Barcelona is our favourite city. We honeymooned here in 2012 and were desperate to visit again, this time with the girls. Our 5th wedding anniversary seemed like the perfect excuse.
We booked our flights the usual way through Skyscanner. You can read this post which details how we get the best deals on our flights.
HOW WE GOT THERE:
The cheapest flights were with Ryanair well known for lack of comfort and appalling customer service. We always travel on a budget, plus the flight time to Barcelona from the UK is only 2 hours, so a small compromise in comfort is fine.
This is where we made a massive rookie error and didn’t triple check our booking, meaning we were flying into Reus airport – an hour away from Barcelona. As with everything in life we rolled with it. If you do land in Reus Airport then there are a couple of easy options to get into Barcelona.
You can take the Bus:
The bus stop is directly outside the airport and is run by a private company called Hispano Igualadina which ensures the buses coincide with flights to and from the airport. It’s worth noting that the buses don’t tend to wait, so if you are delayed make sure you know what time the next bus is due. You can purchase tickets at the Hispano Igualadina desk inside the airport. Unfortunately this happened to us and by the time our flight landed it was a 6 hour wait for the next bus.
You can take the train:
You can get a taxi from the airport to Reus train station which will cost around €15 and takes around 30 minutes, or you could take the number 50 bus. The train journey takes you from Reus city centre to Barcelona, or vice-versa, where you then need to take a bus or taxi to the airport. The trains usually run once an hour every day and the journey takes about 1 hour 37 minutes. We started to discuss this option and waited for a taxi or bus (whichever came first). The wait dragged on, the girls were incredibly tired, no bus seemed to be coming. So we flagged down the next taxi that drove past and haggled on a price.
Getting a taxi or transfer:
The taxi to Barcelona itself was a comfortable journey that took an hour. The girls slept the whole way. But it made a sizeable dent in our budget costing €120! It’s around the same price for a private transfer.
In hindsight we could have spent this money on better flights that landed at the Barcelona airport. I learnt my lesson, triple check everything.
WHERE WE STAYED:
We always use Hotels Combined to book accommodation whenever we travel. They always find the best value deals.
We stayed at the Sensation Sagrada Familia. It was just perfect. We had our own little apartment facing the Sagrada Familia. The views were incredible and we’ll forever cherish the memories of the girls sat on the balcony sketching the decorative spires. The apartment itself was super clean and furnished in a contemporary style, with a gorgeous bathroom and fully equipped kitchen.
Many late evenings were spent jumping in the rooftop pool, and we enjoyed our sessions in the small gym with a bonus sauna.
The area was spot on with lots of restaurants and supermarkets nearby. We were able to eat cheaply by making meals at the apartment with ingredients purchased at the local markets.
HOW WE GOT AROUND:
We like to act like locals when we travel and use public transport as much as possible. You can purchase a BCN card which is valid on all public transport. We did this and just hopped on and off the metro all week. The girls loved the frantic noise and buzz of it all.
WHAT WE DID:
Day 1: Barcelona Aquarium
After settling into our apartment, the girls asked if we could go visit the Barcelona aquarium after we looked at a brochure advertising the fact that it has the longest shark tunnel at 80 metres long. So that’s where we headed after a quick lunch. We took the metro to L3 Drassanes, then had a walk (in the pouring rain) along the marina, taking shelter in the Maremagnum Shopping Mall, which is located next to the aquarium.
We spent around 3 hours in the aquarium and loved every second. The shark tunnel really is spectacular, with a revolving floor that takes you around so you can just stand gazing in awe at these magnificent creatures.
After our tiring day we grabbed pizza at a restaurant near our apartment, played in the pool for a bit, then headed to bed.
Day 2: Parc Guell and Las Ramblas
You can’t go to Barcelona without appreciating the amazing work of Antoni Gaudi. Where better to see it in all it’s glory than Parc Guell. We took the metro to L3 Vallcarca then proceeded the 20 minute uphill walk – so steep that in parts there are escalators up the middle of the street. The escalator option is perfect for tired little legs, unlike Will who ran up the whole way. We spent around 2 hours admiring the architecture. Us adults would have stayed longer, but I think 2 hours is the limit for the children – who were done after the tenth mosaic ceiling and just wanted more gelato.
Cue a trip to Las Ramblas. A 1.2km street that cuts right through the heart of Barcelona. It is bustling with street vendors, and artists. Plus lots of little market stalls. It’s worth visiting the ‘Mercado de La Boqueria’ to sample some amazing Catalonian delicacies. We took the metro to L3 Drassanes and walked from there.
We stopped off for lunch in one of the many restaurants in ‘Plaça Reial’ a vibrant public plaza with a stunning fountain & palm trees. Will and I sat and had a beverage in the sunshine whilst watching the girls run around the plaza and play with the fountain. It was just devine.
