Returning to Barcelona with a baby

We were so excited to return to Barcelona, almost four years after Justin brought me for the first time to celebrate my birthday. This time, we had a lot more luggage…and a 3.5 month old baby. It ended up being the most incredible idea and I was so glad we booked it during the early stages of our bleary-eyed post-baby state.

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About Barcelona

Barcelona is a bustling city known for it’s arts, food and architecture. Home of the famous Sagrada Familia church and many other fanciful landmarks by the imaginative architect, Antoni Gaudí, it is an incredible city to walk around and explore, tour and eat in. There are tons of great cities within an hour of Barcelona for some quick day trips, as well as other Spanish and European cities an easy train ride away.

How to get there

When flying with a baby, nonstop flights are ideal. Too bad we didn’t take our own advice. But it still ended up working out okay. We got a flight from San Francisco-London, had a short but not too rushed layover in London and then hopped the two hour flight to Barcelona. We flew British Airways and reserved a bassinet seat for Juliette which made the flight so comfortable for us. Here are the details about the flight and how we did it with a baby.

When we arrived in Barcelona this time, since we had so much stuff, we got a taxi to and from the airport. But there is an airport shuttle right to/from Placa de Catalunya which is quite convenient if you want to opt for that instead. Also, public transit in the city is quite easy to get and navigate — and all stations had elevators — so if you don’t feel like walking, you have good transit options, even with a stroller.

Where to stay

Once again, we decided to stay near Placa de Catalunya, which is super central. It is near shops, restaurants, public transit, La Rambla (and La Boqueria Market 🙂 and a short walk to the beach. When traveling, we love being in the heart of things and this is definitely the heart.

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Since we were there for two weeks (and figured we’d be at the house with Juliette much more than if we were traveling without a baby), we decided to get an extra comfortable Airbnb with a beautiful outdoor patio and second bedroom; and of course, laundry. It was so perfect for us.

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Our favorite restaurants 

Barcelona is for sure an eating city. Below are the “must eat at” and “can totally skip” restaurants. Notes added for which are stroller-friendly. Highlights from our eating adventures in Barcelona a few years ago on this post.

Overall best food

Once again, we had amazing food at Tapas 24. They had my favorite patatas bravas (fried potatoes with aioli and spicy red sauce), awesome fideua (a noodle-like paella) and some of the best rose around. (Justin’s note: His favorite patatas bravas were at La Alcoba Azul — we still debate this one.)

TIP: Indoor seating was very tight, down a set of stairs and all tables were high-tops with bar stools. Definitely not stroller-friendly. They had outdoor seating which could accommodate a stroller. We went once with Juliette in the carrier and back again (late lunch/early dinner when it was quiet) when Juliette was in the stroller.

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We also discovered a new favorite in a quiet square in the Gothic Quarter called La Alcoba Azul. The food was outstanding and it was charming to sit outside during lunch under the umbrellas. It was so good we went back a second time — which was rare when in a city with so many great restaurants.

TIP: Indoor seating would be impossible with a stroller because it was so narrow and tight. There were four tables outside with plenty of space in the courtyard, so if you are there during the day and can wait for a table, it is totally worth it.

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The most amazing gelato is at a place called DelaCrem. I had mascarpone with coffee and almond with amaretto and Justin had passion fruit and cherry. This has got to be one of the best ways spend calories. As I was eating my cone I considered staying in the courtyard so I could go back and get a second one. Pretty seriously.

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If you’re looking for an easy bite without waiting for a table, Tapa Tapa is a good option. It is a big chain and you can find locations in most major areas, but we found the food to be quite solid — certainly better than Txepela, which is another chain you’ll see all over.

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When you’re ready for a break from tapas and looking for something healthier, go to Honest Greens, right at Placa de Catalalunya. They have super fresh, local food and they are open late. We went there several times.

Restaurants to skip

Last time we were here, we loved Cerveceria Catalan. This time it didn’t wow us. The octopus was fantastic, but the other dishes were not awesome. It was fine but we definitely won’t go back. Apparently we don’t agree with all of the reviews.

TIP: This is a very family friendly restaurant. We went early (~6:30pm), only waited about 15 minutes for a table and saw tons of babies, children and strollers inside. It was no problem to park our stroller next to our table while we ate.

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The folks who own Cerveceria Catalan also own Cuitat Comtal, a block away. The wait was long and the inside area near the host stand is like a mosh pit of tourists. By the time we finally sat down inside with Juliette (which wasn’t easy with our stroller), we were totally underwhelmed by the rushed service and mediocre food. It felt like a tourist factory. Despite the great reviews, we think you can skip it.

What to see

There are so many amazing sites to see in Barcelona — from art, to architecture, to museums and churches — it was great to have already seen a lot of it during our first visit so we felt less pressure to hit all “the big spots.” That said, we did revisit some of our favorites and discovered a new favorite (hint: human tower building!).

