Please sign in to post.

Spain Next April With Kids

Hello,

We are traveling to Spain next April with our two kids (they'll be 4 and not quite 2). We are seasoned travelers, as is our older child (although none of us have been to Spain). We're visiting a relative studying abroad in Madrid. We're flying into Barcelona for the first portion of the trip, then taking the train to Madrid, then train to Bilbao and flying home from there. We have multiple nights at each location, so won't be rushing through. I have a couple of specific questions:

  1. I was not planning to bring the kids' car seats. Is this a mistake? We won't rent a car, and will use public transportation. Will this present a problem trying to get from, say, the airport to the city center? Or maybe someone has done this before and can suggest a car service that would be able to transport all of us and that has car seats for those few times we'd need them? Of course, we can take the train from the airport to the city center too. In particular, our flight from Bilbao leaves pretty early, so I'm not sure the bus service will work (it doesn't begin to run until 5:15 a.m.).

  2. Any particular ideas on kid-specific things to do? I'll be researching the heck out of the trip over the next six months, but any ideas would be great. I've read about the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona and we'll obviously be going there!

  3. If anyone has ideas on good areas to stay in each city, I would appreciate it. We are going to do AirBnBs or apartment rentals. Ideal location would be a nice neighborhood, relatively close to public transportation (particular the main train station for going from Barcelona to Madrid and then Madrid to Bilbao. If it's also close to some of the main sites, even better, although we like to walk a lot.

Thank you all in advance. I'll probably have follow up questions!

Steve

Posted by
2211 posts

Hi Steve, some answers to your questions:

-1- I've not had any specific experience with such young kids. I should mention our high-speed trains (AVE) are very safe, though I've never seen a kid's car seat on the AVE.

-2- I'm not sure about specific activities for kids so young, but here's my general kids advice:

  • Kid friendly day trips/activities for Barcelona: Tibidabo Amusement Park (oldest in Spain), Dali Museum, Montserrat Hiking, Vall de Núria, Roman Ruins of Tarraco, PortAventura World Park, CosmoCaixa

  • Kid friendly day trips/activities for Madrid: Warner Amusement Park, Roman Ruins of Segobriga, Ciudad Encantada geological site (Enchanted City), Alcazar of Segovia, Parque del Retiro boating

-3- In Barcelona, I always recommend families stay in the Vila de Gracia area, one of the last corners of Barcelona still with local life. It is the "hip" place to be now, with its co-working spaces and artist studios, but also feels very cozy, welcoming, and family friendly. You see many young families living there, kids playing futbol in the neighborhood's various small squares, it has a small town feel. Gracia is within walking distance to most of the Gaudí sites and has good access to public transportation.

Posted by
382 posts

Carlos - thank you, that is extremely helpful. We'll definitely book a place in the Vila de Gracia neighborhood!

As an update, we decided to drop the Bilbao portion of the trip and spend extra time in Barcelona and Madrid.

Posted by
2211 posts

No problem, glad Gracia checked all your boxes :)

I think it's a good move to drop Bilbao (although my favourite Basque city), it will be easier for the kids, plus in April their is a potential for a lot of rain in the Basque country, in Spain we have a nice little saying for this - "en Abril aguas mil" literally "a thousand waters(rains) in April" lol!

Also, another kid friendly activity to add is the Barcelona Aquarium, right in the middle of the old port, I think that'll be fun too.

Posted by
4368 posts

You won't find taxis carrying car seats, if you intend on using taxis then bring your own seats. No need for them on the train, there are no seatbelts on trains so car seats are of no use.

My children were signifcantly older than yours when we visited Barcelona so I can't think of anything that would be suitable for them. I disagree with the suggestion for hiking with a four and not quite two year old! We actually found the HOHO bus to provide a good overview of the city and an ideal way of using it to travel around. It may not be the most cost effective method of transport but with two very young children it's certainly a lot less hassle.

Glad you dropped Bilbao, certainly not somewhere I'd choose to visit in April.

Posted by
382 posts

Thanks, JC. Just to be clear, I wasn't expecting any cabs to have car seats, but was inquiring into whether anyone has used a car service that would have them available. For both Barcelona and Madrid, it seems like we can take trains/metros/buses to get very close to the neighborhoods we want to stay in. So I think it should work to not bring car seats.

It certainly seems like the consensus is we made the right call in dropping Bilbao! It's been very high on my list for several years, but we'll save it for another time (and not in April!).

Are there particular areas around the Atocha station in Madrid that you'd recommend? It seems like it would be most convenient to stay relatively near the station, both for when we arrive from Barcelona and for the day we need to head to the Madrid airport. It seems like the area between there and Centro and Cortes generally has a lot of Airbnb availability, and would be close to additional public transportation and likes of walkable sites.

Posted by
4368 posts

I've never used a private car service in Spain so can't vouch for whether they'd provide child seats but I'd be surprised if they didn't, you'll have to check with the company direct.

