Kids in Barcelona
Moving to Barcelona with children in tow? How lucky! You are about to have a fantastic experience. Barcelona’s mild weather and dense urban center make it a fun and easy city to explore with your kids. Children are welcomed and loved in Barcelona. Don’t be surprised if your children are constantly offered Chupa Chups (lollipops) everywhere you take them. Barcelona’s location on the beautiful Mediterranean and close proximity to the Pyrenees makes it an ideal spot for families to take a break from city life and explore nature.
Many expat families from around the world call Barcelona home. As a result, there are many expat networking organisations, international schools, shops stocked with goodies from back home and several activities in English.
Meet other expats in Barcelona
You will have no trouble meeting other expats in Barcelona. Even if you plan to get to know the locals, you will want an outlet where you can speak your language and ask questions of those who understand what you are experiencing as an expat.
The Barcelona Women’s Network (bcnwomensnetwork.com) is a group of more than 200 women from over 30 countries offering a wide range of activities to suit any mood. The BWN members also organise family outings and a weekly English play group.
MamAmigas.org is an international English-speaking parents group whose members organise play groups and activities while sharing valuable tips and resources for expat parents.
More groups ranging from The American Society to the Scandinavian Club can be found at MumAbroad.com and KidsinBarcelona.com.
Education in Barcelona
Selecting a school for your children is usually your first concern when moving abroad. For many expat families in Barcelona, finding the perfect school can be a challenge. The public system is the best for fully integrating in the local culture.
Public schools in Barcelona are taught in Catalan, while Spanish and English are offered as second and third languages. The public school timetable seems to be structured very differently than what many find back home. The school day starts at 9am and ends around 4:30pm with an hour or two for lunch, in which the children can go home to eat.
Public school selection is determined by a point system. While you receive the most points for the school in your neighbourhood catchment, it is not a guarantee that your child will attend the school closest to their home. This also gives you an opportunity to apply for a school that is appealing in a different catchment area. During the beginning of the new year, schools hold Open Days, where you can visit the schools. School registration takes place in January/February for the following September.
International schools such as The British School, The American School and Benjamin Franklin, The German School, French Lycée, Escuela Suiza, The Japanese School, and Scuola Italiana are affiliated with their home country and teach in their native language.
Families looking for an alternative to traditional school systems choose Waldorf or Free Education/ Educacio Lliure schools. Homeschooling is also a growing movement among expat families. There are also private schools that are not affiliated with any particular country, pedagogy or religion that may teach in English, Spanish and Catalan following a Spanish curriculum. Concertadas are semi-private, which means lower tuition and typically religious.
At the age of three, children start going to pre-school from 9am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Although school is not compulsory until age 6, nearly all children attend full-day, every-day pre-school, which explains why the parks are empty during the day and crowded at 5pm. If you would like a less rigid pre-school schedule, it is best to look at some of the private pre-schools, which usually have a higher number of foreigners in attendance.
Many expats have organised English-based playgroups, art, drama and music lessons and even a soccer team. The best ways to find these activities is to join one of the English-based networking groups or forums on MumAbroad.com and KidsinBarcelona.com.
Entertainment and sightseeing with kids in Barcelona
Nearly every month, there is a festival where you can find loads of free children’s activities organised by the city of Barcelona. You can sign up for updates from PetitBCN.com. MumAbroad.com and KidsinBarcelona.com are other great sources for activity and event schedules.
Barcelona has many interesting museums, beautiful parks and activities for children. Below are some favourites.
A hands-on science museum that is as beautiful as it engaging and will delight children and adults of all ages. The highlight is the Flooded Forest (Bosc Inundat), where you can stroll through 1,000 square metres of Amazonian rainforest. Birds will cross your path as you see turtles, snakes, crocodiles and piranhas. One of the planetariums shows different 3-D movies about science. While the other planetarium teaches children about the stars and planets in a manner they can totally grasp. You can register for workshops like TocaToca, where you can touch real animals and insects from different climates. On a clear day, the rooftop café has magnificent views of the sea.
Kids love taking a ride on the high-wire cable car tram stretching from the port of Barceloneta to the hill of Montjuic while offering beautiful views of the city and sea. Great sights are at both ends. In Barceloneta, the Boat Museum (Museu Marítim), the medieval shipbuilding yard that houses a replica of a 16th Century galley (mmb.cat) is a short walk. On the other end, explore the beautiful gardens and parks of Montjuic along with numerous museums, such as the Joan Miró Fundació (fundaciomiro-bcn.org) and the Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (mnac.cat). There is also another aerial tram on Montjuic that takes you up to the Montjuic Castle.
Website : www.telefericodebarcelona.com
Another high altitude attraction. This time a unique amusement park reminiscent of old-fashioned fair with just the right mix of modern rides to keep older children happy. The charming Tramvia Blau funicular takes you to the top of the hill from the train station.
Art and theatre for kids in Barcelona
Barcelona boosts a full cultural agenda for children. Music halls, theatre companies and museums all offer cultural programming for families and children. Some of the activities, such as concerts, shows and tours can be done as a family. There are also many programmes offered for children only, which means mom and dad can stroll the museum solo.
Barcelona’s opera house, Liceu, offers a fabulous and engaging program for children.
Parents will love the world-class exhibitions at this art museum housed in an old textile factory. Children will love the interesting monthly concerts, theatre and film programmes. While the museum entrance is free; workshops, concerts and films require tickets - typically a couple euros. If you have a Barcelona library card, you can receive a discount.
Food and dining out with kids in Barcelona
Catalan food is flavourful, simple and showcases the bounty of the Mediterranean. But sometimes, you miss a good old burger and fries. Of course, you can find chain restaurants, like the Hard Rock, to cure your craving. Fortunately, burger joints are all the rage in Barcelona, so you don’t have to hang with the tourists to get your fix. There is even a website (thebestburgerinbarcelona.com) dedicated to ranking the best burgers.
Sometimes it may take a little investigation, but you can usually purchase hard-to-find food and ingredients from back home. El Corte Ingles (elcorteingles.es) in Plaza Catalunya (the regular supermarket and separate gourmet shop) and DeliShop (delishop.es) stock a good variety of ingredients for international cuisine. You can find your American and British goodies at A Taste of America (tasteofamerica.es) and A Taste of Home. Asian ingredients, and some American and British products as well, can be found at Extremo Oriente supermarket (dongfang.es/es/tiendas) near Plaza Catalunya.