We've found it! A space created with family fun in mind – and that doesn't mean just for kids while the grown-ups stand around checking the clock every two minutes. It's called El Cau, and even though that means something along the lines of 'lair' or 'den' for animals, this is anything but a dark cave – in fact, it's quite the opposite. This space of more than 200m2 is dominanted by white and light wood, and a good time is in store for all. El Cau is doing very well for itself, so we recommend you book yourself a time in advance, especially at the weekend. Loren felt a place like this was missing – a place where you can have fun with your kids, and instead of waiting for someone to come up with the idea, he decided to make some changes to the priorities in his life and head out on this adventure. 'Our motto is “Have a good time, and respect others”,' he says. 'It's a place to spend some time and play with your child.' First things first: leave your shoes at the door. Kids are always playing on the floor, and the little ones have a tendency to put everything in their mouth, so it's best to keep the ground as clean as possible. The big favourite at El Cau is a type of passageway created by a wall put up about 2 metres from the building's wall. The passageway is about 20 metres long, and kids have access via openings at the bottom. Inside is a slide, games, hanging cloths they can climb up, steps, different textures to touch... If your kids are three years old or younger, don'
Barcelona for kids
Our extensive list of the best things to do with kids in Barcelona.
Said to be the biggest science museum in Europe, CosmoCaixa doesn't, perhaps, make the best use of its space. A glass-enclosed spiral ramp runs down an impressive six floors, but actually represents quite a long walk to reach the main collection five floors down. Here you'll find the Flooded Forest, a reproduction of a flora- and fauna-filled corner of Amazonia, and the Geological Wall, along with temporary exhibitions.From here, it's on to the Matter Room, which covers 'inert', 'living', 'intelligent' and then 'civilised' matter: in other words, natural history. However, for all the fanfare made by the museum about taking exhibits out of glass cases and making scientific theories accessible, many of the displays still look very dated. Written explanations often tend towards the impenetrable, containing phrases such as 'time is macroscopically irreversible', and making complex those concepts that previously seemed simple.On the plus side, the installations for children are excellent: the Planetarium pleases those aged five to eight, and the wonderful Clik (ages three to six) and Flash (seven to nine) introduce children to science through games. Toca Toca! ('Touch Touch') educates children on which animals and plants are safe and which to avoid. One of the real highlights, for both young and old, is the hugely entertaining sound telescope outside on the Plaça de la Ciència.
If there was a café in the animated part of 'Mary Poppins' – you know, when they jump into the chalk drawing on the pavement – it would look like Pudding. Opened by a Frenchwoman based in Barcelona, Pudding was designed for spending the afternoon with the kids. Parents can enjoy a cappuccino with pastries or sandwiches while the little ones occupy themselves with books, games, chalkboards and even iPads that they'll find at their disposal. This spot can also help organize birthday parties that are much more stylish than at Burger King.
Set in 5.2 hectares of the former fairground, Montjuïc's latest park is part forest, with 40 species of tree, and part urban playground. As well as a climbing frame, there are various over-sized wooden instruments and creations designed for children, allowing them to play tunes and pump water.
La Puntual opened in 2005 as a theatre space dedicated to puppet shows. The space owes its name to Santiago Rusiñol, who wrote 'L’Auca del Senyor Esteve', a classic Costumbrist play whose action mainly takes place in a notions shop called La Puntual in the Ribera neighbourhood.
Barcelona’s Aquarium is home to more than 11,000 animals representing 450 species, and you’d expect nothing less from the world’s largest Mediterranean-themed marine attraction. There are fish of shapes and colours that are frankly mind-boggling, and an 80m-long underwater tunnel with sharks and rays swimming overhead. Check the website for details of activities – which include swimming with sharks, and the chance to spend the night in the tunnel – and become an expert marine biologist.
