Barcelona is one of the most vibrant cities I've visited, thanks in large part to the adventurous and fun architecture by Antoni Gaudi. My husband and I brought the kids for only a few days last week, as a kind of stopover on our way to a travel conference I attended in Costa Brava. I have visited Barcelona several times in the past, and I never get tired of it. The colours, the energy, the architecture, the food- all of it keeps me going back for more!
Travel with children means that we covered less ground than we could have otherwise, but it also allowed us to see the city from a different point of view. More pint-sized, you might say. As a result, I noticed details about the city I never have before, as my kids were focused on things that I normally would not have been. It's fascinating to see a place through a child's eyes, and these photos hopefully present a mixture of my adult perspective and the childlike perspectives of my boys.
Taking the new TGV train!
The TGV High Speed train now travels between Paris and Barcelona in about 6 hours. Gone are the days of the 12 hour night train with the skinny hallways and tiny sleeper rooms. Welcome to large seats, modern dining cars with gluten free options, and speeds of over 300 km/h!
We rented an AirBnB apartment in the historic quarter, just off La Rambla. We rent apartments frequently on our travels because it gives us more room to spread out as a family and is more comfortable for everyone than being cramped in a one room hotel room. It also allows me to cook gluten free meals if we can't find many safe places to eat. Apartment rentals are also typically less expensive than hotels, so ti saves us money, allowing us to travel more often! This apartment was a nice size, but wasn't well stocked. No knives, one pot, no coffeemaker, etc. meant that it wasn't really great for making meals. Still, the location was very central and the apartment was comfortable enough for a few nights.
The historic Gothic Quarter is one of my favourite parts of the city. Wandering down the narrow, winding back streets is something I could spend all day doing. Most of the streets are pedestrian, which makes it pretty safe for the kids to walk on their own. Many of the stores are very touristy, but there is still a large selection of small boutiques and tiny tapas bars that beckon you to enjoy a glass of sangria and some salty snacks.
My son has a thing for churches, and the historic part of the city has no shortage of old churches in the Gothic style. I love checking out the architecture, and he loves lighting the candles inside! Although Sagrada Familia is perhaps the most famous church in Barcelona, I personally think the Barcelona Cathedral is the most beautiful. It has a cloister with animals and fountains, and the inner part of the cathedral is everything you would imagine a Gothic church to be- dark and moody and awe-inspiring.
The photos above are all from the Barcelona Cathedral, or the cloister surrounding it. Winding through the streets behind the cathedral will take you to the cloister, with vaulted ceilings and wooden doors. It's easy to forget to look down, but when you do you will notice that the stones on the floor have names and dates, and sometimes even engravings, like the one I saw with a pair of scissors. I couldn't figure out if it was the tailor or the hairdresser buried below!
The front of the cathedral opens onto a great square where there is often an antique market set up. Musicians, artists, students, and tourists all spend time sitting in the park or in one of the tapas bars that dot the area around it. There is another food market a little ways down that's hard to miss with its tiled roof, and the pedestrian shopping area is down a little street almost directly across from the church.
One of the most famous streets in the world, the Rambla is a former river that has been turned into a pedestrian passageway that winds its way to the sea. Flanked on either side by cafes and hotels, the center pedestrian area features stands selling everything from flowers to food to souvenirs. It's probably the most touristy part of the city, but it's a must-see nonetheless. The streets leading off the Rambla lead to some of the city's most famous sights, including the food market, the Placa Real, the Palau Guell, and the Placa Catalunya. Take a stroll, sit and have a coffee, or just see and be seen!
Barcelona is located right on the waterfront, which I think many people forget until they arrive. There is a marina with boats docked and ships that set sail, as well as several beaches and an entire waterfront neighbourhood. It was too chilly to swim, but we went down to walk along the waterfront and check out some of the sailboats. There's even a boat you can board and explore, getting a feel for the way a sailboat works and feels. We spent hours by the water, and the kids never got bored.
I will be dedicating a whole post to some of my favourite places to take kids another day, but this is definitely on the list. The Parc Guell is a place that inspires the imagination and feels like a children's playground on an adult scale. Outside of the more famous part that includes the mosaic benches and fountain is a gigantic park with walkways, gorgeous views, and even a children's playground. The mosaics on the curving benches, fantastical designs, and gingerbread houses are unlike anything I've seen anywhere else in the world.
Boqueria Food Market
The last place I want to include in this post is the Boqueria Food Market. This is another location that will be written about on the blog again in the near future, but that I couldn't possibly leave out of this photo essay. It is a food lover's paradise, and for those who have food allergies or are gluten free, it offers a wealth of options. We bought fresh pressed fruit juice and fruit salads for one euro each, salads for 2 euros, and fresh cooked fries in a dedicated fryer for two euros. Anything from fresh produce, to sliced meats, prepared dishes, or full-service cafe counters. Located right off the Rambla, you will want to go back again and again!