In February we finally made it to Barcelona. It's not actually that far from us (about an hour a half.) But we were a little lazy about going with 2 young children. We wanted to have an adult day or weekend to ourselves to explore first. Well, we never got the chance and now we have 4 children, we thought we'd better just get on with it.
So, I booked us a little apartment, just off La Rambla (one of the main roads in the heart of the city) for the weekend. We arrived on Friday afternoon, in time to explore a bit before bedtime.
Last time I was in Barcelona (many moons ago) it was just me and my then boyfriend (husband to be). Love was young(ish) and Barcelona was a romantic place to hang out. Picasso museum by day, long boozy lunch, oysters and cava in the evening. That sort of thing.
Barcelona with kids is still great, just not in the same way. Mosying along La Rambla isn't the sort of thing you do with 4 young children. It's more making sure everyone is within arms reach and no one is swept away by the sea of people. (Barcelona is busy, even in February.)
We did have dinner at one of the many restaurants along La Rambla (rather Britishly early, the Spanish don't eat until about 10.) Actually sitting down was fine, we were protected from the hustle and bustle and could just sit and relax (or concentrate on not breaking the glasses.)
On saturday we went to the aquarium. It's down by the Port so we had to walk down La Rambla and around the harbour area. A lovely, if not short walk (luckily our buggy is more of a chariot than a buggy). The kids enjoyed seeing the parrots in the trees. (I presume that their origin was as pet birds as the Spanish love to keep parrots and budgies and as far as I'm aware, parrots aren't native to Spain. We don't have them in Palafrugell, I'm not sure if that's because it's a couple of degrees colder here, or if the population is less so less parrots have escaped over the years…)
The kids loved the aquarium. There's a fantastic tunnel with a conveyor belt that you stand on (or lie on if you're one of my children). You travel underwater looking at the big fish (sharks, tuna, sunfish, I'd never even heard of them and I'm a keen diver.)
There are enough play things to keep young children happy. A submarine that you can go in and open pools so that you can see and touch some of the fish.
By the time we'd finished at the aquarium, everyone was starving and needed food quickly. Stupidly I hadn't bought any lunch so we ended up going to a mcDonalds that was quite close. The one thing I did find quite difficult in Barcelona with young children was food. They aren't quite old enough to make a long meal enjoyable. The spanish normally have a long meal at lunch time. You can get a 'menu' which is a set meal of 2 or 3 courses, normally including water, wine and bread. Generally you can choose between 2 or 3 options for each course. They're much better value than ordering 'a la carte' but they aren't exactly 'fast food'. I think part of the problem I had was there was so much choice, so many restaurants that it was difficult to decide what to do (especially with 4 children, but the spanish are very tolerant of kids in restaurants.) The other problem being that when children are hungry, they need to eat, not spend half an hour deciding what to do. I'll have to do a little more research on food for next time we go. In the meantime, although not my first choice, mcDonalds are cheap, quick and they come with a free toy.
On sunday we headed over to Parc de la Ciutadella. It's where the zoo is, but we thought we'd save that for next time. Even if you don't go to the zoo, there's lots to do there. There were entertainers: someone blowing giant bubbles, others doing tight rope walking, the police horses who were telling the tight rope walkers to move on… There was a band-stand full of people dancing swing (I think it was a sunday morning lesson.) There are a couple of play areas, one with toys that you can play with.
It would have been a good place to have a picnic (but I wasn't that organised.) So instead we found a tapas bar on the way back into town (there didn't seem to be anything in or particularly close to the park.) The tapas was fantastic (octopus, squid, that kind of thing) really expensive and the kids didn't eat that much. Oh well, they got some free chupa-chups which kept them going until we got home and gave them some proper food.
So, I would say Barcelona is great with kids (just think about food a bit more than I did). The kids loved it (especially getting a Messi t-shirt). I think we'll have to make it a regular trip. If you've been, I'd love to hear about it. Please feel free to share your secret finds and kids eateries with me.