Barcelona, Spain is the stylish city by the sea that everyone’s talking about. You’re never short of things to do in Barcelona and its unique architecture, hip shops, colourful festivals and beachside vibe tick lots of boxes for teens too. Check out our long weekend guide to help you plan your own trip to Barcelona – with or without teenagers.
5 reasons to visit Barcelona with teens
A vibrant friendly city – it’s full of history at every turn with a contemporary vibe too.
Fabulous weather – Barcelona is a sunny city all year round.
Art and architectural treasures – that are part of the cityscape, not just locked away in museums. Medieval squares rub shoulders with Art Nouveau, Modernisme and contemporary design.
Beaches – sun-kissed beaches, the sparkling Mediterranean sea and two miles of promenade for strolling, cycling and people-watching.
Plenty of shopping – this city prides itself on its design heritage. Shopping opps range from flea markets and traditional crafts to boutiques, department stores and international fashion ateliers.
Who went, where and when: My teenage boys, Nick and Ed, came with me to Barcelona for four days in August. This post updated in 2020.
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Our 10 Things to do in Barcelona with teens
Take a city tour
Barcelona is famous for the works of Antoni Gaudí, who designed many of the city’s extraordinary Modernista buildings.
We hit the ground running on our first day with a walking tour that introduced us to the key Gaudí sights. Yes, it was a scramble to get from airport to hotel and then to the meeting place in Plaça Reial. On the plus side we didn’t waste a second of our first afternoon and we got an instant flavour of the city. Our guide Jessi gave us lots of background tales and insights and also some useful tips for the rest of our stay.
Runner Bean Walking Tours offers themed walks including a Kids and Family tour. There’s no set price: at the end of the tour you pay the guide what you feel it was worth. Here’s their website for more details: www.runnerbeantours.com.
Alternatively you can book a tour in advance via Get Your Guide. I’ve just found this Instagram tour of the Most Scenic Spots in Barcelona which includes a photoshoot with a professional photographer. It sounds fun for couples or family and you can choose between a half or full day tour. Find out more and read reviews by clicking here.
See La Sagrada Familia
If you only see one Gaudí building in Barcelona then it has to be La Sagrada Familia. It is his still unfinished masterwork and one of the most famous monuments in Spain.
Gaudí only completed one facade of this huge church though work continues, inspired by his original plans. It’s Gothic bordering on fantasy and encrusted with symbolic detail; its sheer size is breathtaking. If you plan to take a look inside then you must book ahead to avoid the enormous queue.
Where children and teens are concerned I often find that the outside of a church or cathedral is sufficient. But in this case you need to go inside. It’s worth it! Read why we loved our visit to Sagrada Familia here.
Need to know: you can book online for a timed entrance to La Sagrada Familia. Also book in advance to include a trip to the top of one of the towers for a bird’s eye view. A lift takes you up the tower but you have to walk down.
Book Sagrada Familia in advance. To pre-book fast track entrance without towers or guide via GetYourGuide click here. Alternatively you could book a guided tour which includes access to a tower at the end of the tour, here.
Take in a festival
Barcelona is divided into districts and they nearly all have festivals in the summer. We visited in August and coincided with the Festa Major de Gràcia which just happened to be on the doorstep of our hotel.
The streets of Gràcia were festooned with decorations, many inventively made from recycled materials. Some had a serious message like the street devoted to the plight of refugees, others were escapist fantasies. They looked wonderful day and night.
We spent two evenings in Gràcia, wandering through the streets, listening to the music and enjoying the carnival spirit. Throughout the week there are parades with giant figures called ‘gegants’. Teams of castellers climb on each other’s shoulders to build human towers and, on the final night, ‘demons’ take to the streets throwing fireworks. Plenty to watch!
Need to know: check ahead for the dates of the neighbourhood summer festivals in Barcelona
Walk in a park
Barcelona has two parks which you really mustn’t miss on your visit. They’re both special in their own ways. Parc de la Ciutadella is close to the Picasso museum so we wandered through before our visit. Even on a Saturday lunchtime in August it didn’t feel over busy and we could have easily found a shady spot for a picnic. There’s a dramatic fountain and parakeets shrieking in the palms too. It’s billed as Barcelona’s most popular park and it was certainly a favourite with bike tours.
Book a bike tour. On the subject of which: here are some Barcelona cycle tours I’ve noticed with good reviews. Bicycles have an advantage over buses in Barcelona. Not only can you explore the narrow streets of the old town, but you can also cycle along the seafront. This guided tour conveniently includes a break at a beach terrace bar. This tour advertises that it sticks to cycle paths and parks entirely. And finally here’s a Gaudi-inspired ebike tour that takes in Parc de la Ciutadella too.
Visit Gaudi’s Park Güell
On Sunday morning we visited our second park, the extraordinary Park Güell. Gaudi dreamed up these pleasure gardens which became a public park in 1926. It’s a huge area across a steep hillside with natural stone walkways, arcades and viaducts.
There are plenty of viewpoints or spots to picnic and on the day we visited musicians were playing in shady nooks too. The main park is free to enter but the Monumental Area, which includes pavilions, squares and benches is ticketed with timed entries. I think it’s worth visiting because this is where Gaudí’s imagination really ran wild with fabulous mosaic decorations.
You can get up close to the mosaic lizard and the sinuous tiled bench overlooking the city that adorn a hundred postcards.
