Nestled between The Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, Catalonia is an extraordinary region. It has a culture and beauty that you simply won’t find anywhere else in Spain. Whether you’ve got an active crew looking to scale the tallest mountains or you’re more in the mood for a sun-soaked beach break, you’ve come to the right place — but don’t make the all-too-common mistake of basing yourself exclusively in one of the popular beach towns! Some of the best places to visit in Catalonia require you to get a bit off the beaten path.
From hidden treasures to quintessential stops, let’s explore the very best of Catalonia, family-style.
Exploring Kid-Friendly Barcelona
Most trips begin in the capital of Catalonia and it’s a perfect place to get started. Barcelona has an endless array of kid-friendly activities. Kids of any age can have fun wandering through the nature-inspired Gaudí building then sampling the fresh fruits at the traditional town center marketplace, La Boqueria.
Explore the sun-soaked central park, Parc de la Ciutadella, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the life-sized mammoth there! Inside the park, you’ll also find a zoo and countless picturesque picnic spots. When you’re ready to get out of the sun for a bit, check The Aquarium of Barcelona then test your culinary skills at the Museum of Chocolate to make a sweet souvenir. After night falls, the free sound and light show at the iconic Magic Fountain (it typically happens every night but check the schedule before you go) is a must. Check our guides on Barcelona: Best Family Hotels, Things to Do with Kids, Barcelona Travel Guide, Discover Barcelona, and of course, best up-to-date hotel deals.
Best Day Trip from Barcelona: Sitges
A day trip to Sitges is highly recommended. Sitges is just 35km south of Barcelona and easily accessible via train, bus or car. It’s the perfect little town on the Mediterranean coast that offers anything from shopping, excellent restaurants, the best beaches in the area, or just hanging out for a day in the little streets of the pedestrian area of Sitges. Some people even make it their base for exploring the region, including Barcelona, or spend their entire summer vacation here. We have covered Sitges in detail. See our Best Family Hotels, Travel Guide, Best Family Activities, and check the best family events in Sitges (select ‘Sitges’ from the location filter below the image).
Best Places to Visit in Catalonia: Costa Brava Edition
For beach lovers, many of the best places to visit in Catalonia are in the Costa Brava. In fact, it is the go-to destination every summer for families from all over Spain. Far from the crowded beaches that you’ll find farther south, most coveted coastal spots in Costa Brava are little tucked-away beaches. Dotting the dramatic coastlines, you find gorgeous covers that are perfect for lazing away an afternoon.
Since the beaches tend to be smaller and more spread out, the best way to get around is to rent a car. When you hit the road, check out hidden beaches like Cala El Crit, Cala Portaló, Cala Estreta, Platja Fonda, and Platja Vallpresona to get away from the crowds.
Insider Tip: The government in Catalonia actually issues Family Tourism Destination Certificates and they are a great way to get a sense of how kid-friendly a spot is. In Costa Brava, the coastal town of Blanes was the first to earn the honor thanks to its safe beaches, waterparks, adventure park, and lovely green spaces.
Catalonia’s Second City: Tarragona
For families with younger kids who find a major city like Barcelona to be a bit intimidating, Tarragona is the perfect alternative. In the heart of the much-loved Costa Dorada, this city offers a perfect blend of urban fun and laid back coastal retreats. It’s easy to access all of the best places to visit in Catalonia (no car required) from central Tarragona. Plus, as a perk, you will find that the prices are much lower here than in Barcelona.
It’s a dream for active families and beach bums alike. Hike or go on horseback down the Red de Caminos de Tarragona then wander around the extensive Roman ruins. Water-loving kids will have a dream venue for snorkeling or even learning how to scuba dive.
A Day to Trip Monastery of Montserrat
Less than an hour from Barcelona, you will find one of the most remarkable spots in Spain. At the very top of a truly epic cliff, you will see the famous Monastery of Montserrat. Now, do be aware that if your kids are afraid of heights, this could be a tough one. By its very nature, you are never far from a dramatic cliff (it is indeed safe for all ages though). If you have adventurous little ones, this is a truly unforgettable destination.
To reach the peak of Montserrat, you can go up by cable car or funicular. Like many mountain top destinations, the journey there is just as magical as the destination so be sure to bring your camera. When you reach the top, you will find a museum, library, and interactive exhibits.
Heart-stopping Fun in PortAventura
Spain’s most popular amusement park, PortAventura, is a must-visit for kids of all ages. Just an hour from the Barcelona airport, you will find an incredible nine roller coasters, 41 attractions, and 40+ live performances daily. It’s listed as one of our best theme parks in the world.
And there is more than just this one park! Once you arrive, you will actually find there are three amusement parks in one. PortAventura Park, Caribe Aquatic Park, and Ferrari Land could keep you and the kids busy for days.
Thrillseekers will love Ferrari Land’s Vertical Accelerator. As Europe’s highest roller coaster This 367-foot tall terror will make you dizzy just looking at it! Best of all, it’s not just a summer destination. From magical Christmas events to spooky Halloween specials, this place is a 365 days destination. When it comes to the best places to visit in Catalonia for adventure lovers, this is number one.
Insider Tip: Feeling sick just thinking about a day full of rides? You will be happy to know there are three golf courses on-site. Like it even more low key? Check out the massive beach club with eight swimming pools beside a turquoise sea. Plus, with an international theme, you will also find all of your favorite dishes from around the globe with a price and quality level you definitely won’t find at your average amusement park.
Once you have checked out all of the best places to visit in Catalonia, check out the most family-friendly destinations in Europe.