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.
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.
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.
The dolphin shows are the big draw, but the 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.
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.
Even though the Museum of Inventions and Ideas was originally designed for adults, you won’t be able drag your kids away. Wacky ideas and ingenious inventions suggest a future where anything is possible. And at the Minimiba, 5- to 12-year-olds can submit their own ideas: every month three of the best are turned into prototypes by a team of builders.
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 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.
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.