When we decided to meet up with our friends for a few days of holiday in Barcelona, we knew it would be different. Why? Because of the ages 2, 4, and “almost 7.” We went with no agenda other than having fun with our friends and doing whatever you do with three kids in Barcelona. Result? Success.
- Playgrounds. You successfully navigate a stroller + children to the Metro (hoping it’s one of the stations with a lift), onto the Metro, and back off the Metro without losing any children or personal belongings and arrive near something you want to visit (say, La Sagrada Familia). Immediately a voice pipes up: “Mommy… can we go to a playground?”
Yes. Yes, you can. We found several play areas in Barcelona with a fine view for those not jumping, climbing, or rolling in the ubiquitous fine yellowy playground sand. You can take in the Passion Facade while the kids swing (above). Or head out to Parc de la Cuitadella (below), a lovely green space with a zoo, a paddle-boat pond, room to run, and a couple of fenced-in play areas for the ones who might get away.
- Feed them. One of the difficulties Barcelona presents for smaller travelers, or those with particular bedtime routines, is that eating is generally done so late. Our friends’ kids are pretty flexible, or were confused by jet lag, and made it to several 8 PM or later dinner times. Grazing throughout the day was key, but luckily, Barcelona is made for grazing. It was easy to fuel up on snacks at any pintxo bar (eat a little snack, pay by the toothpick count) and at the Boqueria—a fruit smoothie for €1; a handful of candy or nuts; a little fruit salad with a fork. Just don’t forget the hand sanitizer.
We had dinners that satisfied both adults and children at Taller de Tapas on Argenteria (where we sat in the back and kept on good behavior) and Cerveceria Catalana (where the general atmosphere was so loud that a few kids didn’t make a difference). Our friends’ kids loved trying all the different tapas. [Note: I think that as kids go, these are three you would choose out of a lineup for traveling companions.] We also relied heavily on gelato (Let’s face it: we all deserved a large gelato at the end of the day). It was promised as a treat, and always enjoyed on our walk home from the Metro to the guest house each night.
- Naptime. Each day was marked by a couple hours’ intermission in the mid-afternoon, when Tim and I would run kid-free through the streets of the city, scaling blocks so fast we thought we were superheroes. We and our friends were staying in a “guest house” we found on Trip Advisor: as the owner explained, it is not a B&B, because no one lives on site; and it is not a hostel, because all the rooms are private. It was an apartment with a kitchen, two shared bathrooms, and five bedrooms of varying capacity. We had three of the bedrooms, one was empty, and some poor unfortunate man had the fifth. For a group, or groups with kids, this set-up has a lot of benefits (despite being a little dorm-esque): the kitchen (fridge, microwave, etc.) made breakfast easy and fun every morning; and it was nice to hang out while the kids were sleeping without crouching in their bedroom or having to go down to a hotel lobby.
- Cheap thrills. At night, street vendors walk around the main squares selling little light-up toys that, via a thick rubber band, you shoot into the sky (and then chase as the light comes swirling down). OK, it can be obnoxious when you can’t walk five feet without someone trying to sell you trinkets, but for €1-2 (depending on if you haggle), the fun factor of these is quite… high. We bought one in Milan with no children whatsoever.
- The beach. Barcelona’s beach is accessible directly from the city, even by foot. On an early spring day, locals sat on benches bundled up like it was winter, while American college students sunbathed in bikinis. The kids ran along the waterline. It’s all fun and games—until someone accidentally gets soaked, of course. Little spray-showers nearby are good for de-sanding toes… arms… the stroller… Mom… everyone.
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