Although Barcelona is a city more reknowned for it's clubbing and dance scene, not to mention it's convenient sandy beaches, the city offers plenty to the family visiting with children. With every neighborhood well represented by the number of playgrounds and parks, and a variety of great places for families to visit, it can be the perfect city for a family break.
The city of Barcelona is very child friendly, and families visiting will find plenty to do and see without having to break the bank. From the Aquarium to the funfair up on Tibidado, you'll find more than enough to keep the kids amused and entertained, so here's a brief guide to help you get the best out of your holiday.
Every child loves the Zoo, and Barcelona's is a good place to start. Located quite centrally in Parc Ciutadella, it is home to over 7,000 animals and includes a very fine dolphinarium which has daily shows, as well as a new penguin enclosure featuring the endangered Humboldt penguin. There is also a very large play area that has a great climbing structure for the little monkeys you bring along. Local families like to bring a picnic, there are plenty of green spaces where you can sit down and relax in the shade, and I'd recommend this as it will also allow you to bring nourishing food rather than have to buy the over-priced, sugar-enriched, unhealthy fast food that is on sale there.
Keeping on the nature theme, Barcelona is also home to the largest aquarium in Europe, and, in terms of Mediterranean marine life, the most important in the world. This beautifully designed building, located down in Port Vel, has an impressive 80m transparent walk-through tunnel, full of sharks and other fish you'd rather not encounter without considerable protection. There are 20 other tanks, a brand new interactive space, Explora, with 50 activities for children to play with, 3 different marine systems, and my own personal favourite, a life size model of a sperm whale which you can wander through, with lots of small displays built into it.
Also located in the Port Vel area is Barcelona's Imax Cinema, 3 big screens usually showing fine documentaries on nature in circular, giant screen or 3D format, showing all day from noon onwards. A great place to escape the worst of the afternoon heat and enjoy a brief respite from the hustle and bustle outside.
Not far away from the Imax you can catch a cable car that runs up to Montjuic, the hill that overlooks the city and the Mediterranean and is home to many parks, sports fields, the Olympic Stadium, various museums and Poble Espanyol. The latter is a nice place to visit, a village built in 1929 which contains aspects of the many different styles of regional architecture prevalent in Spain at the time. Full of bars, shops, restaurants and craft shops, there are many activities to enjoy, including glass-blowing shows, and lots of kids-only activities which allow you to drop them off while you relax on one of the many picturesque terraces. However, it's worth making sure you don't visit during siesta when most of the shops will be closed!
Although this may well appeal to adults more than children, there is a fine chocolte museum located next to Parc Ciutadella and the Arc de Triomph. This museum traces the history of chocolate, and you can reward the kids at the end of the tour by sitting them down for a cup of delicious hot chocolate, or any of the other delicasies on offer. Not the place to visit if you're trying to avoid the calories. One of the best days out you can give the kids is a visit to the funfair at Tibidado. Located at the top of a mountain behind the city, the funfair is reached by taking a pleasant trip up the hill on an antique (to my mind) blue tram, and then transferring to a funicular railway, a journey both kids and adults will enjoy immensely. The rides aren't that terrifying, but new attractions are continually being added, including a new multi-media experience that allows kids to become part of an animated film.
To enjoy a day of pure sightseeing, take the Bus Turistic which will pass all the major, and some of the minor, attractions in the city, including Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi buildings, Parc Guell, Camp Nou, and the waterfront. There are three different routes, over 40 different stops and an audio commentary in 10 languages to choose from. One ticket will allow you to jump on and off whereever you like, so you can spend as much time as you like in whichever spots you fancy. It's also worth noting that the T10 ticket that you can buy at any metro or tram stop allows you ten journeys on the metro, tram, or buses, and also permits transfers from one mode to another without it being deemed another journey. They are excellent value for money, and last as long as you want them to last.
Finally, one of the most interesting museums in Barcelona is CosmoCaixa, a centre for experiencing many different aspects of science. There are always different children's activities, educational workshops, and facilities that allow children to experiment and engage with interactive media. Different sections explore specific fields of science, like astronomy, meteorology, mechanics and optics, and the centre also houses different temporary exhibitions. This is particularly popular with inquisitive kids and I recommend it highly.
Finally, if you or the kids are interested in maritime history, or just like looking at boats, a visit to the Maritime Museum will be well worth your while. It describes the history of the Catalan fleet through exhibitions of old sailing ships, paintings, figureheads, navigational instruments, maps and charts. There are two permanent exhibitions and educational activities for children, who can physically board both Don Juan de Austria's royal galleon and NarcÃs Monturiol's primitive submarine. The museum is housed in the Reials Drassanes, a typical 13th century Catalan Gothic construction built on the orders of King Pere el Gran as a boat repair yard at a time when the Catalan fleet controlled many of the Mediterranean's important trade routes.