Barcelona is a polished, Catalan city hugging the Mediterranean in northeast Spain, about 100 miles south of the Spanish-French border. It lures visitors year-round for its temperate climate, terrific seafood, amazing culture, architecture and art.
Families find it’s lively, friendly, welcoming and fun. Here are eight enticing activities to check out on your visit:
Walk Las Ramblas
Stroll down Las Ramblas, the celebrated, tree-shaded, three-quarter-mile-long pedestrian promenade to the Columbus Monument and Miró mosaic at the port. Enjoy street performers, costumed living artists and kiosks; stop in the famous Boquería market to shop and eat. Many buildings along The Ramblas date from the late 1800s, but the narrow, cobblestone, often pedestrian, side streets in Barrio Gótico, el Raval and in el Born and La Ribera are lined with ancient structures, including the spectacular, 14th-century basilica Santa Maria del Mar.
I recently toured Gaudí’s unfinished Art Nouveau opus, the curvilinear Sagrada Familia church, in mid-afternoon, when the light streams through the breathtakingly tall, Gothic, stained-glass windows. (By 2026, they plan to finish 18 pointed spires!) The architect’s extravagant mosaics of broken glass and tile are on view on the rooftop of Palau Guell, off the Ramblas and at the Guell family’s phantasmagorical Parc Guell. Two of his masterpieces are located in Eixample, on the sophisticated Passeig de Gracia: Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, aka La Pedrera, a UNESCO World Heritage site/apartment house with ornamental balconies and piecrust-pinched curves on the roof. They’re all spectacular from the outside; if you want to tour, buy tickets or a Barcelona Pass on line.
Go to the Beach in Barceloneta
The wide seaside paseo along the Mediterranean beachfront stretches from the W Hotel in Port Vell to and beyond the Hotel Arts at Port Olimpíc. Join locals on a bench, the beach or at tiny seafood bars; walk, cycle, skateboard on land; and paddle board or sail on the sea.
Explore the City’s History
The Museum of Urban History displays the largest Roman excavation outside Rome; the ancient synagogue dates to the third or fourth century and the Born CCM, a cultural center in a former marketplace showcases an archeological site with remains of houses from the 1700s.
Discover the Early Picasso
Picasso, born in Malaga, became a youthful artist in Barcelona. More than 4,000 pieces of artwork, many dating to before Cubism, are on view within five adjoining palaces in the ancient Ribera district.
Ride the Port Cable Car to Montjuic
The eight-minute ride to Montjuic offers views of the port and Barceloneta by the sea. Once there, visit Poble Espanyol, an authentic, architecturally accurate Spanish village built for the 1929 World’s Fair, a castle, buildings for the 1992 Olympics, Caixa Forum and a multitude of museums — my favorite is Miro Foundation.
Take the Funicular Railway to Mount Tibidabo
You’ll find an amusement park with a giant Ferris wheel that attracts kids by day, young adults at night, and an active cathedral atop this 1,600-foot-high hill overlooking the city.
Eat Like a Local or Dine Like a Gastronome
There’s usually a line waiting to lunch at Cova Fumada, a popular little tapas restaurant family-owned and family-run since the 1940s. Cal Pep serves the freshest seafood at the counter or in the back room (reserve a table online). Antiq Forn, off Las Ramblas, serves three-course, fixed-price meals with huge portions of lamb chops and D.I.Y. pan y tomate (they serve a bowl with whole tomatoes and garlic cloves, olive oil, salt to slosh on grilled country bread). Alberto Adría earned a Michelin star for each of his Barcelona eateries. Tickets, his fanciful tapas bar, serves á la carte items that will entice foodie offspring, not fussy eaters. The culinary artistry and molecular gastronomy features El Bulli’s famous liquid “olive,” an oval, olive-tasting sphere that looks like an olive.
Wearing sunscreen at the beach is a given, especially for little ones running in and out of the water — and anyone who forgets that usually regrets it with a vengeance the next day. One aspect of sunscreen I admittedly didn’t think about until just a few years ago is how detrimental its impact is on marine life and reefs. Oxybenzone is a chemical found in most mainstream sunscreens — it works to prevent sun damage, but is also carcinogenic and harmful to coral. The chemical makes coral more susceptible to bleaching and damages its DNA, interfering with reproduction and killing dependent marine life in the process.
This summer, family travel at The Peninsula receives an upgrade with the debut of Camp Peninsula, a children’s experience that recreates the spirit of camping right in the heart of Beverly Hills. The journey begins with a special welcome from Peter Bear, the hotel’s lovable mascot, at check-in. After taking a picture with the life-sized teddy bear, kids will be whisked away by a Peninsula Camp Counselor to a luxurious guestroom where a charming teepee awaits. An afternoon of camp-themed games and activities, including a hotel-wide scavenger hunt, rounds off the family-friendly experience, fun for children of all ages. Whether it’s a luxe staycation or an extended holiday, Camp Peninsula is an ideal way to ensure the little ones are happy campers.
An interesting and accidental beneficial side effect of recent travel bans is that large swaths of the world affected by over-tourism are beginning to heal themselves. Major cities from Los Angeles to London and Beijing are reporting their best air quality in years with less nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide emitted by cars and industry. The canals in Venice are so clear, schools of fish and even a dolphin were easily spotted by locals — all of this and more taking place before Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in April.
When you want to get away without getting behind the wheel, Amtrak has news for you — and budget-friendly news, at that. Enjoy the ride this summer to your next destinations from the comfort of a private Roomette room on Amtrak with a two-for-one deal on select one-way routes.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
PLANNING A VACATION TO FRENCH POLYNESIA, the Cook Islands or Fiji? Lucky you! While you really can’t go wrong with any of these exotic locales that beckon with white-sand beaches, mornings spent listening to soothing water lapping your bungalow, and immersion excursions with some of the world’s most amazing flora and fauna, not all islands are created equally.