A melting pot of cultures like so many port cities, Barcelona offers a wide array of excellent restaurants. When traveling as a family, the invariable question of choosing a restaurant that will make everyone happy is key. We’ve done some on-the-ground research of family-friendly places with menus that have something for everyone in Barcelona.
Top Tips for Dining Out in Barcelona with Kids
• First things first: The Spanish love kids, and the idea of getting a babysitter so you can go out for dinner is far from the norm. What many parents do in good weather is look for a restaurant that has outdoor seating in a square or pedestrian area so kids can run and play while the adults finish up their meal. Parents famously tell their children to go try and catch a pigeon, which will keep them running around for ages. Like the well-kept reality of Santa Claus, children don’t find out the impossibility of this until they are old enough to sit still for the whole meal.
• In Spain, it is hard to know if eating is a chance to socialize or socializing is unthinkable without food, but the Spaniards like to take their time — eating on the go is rarely, if ever, done. Your waiter, understanding this nuance, won’t automatically bring the check for fear of interrupting some terribly important family social moment, so when you are ready to go, you’ll need to ask for la cuenta.
• Tips are given for good service, but not out of obligation. They cannot be added to your credit card bill; you’ll need to pay them in cash. Five to 10 percent is a normal amount.
• Those looking for spicy food will be hard-pressed to find it on most menus (they send you to Mexican restaurants). The most famous Spanish dishes are made with basic, fresh ingredients, and the outcome is more European than what many a traveler has imagined before visiting.
• Traditionally, lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is eaten between 1p and 4p, while dinner is lighter fare eaten between 8p and 10p. Don’t be surprised to find that some restaurants close between 5p and 8p or won’t take a dinner reservation until later than you would expect. With jet lag, this is actually not an issue and you fall into Spanish time without really trying at all, especially in the summer when there is daylight well past 10p.
Family-Friendly Restaurants By Neighborhood in Barcelona
• The Boqueria Market. Eating at the Boqueria Market is a much a social experience as a culinary one, and may seem intimidating at first glance. Timing is everything. Go early to avoid the crowds and plan on an early or late lunch, before 1p or after 4p. There are plenty of restaurants serving breakfast and lunch (no dinner), but the best way to make the most of the market with kids is a walking picnic. Stall vendors offer cured meats, cheeses, grilled seafood, freshly cut fruit salads, smoothies, crepes (both sweet and savory) and even delicious pizza. The best bet is to have a look at the map — there is one located to the right of the main entrance close to La Rambla — or download one from their website before you visit. La Rambla, 91, 8:30a-8:30p Monday-Saturday; price: $.
• Bar Bacaro. Super-fresh ingredients, straight from the neighboring Boqueria Market, are crafted into the most delicious Mediterranean food by the very capable Chef Marco. The menu changes constantly depending on what’s in season and what’s fresh, but expect homemade pastas, salads with exquisite burrata cheese, meat stews and grilled fresh fish. Aside from the heavenly food, the service is great, and the friendly wait staff and relaxed decor make guests feel at home. They love kids and are happy to accommodate little taste buds. Bar Bacaro is located just behind the Boqueria Market on Jerusalem Street, which is pedestrianized; the restaurant has big windows facing the street, which allows kids to play within parents’ sight. Carrer de Jerusalem, 6, 1:30p-4p and 8p-midnight; price: $$.
• Escriba. Just a stone’s throw from both of the above is this step-back-in-time pastry shop, where the most magical of desserts are made and served with love every day. The shop is now owned and run by the fourth generation of Escribas. It is hard to know what is more beautiful: the pastries or the building, redecorated in 1902 by a well-known set designer from the nearby Opera House. Las Ramblas, 83, 10a-6p; price: $$.
8 ideas for a perfect day in Barcelona with kids
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• Bo de B. Opened just a few years ago, this has become the go-to place in Barcelona for healthy, freshly prepared Middle Eastern foods. A big hit with the college crowd for the large portions, low prices and delicious food, it is also a big hit with families. The seating inside is limited, so most people order to go (don’t be intimidated by the long line outside). There are a number of places within a five-minute walk to eat alfresco under the Spanish sun. Merce Street, 35, noon-midnight; price: $.
• Bliss. The outdoor cafe is set in a quiet little square, making it the perfect oasis from the hustle and bustle of the area around it. The whole neighborhood is pedestrian, so the square becomes any kid’s playground. With salads, cheese platters, a nice selection of wines, chicken dishes and the most amazing homemade desserts, it is a great midday choice. Plaça Sant Just, 4, 10a-midnight; price: $.
• Pla. Opened in 1998 by the artist Jaume Pla, this restaurant has been a secret hit with the locals for years and a go-to for really good meals in a relaxed yet stylish setting. Reservations are a must! The kitchen has a penchant for using delicious local products, and the dishes are prepared with care and style. The menu changes with the seasons, offering a choice of about 10 first and second courses that will both whet the appetite and fill the stomach. Changing photography and art exhibitions create a wonderful atmosphere to complement the food. Accommodating wait staff with a thorough knowledge of wines is the icing on the cake. And, speaking of cake, make sure to leave room for dessert. Bellafila Street, 5, 7p-11p (midnight on weekends); price: $$.
