Family Trip to Barcelona: ideas of things to do in Barcelona with an infant, Spain
Our Alisa’s trip to Barcelona (in May, 2012 for 19 days) was her first time traveling where she happened to turn five months old. Despite the fact that our relatives weren’t quite fond of our plans, it turned out to be the most stress-free trip (for the child) and my husband and I managed to have a wonderful vacation as well. Alisa fed just on breast milk without supplements and we took a fold-up umbrella stroller with us along with a backpack. We planned our museum trips around Alisa’s daytime sleep and in the course of three days, not only were we able to explore the whole city and the famous museums, but we also had time to make it all the way out to the Montserrat Monastery, which is located 70 km from Barcelona.
I’d like to say right off the bat that Barcelona is the most comfortable city in Europe for exploring with your child in a stroller. First off, they have a really well-thought out underground: you don’t even have to carry the stroller! One elevator takes you from the street level into a lobby, while a second elevator takes you from the lobby to the platform. There are also elevators at the layover stations. On the streets everything is planned out to a tea: sidewalks, slopes, entrance ramps, the stairways are always accompanied by escalators, the museums have elevators, they will hold your stroller for you, and the workers are always happy to help you (and no one asked what we were taking a five month child into a museum for).
We stayed in a nice quiet area next to Sagrada Familia Church near Park Guell. We were quite pleased with the place we stayed at and our apartment had a large sunny terrace and a beautiful view of Barcelona where we hung out sometimes in the evening. We even set up a blow-up bath there for our child and gave it a bath there. The place cost us just 45 euros for a day and on top of that the owner brought us a play-pen bed, which made life a lot easier for us.
The area we lived in was split up into square blocks and located smack in the middle of them was a little park or square (ours even had a duck pond) with benches and playing tables for elders and always with four pens. Three of them are for children: one for smaller children with little slides and sand boxes and even swings in the form of sombrero hats for kids that are able to sit in them, another for kids between three and six years old with slides and a little bit bigger ladders, another for kids between six and twelve years old with complex but fun play stations, and they fourth for dogs. I am still completely amazed by the city and how everything is so considerately and conveniently organized there for everyone.
Barcelona is nice just to take a walk in. It’s especially delightful to pass through streets with constructions by Antonio Gaudi and his successors – Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, and Casa Calvet. Even during the colder season, it’s nice to take a trip to the Barcelonetta district and walk along the Mediterranean Sea before stopping by the Gothic Block and Rambla, the most famous tourist street. However, I would really like to emphasize five main places in Barcelona that you just cannot miss.
1. Parc de la Ciutadella and the Zoo
Barcelona boasts a great number of majestic green parks, one of the most famous of which is Park de la Ciutadella in the center of old district of the city. Once upon a time, where this park is located now, one of the largest fortresses in Europe stood tall. In the end of the 19th century however, when it lost its historical significance, the city needed a place to hold the World Exhibition of 1888, the fortress was taken apart. Scattered over the area where it used to stand, was a park with beautiful pavilions, an artificial lake, and picturesque green avenues and sculptures of famous Catalan craftsmen.
Today, it is a rather attractive place for people to come go for a walk and relax. Floundering in the lake are fish, swans are swimming, and ducks are waddling. If you like you can rent out a boat, go for a ride, and feed the birds. Located at the park is a fountain monument called Cascade topped off with a golden Roman style stairway (Gaudi also participated in its creation). Located nearby is also a summer theater where Catalans perform their traditional dances with live music on the weekends. The park has a lot of benches and places to sit down and take a break from the heat in the shade next to a tree, you can check out jugglers and rope-walkers who would love to show off their talents to tourists for a coin, and you can also observe the squirrels and the parrots. If you like, you are free to set up a picnic on the grass. It’s completely permissible. Lastly, if you need it, the park has free wi-fi too.
Almost a third of the park is taken up by the Barcelona Zoo – large, beautiful, clean, and well-tended, we spent almost half of the day there. The tickets are pretty expensive, but it is definitely money well-spent (the ticket price for adults in 2014 there is 19.90 euros, for children between 3 and 12 its 11.95 euros, and children under three years old are admitted free of charge). The conditions of the animal cages are kept as close as possible to their natural environments: the cages of practically all of the inhabitants have been replaced with ditches with water and glass. You can go for a walk there for hours even in the heat, since the zoo is situated under the shade of the trees. I was really taken by the scaffolds next to the animal cages where you get a great view of the elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, and other animals below you with no wall blocking you off at a pretty close distance. The warm, Spanish climate lets them even keep hippos there, as well as different species of turtles, monkeys from all continents, and all kinds of different-colored birds – from penguins to cockatoos. We were at first very surprised by the abundance of peacocks freely roaming about the zoo, both on the trails and along the cages of other animals. Meanwhile, they do shy away from company of visitors having lunch as they are very persistent in getting a sandwich or a bun.
The zoo has a dolphin aquarium where they do shows three times a day as well. You may attend it at no additional charge; all you have to do is pay to enter the park. Since the zoo covers quite a large territory, you might consider renting an electric cart (16 euros only at the main entrance). The electric carts can easily seat four passengers and a foldable umbrella stroller. They are very comfortable and save you a lot of energy; of course, on the other hand, you are going to want to watch in front of you to avoid running into any peacocks. The zoo also has picnic tables and you are best advised to take food with you, since the cafés only sell fast food, lemonade, and ice cream.
