The Top 10 Things to Do (Including Free Things To Do) in Malaga with Kids

The Top 10 Things to Do (Including Free Things To Do) in Malaga with Kids

If you just fly into the airport at Malaga and go onto its more ritzy neighbours like Marbella and Puerto Banus, you are missing the delightful city of Malaga itself. The Costa del Sol with kids is fabulous – you really can’t go wrong with the sun and sand formula for a family vacation. When you tire of these most famous of the Costa del Sol attractions at the hotels and mansions in Spain, head back into the city of Malaga for some great food and culture.

Malaga’s attractions are family-friendly, too. There are plenty of things to do in Malaga with kids, especially older children. Malaga’s family-friendly attractions include lots of historic buildings and charming side streets full of shops and cafes. There are also quite a few free things to do in Malaga that children will enjoy such as sampling their way through food markets and checking out the fabulous street art.

Things To Do in Malaga with Kids

Here are choice of 10 things to do in Malaga with kids:

For Junior Culture Vultures

In terms of culture you have a choice of famous structures dating back to the Romans and the Moors as well as a handful of good museums.

Malaga Spain has a charming historic district with structures dating back to Roman times

Malaga Spain has a charming historic district with structures dating back to Roman times

Historic Buildings and Architecture

The majority of the remains of the Gibralfaro Castle are its impressive ramparts which kids will love exploring. It was built in the 10th century by the caliph of Cordoba.

The Gibralfaro Castle was captured during the Reconquest by Ferdinand and Isabella after a 3 month siege. Unfortunately the Spanish were not in a forgiven mood and the entire Moorish population of Malaga were put to death or enslaved,

Fun Facts – The Siege of Malaga was the first battle where both sides used gunpowder in battle. Also, this siege was the first time special vehicles to transport victims (i.e., ambulances) were used.

The Alcazaba is an 11th century Moorish palace and fortress built on the ruins of a Roman predecessor. It’s the best preserved Moorish fortress in Spain.

Another plus point? Once you’ve climbed up to the Gibralfaro you’ll have a terrific view over the city.

The view of Malaga from the hilltop above.

The view of Malaga from the hilltop above.

The Roman Theatre was built in the 3rd century and is located pretty much at the bottom of the Alcazaba fortress. The theatre was built by the Romans under Emperor Augustus in the first century B.C.. After the Romans left, the Moors repurposed some of the stones from the theatre for the Alcazaba.

Malaga Cathedral was built over the Mosque that stood in its place when Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Malaga. It’s an impressive structure but was never completed because the project kept running out of money – even though the construction was ongoing over 250+ years!

Fill Up On Fine Art

The Pompidou Centre in Malaga is set in the city’s harbor and the colorful cuboid glass building itself is entrancing. It is the only branch of the Pompidou outside of Paris. It’s got works from the 20th century such as old favourites like Frida Kahlo, Matisse and Rene Magritte.

Set in an old mansion, the Picasso Museum showcases the works of the Malaga-born artist. The museum has works by Picasso donated by his daughter-in-law and grandson. After a redesign in 2017, the museum is arranged in chronological order and houses more than 150+ of Picasso’s works. There’s a great rooftop restaurant at the Picasso Museum which is a local hotspot in its own right.

The Picasso Museum is the most visited museum in Andalusia! Remember not to mix it up with Casa Natal which is Picasso’s actual birthplace and has only a small exhibition dedicated to him.

Deep in thought at the Picasso Museum in Malaga

At the Picasso Museum, my son is caught deep in thought. You get a handset that explains works in the museum.

For Foodie Families

Tapas Bar Hopping

In the historic centre, you can spend hours going from tapas bar to tapas bar. We visited quite a few tapas bars, mostly nameless. We did go to El Pimpi one of the more famous tapas bars in the historic district which was frequented by many celebrities, including the Picasso family (surprise!).

The Mercado Merced

Located near the house where  Picasso was born, the Mercado Merced located in the Plaza del Merced is a revitalised foodie market where you can find any number of delicious dishes to wile away a lazy lunch.

Hang out in the sunshine with tapas and wine.

Hang out in the sunshine with tapas and wine.

Free Things To Do in Malaga

Playtime at the Beach

The Costa del Sol has over 150 kilometres of coastline so chances are you will find the perfect beach for you.

