I recently spent four days exploring Costa Barcelona with the regional tourist board, BritMums and several other family travel bloggers. This destination guide Costa Barcelona with Kids has been written to highlight the best of what the area has to offer. I hope to inspire you to book a family holiday to check it out for yourself!
The purpose of our press trip was to discover what Costa Barcelona has to offer for families. It is fair to say that we fulfilled our aim… Our long weekend was action packed with visits to a family friendly winery, a 16th century castle, lighthouse, thermal spa, local markets, water sports centers, parks, a hike through a forest and photo stops at several golden sandy beaches with crystal clear waters! We stayed at three different campsites which cater for families and dined in some of the regions best restaurants serving delicious local Catalan food.
So lets start with the basics. If you are reading this thinking where the heck is Costa Barcelona, you have come to the right place!
Location – Costa Barcelona
Costa Barcelona is located in Catalonia, sandwiched between the Mediterranean sea and the mountains. The region has six counties and the following tourist destinations – Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltru, Calella, Castelldefels, Mataro, Santa Susanna, Arenys de Mar, Canet de Mar and Malgrat de Mar. The region also boasts of over 100 kilometres of unspoiled coastline, picturesque countryside, mountains and delightful fishing towns.
Destination guide Costa Barcelona with kids
What makes Costa Barcelona so special?
The main features which struck me from my time in the region were the variety of natural and man-made attractions, the ease of being able to travel to and around the region and the genuinely friendly locals.
The region has something to appeal to all ages and interests – vineyards to spectacular beaches, natural parks to world-class water sports, historical buildings to family friendly festivals/events and endless opportunities to enjoy outdoor pursuits including hiking and mountain biking. The area is also renown for its tasty Catalan food and wine. (Even after just four days my clothes felt tighter from all the delicious tapas, paella, pastries and Cava I consumed!)
With warm summers and mild winters it is no surprise that 60% of tourists visiting Catalonia are families who travel from all over Europe for a holiday, or long weekend. (Source – http://www.spain.info/en). The region is particularly popular with British families due to low-cost flights and the short two-hour flight duration from the UK.
As a parent I was most impressed to learn of the seaside towns in Costa Barcelona awarded with the official Family Holiday Destination (DTF) certification, including Santa Susanna, Calella, Pineda de Mar, Castelldefels and Malgrat de Mar. In these towns families can enjoy beach nurseries, play grounds, babysitting services, hotels with kids activity programmes, modern hospitals and health centres, restaurants with play areas and good quality children’s menus. In addition, the region offers many leisure, cultural and sporting activities for all ages.
Family friendly accommodation in Costa Barcelona
The region offers a diverse range of family friendly accommodation, from luxury to affordable, including hotels, villas, apartments and campsites. A useful website for accommodation suitable for families in the area is www.spain.info. (For non Spanish speakers, select translate at the top of the page – next select Costa Barcelona and simply tick ‘play area for children’ to find a list of 40 suitable options).
During our short break we stayed a night at Campsite Roca Grossa in Calella, one of the most popular resorts in Costa Barcelona. Roca Grossa is a large campsite with lots of facilities for children located within a short walk of a stunning sheltered beach (see video below).
Our second night was spent at La Tordera in Malgrat de Mar. A campsite which offers lots of facilities for families including a pool, sports courts and kids clubs.
Our last night was spent in a wooden bungalow at an inland campsite called El Pasqualet in Caldes de Montbui. This campsite is nestled in the stunning landscape of the Valles Oriental and therefore popular with mountain bikers, hikers and nature enthusiasts. Waking up to this view of the Farell mountain was one of the highlights of our trip. Full review of the above three campsites coming soon!
Food & drink in Costa Barcelona
Whilst exploring Costa Barcelona I found the local food exceptionally good. Catalan dishes are predominately made of ingredients sourced along the Mediterranean coast including – fresh vegetables (especially garlic, tomato, aubergine), freshly made bread, pasta, olive oil, beans, chickpeas, embutido (cured sausage), local cheeses, poultry, rabbit and many types of fish, particularly anchovy, tuna and cod.
Typical main dishes found on restaurant menus include – Esqueixada (salted cod), Mongetes amb botifarra (white beans with pork sausage) and my favourite – Pa amb tomàquet (bread which you smear with tomato, oil, and sometimes garlic). The latter is particularly good served with a cheese platter, accompanied with fresh figs, walnuts and dressed salad leaves. A popular sauce is allioli, made of garlic and olive oil, used to prepare grilled meats or vegetables.
