A Weekend with the Kids in Barcelona

Barcelona is a beach city with lots of weird and wonderful architecture, family fun, and a child-friendly culture that welcomes kids and lets them stay up late. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend with the kids. As an introduction to the joys of Barcelona, La Rambla hits all the spots. Running from Plaça de Catalunya to the seafront, this buzzing boulevard is lined with cafés and bars plus a profusion of flower stalls and newspaper stands. But it’s the street theater that captivates the kids, from buskers, flamenco dancers and mime artists to living statues and acrobats. All explorations of La Rambla lead to La Boqueria, simply the world’s best food market, crammed with fresh fish and slabs of meat, fruit and vegetables, breads and cheese, herbs and olives. It’s the perfect spot for lunch; find a tapas stall that appeals and sit right down. Cross La Rambla into Barri Gotic, the atmospheric tangle of medieval backstreets where Barcelona was born. Ice cream stalls and toyshops abound on the way to the vast Gothic Cathedral of La Seu, built from 1298 onwards and adorned with soaring pinnacles and buttresses. Take the kids up the elevator to the terrace for amazing views over the city rooftops. To the left of the cathedral, in the former Pia Almoina almshouse, is the Gaudí Exhibition Centre, a family-friendly museum where learning is disguised as entertainment. Offering hands-on, multi-media displays, 3-D presentations, video walls and movie clips, the exhibition does a neat job of introducing Anton Gaudí’s genius before a visit to his landmark church. Jump on the metro at Jaume 1 (travel tip: the T10 metro ticket saves money) and disembark at Sagrada Família for Barcelona’s architectural masterpiece. The Gaudí-designed Sagrada Família is undoubtedly one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings and a UNESCO World heritage site to boot. ,This fanciful – and still unfinished – church overflows with creamy stonework, carved vaulted ceilings and sculpture; its rainbow of stained glass illuminating walls and floors in intricate patterns. Right opposite the entrance to the church, Plaça del Gaudí is stuffed with restaurants for supper. On Sunday morning, take the antiquated tram Tramvia Blau up to Plaça Dr Andreu to ride the funicular up to Tibidabo; this ‘mountain of fun’ has a traditional amusement park on a hilltop overlooking Barcelona. Attractions include a 4D cinema; Ferris wheel and roller coasters; carousels; a hall of mirrors; simulator rides, a house of horrors and a sky walk. Catch bus no. 124 for a stroll through Gaudí’s Parc Guell, a fantastical hilltop retreat spread over several acres, with splendid vistas of the city, a colorful mosaic dragon, curvy tiled benches, meandering paths and gingerbread gatehouses at the main entrance. From there walk to Lessops metro station and head for Jaume I; stop off for tapas along the way before taking older children to the fabulous Picasso Museum, housed in a row of medieval palaces and displaying works from his Blue Period (1901–04) and the ‘Las Meninas’ series. Younger kids may prefer the Museum of Chocolate just around the corner, where regular messy workshops are held (book in advance online). Walk down to the sea at Port Olímpic, see the glittering giant fish by Frenk Gehry and wander along Passeig Marítim. In summer spend the rest of the day on the beach and grab snacks from the beach bars. Otherwise, head around the marina to the funicular (by Paral.lel metro) up to Montjuïc and Poble Espanyol, an open-air museum showcasing whitewashed Andalucian houses, palm-fringed Majorcan mansions and medieval Valencian townhouses. On summer weekends wind up a family-friendly Barcelona weekend with the spellbinding Magic Fountain displays (times vary between 7pm–9.30pm). By: Sasha Heseltine

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