a separate room to my daughter, ha! Our Airbnb in Gràcia had a little play kitchen which went down a treat.
But let’s get onto my guide! Here’s my guide to kid-friendly Barcelona, taking in serious coffee destinations and relaxed brunch spots to design museums and architectural gems. Hopefully there’s something for everyone.
Barcelona travel guide
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
Barcelona is full of gastronomic delights. Seriously there won’t be enough hours or days in your trip to sample every coffee shop, bakery or tapas restaurant in the city. There’s cosy bistros in the Gothic Quarter and cooler-than-cool restaurants serving small plates and natural wine a bit further out.
Coffee, pastries and light lunches
Origo – 9, Carrer de Milà I Fontanals, Gràcia – A lovely little bakery offering organic breads, Scandinavian style cardamom and cinnamon buns as well as speciality coffee to takeaway. origobakery.com
Nomad – Lab & Shop – 12, Passatge Sert, El Born – Serving serious coffee for coffee aficionados, Nomad started life out as a coffee cart in London. They now have two sites in Barcelona: the original coffee lab hidden down a plant-lined alleyway in El Born, and Frutas Selectas in trendy Poblenou. nomadcoffee.es
Three Marks Coffee – C/ d’Ausiàs Marc, 151, Sant Marti – A speciality coffee roaster, founded by two Marco’s and one Marc, housed in a pared-back, minimalist setting. threemarkscoffee.com
Orval – 31, Carrer de Buenaventura Muñoz – An effortlessly cool coffee shop in a raw industrial interior, offering not just a caffeine fix, but plants, ceramics and magazines too. instagram.com/orval.barcelona
Syra Coffee – various addresses – A chain of speciality coffee shops with multiple locations across the city; we were regulars at the Gràcia shop near our Airbnb. instagram.com/syracoffee
GoodNews – various addresses – Another popular coffee brand with various shops and kiosks, offering good coffee for on-the-go and a curated selection of design books and magazines. goodnews.coffee
The Egg Lab – 80, C/ de Sepúlveda, Poble Sec – A beautiful brunch restaurant with a cool, Australian feel, serving speciality coffee alongside scrummy dishes, from huevos rancheros to Korean chicken benedict and caramelised apple pancakes – YUM! the-egglab.com
Casa Taos – 100, Carrer d’Àlaba, Poblenou – One of my favourite finds. An eco-conscious vegan cafe and shop, housed in a sustainability hub and co-working space. Each day they have a different plant-based dish on offer, alongside a selection of natural wines and speciality coffee. The industrial interior and mid-century furniture is a vibe too! taosliving.com
Cocktails and evening eats
Libertine – Casa Bonay, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes – My tip for city breaks is to stay at an Airbnb, but head to the nice hotel bars to feel a bit more fancy! Libertine has a relaxed, laid-back feel – we popped in for coffee one day, then cocktails on another. casabonay.com
Queviures Múrria – 85, C/ de Roger de Llúria, Eixample – This little gem of a place first opened as a coffee roaster in 1898; you can still see the beautiful 1920s adverts on the front facade and the preserved mahogany interior inside. This historical institution has for years functioned as a deli specialising in Catalan produce, but just this month (Jan 2023) it’s reopened with a new restaurant concept. colmadomurria.com
Orvay – 4, Pg. del Born, El Born – Not to be confused with the aforementioned Orval, this cool tapas restaurant offers a creative take on Catalan classics and an excellent wine menu. orvayborn.com
Candela – Pl. de Sant Pere, 12, El Born – A cosy tapas restaurant on the corner of a charming square in historic El Born. candelabcn.es
Bistro Levante – 1 Placeta de Manuel Ribé, Gothic Quarter – Hidden away in the labyrinthine Gothic Quarter is this tiny restaurant, offering natural wines and Mediterranean dishes with a Middle Eastern twist. bistrotlevante.com
Monster Sushi – 68, C. de Girona, Eixample – If you fancy a break from tapas, this is apparently the best sushi in Barcelona. monstersushi.es
Restaurant Salero – 10 Carrer de Tordera, Gràcia – Offering a menu inspired by Asian flavours and Mediterranean cuisine, set in a calm, neutral, white interior. restaurantesalero.com
Gina Balmesina pizza bar – 29 Carrer de la Riera de Sant Miquel – Pizza, pasta and natural wine, if truffle carbonara is your sort of thing. instagram.com/ginabalmesina
The Hoxton Hotel – Avinguda Diagona, Poblenou – If you’re not staying here, head to this popular, laid-back hotel for a cocktail, a pizza slice or some tacos on the rooftop. thehoxton.com
Barcelona travel guide
PLACES TO SHOP
I didn’t have much time to shop – it’s not the easiest thing to do with a little one – but I do have a couple of recommendations for unique, independent stores off the beaten track, from playful children’s clothes to minimalist ceramics.
