After forgoing any major international travel for the past couple of years because of Covid (and the coinciding arrival of a third child) we finally felt ready for some adventure with the kids. Having left Brooklyn for the country during the pandemic we were craving the energy, food and adventure of a city. We agreed on a few specific requirements for our trip:
1) A city we had never been to together
2) A direct flight from NYC
3) A destination that would be warmer than New York over Christmas time
4) Finally, a city we could eat our way through with delicious and interesting food.
Barcelona hit all of our requirements and more.
I’d say the trip surpassed all of our expectations – traveling with our two tween girls (ages 11 and 8 – going on 16) and our toddler son (age 2) I tried really hard to not over program us at the outset. There were a lot of unknowns – how we’d all adjust to the time change, if and when my son would nap, if the kids could stay up for 9pm dinners and what their attention spans and stamina would be over the course of 10 days. I did a lot of research ahead and made a list of priority sites, neighborhoods, and museums we definitely wanted to see but tried not to book too much in advance. I even got the girls involved in doing some research and they each picked a few places they were really excited to visit. Some of the Gaudi sites (Sagrada Familia, Casa Battlo) and the Aquarium I purchased tickets ahead of time for, but wouldn’t say it was necessary to do so. I reached out to Jonathan at Tailored Tours Barcelona who found us a great local guide to give us an art and architecture tour in Barcelona one of our first days, it was a perfect half day overview of the city. He also gave us some great restaurant recommendations (see food below) and found us an incredible babysitter to help watch our toddler for a few days.
On planning the itinerary – I thought we’d get stir crazy in the city for 10 days and as long as we had traveled so far wanted to explore another part of the country so we booked three nights/days at an 18th century farmhouse turned into a small boutique hotel and spa called Mas de Torrent. The property and area were beautiful and the restaurant at the hotel was definitely worth a visit but I think we all agreed we probably could have stayed the whole time in the city and taken a few more day trips. One of our highlights was taking the train from Barcelona to Stiges, a small beachtown down the coast about a 45 min train ride from Barcelona.
Overall I’d say Barcelona was a perfect city to explore with our kids, it’s full of art and architecture, great public parks, meandering streets to get lost and explore, shop and of course indulge in delicious food. Here are some highlights and recommendations if you’re thinking about going (with or without kids!)
Where to Stay:
In Barcelona we stayed at the Hotel Majestic located right on Paseo de Gracia, a very central location – one block from the metro and about a 10-20 minute walk to most neighborhoods. We had a suite attached to another room and it was perfect for the 5 of us. The hotel staff was helpful in rearranging some reservations I made, finding us a place to eat on Christmas Eve, the rooftop bar was also a perfect spot for happy hour/sunsets with a stunning view of the city.
In Costa Brava we stayed at Mas De Torrent about a 2 hr drive from Barcelona. The resort and spa weren’t the most kid friendly although they were able to find us a babysitter. The grounds were beautiful and the restaurant excellent (albeit very pricy). Good jumping off point for exploring the area, beach hikes and 45 min drive to Girona.
What to Do:
Don’t miss Casa Battlo – get tickets ahead and go in the morning, it gets very crowded – it’s just two blocks form from Hotel Majestic and during the holidays the entire building puts out a light and music show every evening.
Park Guell – we took the metro and and was a steeep walk up especially with the stroller it got very crowded even in winter – I’d say it was still worth the visit.
Sagrada Familia – don’t miss it! Tickets you’ll need ahead of time, the climb up the steeple is probably not necessary – we went one afternoon just as the sun was setting the light through the stained glass was stunning.
Aquarium – perfect sized beautiful aquarium with an underground glass tunnel under the shark tanks. Location is right on the beach and fun to walk around the area and grab lunch at one of the boardwalk restaurants afterwards.
Parc de Labrient – this was actually one excursion my daughters picked – we took a metro ride slightly outside the center of Barcelona to visit this 18th century park and one of the largest labyrinths in the country. It was beautiful and a fun activity on a beautiful day.