This is an art gallery where the main target audience is children. It’s the brainchild of Martha Zimmerman, herself a mother who also works as a representative for illustrators and moves in the circles of many artists. She’s created a place for the little ones to learn about art, and, if they (and their parents’ wallets) want, they can invest in pieces they like. The works on display are full of colour and stars – dreaming children, love-struck magicians, imaginary animals and naughty aliens.
A chocolate-smeared mouth is a classic image of childhood. What kid could resist an entire museum dedicated to chocolate? Barcelona has its very own, run by the provincial guild of cake makers, telling the story of chocolate from its earliest origins to its arrival in Europe and its current status as the ultimate feel-good treat. But let’s be honest: no chocolate-themed attraction would be complete without a chance to get your hands on the stuff and taste it. Check the extensive range of workshops available on their website.
Until the early 20th century, a city dairy farm ('vaquería', where urbanites would go to get fresh milk) stood on this site. But times change, and it’s now a Scandi-inspired café with an excellent design. They serve all kinds of food for breakfast (including different scrambled egg dishes), and afternoon snacks such as home-made cakes and tempting sandwiches. There’s also a dish of the day that’s worth a try, while on Saturday and Sunday they serve brunch. To sum up, whenever you go, you could find yourself staying the whole day.
Adventure playground by the sea Bosc Urbà (Urban Jungle) offers a mélange of activities, sports and, yes, adventures, for you and the kids to put your adrenaline to the test, and all within the city limits. Zip lines, rope swings, bungee jumping, log rolls and so much more your head will spin before you even decide which to tackle. Try out some of the 50-plus attractions, with various levels for adults and children.
The construction of new access points for the 1992 Olympic Games facilities of the Olympic Games favoured the proposal to create a new botanical garden for the city. On Montjuïc, between the castle and the Olympic Stadium, the shape of the garden's 14 hectares is reminiscent of a great amphitheatre with preserved collections of Mediterranean plants worldwide and magnificent views over the Llobregat delta, the Olympic Ring and part of the metropolitan area of Barcelona.
Its name hints at this café/bakery's laid-back character with a touch of extravagance, considering 'demasié' means something along the lines of 'too much' or 'over the top'. With an arrogance worthy of Carlsberg beer, they claim that their biscuits are 'amazingly good'. Demasié's café was added on to the original shop a few years ago, so that customers could try their specialities in situ. And yes, the biscuits are amazingly good, but so are the cakes, the chocolates and the sweets. And now their speciality is their cinnamon rolls. The original, with cinnamon and sugar, is the star of the show, but you can also sink your sweet tooth into other flavours such as Nutella, Oreo, red berries, tiramisu, and even a vegan variety.
This restaurant would not look out of place in the trendiest, most cosmopolitan of cities. Natural light, tasteful decor, good music, fast, friendly service and a menu specialising in breakfasts that can resuscitate you after a night of overdoing it: juices and shakes, eggs and sausage, fruit and sandwiches...
The Sant Andreu Theatre, better known locally as SAT!, opened in 1990 in space formerly occupied by bus depots. In 2003 the theatre improved its station and moved to where it currently resides in the Sant Andreu barrio. With a capacity for 383 audience members, the programme runs from theatre to music and dance and highlights performances for children.
Here's a place made for kids and teens that's still fun for adults, where you can spend hours discovering the marvels between the covers of a book. There’s a hardcover section, one for those that haven’t yet learned to read, another full of well-loved stories, right next to a small selection for adults – with only titles that the owner likes – and a section for fiction, music, theatre, poetry and art, sitting opposite the educational books, games, and books about books. But the apple of Casa Anita’s eye is hidden in a bunch of wine boxes – the picture books, with fiction separated from non-fiction. Self-edited books, origami and puppets have also found a place here.
Despite its beginnings in 1996 as a bookshop specializing in the Humanities, La Central has become one of the benchmark spaces for readers, authors and publishers. You can find titles on anthropology, architecture and design, art and film, and photography, but also collections of poetry and artworks, among others. La Central has one of the best selections of foreign-language novels in Barcelona, with a great variety of books in English, and not just bestsellers or classics. It's also a great spot to pin down hard-to-find editions you've been searching for to add to your shelf, and there's a lovely café on the first floor. (They have a sister shop in the Raval as well.)