A beach on the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is known for its beautiful beaches and Malaga’s beaches are no exception. Malaga has two blue flag beaches which is the highest rating for excellence you can get in Spain.

One of the fun things to do in Malaga is eat the freshly grilled sardines on the beach.

Grilling sardines on the beach in Malaga

Grilling sardines on the beach

Explore the Old Town

The historic centre of Malaga is easy to walk and fun to explore. It’s got stores, cafes, bars galore.

It’s not all tourist shops either. I found my all-time favourite camera strap at a camera store in this are and have never been able to find something similar elsewhere.

A quiet back street in Malaga

If you go away from the tourist crowds, the back streets of Malaga are charming and crowd-free.

Street Art in Malaga

Malaga has a thriving street art scene because of the efforts of a local artistic initiative called MAUS (Malaga Arte Scene SoHo). This local initiative reminds me of the home-grown efforts in Houston to revitalise an urban area with street art.

A large variety of Malaga’s street art can be found in the up-and-coming arts neighbourhood behind the Center for Contemporary Art. My kids love street art because it’s colorful and witty. And, you don’t have to visit a stuffy art gallery.

Street art in Malaga

Beautiful woman captured as street art. But why are her hands so much darker than her face??

girl posing in front of street art

My daughter can’t resist playing to the camera.

Atarazanas Market

Built in a former shipyard close to Malaga harbor in 1879, Atarazanas Market is a chef’s delight. Like other food markets we have visited, my son loved checking out the market and my daughter was aghast at the smell of fresh fish and meat.

Fresh fish being sold at Atarazanas Market in Malaga

Fresh fish being sold at Atarazanas Market in Malaga

Centre for Contemporary Art

Set in a former warehouse that was the Wholesalers’ Market, the the Centre of Contemporary Art has a fun collection of 20th and 21st artists. It’s a great museum including kid-favourite Damien Hirst and pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. And, it’s totally free!

Nearby Costa del Sol Attractions

So many families come to the Costa del Sol every year that there are some great theme parks located near Malaga.

Theme Parks

My kids have never met a waterpark that they did not like and Aqualand Torremolinos would not prove to be the exception. On a hot sunny day, racing friends on waterslides is one of the best of childhood pleasures.

Tivoli World is an amusement park which has rides that are suitable for younger kids as well as older kids. You can buy ride tickets individually (which quickly adds up and drives me crazy) or an mostly-all-you-can ride pass. Note that there are popular rides that the kids will want to ride (such as bumper cars) that aren’t in the all-you-can-ride pass.

Nothing beats water park fun on a hot day if you are a kid.

Nothing beats water park fun on a hot day if you are a kid.

Visiting Malaga

Malaga is a very easy destination to visit from the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe because of its airport. The airport is modern and easy to navigate. I know – I did it 3x in one day because I had to pick up different people from the airport!

Colorful houses in Malaga Spain

Colorful houses in Malaga Spain

In terms of accommodation, you have a choice of hotels, villas and mansions in Spain as you would expect from such a popular tourist area. We have rented both villas as well as stayed in hotels in Spain. Our kids definitely prefer villa holidays with friends because they have the freedom of a house and pool.

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15 Outstanding Examples of Street Art in Valencia Spain

15 Outstanding Examples of Street Art in Valencia Spain

Valencia is known for its futuristic architecture designed by local boy turned starchitect, Santiago Calatrava. The old city though is a rabbit warren of streets meandering slowly through hundreds of years of history. Along these back streets, you will find yourself the extensive collection of Valencia street art. Valencia’s urban art scene is so renowned that its buildings have become a canvas for international street artists.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

The street art in Valencia Spain is both extensive and excellent.

Where To Find Valencia’s Street Art

There are several main areas to find Valencia’s street art. Although there are several official street art tours of Valencia, we took the opportunity to just wander the streets of Valencia and check out its graffiti.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Murals line the side streets of Valencia.

We stayed in the old city because we were limited on time. You’ve got El Carmen which is a young and trendy neighbourhood tucked away in the north east corner of the old city. La Xerea is another one of the old city’s six neighbourhoods and is located east of the Valencia’s famous cathedral.

Russafa is another young and trendy neighbourhood southeast of the old city filled with cafes, boutiques and, of course, street art. If we had the time, I would have loved to check out this neighbourhood.

Valencia Urban Art Masters

Like in London’s Shoreditch, the city’s bustling urban art scene has attracted a lot of international artists who are keen to showcase their work. There are many local artists as well as international artists who have left their  mark on the streets of Valencia.

