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Barcelona Parc Güell - Antoni Gaudi

7 Places Our Family Loved in Barcelona

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I love Barcelona. The city is vibrant. The food is cutting edge. And the people are so passionate. It’s a manageable city to see on your own. Two to three full days allow you to sample the most popular sites, neighborhoods, and flavors of the City of Gaudí.

First, a brief introduction to Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí lived in Barcelona from 1852-1926. His works are iconic and represent the passion and creativity of Spaniards. Seven of them are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The three major works most people see are the Sagrada Família (church), Casa Batlló (redsigned house), and Park Güell.

Here are seven places and things our family liked the most in Barcelona and tips to see them.

#1 La Sagrada Família

Every person’s first visit to Barcelona will include a tour of the yet to be finished church. Pope Benedict XVI recently designated this UNESCO World Heritage site as a “minor basilica” in 2010. In 1883, Gaudí was asked to take over the project only a year after it began. Its target for completion is 2026, which will be the centennial of his death. If you like views from above, pay a few extra dollars and take the elevator to the top. Walk down some 400 steps and stop at balconies for beautiful views of the city.

Tip: This may be Barcelona’s most popular tourist spot. Avoid the long lines by buying your ticket online in advance. After your visit, take a break from the crowds at the park across the street. There is a play structure and swings for younger children.

Official website: Sagrada Família
Cost: Entrance + Visit to the Tower 19.50€, children under 11 are free
Map location: Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Seafood restaurant nearby: La Paradeta at Passatge Simo, 18

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s yet to be completed masterpiece. Take the steps for views of the city!

#2 Park Güell and Gaudí House Museum

About one mile and a half northwest of Sagrada Família is Park Güell. It was named after Count Eusebi Güell who commissioned Gaudí to design a park and commercial project. Güell dreamed of building and selling houses around this now UNESCO recognized World Heritage site, but the community never bought into it. We can thank them for this because Gaudí’s park has lots of open space and trails for locals and tourists alike. The park has free admission but a paid ticket is required for the most popular section with its views overlooking Barcelona and its iconic, mosaic works.

While visiting Park Güell, I recommend a stop at the Gaudí House Museum. We really enjoyed learning about Gaudí and seeing the house where he lived for nearly 20 years. Here was a man who lived a simple life. He owned few things and decorated this house accordingly. Yet, his artistic projects displayed at Park Güell, Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and Casa Mila show a man with great ambition and creative energies. I left Barcelona inspired by Gaudí to try new things.

Tip: From Sagrada Familia, it’s an uphill walk to Park Güell. Save energy and take a taxi. From elsewhere, you can take the Metro to Lesseps stop. The last mile is still a bit of a steep walk.

Official websites: Park Güell and Gaudí House Museum
Cost: Park Güell – 7.00€ for adults, 4.90€ ages 7-12, children 6 and under are free; Gaudí House Museum – 5.50€ for adults, 4.50€ ages 11-17, children 10 and under are free
Map location: Carrer d’Olot

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - Park Guell

“Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first.” – Antoni Gaudi

#3 Casa Batlló

This is a house Antoni Gaudí has remodeled. The multi-story residence was redesigned for a wealthy industrialist family in 1906. On display is Gaudí’s ability to mix art and design ingenuity. When visiting, you will receive an audio device for a self-guided tour. Plan about an hour or more at this inspiring house tour. This was our family’s favorite Gaudí visit in Barcelona.

Official website: Casa Batlló
Cost: Adults 21.5€, Children 7-18 (18.5€), Under 7 Free
Map location: Passeig de Gràcia, 43
Tapas nearby: Cerveceria Catalana (our favorite tapas) at Carrer de Mallorca, 236

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - Casa Batllo

“There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature.” – Antoni Gaudi

#4 Old Town

One of the fun things we did in Barcelona was to explore the labyrinthine streets of the old city. The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) was the center of the old city, and it stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana. Gothic architecture and some Roman buildings dating to the medieval times still stand. Remnants of the Jewish Quarter can also be found where one of the largest Jewish populations in the world once lived and represented up to 15% of the city. While old, there are many new restaurants and shops that are flourishing in this neighborhood. We enjoyed walking through the narrow streets exploring and eating our way around.