Unfortunately I have no advice to offer for Madrid as I've never been.

Posted by
92 posts

Klook has car service from the airport with car seats and booster seats and i bet other transport services do as well. spain has very strict baby/booster seat laws but taxis are exempt. still, i know how awful it feels to have to risk having small children in cars without proper safety measures. you can also use a RideSafer vest for the 4 year old, but that doesn't solve the issue for the little one.

re: kid stuff, we always stay very close to parks and make sure our children have plenty of outdoor play time when we travel. for our trip in a few days, we'll stay near parc de la ciutadella in barcelona. in the past in madrid we have stayed near el retiro.

Posted by
92 posts

also, re: kid friendly stuff, my children are typical kids (i.e., not inclined to be confined or do "boring" stuff for very long) but they have really enjoyed some museums we've visited. we look for exhibits that will interest them and then try to work in some other culture along the way. :-) so, for example, in stockholm we found an armament exhibit for my son, but he also saw the rest of the palace. at 4, they really enjoyed the picasso museum in malaga. it's always a compromise between what we want to see and keeping them happy but it doesn't necessarily have to be about doing specific kid-friendly stuff. more about making stuff the other family members want to do more kid friendly.

Posted by
339 posts

We loved the La Latina area of Madrid (metro Latina) We had a spectacular 2 br 2 bath apartment one block off Calle Toledo, rented through Mad4Rent. Latina IV was the name of the apartment. Easy walk to Plaza Major and Puerto del Sol, tons of restaurants, shops, bars, grocery store etc in the area - it felt very local. Seems to me we took a taxi from the train station to the apartment, but then walked or Metro'd everywhere else.

Posted by
382 posts

Thanks again to all. Another question: to me, Tarragona looks like an ideal day trip from Barcelona. UNESCO World Heritage site with what appear to be stunning Roman ruins, within an hour by train of Barcelona, and right along the Mediterranean. Yet it doesn’t even make a mention in Rick’s book. Not even in the Roman ruins section. What’s the disconnect?

Posted by
2211 posts

Hi Steve, the disconnect is that RS Books are very focused, usually on the more touristy (i.e. popular) things, year after year, especially when it comes to Spain. Other guide books like DK or Lonely Planet are more for finding alternate sights/destinations. It's not necessarily good or bad, each has their own market, thankfully RS has this great forum for finding those gem destinations.

As I mentioned above, the Roman Ruins of Tarraco (Tarragona) is a great potential day-trip, even for youngsters, though I wouldn't consider it totally undiscovered, but it still flies under the radar compared to the likes of Montserrat. April should be a fine time to visit.

Here would be some of my tips for Tarragona:

Recs for lunch:

  • La Cúpula de Garraf: this is located about halfway between Barcelona and Tarragona, at the small beach community of Garraf, it's one of the stops on the train line. It has incredible views of the Mediterranean as it's perched atop a cliff directly overlooking the water. For here make sure to order Fideuà, which is like a Paella, but with short noddles instead of rice.

  • El Llagut: this one is located in the centre of Tarragona, on a square across from the Roman Museum. Very nice place with great local seafood, try the arroz caldoso con bogavante which is a rice dish made with a fumet of lobster, so that it tastes like the sea, it's so good!

Sights + Experiences:

  • Ancient Roman Archaeological Ensemble: The main attraction of Tarragona are of course the UNESCO designated Roman ruins, including an amphitheater, intact aqueduct, and Praetorium Tower, Tarragona was once the capital of Roman Hispania (modern-day Spain) and known as Tarraco.

  • Vermuteria crawl (for the parents) - Vermouth (Vermut), a wine-based blended drink, is the traditional drink of the southern Catalonia area. Especially in Tarragona, one can find many local Vermuterias, and hop from one to the other, doing a bit of a tasting tour. There is even a Vermouth museum in Tarragona.

  • Pont del Diable - About 2 miles west of Tarragona is a totally intact Roman Aqueduct that is worth a look too. You can actually walk over it like a bridge (if you dare). The surrounding forested area is great for some casual hiking too. Not sure how to get there without a car.

  • Museu Nacional Arqueològic (MNAT) - don't miss this great museum of Roman artifacts in Tarragona, -showcasing various unique treasures from antiquity.

  • Tarragona Cathedral - In the centre of the twisting medieval old town of Tarragona. It's had a long and rich history as first a Roman Temple, then Moorish Mosque, and finally Catholic Cathedral. The interior is textbook Gothic, with a nice cloister one can visit. Apparently one can walk on the roof too, with stunning views of Tarragona, though I have not done this myself.

  • PortAventura Theme Park (for the kids) - if you plan on spending a few nights in Tarragona, which I would recommend, you may consider stopping by PortAventura, the largest theme park in Spain, located 15 min south of Tarragona.

Posted by
382 posts

Wow thank you! Blown away by the detail of advice. Thank you so much.