Here are a few of the prominent muralists you will see. In fact, their work is everywhere so that it is easy to make a search and find walking game with children. My kids will do anything if there are points and prizes involved, no matter how meaningless.

Blu is an Italian street artist with pieces all over the world. His giant mural of Moses with snakes on his beard is the most photographed piece of street art in Valencia. Of course, I took a photo of it.  In our defence, it was at the end of the street where our hotel was located and, really, I just had to.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Two of the most famous Valencian street artists meet at this corner.

Escif is a home-grown hero who has artwork of tumbling cars on a wall perpendicular to the Blu piece of Moses.

Another Italian, Erica Il Cane is one of the most renowned of female street artists. She likes large pieces featuring animals.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

A giant kitty by Erica Il Cane

I loved the masked ‘ninja’ type of men that are David Limon’s trademark piece. They have both wit and simplicity.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

A helpful “Ninja” pointing out directions by David de Limon

More Valencia Street Art

We had a great time looking for street art in the old town of Valencia. Although a very walkable city, my children are not enthusiastic urban walkers. Giving them something to look for made our tour of Valencia’s historic centre made the walking more enjoyable and keep them alert while sightseeing.

Shop Door Art Pieces

I found some of the best pieces on the metal shop doors.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

I love the use of negative space on this painted shutter.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Not really orange juice – Agua de Valencia is actually a local tipple full of alcohol.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

This car completely reminds me of Stephen King’s homicidal car, Christine.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

I love the way this cafe has placed planters to give the artwork a 3D effect.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

All the pretty flowers.

Wall Murals

Similar to the street art scene in Sao Paolo, Brasil, Valencia has lots of bare walls and buildings ready for artistic inspiration to strike.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Beautiful and colorful example of a Valencia graffiti.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Cookies! Sesame Street is always popular with my kids.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Lots of detail on this piece of art.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Street art usually has an element of political commentary.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

Bikes and mopeds are an easy way to get around the narrow streets of the old city.

Outstanding Example of Street Art Valencia Valencia graffiti | Valencia street art #Valencia #streetart #murals #urbanart

The eye on the wall?

Practicalities for Visiting Valencia

We knew we wanted to stay in the old city of Valencia which luckily meant that we were in walking distance of all this great street art. The city of Valencia is immensely walkable – in fact, the narrow, winding one-way streets make driving difficult.

Of course, there is so much to do and to see in Valencia in addition to checking out its street art! There’s a whole section of the city that is devoted to arts and sciences, a beautiful historic centre with a UNESCO world heritage status listed Cathedral and, of course, beautiful beaches.

Although we used taxis on occasion, we found that thanks to the one-way system and traffic, walking was occasionally just as fast as taking a taxi.

We stayed at the excellent Palacio de Rojas. This family-friendly apartment hotel was located on the Carrer de Quart, which turned out to be a major street art hotspot. It was also very well located for sightseeing in the city. We had a 1 bedroom apartment with a separate bedroom, pull out couch, bathroom, kitchen and cute little terrace.



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The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante

I have to confess that my husband is the haute cuisine foodie. I am an equal opportunity eater who likes a good pizza restaurant as well as a Michelin-starred restaurant. So when we decided to take a family holiday to the Costa Blanca, my husband promptly booked the two of us into the three Michelin-starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia, Alicante. The restaurant is named after the chef and owner, Quique Dacosta, who is one of the bright stars of Spanish nouvelle cuisine in the post-El Bulli phase of Spanish fine dining. Restaurante Quique Dacosta was named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world last year. We were curious about the hype!

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Restaurant Quique Dacosta in Denia, Alicante Spain has a coveted 3 Michelin starred rating.

Quique Dacosta

Quique Dacosta, himself, has a fascinating history. Born to a teenage mother, he started work in Denia washing dishes/waiting tables at the age of 14. He read voraciously about food and decided he wanted to open up a different type of restaurant.

He worked at the time at the same restaurant that would later become Restaurant Quique Dacosta. At that time though, it was a fairly standard family-owned beach town restaurant serving Mediterranean food. When he took over the restaurant, he turned into a destination for high-end Spanish nouvelle cuisine.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

We weren’t sure if this contemporary sculpture of a cow was a reference to El Bulli

Not only is Quique Dacosta one of the youngest chefs to have achieved three Michelin stars but his cooking is completely self-taught!!  Now,  he’s got the flagship restaurant in Denia, three tapas restaurants in Valencia, a soon-to-open paella restaurant in London as well as several books.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Quique Da Costa has written a number of books.