2. Montjuic Mountain
Montjuic is a great place to go for a long, quiet walk for the whole day. This place was formerly the home of the World Exhibition of 1929 and the Olympic Games of 1992. The luster of the Olympic facilities has faded a bit: if you take a look inside the Olympic Park on the top of a mountain, you totally get the feeling that you are entering a deserted city. Nevertheless, Montjuic is still renowned for the largest and most beautiful parks, Botanical Gardens (old and new), and a Cactus Garden. It’s wonderful to just spend hours walking around there taking food with you for a picnic for later (it’s rare that you come across a café in the park and they work on a completely strange schedule). There are many quiet places there to walk without any people, meadows, kids play stations for various ages, and fountains.
You must also definitely stop by the 17th century fortress Montjuic Castle. From there you get a fantastic view of the world city, the sea, and a port. We made our way to the top on the rope lift. One rope lift takes you to and from Montjuic and Barcelonetta. The large cabin, which can fit 10-15 people at a time, takes you right over the sea and the view of the city from the window is absolutely incredible! The cost of a one-way ticket is 11 euros per person, children and strollers are free to take on, but be forewarned that it is one of the uncommon places that they only take cash for payment). The second rope lift takes you straight to the fortress (adults are admitted at 7.5 euros and children are admitted free). We made our way back by foot along the park’s windy trails. It was just getting dark when we made it to the Magic Fountain, which “danced” and overflew with rainbow colors to the sound of music.
3. Tibidabo Mountain
Tibidabo is another popular mountain in Barcelona and the highest point in the city. If you are familiar with the widespread photographs of the majestic statue of Jesus Christ embracing the world with an incredible panorama of the city behind him – that is Tibidabo.
It is not located as far away as it would seem. You can get to the mountain on a special bus called Tibibus, which leaves from Catalonia Square. We, however, took a more romantic route to the mountain: first departed the city for the mountain on the famous Blue Train and then we took an old rope lift amongst all sorts of flourishing trees and shrubs all the way up to the top. The main attraction of Tibidabo is the gothic Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a seven-meter Jesus on the top and astonishingly beautiful stained glass windows and murals inside. In order to get to the very top, you will also have to pay for the elevator trip (2 euros) and then you will have to take the screwed staircase straight up under the status of Jesus Christ. It literally touches your soul. The only possible downside is that the wind is very strong and it’s hard to spend more than a few minutes there with your child.
Situated on the sloped of the mountain is the oldest attraction park with play stations. This is exactly why Tibidabo gets a lot of “little” visitors. Now it’s quite unusual to go for a ride on old attractions from way back in the day way parks just started using electricity. Nevertheless, all of the attractions work wonderfully well to this day and you can get an absolutely incredible feeling flying on an old plane off the slope of the mountain into the sky, meanwhile the sea is located somewhere far down below. Unlike other parks in Barcelona, there are more than enough options to grab lunch or a snack there – there are a lot of restaurants with good food, they’ve got water vending machines, and ice cream as well. The park has places built in for resting in the shade along with a convenient mother-child room where you can change your baby.
4. Barcelona Aquarium
Another place that children of all ages will be quite fond of without a doubt is the Barcelona Aquarium (L'aquarium de Barcelona), located in the Old Port district. Their 35 aquariums contain a total of 5 million waters inside. All of the aquariums are based on different themes: one of them contains tropical fish, another contains inhabitants from the north, and a third one contains deep water fish and more. Presented at the aquarium are about 10 thousand exhibits and around 450 species of sea fish. All of the sea fish live of course in an aquarium where their own natural habitat is recreated.
The pride and joy of the Aquarium is an 80-meter underwater tunnel, which is considered the longest in the world. There you get to see an incredible amount of sea inhabitants around you and you get the feeling that you are walking along the bottom of the sea. We rode the moving path inside the tunnel three times and we still didn’t want to leave. It is especially breathtaking to look at the sharks and manta rays from below resembling flying ghosts along with a sunfish.
Toward the end of the exposition is a large aquarium with funny penguins and an open-air aquarium with little manta rays, which children like to feed. There’s also a dolphin aquarium there. There is a large exhibition hall operating at the exit, an outside panoramic terrace with a nice view of the city and the Old Port, a developmental exhibition for children with interactive exhibits, a kids play station with labyrinth hills, and a store with thematic souvenirs in an old ship.
Ticket prices for adults as of 2014 are 18 euros, kids with a height between 110 and 140 cm: 13.50 euros, and kids with a height between 90 cm and 1.10 cm: 5 euros. Children under 90 cm are admitted free of charge. They sell a guide at the register in Russian and at the entrance they offer you to take a picture with a shark behind you. If you like you can buy the picture with the shark at the exit. At 9 euros they are not cheap, including a thematic album, but they turn out very pretty and colorful than it’s hard to refuse.
5. Park Guell
This is an unusual and unique park created by Antonio Gaudi. Many of the guides say that the park opens at 10:00 am, but we arrived there at 8:30 am and it was already open (when we were there the price to get in the park was free, but now an adult ticket costs 8 euros, a kids ticket costs 5.60 euros, and if you like you can buy your tickets online). Children like this park especially due to its bright-colored mosaics, whimsical sculptures, and unusual grottos. There are also a lot of different-colored parrots flying around there that you can feed by hand as well.
While visiting the park, you must absolutely check out the fairytale-like gingerbread homes at the main entrance – the Doorkeeper Home and the Service Room, the long anatomical bench resembling a snake that often appears in movies as a symbol of Barcelona, a stairway with a famous salamander, and a Dorian temple with a terrace. Street musicians play here and there of all types and styles as well, which creates more of a romantic atmosphere in the park.
Photographed and written by: Natalya Kirillova, facebook.com/BasilicadelaSagradaFamilia, wikipedia.org