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The loud, vibrant, beautiful, bustling and booming city of Barcelona is great for a family holiday or break, and though it's best for teens, it's surprisingly good for tots too, provided you do your homework, offering a mild, sunny climate, good beaches, lovely parks, mind-blowing architecture both historical and modern, an amusement park, plus wonderful food for all the family.
Take the family ambling up along the Ramblas with its street perfomers, shops, food stalls and fantastic buildings. The best time is evening, when locals stroll up and down it en masse before or after dinner (perhaps with an ice cream in hand).
Don't miss a visit to the Boqueria market just off the Ramblas, even if you're not self-catering – this colourful place appeals to parents and kids alike with its strange little stalls and larger-than-life characters. It's the perfect place to stock up for a picnic.
Spend a whole day at Parc de la Ciutadella, with its boating lake, its enormous fountain designed by Barcelona's favourite architect Gaudí, its two natural history museums and its large garden for letting off steam.
Factor in at least half a day for the Parc Güell, a whole park designed by Gaudí, full of amazing stone structures and multi-coloured tiled mosaics. It's a 20-minute steep uphill walk from the metro station but offers great views over the city.
Marvel at Gaudí's masterpiece, the fantastical Sagrada Familia, still unfinished nearly a century after the architect's death, but a true sight to behold. A new audio-guide brings it to life for kids 6–12.
Enjoy the fairground attractions of Tibidabo Amusement Park, 30 minutes north of Plaça de Catalunya by the dedicated Tibibus from outside El Corte Inglés department store. It is more of a fairground than an amusement park, so more suitable for younger children. (For themepark thrills, head for PortAventura an hour and half away south of the city.)
Go up Montjuic hill, Barcelona's largest open green space, home to excellent museums plus remnants of the Modernist building experiment.
Barcelona is very child-friendly and most establishments are pleased to see kids, but remember that evening meals generally aren't served until 9pm or later – do as locals do and take a siesta after lunch.
Barcelona is a great place to introduce kids to delicious Spanish specialities such as jamón ibérico (melt-in-the-mouth acorn-fed ham) in tapas bars or cafés, which tend to be better than the larger restaurants. Make sure to sample produce in the markets and fresh fish near the port. International fare is widely available for the unadventurous.
Barcelona can work year-round as a family holiday or break destination, although scheduling your trip for summer does mean you can take advantage of the city's four golden-sand beaches.
Barcelona is a favourite Mediterranean destination among Brits, so there's no shortage of flights (including low-cost) from main and regional UK airports.
El Prat airport is is 12km southwest of Barcelona, with easy, fast travel to the centre including express buses, trains and taxis (the latter costing around €50). Note that some budget airlines fly to Girona Airport about 80km away, with connecting buses to Barcelona.
For getting to Barcelona by train, see Man in Seat 61 (seat61.com).
Much of central Barcelona is pedestrianised, although there's the metro and buses for longer distances, both reasonably priced.
Accessible by low-cost airline and with masses of self-catering accommodation, Barcelona can be a relatively inexpensive destination, although there's plenty of opportunity to splurge.By Rhonda Carrier
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