Summer is here, your friends from home are visiting, so chances are that sometime soon you’ll be eating out in Barcelona with a bunch of kids in tow. If you bear in mind a few things, it can be a surprisingly relaxing and pleasant experience.
A few things to keep in mind:
Opening hours can prove tricky, especially for younger children whose mealtime flexibility is limited. Few restaurants open before 1pm for lunch, and you may find staff still setting up and surprised to see you nearer 1.30pm. It’s a similar story in the evening, with most restaurants not opening until 8.00pm or even 9.00pm.
You can get around this by going to one of the many bars that do tapas. These places are usually serving by 11am and continue throughout the afternoon. You’ll find many have a decent selection of hot and cold dishes that you can adapt around kids needs and still have a satisfying bite yourself. Croquetas or a bikini (ham and cheese toasted sandwich) are my go to kid-friendly menu items, but you will usually find something that will do the job.
Although you might sometimes get lucky, kids’ menus don’t come as standard (local kids are expected to eat what everyone else eats). Don’t be afraid to ask if they could suggest something suitable for fussy eaters – often there are simple options that are not listed on the menu, like some pasta with plain tomato sauce.
Highchairs are often available, although you might have to set aside your usual standards as to what constitutes a clean high chair (or take your own wipes). Baby changing facilities are unfortunately in short supply and subject to the same cleaning standards as the highchairs.
If you keep these things in mind, you will have a great time. What makes eating out with kids in Barcelona more pleasant than in some other countries is that children are genuinely welcomed here. Pushchairs are accommodated, mess is cleaned up and less-than-perfect behaviour is generally shrugged off. The idea that kids eat out is seen as entirely normal and not as some unwelcome aberration. This makes for a relaxed atmosphere where everyone can have a good time.
So where to go?
Here are five of my favourite places to go with kids:
This giant paella factory is the perfect place to take visiting friends and relatives for a Spanish seafood feast by the beach. Don’t be put off by its location in the tourist zone – this place is also a firm favourite with locals enjoying family celebrations. It is massive, with a huge outdoor covered patio as well as an ample inside section. Despite its size it often gets full, especially on special occasions such as mothers’ day, so you’d be wise to book ahead. On weekday lunchtimes, there are several fixed-price menu options (you may have to ask) to help you keep to the budget, or go all out with the a la carte menu. Service is frenetic but friendly, and portions are generous.
(Carrer Princesa, 59 Barcelona 08003, ph: 933 152 297, map).
Pizza is always a kid-friendly option and Murivecchi does some of the best pizzas in Barcelona, along with a competent selection of pasta and other Italian specialties. The location is very handy – on one side you have Parc de la Ciutadella and Barcelona Zoo, and on the other El Borne district with the Picasso museum and Santa Maria del Mar.
(various locations in Barcelona)
This well-run Catalan chain is a reliable and good value option. They have a kids’ menu with basic dishes made with real ingredients, not junk food. It’s clean with friendly and efficient service. They’ve got a few branches around town, often in shopping areas so it can be a practical option if you are in the city with hungry mouths to feed.
(Carrer de l’Escorial, 15, 08024 Barcelona, ph: 932 10 56 11, map)
This café/bar/restaurant is my local lifesaver when the fridge is empty or I just can’t be bothered cooking. Located just by Joanic Metro station, it’s bright and clean with comfortable booths and quick, friendly service. They serve all day – coffees and pastries in the morning, tapas, a menú del día at lunchtime and all-day al la carte. Dishes are simple and satisfying with plenty of kid-friendly options. Truly one of my favourite restaurants in Barcelona.
(Av. d’Europa, 4, 08850 Gavà, Barcelona, ph: 932 50 99 09, map)
This out-of-town option can be reached by bus (L94 or L95 from Plaza Catalunya) but is easier to get to if you have a car. Gavá Mar is a 20-30-minute drive from central Barcelona depending on traffic. There is a car park for those with a reservation in the restaurant – crucial for summer weekends when parking in the area is almost impossible – so you can park, walk 100m to the beach, and come back for lunch. The restaurant serves carnes a la brasa (barbequed meat), pizzas, burgers, fish, salads and more so there’s something for everyone. They have a kids’ menu, a large outdoor dining area and even an adventure playground so the kids can run around while the adults take their time over lunch. Unsurprisingly, it fills up fast, so don’t forget to reserve in advance.