Are you planning a visit to Barcelona with teens and/or tweens? Enric Massó, author of “Discovering Barcelona: a travel guide for teens“, shares his top 10 things to do in Barcelona with teens (or tweens):
Welcome to Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia, a city with over 2,000 years of history. Founded by the Romans at the end of the 1st century BC, Barcelona has a rich historical past including being under Muslim rule, seeing the founding of Catalonia, in medieval times, it was one of the main residences of the court of the Crown of Aragon, and more recently, Antoni Gaudí, one of the most eminent architects, designed buildings such as the Casa Milà (known as La Pedrera, the Catalan for stone quarry), the Casa Batlló and the Sagrada Família church, which have become world-famous landmarks.
Today, Barcelona is a vibrant metropolis and is consistently one of the favourite destinations for visitors from all over the world.
Catalonia has 7.6 million inhabitants in a territory the size of Belgium with an amazing variety of landscapes available:
- sandy golden beaches in Camp de Tarragona
- rough cliffs and picturesque coves in Costa Brava
- impressive mountain ranges over 10,000ft in the Pyrenees
- dense forests in Vall d’Aran
- endless plains in Lleida
- volcanic areas of Catalunya Central
- magnificent wetlands, rich in fauna and flora, both in the north and the south of the territory and all these at only a few hours from wherever you are in Catalonia.
Here are some of my favourite things to do that will appeal to even the most fussy teen:
#1. Spend a Day in The Gothic Quarters
It’s worth spending a whole day visiting El Barri Gòtic (pronounced “al-bah-ree-goh-teak” in Catalan, the local language) as there are so many amazing sites to see and shops to browse in.
The Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter) – roughly 1.5 sq km – contains the remains of the original Roman colony as well as many of the other remnants of the glorious past of the city. The narrow, winding streets create quite a labyrinth which means that it may take a while to get your bearings. Be sure to look up and around you every once in a while during your strolling or you may miss some of the best bits.
The Gothic quarter has many peaceful corners where you can relax and enjoy your surroundings away from the busy shopping streets. The main attractions, right in the heart of the district, are
- the huge Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia which has a stunning courtyard full of plants and geese
- the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar – centerpiece of the famous novel The Cathedral of the Sea
- the Roman columns of the August Temple
- the impressive Saló de Cent at the City Hall – visitable on Sundays
- remains of the city wall
- beautiful corners with sinister stories like Sant Felip Neri
- the centre of power in Catalonia since its birth over a thousand years ago: the Plaça Sant Jaume where the Palace of Generalitat – the presidency of Catalonia – and the powerful Barcelona City Hall face each other. This square has been the focus of the most important chapters in the history of Catalonia throughout the centuries.
But you’ll also find dozens of little shops scattered all over with amazing troves… like
- Casa Gispert at Carrer Sombrerers 23, which has been roasting nuts for over 160 years in the same wood stove
- Arlequin Mascaras in Carrer Princesa 7, with a large collection of beautiful masks
- the King of Magic in Princesa 11, where the most secret tricks will be revealed
- Pastisseria Escribà in Carrer de les Floristes de la Rambla 83, the palace of cakes and chocolate
- the surrealist Forest of the Fairies, a cafe in a forest in the middle of the city!, at Passatge Banca 5 and many more.
#2. Discover ancient Romans at MUHBA
The Barcelona City History Museum MUHBA (Museu d’Història de Barcelona) takes you on a journey through Barcelona’s 2500 year history. Just a few floors under the current Barcelona city level you will find yourself in the ruins of Barcino, the Roman city of Barcelona.
See the remains of the first city wall, its streets, craft workshops and the episcopal buildings.
The central location of the museum is on the Plaça del Rei, where you can find a series of splendid monuments which provide an insight into medieval Barcelona:
- the Palau Reial Major, a medieval royal palace with Romanesque vaulted chambers
- the Saló del Tinell great hall – this majestic room began life in 1370 as the seat of the Catalan parliament and was converted in the 18th century into a Baroque church, which was dismantled in 1934
- the Capella de Santa Àgata
- the watchtower Torre del Rei Martí.