The region is known for its sweet tradition of dessert making. Popular desserts are Crema Catalana (made with egg yolk, milk and sugar), Xuixos (fried pastries stuffed with crema catalana), Mel i Mató (mató cheese with local honey) and Carquinyolis (small crunchy almond biscuits eaten with coffee).
It is common to order tapas for sharing at the table resulting in meal times being very sociable, leisurely occasions. Locals like to eat late with lunch around 2pm and late dinners after 8pm. As it is an established wine-growing region, local wine is a popular drink to accompany meal times. The popular sparkling wine Cava was created in the region and is the Catalan equivalent to champagne.
Our group enjoyed many memorable meals during our time in Costa Barcelona. Three of my favourite restaurants which I can thoroughly recommend are –
Nui Beach Club located in Calella which specialises in gourmet tapas and various types of paella all enjoyed with beach and sea views.
Fonda Montseny a traditional Catalan restaurant located in the mountain village of Montseny with views overlooking the picturesque UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (natural park).
CBC Casanova Beach Club located on the promenade of Castelldefels. A contemporary restaurant & beach club which offers Catalan, Asian and grilled cuisine. Top tip – If you choose to dine here keep an eye out for celebrities! We spotted a Barcelona football player having lunch.
Incredible views of Castelldefels beach from Casanova Beach Club
Family friendly attractions in Costa Barcelona
A full review of the many attractions we visited during our time in Costa Barcelona can be found here – 15 family attractions in Costa Barcelona. To give you a flavour of the attractions on offer here are a few of my favourites…
Alta Alella – An organic family run vineyard located close to Barcelona. Not the obvious place to take children but here children are welcomed with open arms, fun games, chocolate truffle workshops and juice tasting (whilst parents can taste the real stuff!)
Susanna over at A Modern Mother has captured our fun experience at the vineyard perfectly in her review of Alta Alella titled – ‘Bring the Kids to the Vineyard’
Calella Water Sports Center – Offers a wide range of watersports. Kids as young as five can experience banana boating!
El Montseny Natural Park – Guided hike and scavenger trail through Montseny natural park. We found wild boar tracks, badger poo and indigenous flowers!
Best time to travel to Costa Barcelona
With an annual calendar full of events, including Oktoberfest and Christmas markets in Calella and a mild Mediterranean climate, Costa Barcelona is a year round tourist destination. Even winter visitors can expect a daily average of 7 hours sunshine. The best time to travel to the region therefore depends on visitors’ interests and priorities. The main factors to keep in mind when planning a visit include weather, crowds and dates of events/festivals.
Top tips – The local school summer holidays are different to that in the UK, with local children breaking up mid June for three months. Visitors can expect beaches to be less busy in May and the beginning of June. For a comprehensive holiday weather overview check out this useful website – www.holiday-weather.com
Getting to Costa Barcelona
There are two airports to choose from for a holiday to Costa Barcelona. The largest is Barcelona El Prat, known simply as Barcelona Airport and Girona – Costa Brava Airport.
Public transportation in Costa Barcelona
There is an extensive train network if arriving into Barcelona airport. Trains and stations are pushchair/wheel chair friendly. Local tourist boards recommend travelling by train for travelling to and from Barcelona from the main tourist destinations including Malgrat de Mar, Calella and Casteldefells. As our tour guide pointed out, the train journey adds to the adventure for kids and saves on parking fees and wasting time sitting in road traffic in the city.
For travelling outside of Barcelona or Girona hiring a car is recommended. I have been reliably informed that car rental is reasonable and that it is easy to navigate the roads with GPS. Driving between the main resorts in Costa Barcelona is a pleasurable experience, with good views and maintained roads. All resorts in Costa Barcelona are within a short drive of Barcelona and Girona.
Useful websites and sources for planning a family holiday to Costa Barcelona
Costa Barcelona tourist board – http://www.barcelonausmuchmore.com/
Barcelona Provincial Council – http://www.barcelonaesmoltmes.cat/en
Calella Barcelona tourist board – http://www.calellabarcelona.com/
Costa Barcelona online brochure – http://www.barcelonaesmoltmes.cat/
Malgrat de Mar tourist board – http://www.turismemalgrat.com/
Castelldefels tourist board – http://castelldefelsturismo.com/
I hope you have found this destination guide to Costa Barcelona with kids useful. If you have any questions keep in mind that the tourist boards exist to assist visitors. English speaking staff can help with complex enquiries regarding booking your holiday, through to helpful tips such as the best places to eat with children and the best places for free car parking, etc.
Disclosure – My press trip to Costa Barcelona was funded by the tourist board. As always, all words and opinions are my own.
Copyright – All images are copyright Travel Loving Family.
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