• Santa Marta. This down-to-earth restaurant with views over the Mediterranean is perfect for lunch or an early dinner any time of year. Patrons are a mixture of locals and visitors, and there’s outdoor as well as indoor seating, plus plenty of space for kids to play outside within sight. Serving freshly made sandwiches, cafe con leches to die for, homemade pizzas straight from a wood oven imported from Naples (they will proudly show you if you ask), burgers and an array of delicious salads, this place is always a hit with families. Carrer de Grau i Torras, 59, 10a-11p; price: $.
• Pez Vela. At the feet of the W Hotel on the beach, this is a wonderful choice for a casually elegant family dinner. Pez Vela specializes in grilled foods; fresh fish, meat and chicken come nicely presented to the table by friendly wait staff while you gaze out at the Mediterranean. Set in a pedestrian area with the beach within view, it makes a nice place for kids of all ages. Paseo del Mare Nostrum, 19/21 – on the beach side of the W Hotel, 1p-11:30p; price: $$.
Born/Picasso Museum Area
• Pim Pam Burger/Plats. On a side street between the Ciutadella Park and the Picasso Museum are the best burgers in Barcelona. Grilled before your eyes and made to order, these pure beef burgers will have you coming back for more. What’s equally wonderful is that this is actually two restaurants: Pim Pam Burger shares a kitchen with Pim Pam Plats, which serves prepared salads, pastas, meat dishes and more. You can order burgers in Plats, but you can’t order other food in Burgers. This is an ideal choice for nights when everyone craves familiar food but wants something different. You won’t be alone, especially on weekend nights, so try to go early. By Spanish standards this means before 8:30p. Carrer Rec, 18, noon-midnight; price: $.
• Bubo. Launched by a local pastry chef and an interior designer, this spot offers desserts that aren’t just delicious — they are true works of art. Names are equally clever (the Big MacAroon is a favorite). This is a great after dinner stop or mid-afternoon break. Seating is limited to barstools, but feel free to choose a piece of art, perch and enjoy! Caputxes Street, 10 – just in front of Santa Maria del Mar Church, 10a-11p; price: $$ (for a dessert place).
Sagrada Familia Area
• Els Pollos de Llull. A two-block walk from Gaudi’s almost-finished Sagrada Familia Church, this restaurant will have a line out the door on weekends, with locals picking up their roast chicken lunches. The space is big, so eating in is no problem; mid-week you might even have the place to yourselves. Their roast chicken is famous throughout the city and is served with potatoes, salad and grilled vegetables. This simple menu is a hit with everyone. For younger travelers, there is a play area with toys, crayons and coloring books. Napols Street, 272, 1p-11 p (closed on Tuesday nights and Wednesdays); price: $.
• Granja Petitbo. This hip, light and airy restaurant is a six-block walk from the Sagrada Familia. It is popular with locals and visitors who happen to stumble upon it. The menu includes sandwiches, freshly made fruit juices, burgers, chicken and beef dishes, salads, eggs and a special dish of the day. And, if you are longing for a Saturday brunch, you’ve found your place! Book ahead for dinner and get there early for brunch. Passeig de Sant Joan, 82 – on the corner with Aragon Street), Monday-Friday 8.30a-10:30p; Saturday 10a-midnight; Sunday 10a-5p; price: $.
Kid-Friendly Tapas Restaurants in Barcelona
Tapas are small portions of typical dishes usually eaten for dinner or a mid-morning snack. They can be anything from thinly sliced cured ham (jamon iberico) to grilled vegetables or beef stew. Tapas is a great way to try different dishes, allowing more adventurous eaters to experiment while still offering some solid choices for picky ones. Two tapas per person usually does the trick, unless you have hungry teenagers.
Typical tapas that appeal to most kids are patatas bravas (french fries with a paprika and garlic mayonnaise sauce; ask for the sauce on the side), tortilla de patatas (an egg frittata with hash browns inside), tostadas (big slabs of toasted bread with a variety of toppings), albondigas (meatballs), croquetas (very like mozzarella sticks, but made from garbanzo beans) and choricitos (mini pepperoni-like cured sausages). The following are good, inexpensive (all $) spots to sample tapas with kids.
La Rambla/Raval/Plaza Catalunya: Bar Lobo, Pintor Fortuny Street, 3, 10a-midnight
Gothic Quarter/Palau de la Musica: Cuines Santa Caterina, Avenida de Francesc Cambó, 16, 10a-midnight
Paseo de Gracia/Plaza Catalunya: El Nacional, Passeig de Gracia, 24, 10a-midnight
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Editor’s Note: Photos by Nancy Daum Dailey.