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Barcelona: cool for kids

Essential family-friendly experiences – and hotels to match

Barcelona may be a favourite city break for fashionistas and foodies, but there’s plenty to keep the whole family happy. Every area has something different to offer – from funfairs and football to animals and architecture – and there are some fabulous family-friendly hotels too. Here’s our pick of the best experiences, all paired with luxurious boltholes where you can recharge with a dip in the pool or a drop of Rioja.

1. FUNFAIRS, SCIENCE AND MICHELIN STARS: ABAC Hotel

Barcelona has more green spaces than you can shake a sugar-dusted churros at. And, from the ABaC Hotel, you’re just moments from two of Barcelona’s most wild and wonderful areas. Hop aboard the Tibidabo Tram for a fun journey to one of the city’s most Instagram-able panoramas and the charming little Tibidabo amusement park. Built in 1889, the rides may not get the pulse racing, but they will certainly keep the little ones entertained.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss Gaudi’s quirky Park Güell. While your kids might not appreciate the finer points of Art Nouveau and Modernism, the colourful mosaics and curved benches are sure to capture imaginations. And, as the park opens at 8am, it’s a great opportunity to turn an early morning wake-up call to your advantage and arrive before the crowds.

In the afternoon, make a beeline for CosmoCaixa, one of Europe’s biggest science museums with a living Amazon rainforest, 3D planetarium and sound telescope. If this has whetted your appetite for some molecular-dining wizardry, be sure to book in to ABaC Hotel’s three Michelin Star restaurant. Babysitters can happily be arranged.

 2. FUTBOL AND FASHION

Right in the heart of it all, yet tucked away on a quiet side street, Gran Hotel Derby is the perfect kick-off spot for exploring some of the city’s major attractions – including the legendary Nou Camp stadium. Whether there’s a match on or not, there’s plenty to inspire any budding young Messi including guided tours of the dressing room and pitch, and a star-studded museum.

From here, you’re also within easy reach of Barcelona’s superb shopping. It’s not all high-end brands and ‘pinch me’ prices – there are plenty of great kids shops and cafes to explore such as Top Top and Go Kids. Or you could simply escape the crowds and enjoy some quality time together in Gran Hotel’s beautiful garden and outdoor pool.

 3. PICASSO, PENGUINS, SHARKS AND SAND…

Nestled in the Gothic Quarter, the Grand Hotel Central opens up another side to this beguiling city. You could while away a few hours wandering the alleyways and getting your culture fix at the Picasso Museum – one of the city’s must-sees. But for kids it’s hard to beat wild animals, sea and sand.

Be sure to visit Barcelona’s Zoo tucked away in the Parc de la Ciutadella and home to hippos, rhinos, giraffes, lions and tigers. There’s also a farmyard here, and two top-notch playgrounds. Or, if you want to escape the midday sun, head for L’Aquàrium – the world’s largest Mediterranean themed attraction. From here, you’re just a 10-minute stroll from the beach and 4.2km of gorgeous golden sands.

 4. ART, ARCHITECTURE AND ALBONDIGAS

Las Ramblas. Sagrada Familia. Boqueria Market. For the quintessential Barcelona experience, Hotel Bagues puts everything on your doorstep. Pop out and see the main sights. Then nip back for a dip in the rooftop pool and a bit of quiet time.

Don’t miss the bustling Boqueria Market and its dazzling displays of fruit, fish, meat, sweets and local delicacies –including the ubiquitous albondigas. And if the crowds get a little too much, go through the market to the square behind where you’ll find plenty of cafes and a playground.

To top it all off, explore the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia. With its strange architecture and sense of mystery, it will captivate kids of all ages. Just be aware that under 6s aren’t allowed up the towers, which may be something of a blessing in disguise!