This decently sized zoo has plenty of other animals, all of whom look happy enough in reasonably sized enclosures and the city's comfortable climate. Favourites include giant hippos, the prehistoric-looking rhino, sea lions, elephants, giraffes, lions and tigers. Child-friendly features include a farmyard zoo, pony rides, picnic areas and two excellent playgrounds. If all that walking is too much, there's a zoo 'train'. Bear in mind that on hot days many of the animals are sleeping and out of sight, and when the temperature drops below 13 degrees many are kept inside.
Besides books in Spanish and Catalan, you’ll find a wide selection of books in English, French, German, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese. They’ve also got educational toys and unique objects for kids, and the shop boasts an independent space intended for children’s workshops, storytelling and exhibitions as well. It’s a place that acquires good books made with detail and love.
The Museu Blau ('Blue Museum') started in 2011 in the Parc del Fòrum as part of the Natural Science Museum. All 9,000 square metres of it are spread over two floors. At the main entrance you're welcomed by the skeleton of a whale that beached itself on Catalan shores in 1862. The museum is made up of installations and spaces that include 'Planet Life,' an exhibition that takes you through the history of life and its co-evolution with Earth; the media library; and the Science Nest, where children up to age six can explore and play with natural materials.
This hilltop fairground, dating from 1889, has invested millions in getting itself bang up to date, with the terrifying freefall Pendulum and a hot-air-balloon–style ride for smaller children. Adrenalin freaks are delighted with the 80km-per-hour rollercoaster, and the many other attractions include a house of horrors, bumper cars and the emblematic Avió, the world's first popular flight simulator when it was built in 1928. Don't miss the antique mechanical puppets and contraptions at the Museu d'Autòmats, and there are hourly puppet shows at the Marionetàrium (from 1pm). At the weekends, there are circus parades at the end of the day and, in summer, correfocs (fire runs – parades where participants let off fireworks) and street theatre.The opening hours are fiendishly complex and vary from week to week (check the website), but roughly speaking what's now known as the Camí del Cel ('Sky Walk', where you'll find the more traditional rides, such as the carousel, the Avió, and so on) is open daily most of the year, while the Parc d'Atraccions (including the rollercoaster) is open at weekends.
Madame Tussauds it ain't, but the Wax Museum is an enjoyable enough way to pass a rainy afternoon, particuarly if you have small children, who love the 'underwater' section (a submarine and creaky old ship). Be warned that the exhibits are very dated, and a curious mix of historical and 1980s (19th-century composers alongside ET, Star Wars characters, JR from Dallas and Lady Di).
Josep Lluís Sert, who spent the years of the Franco dictatorship as dean of the School of Design at Harvard University, designed one of the greatest museum buildings in the world on his return. Approachable, light and airy, these white walls and arches house a collection of more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and all of Miró's graphic work, plus some 5,000 drawings. The building was constructed specifically to house Miró's work and creates a true fusion of art and architecture. The permanent collection, highlighting Miró's trademark use of primary colours and simplified organic forms symbolising stars, the moon, birds and women, occupies the second half of the space. On the way to the sculpture gallery is Alexander Calder's rebuilt Mercury Fountain, originally seen at the Spanish Republic's Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Fair. In other works, Miró is shown as a cubist ('Street in Pedralbes', 1917), naive ('Portrait of a Young Girl', 1919) and surrealist ('Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement', 1935). In the upper galleries, large, black-outlined paintings from Miró's final period precede a room of works with political themes. The foundation also houses the Joaquim Gomis Archive, which is a collection of 70,000 photos and documents. Gomis is recognised as one of the first Catalan photographers with a modern approach. There are also two to three temporary exhibitions on at all times. These exhibitions are announced and previewed on the Foundation's website.