We did not expect him to be in the kitchen on the night we ate at the restaurant.  We were really surprised though when he came out and thanked us for coming to his restaurant. He even agreed to a selfie! I would never had the courage to ask Gordon Ramsay for a selfie in case he went off on a profanity-strewn tirade.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Quique Dacosta posed for a selfie with us.

Restaurante Quique Dacosta

The restaurant is housed on a white-washed villa near the beach on the outskirts of Denia. The decor is pure white simplicity splashed with modern works of art and a bevy of attentive waitstaff.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

A calm and restrained color palette

Both the starters and desserts are served outside the main restaurant.  You have a choice of a beautiful garden house or the garden itself.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

The outdoor lounge area

The interior of the restaurant is whitewashed walls, bleached ceiling tresses and Mid-century modern furniture. We recognised the Baccarat tea light holder from a meal we had at the Grace Vanderbilt Hotel in Newport Rhode Island.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique Costa Valencia

The Baccarat crystal tea light holders

Restaurante Quique Dacosta is open for a few months during the height of the main tourist season in the Costa Blanca. They close the restaurant for the remainder of the year in order to research and to prepare for the next year’s menu.  In the interim, you could always go to Quique Dacosta’s Valencia restaurants which are open all-year round.

Restaurant Quique Dacosta Menu

Like many places with such high accolades, Restaurante Quique Dacosta tells you what you will have. Both the Quique Dacosta menu and the price are fixed. I can’t eat mussels and clams so they substituted those items for me.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique Costa Valencia

Valencia Mussels as part of the starter.

The menu comes with a wine pairing which is also a set price. Alternatively, you can order from the extensive wine list.  My husband chose to go with the wine pairing and I ordered a la carte. He said the wines were excellent and he was given 8 or 9 glasses during the meal.

The Quique Dacosta Menu is actually a work of art in itself and yours to keep.  You open it up and it’s got the menu and a full-page description of the ethos of the restaurant. Inside the double-folded paper is artwork signed by Quique Dacosta.

Our menu was separated into 6 acts each of which had 3 dishes (which we decided were likes scenes in a play). Effectively you had 18 little dishes. Individually they were beautifully presented but tiny.  Together, we were feeling very full by the end of the meal.

Quique Dacosta Dishes

Everything on the menu is sourced from within 75 kilometres so you really get a sense of the local flavours. Like so many high-end places, the menu incorporated offal into the menu. Presumably, doing something with chicken breast is too last century.

There is nothing to do but show you how the beautiful presentation of the food! Some of the plates were marked with the Quique Dacosta trademark so they must have made the dishwater to order, too. You’ll have to take my word that it is delicious.

We started with Act 1 in the garden house.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Dry octopus, roe of mullet, Torta of Lin Roe, Red Tuna Belly and papadum

Then we were shown into the restaurant where there was a surprise waiting for us at the table.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

The surprise at the start of the meal.

What could it be?

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Surprise! Prawn from Denia harbour

Next, we had Acts 2-5 which came out to  a total of 12 dishes.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique Costa Valencia

Monkfish liver presented as a work of art.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Fish but what a presentation!

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Cauliflower rice, Guirras sheep sweetbread and morels mushrooms

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Slices of rare beef

Instead of being an accompaniment, the bread became a course in itself.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

Sweet corn bread

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

This was called Khaleesi but no idea how it works with Game of Thrones.

Thin tomato skin crisp with tomato mousse

The last scene of Act 6 was presented back in the garden setting. Yes, that rose really did have an edible part on top.

The Amazing Three Michelin-Starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia Alicante | Quique Dacosta Menu | Quique DAcosta Valencia

One of the dessert ‘scenes’: Cinnamon branch, prunes, petals of roses and gin tonic of apple

Quique Dacosta Further Afield

Quique Dacosta has expanded beyond his original base of operations in Denia. He has his flagship restaurant in Denia, Alicante and tapas bars in Valencia.

He is planning a chain of paella restaurants in major cities called InPaella by Quique Dacosta because he has been interested in this particular Valencian dish for years. The first InPaella is slated to open in London by the end of this year.