La Sagrada Familia

We toured this incredible church last time we were here but we couldn’t return to Barcelona without coming back.

TIP: If you go, be sure to reserve tickets online in advance. To avoid additional fees, book directly, not through any third party site (it isn’t necessary). There is not a huge price difference between the audio tour and guided tour. We opted for the guided tour and we were so glad we did. It is a one-hour tour and super informative. 

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Gaudi everything

During our last visit to Barcelona, we went to Parc Guell and Casa Batillo. They are definitely worth a visit if you haven’t seen them before. This time we took the one-hour tour of the Palau de la Musica Catalana. The building was beautiful and you can only see it on a tour or by seeing a concert. If we didn’t have a baby, it would have been great to see a concert there. The guide recommended attending a daytime concert so you see all of the beautiful light streaming in through the glass windows.

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Castelleres

A real highlight for us was seeing the human tower building by the Castelleres de Catalunya which we didn’t get to see the first time we came to Barcelona. Neighborhoods “compete” and build towers where they climb up each other and stand on each other’s shoulders, with the biggest people on the bottom and small little kids (in helmets) on the top). We saw towers with seven layers of people. It was incredible! We went and watched in the Gracia neighborhood, which is also a charming neighborhood to walk around in and where we took a walking food tour during our last visit.

TIP: Check the schedule of exhibitions and competitions (mostly on weekends). It is usually done in a neighborhood square or park. Don’t miss this. Check out their website for times and locations.

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Things to do with a baby

We hauled Juliette around everywhere we went but one of our favorite ways to spend the afternoon was to head out to lunch and then bring some snacks and our picnic blanket and head to Ciutadella Park where we’d lounge in the park for a few hours. The weather was perfect for some outdoor tummy time and the park was filled with families, people sunbathing and friends hanging out.

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There is also a zoo right there in the park which we didn’t go to but would be a nice thing to do with kids (who are awake). There is an aquarium down near the beach that we didn’t make it to on this trip but would like to next time.

If you’re traveling with a small baby, like we were, take advantage of them sleeping so much! It was great to head out to dinners with her totally zonked out in her stroller. Lunches were a bit more hit or miss but we got pretty lucky and enjoyed quite a few lunches completely uninterrupted (until she woke up with a big poop and we got creative with an outdoor changing table).

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We also just loved relaxing, weather in the park, on our balcony or hanging around our Airbnb. And since we were on the go, I was nursing everywhere!

What to pack (and what to buy)

This entirely depends on where you go, but it was so helpful for us to research about the city in advance. For example, in Spain, Pampers diapers are sold under the brand name Dodot. It was also helpful to read about which grocery stores carry them (go to the big Carrefour Market on La Rambla which has everything! The department store El Corte Ingles also has great selection in their basement grocery store but a bit more expensive).

TIPS:

  • Bring enough of everything for the first few days. Even though we planned to buy diapers and wipes here in Spain, we were so glad we brought enough to get us through a few days. The first few stores we went to didn’t have diapers so although we found them on the second day, it had been raining and it was nice to know that even if we didn’t want to venture out in the rain, we had enough to last us. Same goes for any critical supplies.
  • Stay in a place with laundry. If you are staying anywhere for more than a few days, having laundry is key. We learned this during our first trip to Maui when we stayed in an Airbnb and were so grateful for the laundry and kitchen.
  • Pack for unpredictable weather. The weather report for Barcelona looked pretty warm and we figured Juliette would mostly be in sun dresses but we threw in warm clothes just in case it got chilly. So glad we did! When we arrived it was rainy and cool, so we were happy to have some extra sweaters, thicker pants and fleece Zutano booties for Juliette. Having a few extra layers for us was nice too!
  • Decide which “luxuries” you want to bring. We decided we’d bathe Juliette in the sink, which totally worked, so we didn’t bother with a travel bathtub. We did, however, shlep our small grass drying rack (and tree!) which took up some suitcase space but was wonderful given the bottles and pump parts we were regularly washing. We also brought a fold-up picnic blanket since we figured we’d spend many days hanging out at the park. Both of these were not totally necessary but very nice to have — especially for a trip of this length.
  • Don’t forget toys and books. This totally depends on how big your child is and how much entertainment they need. We brought two fun rattly toys for Juliette (with lots of Boomerings attached to play with) and also a few books. For the books, bring books you really like, since you’ll be reading them over and over and over again. We couldn’t wait to get new ones in the rotation when we got home!
  • Bring burp cloths, and a blanket. We thought it would be totally unnecessary, but we brought a bunch of burb cloths, two washcloths and her blanket. We went through all the burp cloths, were so happy to have soft washcloths for her bath, and we covered her with the blanket almost every day (and night) when it got cool.
  • Other packing tips…all on our first blog post about traveling with a baby. They mostly all still apply!
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A map of some of our favorite spots:

Our little flamenco dancer loved Barcelona!
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Have you been to Barcelona? Do you have other favorite activities, spots in the city or restaurants? Comment below.

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