Kids in Barcelona
Expats moving to Barcelona with children in tow are bound to have a fantastic experience. The mild weather and dense urban centre make it a fun and easy city to explore with kids.
Children in Barcelona are welcomed and loved, and expats shouldn’t be surprised if their children are constantly offered Chupa Chups lollipops everywhere they go. The Catalan capital’s location on the beautiful Mediterranean and its proximity to the Pyrenees mountains 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 the city home. As a result, foreign parents will have access to many expat organisations, shops stocked with goodies from back home, several activities in English and a variety of international schools in Barcelona.
Meeting other expat parents in Barcelona
Parents should have no trouble meeting other expats in Barcelona. Even expats who plan to get to know the locals need an outlet where they can speak their own language and ask questions of others who understand their experiences.
The Barcelona Women’s Network, for instance, is a group of more than 250 women from around the world which offers a wide range of activities and a source of support for foreign women in Barcelona.
There is a range of these kinds of organisations and they can easily be found on Internet search engines.
Education in Barcelona
Selecting a school for their children is usually an expat’s 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, with Spanish and English offered as additional languages. Public school admission is determined by a point system. While the most points are received by children who live in a school’s catchment area, it is not a guarantee that they will attend the school closest to their home. This gives parents an opportunity to apply for schools in different areas. Schools can be visited at open days during the beginning of the year while registrations for the following September take place around early February.
On the other hand, international schools in Barcelona are affiliated with their home country and teach a familiar curriculum in their native language.
Families looking for an alternative education system can choose between Waldorf or Educacio Lliure (Free Education) schools. Homeschooling has also been growing among expats. There are also private schools which usually follow a Spanish curriculum and may teach in English, Spanish and Catalan.
Children start going to pre-school at the age of three. Although school is not compulsory until age six, nearly all children attend full-day pre-schools, which explains why the parks are empty during the day and crowded at 5pm. Parents who would like a less rigid pre-school schedule, should investigate private pre-schools, which usually have a higher number of foreign students.
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 an English-based networking group or forum.
Entertainment and activities for kids in Barcelona
Nearly every month, the city organises a festival with loads of free children’s activities. There are many interesting museums, beautiful parks and activities for children in Barcelona. Below are some favourites.
An interactive science museum that is as beautiful as it is engaging, children and adults of all ages will be delighted. The highlight is the Flooded Forest, where visitors stroll through around 10,760 square feet (1,000m2) of Amazonian rainforest that is occupied by birds, turtles, snakes, crocodiles and piranhas. One of the planetariums shows 3-D movies about science, while the other teaches children about the stars in an easy to understand manner. Families can register for workshops like TocaToca, where visitors 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 Montjuic hill while offering beautiful views of the city and sea. There are great sights at both ends. Barceloneta boasts the Maritime Museum and a medieval shipbuilding yard, while Montjuic has beautiful gardens, parks and museums to explore.There is also another aerial tram on Montjuic that takes visitors up to the Montjuic Castle.
Another high altitude attraction, Tibidabo is a unique an old-fashioned amusement park with just the right mix of modern rides to keep older children happy. The charming Tramvia Blau funicular takes visitors to the top of the hill from the train station.
Art and theatre for kids in Barcelona
Barcelona boasts 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 various programmes for children only, which means that expat parents can stroll the museum on their own.
One of the most famous attractions is the Petit Liceu Opera House, which offers a fabulous and engaging programme for children.
Parents will love the world-class exhibitions at this art museum, which is 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. Expats with a Barcelona library card usually receive a discount.
Food and eating out with kids in Barcelona
Catalan food is flavourful, simple and showcases the bounty of the Mediterranean. But sometimes expats miss a good old burger and fries. Of course, these can be found in chain restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café. Fortunately, there is quite a selection of burger joints in Barcelona, so residents don’t have to hang with the tourists to get their burger fix.
Sometimes it takes a little investigation, but hard-to-find food and ingredients from back home can usually be found in stores and online. El Corte Ingles in Plaza Catalunya and DeliShop stock a good variety of ingredients for international cuisine. American and British goodies can be found at A Taste of America and A Taste of Home, while Asian ingredients can be found at the Extremo Oriente supermarket near Plaza Catalunya.