where to stay, eat and visit in Barcelona
We’re just back from five fab days in Barcelona with our boys. Traveling with young children can be both amazing and stressful. My two (aged 6 and 8 as I write) are now at an age where city breaks feel doable again which is so lovely. I’ve compiled all my tips, itineraries we followed each day, where we stayed and where we ate in this post. You can also see all my videos and guides on Instagram in my travel highlights.
When you tell people you’re going to Barcelona you’ll be told two things: watch out for pickpockets and which tapas bars to go to. I hope my tips are a bit more useful! Before we went I spent some time researching what to do, asking friends for their tips and added all the places I found to my trusty google maps. That way when we were there I could always see what was close by.
If you are traveling to Barcelona be sure to:
- Avoid La Rambla. It is grim. Full of shuffling tourists and tat. All the guidebooks tell you to go but it’s not worth the trip. Spend your time instead in the gothic quarter Barri Gotic or do any shopping in Passieg de Gràcia. Go to a smaller market such as the lovely Santa Caterina Market (read more on day 3) in the gothic quarter rather than the famous Mercado de Boquera which is over priced and rammed with slow walking tourists.
- Pack a step counter – If you’re traveling with kids, give them a Fitbit to wear each day. I reckon we got about 40% more walking out of our two by doing this. Each day we tried to beat the previous days step count.
- Eat like a local Get into the Spanish style of eating and be aware of meal times. You won’t see children’s menus so embrace that. Bocadillo translates as ‘snack’ but you’ll see the name used for the little sandwiches on super-crisp mini baguettes. Most cafes have them with either jamon (cured ham), potato omelette, cheese or chorizo. They are be perfect size for children or to keep everyone going between meals and are between €1.50-3 each. Most locals have a small breakfast – coffee and a pastry. Then a bocadillo mid morning and a big lunch at around 2pm. Then dinner around 9pm. Tapas is the perfect food for families as everyone can try different things. Scroll down for the dishes we love to order.
- Eat something new every day or at every meal. Holidays are a great time to try new things. Sometimes that new thing may be super foodie like a fried anchovy. On tougher days it may just be a new flavour of ice cream.
- Learn (at least) how to say please, thank you, hello and to order your coffee/wine in Spanish. Even if you can’t say anything else this little effort will make waiters warm to you. We were surrounded by people making no effort to even say thank you and saw how much worse their service was.
We flew into Barcelona from Manchester early in the morning on the ever-glam Ryan Air. Arriving at 10am and jumping into a cab (around €20) to get to our Airbnb. Taxis are plentiful and cheap throughout Barcelona. Uber is not so easy to find and you will have to add your passport details to the app before you book.
Where we stayed
The apartment we’d booked is in Eixample and was managed by a letting company. The more I travel with Airbnb the more I favour these types of apartments. What they lack in the romanticism of staying in someone’s real house they make up by the fact they tend to be well equipped, super clean and have better customer service.
We were met by the manager who we’d Whatsapped as we left the airport. The apartment was in a stunning modern apartment block and had two airy bedrooms and two marble-clad bathrooms. A cleaner came each day and changed towels and sheets twice a week. There was a fully equipped kitchen, washer dryer and dining table. The sitting room had a TV with an English cartoon channel which made mornings and chill out time in the afternoons much better.And if you’re as obsessed by sleep as I am, you’ll be pleased to know there were soundproof windows and shutters. We always pack a gro blackout blind ([easyazon_link identifier=”B00BKZLWBU”]buy them here) to buy an extra couple of hours sleep and it fit the window perfectly.
What we did, where we visited and what we ate
The neighbourhood the apartment is in is packed with cafes and restaurants so we headed out to grab coffee and snacks. That first coffee in a foreign land after a 4am wake up call is always such a treat.
We walked for 10 minutes to get to the Passieg de Gràcia, a gorgeous area jam-packed with lovely shops and cafes and went on the tour of Gaudi’s La Padrera. It was fascinating, the views from the roof were stunning and the boys loved it too thanks to the audio tour.
Then walked down to get lunch at Tapas 24. This place had come on recommendation and was a perfect pit stop and our first tapas fix.