Moco Museum – we all love modern art so this was a no brainer especially as it’s set in the heart of the Born District where we spent much of our time meandering around.
Parc de la Ciutadella – another highlight was finding our way to Barcelona’s equivalent of Central Park where I rented roller blades with the girls while my husband took my son to the zoo which is located right inside the park. Both were perfect activities with the kids and such a fun way to spend a morning.
Day trip to Stiges – another one of our favorite days was taking the 50 minute train ride from Barcelona to the sleepy beach town of Stiges. It was a nice break from the hustle of Barcelona – we walked around cobblestone streets and visited some art galleries. One of our best meals was at Dosa Nova, a vegan restaurant!
Where to Eat:
The one thing I did a lot of planning ahead for were dinners – I wanted to have reservations made most nights as there are just so many wonderful options and we all LOVE great food. I’d say we pretty much nailed it with meals! Most places I would definitely recommend making reservations ahead of time. Here are my recommendations in no particular order:
La Flauta – we ended up grabbing lunch here and sat outside the day we landed. It was the perfect first meal, very traditional tapas and fresh seafood. The outdoor setting worked great for us especially since our son stayed fast asleep in the stroller after sleeping about an hour on our overnight flight!
Bar Canete – bustling bar and smallish tapa restaurant – make a reservation ahead of time. Highlights were the fried eggplant, artichoke, oxtail and tuna tartar.
Berbena – one of our favorite meals – we took our oldest daughter it was one of the nicer restaurants although still pretty casual – only a few small tables, we sat at the chefs table which I highly recommend.
Dos Pebrots – fun inventive take on tapas – try the try cured fish plate, nocchi, lamb kebab
Frankie Gallo Cha Cha Cha – this one came recommended by several people and it was honestly a nice break from tapas and traditional Spanish food. The pizza were delicious and atmosphere fun and casual, great for kids.
Passadis Del Pep – the one white tablecloth restaurant we went to – we had a date night here without the kids and had read wonderful reviews. It was very traditional Spanish cuisine specializing in seafood. The whole experience was a little more formal than we generally like and the service didn’t quite match the reviews I had read. Food was very good but a little stuffier than I expected, not sure this is one I would 100% recommend if you have just one special night out.
Dux Gin Bar – we didn’t hit up a ton of bars because we were with the kids most of the time but on our date night we stopped into this very very special gin bar in the Born. They have an enormous selection of homemade infused gins and make an excellent gin and tonic amongst many other gin based cocktails.
Dosa Nova – mentioned above but recapping down here because while we are far from vegetarians this vegan/vegetarian restaurant with locations in Barcelona and Stiges was one of our favorite meals. We stopped for lunch and it was so refreshing to have healthy, delicious food served by the nicest people! Trying to convince them to open one in New York!
Gear that just makes life easier:
In the six year spread between my middle and youngest children the number one best new baby product is hands down the Kibou Bag. Created by my genius friend Nell Shapiro – this diaper bag/fanny pack makes everything about life with kids and especially traveling easier. It was the only bag I carried around during the entire trip and couldn’t have survived without it.
There have also been some improvements in the stroller category since my older two. For this trip we finally decided to splurge and bought the Bugaboo Butterfly – it’s Bugaboo’s newest stroller and the basically the equivalent of the YoYo but after much research went with this one because the handle bars extend and my husband is super tall (the YoYo doesn’t). I admit the stroller is amazing, it folds and fits in the overhead so we didn’t have to gate check and was light enough that we could carry it up and down escalators with my son in it when he fell asleep. We walked so many miles on our trip two of the wheels busted and with a quick phone call, Bugaboo customer service sent brand new ones without a question.
A huge game changer when traveling with kids is when they can start to pull their own suitcases. After a lot of research I landed on this Amazon Basic roller suitcases that I absolutely love. The compartments are actually better and more efficient than the much more expensive Away suitcase, they also extend which Away doesn’t. Each kid has one in a different color and one of my favorite images is of my two year old being pushed in his stroller through the airport pulling his own suitcase along!