5 Attractions in Barcelona Kids Will Love!
Updated: Mar 22
Tourists from all over the world visit Barcelona, Spain each year to tour the capital of the Catalonian region. Today, Catalonia is one of 17 autonomous communities that make up the Spanish nation. The people of Barcelona identify themselves first as Catalans and have even sought to separate themselves from Spain and become an independent Catalyn nation.
A Brief History
Barcelona, which sits on the Mediterranean sea, was first settled in the 2nd century BC by Romans. At the time, Barcino, as it was called, was the most significant Roman village outside of Rome. Throughout the centuries, Barcelona was ruled by various groups, including the Visigoths, The Moors, and the Franks, until the County of Barcelona declared itself independent under Borel II in 998 AD. Throughout the next thousand years, the Catalan people of Barcelona faced many wars and changes of power. Napoleon and his troops raided Barcelona from 1808 to 1814 and destroyed large parts of the city in the process. Over the next century, the Catalans enjoy a sense of freedom and independence until Franco began oppressing them following the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 Franco's brutal oppression began. Franco, who was known as "El Caudillo," (The Leader) forbade Catalans from speaking their native language. The Catalans were treated very poorly during Franco's reign, which ended with his death in 1975.
Stroll down Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona's most well-known sites. The wide thriving boulevard runs through the city center. The street runs on either side of a wide pedestrian walkway down the center of the road. Las Ramblas is 1.2 kilometers in length and runs from Port Vell at the southern end (near the coast) to the Palaca de Catalunya at the northern end. Visitors will find souvenir shops, gelato stands, shopping restaurants, and more along this lively boulevard. If walking north from Port Vell, the Gothic Quarter will be on your left, and the Raval area will be on your right. The Raval area of Barcelona was developed when the city outgrew the Gothic Quarter and the old medieval walls were torn down for expansion. The Raval was once known for being a seedy area, but has been improving over time and has recently become a more popular area. Las Ramblas is a great place for families to take a walk, enjoy a cone of gelato and soak up the energy of Barcelona.
Explore the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is beautiful and mysterious. Take a walk through and soak up the history of the area. You will find pastry shops, restaurants, small local bars, souvenir shops, and more in a uniquely beautiful ancient setting. We also enjoyed visiting the Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter. The museum opened in 1963 holds over 4,000 original Picasso pieces in its permanent collection. Pablo Picasso spent many years of his life in Barcelona; the historical climate there shaped his art, which was often anti-Franco. For more information about planning your visit, click here for the official website.
Watch Street Performers at the Arc de Triomf
The Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 when Barcelona held the Universal Exhibition. It was the gateway to the fair, which was held at the Parc de la Citutadella. We enjoyed walking through this area with our kids leisurely and watching the variety of street performers. We saw a man making massive bubbles that stretched multiple feet in diameter that the kids loved chasing and popping. We observed in amazement a guy expertly spin himself around in what looked like a giant hula hoop in dizzying twisting acrobatics, two soccer players complete balancing feats and tricks with a soccer ball and listened to a Jazz band play. Other than spending a few Euros for much-deserved tips, this experience cost little to nothing and was very enjoyable.
Visit the Sagrada Familia
Gaudi's unique cathedral, which is still under construction, was begun in March of 1882. Gaudi's whimsical structure is like nothing most ever seen before. Even our boys were in awe of the modern structure and beautiful array of colors cast thru many stained glass windows. Observers can find symbols of flowers, trees, and nature throughout the architecture. The ceiling of the cathedral is constructed to mimic the canopy of a forest. The columns are modeled after tree trunks and branch out at the top to provide structural support for the ceiling gracefully. The stained glass windows emit green, yellow, red, and orange light to represent sunlight shining through the green leafy canopy of a forest. Show your children the representations of nature and see what else they can find within the structure.
From the outside of the structure, visitors will also notice the metamorphosis of style. The Faith portico, which is much older, has a more life-like feel, while the newer Passion facade, which represents pain, is more modern and stark and severe with more angular lines. A visit to the cathedral is very worthwhile for more information on its construction, how to visit, and more visit their official website.
Explore the Mercat de la Boqueria
Food always plays a significant role in our travels. During our stay in Barcelona, we visited the expansive food market a few times. It is believed that the market has been operating in some capacity in the same space since 1217. It was not until 1827 that the mercat was officially recognized as it is today. Today it is a popular stop for many tourists as well as a shopping spot for many local restaurants. Expect to find food stalls full of prepared food, lots of seafood, produce, spices, bars, and more in the market. Our boys particularly loved picking out a colorful cold fresh cup of juice, which can be found throughout the market, usually sold alongside produce. While there, we sat at a small stall and tried a variety of delicious fresh seafood. The stall workers were in awe of our son, Maddox, who was happily eating raw oysters and more.
Barcelona is coastal and a perfect spot for fresh seafood, which is not to be missed! For more information on food in Spain, see my post Food in Spain You have to Try!
Barcelona is a beautiful vibrant city with lots to see and do. Explore and enjoy the city. We hope to be back one day to see the many things we did not during this last trip, including the seashore, Gaudi's other buildings, and of course, more food!