Quique Dacosta Valencia

The Quique Acosta Valencia tapas bars are a nice alternative if you don’t fancy having the restrictions (or price tag) of a full fixed menu.

El Poblet in the historic city centre of Valencia is a one-Michelin starred restaurant. It is Quique Da Costa’s foray into democratising high end dining with meals priced to come in less than €100. The meals at El Poblet tend to be dishes that he has served in previous seasons at Restaurant Quique Dacosta so there’s less R&D involved. Think of it as the diffusion line equivalent for a couture fashion brand.

The gastro-bar Vuelve Carolina is located nearby El Poblet. I could see me taking my kids to this restaurant because they have rice and steak dishes (and a giant chocolate chip cookie for dessert!).

Mercat Bar has an extensive menu which would work for more adventurous children as well. It’s a gastro-bar with affordable prices designed to seem like you are eating at a local street market. The food is all locally sourced but with an international touch. For example, there is gazpacho and ham baguettes but also tacos and noodles.

Visiting Restaurante Quique Dacosta

Restaurant Quique Dacosta is open for lunch and dinner. On the booking form, it asks if you need space for a buggy so presumably you could bring young children to the restaurant.  The restaurant is located at Urbanización El Poblet, Calle Rascassa, 1, 03700 Dénia, Alicante. You can book online.

Accommodation in Denia, Alicante

We were supposed to stay at a Home Exchange villa in Denia but it turned out to be a complete nightmare. We stayed one night at Hotel Villamor which turned out to be quite close to Restaurant Quique Dacosta. Although rated only 2 stars, we found the hotel to be perfectly fine.

For the rest of our trip, we rented a villa in Javia, a town nearby to Denia, through AirBnB. We rented a car through Avis at Valencia airport for the duration of the trip.  The drive from Javia to Restaurante Quique Dacosta took 20 minutes.

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Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

Everyone loves the city of Barcelona. I mean what’s not to love? This cosmopolitan city is the most visited in Spain thanks to its fabulous architecture, food, wine, weather, etc. There is so much to do outside of the city of Barcelona though that it would be a shame not to explore the environs of this city. For example, my kids thought the beach at Barcelona was fantastic until we were truly wowed by the beaches along the coast.

The Best Day Trips From Barcelona

Barcelona has a lot to occupy a visitor but it does get crowded in the summer.  I was told that the typical tourist route from one of the ginormous cruise ships involves a visit to La Boqueria, the food market, a stroll on Las Ramblas and a visit to La Familia Sagrada.  When I visited Barcelona with my children once during the peak season, we felt overwhelmed by the number of tourists in the Barrio Gotico.

With that in mind, here are five places outside of Barcelona that are easy to reach but will take you away from the crowds that can congest the city. All of these day trips are an hour or less from Barcelona so that you don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to reach them either.

Montserrat

The mountain of Montserrat is steeped in legend dating back to Roman times when it was the location for a temple to Venus. In later times, the Nazis thought Montserrat could be the location for the Holy Grail. Nowadays, Montserrat houses the basilica of Santa Maria de Montserrat which many of the Catholic faithful visit for the Black Madonna icon. Be warned, the lines are as long as at Lourdes. There is also a world-famous children’s choir, a small art gallery and a Benedictine monastery.

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

The religious complex at Montserrat is nestled into the mountain overlooking the city of Barcelona

Montserrat is a one hour train ride from Plaza Espanya in Barcelona followed by either a cable car or a funicular to the top of the mountain.

Colonia Guell

Antoni Gaudi’s next-to-last work is the Crypt at Colonia Guell, created at the behest of his life-long patron, Eusebi Guell, for whom he undertaken many projects such as Parc Guell and Casa Guell.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The relatively simple altar is similar to that at La Sagrada

The crypt was supposed to be the base of the larger church which Gaudi never finished because the Guell family changed their minds. The crypt at Colonia Guell lets you peek inside Gaudi’s thought process when he was working on ideas for the Sagrada Familia.

Colonia Guell is 20 minutes by train from Plaza Espanya in Barcelona.

Mataro

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Mataro is small but well worth a visit if you are a fan of Antoni Gaudi. The art is housed in the first building built by Gaudi – a cotton bleaching factory commissioned by a local textile cooperative.