#3. Enjoy sound, lights and music at La Font Màgica
The Font Màgica pronounced “la-font-mah-gee-kah” in Montjuïc is an unmissable musical show featuring water fountains and coloured lights. A fairy tale show with a spectacular display of music, water acrobatics and lights which generate over 50 kinds of shades and hues.
La Font Màgica has become one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions and is where the “Pijromusical” is held annually at the end of September, a huge fireworks display with a music, water and a laser show, which is the closing event for Barcelona’s main festival, La Mercè.
#4. Walk among sharks at the Aquarium de Barcelona
L’Aquarium de Barcelona is one of Europe’s biggest marine leisure and education centres. My favourite part is the oceanarium, a 36 metre diameter tank, which has the most spectacular tiger sharks, giltheads, ocean sunfish, rays and sandbar sharks and most important of all… you can walk among them, as if you were walking on the sea bed!
For that you need to descend a series of ramps to find the underwater tunnel, 80 metres long, which will lead you through a realm you could never normally experience. Suddenly you are among the fish – perhaps not quite swimming with them – but certainly the nearest you can get to it with your clothes on.
#5. Visit a colorful market at La Boqueria
The first mention of La Boqueria market (pronounced “lah booh-kah-ree-ah”) in Barcelona dates from 1217 AD, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat.
From December 1470 onwards, a pig market was held at this site in the famous Les Rambles. Later, the authorities decided to construct a separate market on La Rambla, housing mainly fishmongers and butchers.
Nowadays, La Boqueria is one of the largest farmer’s market in Europe where you can find the best products from Catalonia in one place: fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood… and tapas bars like El Quim and others.
And also, the most incredible stalls offering all sorts of candy, sweets, chocolate and other treats. A must see (and taste!).
#5. Discover the city skyline with Las Golondrinas
The harbour ferry or Las Golondrinas (pronounced “las goh-lon-dree-nahs”) is probably the oldest nautical attraction in the city of Barcelona. Las Golondrinas – a local word meaning sparrow and a type of motorboat – started to take people past the Port on the occasion of the 1888 World Fair.
There are 2 different sailing tours to choose from:
- The Barcelona port tour which stays inside the breakwater and is essentially a tour around the port of Barcelona in a traditional “golondrina”
- a more exciting option, the Port and Coast tour, is on a bigger sea-faring catamaran. This tour leaves the port follows the coast on the open sea all the way out to Forum Harbour at the north edge of Barcelona.
#7. Go hands on at the Museu de la Ciència
At the Museu de la Ciència (pronounced “moo-seh-oo-duh-lah-see-ehn-see-ah”)aka Cosmocaixa you can literally touch everything! Museu de la Ciència (CosmoCaixa) offers a host of activities and exhibitions. It’s interactive and fun for visitors of all ages.
Highlights of exhibitions include
- the Bosc Inundate (the Flooded Forest), which recreates 1000m2 of an Amazonian rainforest ecosystem and features real piranhas, and small crocodiles (best not to touch these!)
- the Geological Wall, which illustrates the world’s different geological structures
- the Room of Matter, an enthralling journey through the evolution of matter and life on our planet, with experiments, real pieces and living beings. It has areas such as the Click & Flash and the Touch!
- the Bubble Planetarium is perfect for families.
#8. Get chocolatey at the Museu de la Xocolata
The Museu de la Xocolata (pronounced “moo-seh-oo-duh-lah-shoo-coo-lah-tah”) is Barcelona’s Chocolate Museum and shows how the cocoa bean is transformed into chocolate as well as showing chocolate’s place in history and how it has been represented in media and advertising.
Chocolate is used in ways that are hard to imagine and the place is littered with amazing chocolate sculptures including various well-known Barcelona buildings, like the Sagrada Família, and illustrations from various stories.
At the end of the museum you’ll also find one of the best cafeterias in Barcelona, the chocolate cafeteria. It’s really a gift shop but I think it has enough fresh chocolate to be considered a chocolate restaurant. Forget tapas. Have chocolate for lunch and dinner! You’re on holiday. No one will know!
#9. Find your way out of the Laberint D’Horta
The Laberint d’Horta (pronounced “lah-bah-reen-door-tah”), or The Maze’s Park, is the oldest and most beautiful park in Barcelona. It was created at the end of the 1700s, just after the French Revolution, and it belonged to the Desvalls family, a very rich aristocratic family that donated it to the city in 1967.