Finally rehoused in the Auditori concert hall in 2007 after six years in hibernation, the Music Museum's collections comprise over 1,600 instruments, displayed like precious jewels in red velvet and glass cases, along with multimedia displays, interactive exhibits and musical paraphernalia. With pieces spanning the ancient world to the modern day, and including instruments from all corners of the world, the museum's high note is the world-class collection of 17th-century guitars. Temporary exhibitions so far have concentrated on famous Catalan musicians, including the partnership between pianist and composer Enric Granados and cellist Pau Casals.
What? You haven't heard of the top spot for kids in La Ribera? Rest easy: it's called La Marelle and it's a cultural association for families, a place where parents and children can express themselves freely. Through activities and workshops in different languages children can develop their sensitivity and creativity. In addition, La Marelle organises activities to help parents during pregnancy and parenting. There's also a café where you can have a coffee on a Sunday afternoon. When everything else is closed, you can take refuge at La Marelle.
The Poble Espanyol brings together reproductions of buildings from all over Spain, but it's more than an architectural curiosity. You can sign up for one of their many workshops – from gardening to pottery – or take part in their family gymkhana, a treasure hunt with clues that will send you out to discover all the village's secret nooks and crannies.
You only have to observe a child interacting with an animal to understand how great that relationship can be. You can see for yourself at the Granja d’Aventura Park, an educational and fun project for families to enjoy together, being in contact with animals and the natural surroundings of Viladecavalls, about two kilometres from Terrassa and a little bit more than a half hour from Barcelona by car. Even though it’s close enough to the city, as soon as you get to the farm, surrounded by small woods and fields, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere — in a good way. Inside the farm, there is no set path or route to follow. The idea is that the families can move freely throughout the park, visiting and touching the bunnies, chickens and pigs that live there; getting to know inhabitants of the farm through experience and contact. Get a wet kiss from Ramona, the cow that thinks she’s a dog, and find out for yourself that angora goats smell like cheese (goat’s cheese, of course). The most daring can touch the snakes, spiders and other exotic animals, always under the supervision of trained farm staff. All of the animals live in sustainable facilities, constructed with organic and recycled materials. Environmental consciousness is a key and central element to the project, as is the vegetable garden area (which is partially closed during the summer), where they also host workshops to learn about food cycles and seasons. The most unique thing about this farm, however, is th
One of the masterpieces of industrial Modernisme, this former yarn and textile factory was designed by Puig i Cadafalch and celebrated its centenary in 2011. It won the Annual Artistic Buildings Competition prize in 1913, but has unfortunately spent most of the last century in a sorry state, briefly acting as a police barracks before falling into dereliction. Even in ruins, the building was declared a Historic Monument of National Interest in 1976. Fundació La Caixa, the charitable arm of Catalonia's largest savings bank, bought it and set about rebuilding. The original brick structure was supported, while the ground below was excavated to house a strikingly modern entrance square by Arata Isozaki, a Sol LeWitt mural, an auditorium, a bookshop and a library. In addition to the permanent contemporary art collection, there are three impressive spaces for temporary exhibitions – often among the most interesting shows to be found in the city. The CaixaForum is also home to the neon cloud that Lucio Fontana made for the Triennale di Milano in 1953.
At Barcelona’s Egyptian museum, kids can become archaeologists for a day and delve into the world’s favourite ancient civilisation. The museum’s small but complete collection is first class, and unique within Spain. Learn all about pharaohs, mummies the secrets of the pyramids and the mysteries of Egypt.
The government-funded Filmoteca is a little dry for some tastes, offering comprehensive seasons of cinema's more recondite auteurs alongside better-known classics. Overlapping cycles last two or three weeks, with each film screened at least twice at different times. Books of 10 and 50 tickets bring down the price per film to a negligible amount. The 'Filmo' also runs an excellent library of film-related books, videos and magazines.