Need to know: Book ahead for the Monumental Area as it’s hugely popular and entrance is timed. Try to get there early in order to avoid the crowds and don’t forget sunscreen and water. There are two metro stops near the Park which both involve an uphill walk however outdoor escalators help. A 24 bus stops near one of the gates. To pre-book Park Guell entrance or tours via GetYourGuide click here
Barcelona stadium tour – for football fans
One morning I went walking – and shopping – in Gràcia and the boys headed off to Camp Nou for a Barcelona stadium tour. FC Barcelona is one of the pre-eminent clubs in the world and its museum charts its history with memorabilia, pictures and collections of kit and trophies. Behind the scenes, visitors are allowed into the Away dressing room, the media rooms, the tunnel and the dugouts.
The boys were struck by just how huge the stadium is. The pitch is maximum size, one of the biggest in the world and the stadium soars skywards, tier after tier.
I was impressed to see that the grass is still cut by one man pushing a lawnmower.
Need to know: book ahead, as always, to avoid queuing. The tour isn’t available on match days. You can book online here, direct with the stadium.
Here are some more Barcelona activities to book in advance: from a Spanish cookery lesson to an adrenaline rush boat ride!
Looking for tips on where to stay in Barcelona? Click here for our post Barcelona City Break – eating, sleeping and getting around
For our guide to Gaudi’s fantastical buildings in Barcelona click here for 5 Fun Gaudi Buildings to see in Barcelona.
See Picasso in a palace
Five palaces in fact. The popular Museu Picasso is housed in adjacent medieval palaces in the La Ribera district. We decided to do just one museum and the boys both voted for this one. It’s one of the most important collections of Picasso’s work in the world however there are some gaps. There are lots of his early paintings as a teenager and it’s easy to chart the huge leaps in style as his work matures. But don’t expect to see many of his most famous pieces. His interpretations of Las Meninas by Velázquez fill a gallery and are one of the highlights.
Need to know: There’s a no photos rule inside the museum but the courtyards and stairways at entrance and exit are beautiful in their own right. There’s also an excellent gift shop!
I’d be very tempted by this walking tour which visits Picasso’s favourite haunts in Barcelona, the city where he spent his formative years. It includes a guided visit to the museum too.
Watch the Magic Fountain
Montjuic is the site of the 1992 Olympics. On a Sunday afternoon the stadium and its huge piazza were deserted and rather forlorn. But the Olympic pools, indoor and outdoor, were open and looked inviting. The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya was closed – but we knew that the fountain in front of it was due to put on a show. So we went to the Arenas for supper and a sunset view. The former bullring is now a shopping mall with a 360 degree rooftop terrace and lots of restaurants. We picked a table facing the MNAC and watched crowds gathering in the Avenue that leads to the fountain.
Soon after sundown the show began. White fountains flanking the avenue frothed into life while the central Font Màgica erupted in every shade from grapefruit to pomegranate. We joined the crowds for a closer look on the escalators that lead up to the MNAC terrace. It’s a sort of aquatic firework display – just the thing for a hot August night.
Need to know: check ahead for dates and times of the displays.
If you’d like to see more of Barcelona by night, this open minibus tour sounds a lovely way to see the city on a warm summer’s evening. The guided tour takes in Modernista buildings, the Magic Fountain show and ends at a rooftop bar. Check out the reviews here – nb this tour ends on the waterfront so you’ll need to make your own arrangements to travel back to your accommodation.
Obviously tapas are going to be a big part of any trip to Barcelona. But the pastries are fab too. We just happened to pass La Colmena – it’s close to the Cathedral – and made a point of returning twice more. Great sandwiches as well as cakes.
Need to know: it’s all good!
Barcelona will reward you if you’re able to snatch a retail opportunity or two. I spotted plenty of tempting fashion, accessory and interiors boutiques. Sadly Vinçon, iconic temple of home goods and design, has gone. It’s still in the guidebooks but I can verify it’s not there anymore.
But Barcelona also has its share of quirky and unique stores. Here is Picasso himself in the doorway of El Ingenio at Carrer d’en Rauric 6. It specialises in the giant heads used in parades and festivals. It stocks lots of theatre and magic goods too. And it’s just as fascinating inside as you’d expect!
Gracia is a lovely district to wander, window shop and find treasures, click here for more shops we found. And after a couple of day’s diet of protein and carbs we pounced on this display of perfect fruit too.
Head to the beach
Finally you can’t really visit Barcelona without a trip to the seaside. Barcelona’s sunny beaches were actually installed for the 1992 Olympics along with two miles of promenade for strolling, cycling and people-watching. They’ve been a hit ever since. The busiest part of the beach is Barceloneta, which was packed when we arrived on a hot and breezy Saturday afternoon.
There are huge pleasure boats in the dock and a palm fringed broadwalk to stroll along – dodging electric scooter riders.
A couple of days later we set out to find some quieter sands. North of Barceloneta is Bogatell beach: easy to get to on the metro and distinctly uncrowded in the late afternoon.
We splashed around in the waves then sat in the sun until the evening. There’s a lifeguard tower – and a warning message when they go off duty – and showers as well as ping pong and volleyball. The other great plus about Bogatell is its chiringuito, or beach bar, La Guingueta Escriba.
So we ordered club sandwiches and tapas with our toes in the sand and watched the sunset reflected over the sea.
LOOKING FOR SOMEWHERE TO STAY IN BARCELONA? Click here for our guide to Eating, Sleeping and Getting Around
AND FOR MORE THINGS TO DO Click for 5 amazing sights to look out for in Barcelona. (There’s a Star Wars connection too!)
Please note that all visitor information here is for guidance only. Please check the venues’ websites for the most up to date information on tickets, entrance requirements, opening times etc.
Barcelona with Teenagers
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Looking for more inspo for city breaks with teens in Europe? We loved Rome, click here to find out more Rome with teenagers: where to go, what to do
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