Tapas 24 – Carrer de la Diputació, 269. +34 934 88 09 77
Walking back we came across the Perfect ice cream shop Delacrem and gave ourselves a sugar boost. This place also does brilliant coffee and cake and became our regular coffee drop in each morning as we headed out.
DelaCrem – Carrer d’Enric Granados, 15. +34 930 04 10 93
Dinner that night was low key and local as we’d been up since 4am. We found a fab traditional place near the apartment, La Bodegueta, where we had rose cava, ham, pan con tomato, cheese and olives sittings amongst the barrels.
La Bodegueta – Rambla de Catalunya, 100. +34 932 15 48 94<
Travel and Cake If Instagram designed cafes this would be it. The menu pulled together every trend and hashtag – charcoal waffles with turmeric hollandaise eggs benedict served on a shovel. Check. Açai bowls served in a hollowed out pineapple. Check. I reckon 30% of the people in there were muttering to themselves, wondering if their life as an Insta boyfriend was worth all this madness. The other 70% were stood on chairs taking photos of their shovel of breakfast. I was somewhere in the middle, grateful for the veg-packed healthy food that tasted great. The boys loved it too. The cafe is a small chain and on the weekend has lines out of the door but it was one of the few places we could load up on veg before we hit the tapas.
Travel and Cake – Calle Roselló, 189.
After brunch we walked down to the port – about 30 minutes with a stop for coffee. Avoiding la rambla and walking through the beautiful gothic quarter.
We’d bought bread from the bakery a couple of doors from the apartment and other bits from the small supermarket. So we took a picnic and ate it under the watchful eye of Christopher Columbus. Then we walked over to Barceloneta, grabbing ice cream at Vioko before hitting the beach.
Vioko – Passeig de Joan de Borbó, 55 +34 932 21 06 52
The beach is filled with guys selling beer, beach mats and trays of mojitos. Not sure I’d bother with the cocktails but €10 later we had a massive cotton sheet to lie on. Surrounded by the usual suspects of guitar playing stoners, office workers managing to look chic and families.
Dinner that night at Sensi Restaurant was amazing. We had drinks first at the rooftop bar at Hotel 1898. Then we went down to the Gothic quarter and managed to snag seats at the bar at Sensi. I’d recommend booking as we were really lucky and loads of other people were turned away. This is tapas turned up a notch. The boys voted the truffle cream ravioli, chorizo croquetas and the oxtail burgers their favourite. We were pretty late by our standards, not eating until 9.30pm, and my eldest fell asleep on the bar. A skill he has picked up from me.
Hotel 1898 – La Rambla, 109, +34 935 529 552
I took my youngest out for an early morning walk around the neighbourhood and we came across a gorgeous old bakery, Pastelerias Mauro, that has been here since the 1920s. It is staffed by impeccably quaffed ladies of a certain age and filled with the tiniest biscuits, chocolates and beautiful cakes and pastries. Their bocadillo weren’t much bigger than my thumb – proper dolls house food. I had coffee and we shared custard filled croissants and lovely chats then brought home treats for the other two. Grabbing these chances for one on one time is so lovely and one of the best bits of a holiday.
Pastelerias Mauri – Carrer de Provença, 241. +34 932 15 10 20
After breakfast we walked down to the Picasso museum and spent a couple of hours in there – once again on the audio tour. We wandered the tiny back streets and grabbed Galician beef burgers at Bacoa Burger which were amazing and a welcome change from tapas. You order by filling in a form while you’re in line – something we didn’t pick up on so learn from our mistake! One burger was plenty split between both my greedy boys.
Little Bacoa Born – Carrer de Colomines, 2 +34 932 68 95 48
After lunch, the boys took off to the Barcelona F.C. stadium tour (they booked ahead for the 2 hour tour) while I wandered around the lovely Santa Caterina Market, wishing I’d not already eaten as the La Torna restaurant within the market looked amazing.
Then I wandered back through the gothic quarter and up to the nicest shopping area Passieg de Gràcia where you’ll find all the designer shops but also Zara, COS, H&M, Mango and Massimo Dutti. They do retail so well here. The shops are all beautiful old buildings and the range of clothes seems better too. Most shops have an outside terrace with seating which I think is for a mid shop cigarette or bored boyfriends.