The rest of the walk was done with the girls firmly planted on our shoulders. Ending in ‘Plaça de Catalunya’. It’s like a giant city square. I headed off to the tourist information office (under the square) to book an excursion whilst Will and the girls chased pigeons and ate Gelato.
It was then time to head back to the hotel. We ate pasta for dinner and chilled in the pool. Perfect.
Day 3: Sagrada Familia, Barceloneta Beach and the Gothic Quarter
Today, we visited the Sagrada Familia. My advice, do what we did, book your tickets in advance and go early so you skip the queues and the hordes of tourists. It’s an incredible building and I cannot do it justice with my words. We were all awe inspired. My particular favourite is the crucifixion carving on the front. The girls loved the stained glass and seeing what fruit they could spot carved into the spires. It’s worth noting that there is a children’s play park across the street from the cathedral, which was needed so the kids could blow off some steam.
In the afternoon we headed to the beach. You can take the L4 metro to Barceloneta station, it’s then an easy 10 minute walk to the beach. A word of warning there are an awful lot of vendors strolling the beach (most illegally touting their wares). They offer anything from massages and coconuts to blankets, knock off designer goods and cocktails. It’s best to politely, yet sternly decline. The problem for us was they bothered us every 5 minutes, we just wanted to relax and play on the beach with the children and it became uncomfortable. Especially when they’re bundling up their goods and legging it away from the police.
We made our way back to the hotel, showered, changed and took the metro L3 to Drassanes. We then headed towards the Gothic Quarter just off the Rambles. Our favourite thing to do when travelling is to wander (hence our name!). We love nothing more than ambling around, experiencing culture and just getting lost in a city. The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is perfect for this.
We spent around 4 hours – including a stop for dinner – wandering through these old streets, that are bursting with history and character. Ending up at the Cathedral de Barcelona.
It was dark by this point, the girls thought the atmosphere was magical. Europeans are fantastic with children, and we were happy to spend the evening sipping Sangria under the city lights whilst the girls chased bubbles around the square.
Day 4: Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
Today we decided to do something completely different that would take us out of the city, deeper into Catalonia. We booked an excursion via the tourist information office in ‘Plaça de Catalunya’ to visit the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. The tickets included everything; roundtrip transport from barcelona via train, cable car and funiculars to reach the top of the mountain, as well as admission to the beautiful abbey and a Catalan lunch. You can pre book the same tour we did via Expedia here.
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a stunning Benedictine monastery which is built into the mountain. Thousands of pilgrims visit for the statue of the Black Madonna (La Moreneta) which it is believed to bring good fortune to touch. We headed inside the abbey late afternoon to miss the queues and were able to touch the Madonna statue, as well as listen to the amazing choir. The museum, which hosts masterpieces by Dalí, Monet and Catalan artists from the early 20th century, was wonderful and all of us enjoyed strolling around taking in the artwork.
Lunch was a nice spanish buffet in the restaurant with views over the mountains.
We also headed up to the summit, Sant Jeroni, on the funicular. We then hiked around the mountain which was the girls favourite part. Especially when they spotted some lizards.
The girls made friends with a Russian girl and spent the entire hour long train ride back into Barcelona playing and talking with her.
We were pretty tired so got the metro straight back to our apartment, cooked dinner and played in the pool.
Day 5: Montjuïc Castle, The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font màgica de Montjuïc) and Flamenco Show
Today was our last day in the city, we were pretty bummed as we loved every second. We decided to do our favourite thing; wander.
We took the L3 metro to Paral-lel station where you connect to the funicular. This takes you to the cable car station at Montjuic. We then hopped on the cable car which offers breathtaking views across Barcelona to Montjuic Castle at the top. We decided not to enter the castle, instead opting to walk towards the magic fountains via the gardens. The main reason for this was the girls spotted a giant slide in the gardens from the cable car that they wanted to play on.
We walked for around 2 hours, stopping to play and explore and eat gelato. It was wonderful.
The girls were a little grumpy towards the end of the walk, but were rewarded with excitement when we reached the fountains. We ate more gelato and enjoyed the views from the top, before taking the escalator down to watch the fountains from the bottom.
We headed to our hotel to change as we’d booked a dinner and Flamenco show. The dinner was delicious and we really enjoyed the traditional flamenco dancing, they were incredibly talented. Ava didn’t like the noise too much, we took her ear defenders, so if you have a child with sensory hearing issues it’s not the best option. You can book a similar show and dinner here.
Barcelona is an amazing place to visit with children, it has so much to offer curious little minds and the laid back atmosphere is perfect for adults to relax and soak up the Catalonian culture. We will visit again one day as it holds a special place in our hearts.