You can see where Gaudi first used parabolic arches to give height and space to a structure. The building is beautiful even though it was meant for mere industrial purposes. During the summer months, the museum holds family activities in the evenings.

After all that cultural edification, you may want to check out the beach at Mataro which is wide, sandy and well-regarded by locals.

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

sailing off the coast of costa Barcelona

The Drunk Monk is a famous cerveceria in Mataro which servers over 250 types of beers. With a 5 star review from beer-lovers guide, ratebeer.com, this bar is located about half a mile from the Museum of Contemporary Art.  Take note, it’s beers, beers and more beers. No wines, ma’am.

You can get to Mataro in 40 minutes by train from Barcelona’s Plaza Catalunya.

Can Rosa

Can Rosa is a small family-owned organic vineyard in the outskirts of Barcelona built in the late 19th century by a wealthy industrialist. The house has been preserved in all of the splendour of the period when even King Alfonso XIII visited the vineyard. It’s a perfect peek into the life of what would have been the Spanish equivalent of the robber baron industrialists in the USA.

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

The spacious veranda overlooking the vineyards at Can Rosa

The vineyard is operated as a labor of love by a local family who produce 28,000 bottles of wine in 7-8 classes. They bought it from the original family who built the house complete with all the furnishings.

The wine falls in the category of Allela D.O. which is the smallest wine producing region in Spain. The house and the vineyard are charming.

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

Can Rosa can arrange for wine tastings in an idyllic setting

Not surprisingly, they have about 30 weddings a year at the location. The owners can prepare a picnic for you in the courtyard or in the vineyards for a fairly idyllic way to laze away an afternoon in the sunshine.

Can Rosa is located 10 minutes by train from Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona to Molet. From the town of Molet, a bus runs half-hourly up to the vineyard.

Casteldefells

The slogan for Casteldefells is “the best beach close to you” which is meant to lure the city folks from Barcelona to Casteldefells admittedly glorious wide sandy beach.  The town is also home to lots of footballers who have their large houses in the hills above the beach. With all this footfall, Casteldefells has 500 restaurants!

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

A wide sandy and clean beach at Casteldefells

The Casanova Beach Club is a popular spot for the young and trendy, including footballers. Children under the age of 14 are allowed to eat at the club (which has great food) but not use the pool. The pool has loungers etc and seems a great way to spend the day.  The no-kids-under-14 rule would so not sit well with my children though.

If you would like a spot of sightseeing, the castle at Casteldefells looms over the city. The castle started out as a church in the 10th century before it was fortified in the 12th century. In the 19th century, a wealthy local banker bought the castle and renovated it as a party pad for people he wanted to impress.

Check out the Olympic Cable Park canal built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. You have an array of water sports activities ranging from kayaking, water skiing and wake boarding as well as land activities such as archery and a children’s playground.

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

Archery at the Olympic Park

In the Garaf Nature reserve which envelops Casteldefells, there is plenty of family-friendly hiking and biking. Housed in the former home of another wealthy industrialist, the Sakya Tashi Ling Buddhist monastery is located in the Garaf Nature Park. It offers guided tours, a restaurant and a store, all devoted to educating about Tibetan Buddhism.

Casteldefells is 25 minutes by train from Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona. There are two train stations for Casteldefells – one that stops in the town and one for the beach itself.

Day Tours From Barcelona

I have chosen these day tours from Barcelona to give the visitor a sense of context for Barcelona. The city, larger than life, sits as an important hub for the surrounding area. The history and people of these areas are intertwined with that of the Barcelona itself.

Accommodation in Barcelona

We stayed by the seaside in Barcelona at the 5 star Hotel Arts. This famous hotel is justifiably lauded – the service is great, the location convenient and the views fantastic.

On previous trips we have stayed at the 4 star Hotel Royal Ramblas located conveniently on the Ramblas. My children really enjoyed the lounge with its huge windows where you can watch all the action on Las Ramblas.

We have also stayed at the Grand Hotel Central, a 5 star hotel, with an incredibly convenient location. The hotel is a 5 minute walk from the Barcelona Cathedral, sandwiched between the Gothic Quarter and the trendy Born District and an easy walk to the beach.

Accommodation outside of Barcelona

You could choose to stay outside of the city centre of Barcelona and do a reverse commute into the city for when you choose. The hotels outside of Barcelona tend to be more spacious, family-friendly and cheaper than central Barcelona hotels.