TINYCOTTONS – 25, Via Augusta, Gràcia – The Sezane of children’s ware, this ethically made clothing brand was founded in 2012 and has become much-loved for its playful, stylish, tongue-in-cheek designs for little and large! tinycottons.com
Working in the Redwoods – 4, C/ de Lluís el Piadós, Arc de Triomf – Beautiful, handmade ceramics inspired by Mediterranean culture and made by Costa Brava-born Miriam Cernuda. At the back of the shop you can even see where she makes the minimalist, organic designs. workingintheredwoods.com
Chandal – 16 Carrer d’en Tantarantana, El Born – Stylish, colourful objects for kids and grown ups, from HAY candles and design mags to children’s books and wooden toys. chandal-tv
Londji – 49 Carrer de la Princesa, El Born – The most charming toys and jigsaw puzzles, you’re bound to find something unusual for a little one or a unique gift for a friend. londji.com
Barcelona travel guide
THINGS TO DO
Of course there are the obvious things like the Sagrada Familia to perhaps add to your list if you’re a first time visitor, but these listings offer art and culture in abundance, whether you’re an architecture geek or modern art aficionado.
Park Güell – Carmel Hill, Barcelona – Antoni Gaudi’s famous park, with an undulating, mosaic-clad terrace and spectacular views across the city. parkguell.org
Fundació Antoni Tàpies – 255, C/ d’Aragó – One for the minimalists out there; a modern gallery mainly focused on the work of Catalan painter Antoni Tàpies. fundaciotapies.org
Picasso Museum – 15-23, Carrer de Montcada – It was in Barcelona that Pablo Picasso spent is most formative years, staging his first individual exhibition at the now famous Els Quatre Gats. This museum was the first of its kind dedicated to the artist, spread across five adjoining medieval palaces in the old city. museupicasso.bcn
Fundació Joan Miró – Parc de Montjuïc – I didn’t actually get to this one but it’s nice to have something to come back to. Created by Miró in 1975, this museum has a focus on contemporary art as well as the work of Miró himself. There was an exhibition on Paul Klee while we were there. fmirobcn.org
Fundació Mies van der Rohe – 7 Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia – One for the architecture lovers; visit the reconstruction of the famous Barcelona pavilion, created by architect Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich for the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929. FYI: it’s closed for the month of January 2023 for maintenance. miesbcn.com
MACBA – 1 Plaça dels Àngels – Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona is housed in a minimalist building by Richard Meier and features a collection of contemporary works from the 1920s onwards. macba.cat
Moco Museum – 25, Carrer de Montcada – A bit style over substance, but worth a visit nonetheless if contemporary and street art are your thing. It’s got a few Instagram moments that’s for sure. mocomuseum.com
Barcelona travel guide
KID FRIENDLY FINDS
If you’re got little ones, these should be top of your to do list. My favourite tip would be to head to Parc Glòries for a space age play park, then stop off at nearby The Hoxton for a drink.
L’Aquàrium de Barcelona – del Port Vell, Moll d’Espanya – apparently one of Europe’s largest aquariums, located in the old harbour. The centrepiece is an 80m-long underwater tunnel through the shark basin. aquariumbcn.com
Various playgrounds, Passeig de Sant Joan – Passeig de Sant Joan – A long central promenade with a series of small parks; there’s one in the middle with a sand pit and lots of plastic toys left for children to play with.
Playground, Plaça de la Sagrada Familia – Sagrada Familia – A children’s playground with the spectacular backdrop of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. Keeps everyone happy.
Parc Infantil Glòries – Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes – A hilly, undulating park with a range of slides at different heights, opened not long ago in 2019. Fun for all the family.
CaixaForum – 6-8 Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia – A cultural centre in a former Modernist textile factory in the the Montjuïc area, with exhibitions on everything from Egyptian mummies to famous comics. caixaforum.org/es/barcelona
Barcelona Zoo – Parc de la Ciutadella – Does what it says on the tin; a zoo in the Parc de la Ciutadella, with giraffes, lions and African elephants. zoobarcelona.cat
I hope that’s given you the inspiration to book a trip to sunny Barcelona, whether it’s for a kid-friendly break or not. It’s perfect for a winter escape and it even got me tempted to thinking about moving somewhere where it doesn’t rain all the time! A girl can dream…