The park consists of several areas:
- the Boxwood gardens
- the Domèstic full of camellias
- the Jardí de Molses (mosses)
- the Romàntic with a small cascade and a channel ending in the ‘Island of Love’
- the Petit Laberint
- the Laberint (the maze) located at the centre of the park, is a 750 meter (820-yard) long maze created from pollarded cypress trees that gives the park it’s name. In the centre of the labyrinth is a statue of Eros, the god of love.
#10. Watch football at its best at the Camp Nou
Camp Nou (pronounced “camp-noh-oo”), one of the biggest soccer stadiums in the world, with a capacity of 99354, is home to Barça (“bar-sah”) officially FC Barcelona, which was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers.
The club has become a symbol of Catalan culture and Catalanism, hence the motto “Més que un club” (More than a club). The club is widely known as the ‘Blaugrana’ in reference to the colours of the club shirt, scarlet and blue, in the Catalan language. The shirt’s crest consists of the St. George Cross, patron of Catalonia, in the upper-left corner with the Catalan flag beside it, and the team colours at the bottom.
The Camp Nou stadium is well worth a visit and try to take in a match too if you are visiting during soccer season.
Another highlight at the Camp Nou is the museum, where you can see an endless collection of trophies won by the club: National Leagues, Regional Cups, European Championship Cups, World Cups… you name it, it surely is there. And of course the locker room, used by players like Messi, Neymar, Xavi or Iniesta. Sit in their place and feel like a pro. Book the Camp Nou Experience and see it all!
You will find more fun ideas for things to in Barcelona in DISCOVERING BARCELONA, A TRAVEL GUIDE FOR TEENS, an extraordinary and comprehensive travel guide, addressing everything from history and landmarks, to snippets of local language and metro maps; in addition, it includes an exhaustive (in the best way!) index of all the best spots in Barcelona for young visitors!
The layout is engaging with fantastic graphics, and the guide features entertaining and useful tips, hints, and suggestions for touring the city and beyond. It provides readers with a concise, comprehensive itinerary of possibilities, featuring everything from historical hot-spots to natural wonders to thrills and adventure. It is the perfect guide for preparing a young traveller for a trip to Barcelona or for keeping a young traveller occupied during the voyage (preventing the dreaded “are-we-there-yets”!).
So if you or someone you know is planning a trip to Barcelona with kids – this travel guide is a must-have; and at under 15€/$15, it is the perfect stocking stuffer!
More info at: www.discoveringbarcelona.info
|By Enric Massó (Barcelona, 1969). A hardcore traveler, Enric is a regular contributor at several travel-related websites such as TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist and the InfoCatalonia.eu sites among others. He’s born and bred in Barcelona but has lived in different cities across several continents. As a day job, Enric is a business strategist but on his spare time he likes to write about travel and cultural awareness. He has always been passionate about European cities and most especially his city, Barcelona: its history, heritage, its vibrant life… With the typical charm of the Mediterraneans he proudly enjoys showing the city to his foreign friends when visiting, many of whom have teenagers. But soon he realised that, although Barcelona ranks very high in the Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations, there wasn’t much information intended for teens, most guides and travel resources were aimed to grown-up travellers, so he started to gather information and put it in a format aimed just for them: easy to read, fun and entertaining: Discovering Barcelona, a travel guide for teens. Have a peek in the Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.|
Image Credits: Barri Gòtic (happyinspain.com); MUHBA (JosepBC-WikiCommons); Font Màgica (Jeroen Bennink-Flickr,CC BY 2.0); Aquarium (Darij and Ana-Flickr,CC BY 2.0); Boqueria (Jennifer,worldonawhim.com); Las Golondrinas (Jaume Meneses-Flickr,CC BY 2.0); CosmoCaixa (Roselinde,roselinde.me); Museu Xocolata (Kippelboy-WikiCommons); Laberint d’Horta (Enric Masso); Camp Nou (Will Palmer-Flickr,CC BY 2.0)
Over to you now. If you have visited, do you have a favourite thing to do in Barcelona with teens? Tell us in the comments below.