Map location: Gothic Quarter
Good Eats: You will find a plethora of family owned restaurants and cafés where you can eat their specialties. It’s easy on the budget and a family favorite.

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - Plaça Reial

Enjoy the new in the old city where medieval architecture can still be found – Plaça Reial.

#5 Mercado de la Boqueria at La Rambla

Everyone who visits Barcelona comes to this fantastic market. It is a fun place for the family to walk around. While the bar-type restaurants may not work for families with younger children, there are plenty of food vendors and stalls to please everyone. You can find all kinds of different goodies like fruits, vegetables, seafood, spices and candy.

Tip: You may want to just pick up snacks and small bites. There is no seating at the market except when dining at a bar-style restaurant.

Market on La Rambla: Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
Map location: La Rambla, 91

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - La Boqueria

Visit La Boqueria, Barcelona’s most famous market where locals and tourist shop.

#6 La Barceloneta

Another old neighborhood we enjoyed exploring was La Barceloneta. This small, triangular area was built in the 18th century. Many of the buildings are so close to one another that you can have conversations with people across your balcony. On a different visit, my wife and I rented an apartment. It was all of 400 square feet, and we could hear neighbors in five different directions. Trash trucks could be heard at 2 am. It reminded me of living on-campus in college minus the couple above us yelling at each other in Catalan in the middle of the night. Have a meal there. Get some gelato. Walk along the beach. For families traveling with children, though, keep in mind that some Europeans don’t always keep their tops on.

Map location: La Barceloneta

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - La Barceloneta

Explore the narrow streets of La Barceloneta.

 #7 Seafood, Tapas, Bakeries, Cafes

Barcelona offers fresh seafood, traditional Catalan dishes, bakeries, and tapas! Tapas are small plates. They are appetizers and snacks, which can be ordered in larger portions at many places. Traditionally, you go to a tapas restaurant/bar to drink and eat from small plates and socialize before dinner. When we visited, we enjoyed an entire lunch or dinner at the same place. My son’s most memorable and favorite food in Barcelona was the Paella Negra (squid ink rice). It’s fun for the kids and definitely one for your social media post.

Our favorite restaurant for tapas was Cerveceria Catalana (Carrer de Mallorca, 236) about seven minutes walk from Casa Batlló. It is centrally located off Passeig de Gracia. I highly recommend it.

Tip: There’s something you need to know when visiting Spain for the first time. Meal times are later than you would like. Lunch is between 1-4 pm, and Dinner between 8-11 pm. I spent a fortune at bakeries during “dinner time” to tide us over for the real dinner around 8 pm. Adjust accordingly.

Top things to do in Barcelona Spain - Bakery

Adjust your meal times in Barcelona or visit these delicious bakeries to tide you over.

Tips for Traveling to Barcelona with Kids

Airport Transportation
El Prat (BCN) is the international airport in Barcelona. It’s about 14 km from city center. There are two affordable options. The blue colored AeroBus comes every 10 minutes. The 45-minute ride stops at five central locations in the city. You can buy tickets at the ticket machine found outside the terminal for about $6 each way per person. Save money and buy a round trip ticket. For a family of four, you might consider taking a taxi, which is what we did both ways. It’s about $25 each way.

Where to Stay
Hilton Barcelona is well-located on Barcelona’s main avenue, Avenida Diagonal, and is within about 3 miles/5 km of most of the attractions listed here. Hilton Barcelona Diagonal Mar is only a 10-minute walk to the beach and still within about 5 miles of most major things to do in Barcelona.

Safety
Some of my friends have asked me if Barcelona is safe. It’s a reasonable concern. Pick pocketing and bag snatching are common in popular tourist areas like La Rambla. This is true of many destinations around the world. I have been to Barcelona twice without incident, but I do notice even the local women clutching their purses near the front of their bodies. Like visiting other major cities, be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. Having said this, I have no reservations taking my children again, and I highly recommend Barcelona to you.

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Eugene lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife have taken their two children to over 10 countries for work and vacation. Eugene is…

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