That night we stayed local and wandered to Cu-Cut, just 5 minutes walk from the apartment for more tapas. I was a bit wary when I saw that they were using lime to dress a chickpea and jamon salad but the food was actually really good. I just swerved the dishes where the fusion thing was sounding too much. This was the first time we tried something we’d kept seeing on menus – smashed eggs – layered up potatoes and soft, sweet onions, a bit like Boulanger potatoes with slivers of jamon and fried eggs on top. The waiter chopped the eggs into the potatoes and ham tableside so the yolk created a dressing. It was so good. We wished we’d been hungover as it would be the perfect hangover meal. This place also had the best tortilla we’d had all trip.
Cu-Cut Taverna Gastronomica – Carrer d’Enric Granados, 68, +34 930 08 99 54
Day 4 – Saturday
The weather wasn’t great so we went up to Montjuïc and took the cable car up the hill to the castle. Not sure I’d do this area again. We could have visited the Olympic stadium nearby but we were all pretty tired so we just went for lunch to ATELIER PAN & COOK then came home and had a rest knowing we’d be up late at the football match we’d booked for the evening.
ATELIER PAN&COOK – Carrer de la Font Honrada, 3, +34 930 18 46 34
In the evening we took a cab to Camp Neu, home of Barcelona F.C. and for the boys the highlight of the holiday. We had booked the tickets online when we decided to come to Barcelona. The stadium is so big that it’s much easier to get tickets than in the UK. Being Spain there was a branch of Tapas 24 so we were able to eat and fill up on wine just before the game. The stadium is vast, holding 99,000 people. I’m used to watching Manchester City but the crowd here were great, loads of singing and families. Messi (my boys favourite player) got a hat trick so it was pretty perfect.
Day 5 – Sunday
We were craving vegetables again so we went back to Travel and Cake for brunch. Just a warning. Almost all the shops and most restaurants close on Sundays but everything else is open. We walked to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, only a few minutes from the apartment. We wished we’d have booked online first as we’d have been able to get quite a big discount and jump the line. The audio tour once again kept the boys busy and helped us all learn loads.
We were still full from breakfast so skipped lunch. We’d booked tickets to Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s catherdral. I’m not the biggest fan of visiting cathedrals but this was stunning. And because we’d learned a bit about how he designed it in our visits to his other buildings, it was wonderful to see it. As always the audio tour got us around without drama. The boys loved watching how the light inside the cathedral changed colour as the sun shine through.
We headed home to rest then, because so many restaurants on our list were closed (Sunday) we went out to the sister restaurant of Sensi Restaurant, Sensi Bistro for dinner. This was the best meal of the trip. Once again, you need to book a table as it isn’t a big place but the food was amazing.
Sensi Bistro – Calle Regomir 4, +34 931 799 545
We were up early to grab a cab to the train station to go to Seville. We’d pre-booked tickets online a few weeks ago – you have to. We picked up picnic supplies at the station. I wish we’d got things near the apartment as everything was more expensive and less good but juggling cases and children at 7am meant that wasn’t an option.
I’m writing up the second part of our trip in Seville and will share it very soon.
What to eat
Tapas is perfect when eating out with children. Kids are made so welcome everywhere as long as they ditch their screens and learn to say please and thank you in Spanish. There are no children’s menus at any of the places we went to. There’s no need for separate menus because children can try a bit of everything and even the fussiest kid will usually fill up on bread, ham and cheese. There isn’t a ton of variation between tapas restaurants. But each place will do things a bit differently – we had a league table of our favourite pan con tomate by the end of the trip.
- Pan con tomate – toasted bread with tomato, olive oil and salt – is always my favourite tapas and would be part of my last supper.
- Croquetas – often jamon, chicken, salt cod or cheese mixed with a white sauce then breaded and deep fried.
- Jamon – cured Spanish ham, Iberico is the fanciest.
- Patatas bravas – fried potatoes with garlic and chili sauce. Basically chips with dips. My boys love them.
- Anchovies – sometimes fried in breadcrumbs or straight up.
- Tortilla – potato and egg omelette served in wedges. Sometimes with jamon inside or piled on top.
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