Barcelona had been on my radar for a while, as a beautiful city, and for its architecture and food – in fact I rated it as one of the top destinations that we had not yet visited. So we included it in our 2015 trip to Europe with our young kids (age 1 and 4). What I didn’t anticipate was quite how fantastic a destination it would be for our family. It was probably the most family-friendly part of our trip, and here’s why:

1. Beaches
I think we tend to “pigeon-hole” our vacations as fitting in to one category: beach holiday, city break, safari, nature escape etc
As a resident of Cape Town I should know better, and Barcelona certainly proved the awesomeness of being able to combine a big-city experience with numerous afternoons at the beach. Barcelona has a number of beaches, most of which are fantastic for families; and, unusually for the Med, many of which have actual sandy shores and not pebbles.


2. Family-friendly vibe
We certainly found Barcelona to be very welcoming to families and children. In particular I recommend the area where we stayed, Gracia. Every few blocks the space opens out into a placa, and kids seem very welcome to kick a ball around, play hopscotch and just generally be kids without any disapproving stares.
Parents seem really involved too, playing with their kids and enjoying life together.
We quite often found amazing tapas right next to a safe play area or on a traffic-free placa where kids can run around.


3. Bite-sized culture
I mentioned this before in my general tips for traveling with kids. Barcelona has a great mix of cultural/tourist sites, including cathedrals, architecture and art museums. Many of them are relatively manageable for kids – spend some time there in the morning and you have plenty more time to hit the nearest beach/park/ice cream shop.


4. Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces are a key feature of Barcelona. Defined as modernisme in style, they are colourful, funky, weird and incredible – our 4 year old had as much fun as we did exploring them.

Don’t miss: Sagrada Familia – I had seen plenty of photos of the grandiose exterior of this cathedral; but nothing prepared me for the beauty of the interior. Will come back to this with a full blog post later – it really is unmissable!
And if you have time, Parc Guell is a wonderland for kids and adults.


5 Budget friendly
As South Africans, the exchange rate is not kind to us when traveling in Europe, and most things are more expensive than at home. Barcelona is one of those places where many of the key locations and experiences cost very little or nothing. From amazing markets and cathedrals through which you can wander, to the previously-mentioned beaches, not to mention efficient and well-priced public transport system, Barcelona can provide days of family fun without breaking the bank.


Bonus: Ikea
I realise this is more of a drawcard for people from Ikea-starved regions like myself.
The husband had rolled his eyes at my hints that we try to visit an Ikea while in Europe, but when our last day in Barcelona was rainy, I convinced him to give it a try. The whole family had a blast – hours were spent playing “house” in mock-up apartments in-store, eating yummy Scandi food, chilling at their restaurant with play area (and using free wifi to check in to our next-day flight). We even looked at some furniture and decor 😉
Unlike many cities, Barcelona’s Ikea is surprisingly easy to get to via the metro system (stop: Europe Fira).

I hope this whets your appetite for this wonderful family destination. If you’ve been to Barcelona, would you recommend any other spots?