Five of the Best Day Trips From Barcelona for Families, Foodies & Culture-Vultures

A great pool, location by the beach and connecting rooms at the Masd Mediteraneo – perfect for a family-friendly holiday

In Casteldefells, the 4 star Masd Meditteraneo Hotel Apartmentos is located right on the beach. It has a pool as well as adjoining rooms which can be configured to suit families.

Similarly, the 4 star Hotel Atenea Port Mataro is located in the harbour and beach area of the town and is very family-friendly.

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Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

Huesca is one of the most beautiful places in Spain that I have visited. The landscape is varied and rugged, dominated by the peaks of the Pyrenees, rocky outcrops of stone left over from the shifting of tectonic plates and fertile fields nurtured by the rivers flowing from the mountains. The mass tourism that has become a blight in other parts of the country have not discovered this part of Aragon in the Northeast corner of Spain abutting Spain.  Their loss is your gain!

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

An easy hiking trail in Los Riglos.

To clear things up, you need to know that there is a Huesca which is a city and the capitol of Huesca, a small province in Northeast Spain.

Huesca The City

The city of Huesca has a long history dating back to Roman times. It was under Arab rule for about 400 years from the late 8th century. During the Spanish Civil War, the city and surrounding area was the site of heavy fighting.

George Orwell memorialised a famous quote by an optimistic Republican General when he was fighting alongside the Republicans as they laid siege to Huesca.

‘Tomorrow we’ll have coffee in Huesca’ had become a standing joke throughout the army. If I ever go back to Spain I shall make a point of having a cup of coffee in Huesca.

– George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Orwell never did get around to having coffee in Huesca but there’s no reason you can’t!

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

Architectural Treasures

The city of Huesca has some beautiful historic buildings such as the gothic-style Cathedral and the Romanesque Monastery of San Piedro. Built in the 12th century, San Piedro is one of the oldest Romanesque buildings in Spain.

Michelin-starred Tapas

You can bet the tapas are excellent in Huesca – in fact, there is an entire area in the old town where the tapas bars congregate. There is also one modern tapas bar, Tatau, which is the first tapas restaurants in the world, to have received a coveted Michelin-star.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

Cava sorbet on a hot day hits just the right spot

Fiesta de San Lorenzo

The festival of San Lorenzo is a very big deal in Huesca. It runs for a week in early August in conjunction with the feast day for San Lorenzo on August 10th.  San Lorenzo was a native of Huesca who was burned to death by the Romans in AD 268. Locals wear green and white, party through the streets, set off fireworks, etc – you can bet a fun time will be had.

The Espacio 0.42 Planetarium

The Planetarium for Huesca is named after its latitude and longitude (o/42). The low population density of Huesca makes it perfect for dark sky viewing. Espacio 0.42 has the capacity to show films on their big dome in English but it really does depend on how many English-speakers attend a viewing.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

The planetarium in Huesca Aragon

During the summer weekends the planetarium has family-events. You and your child spent some time together, they stay for a sleepover and you go off and enjoy yourself. Pick-up for the children is the next morning. Once again it is helpful if your children speak Spanish.

Huesca The Province

Almost 25% of the people in the province of Huesca live in the city of Huesca.  With so few people, the countryside has lots of agriculture and unspoiled beauty.  It is wonderful for active families with lots of things to do like, hiking, climbing, canoeing and skiing.

Castle of Loarre

Loarre Castle is a UNESCO Heritage site which is an impressive site to behold. Considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe, the Castle of Loarre dominates the landscape from its perch on a cliff.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

You can spot the castle de Loarre from miles away.

The castle was built in the 11th century on the remains of a Roman fort. It was never conquered – no one bothered trying – and so is still in remarkable condition! Children will love exploring its rooms, ruins and staircases.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

Parts of the castle are in ruins but much of it is still intact.

Land Adventure

Los Mallos de Riglos are sandstone rock formations which rise vertically from the relatively flat Earth. The little village of Riglos is tucked into a corner of the rocky pillars. Presumably no one in the village is worried about falling rocks? Sandstone after all is not one of the more stable and enduring rocks. Vultures and other birds make their nests in the crags of the rock formations.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

The pretty little village under Los Riglos

I’m not good with heights so I would leave the mountain climbing to my husband and the kids.  I would enjoy the hiking very much though! There are hiking trails marked by difficulty. The blue trail is good with kids and takes only 2 hours.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

A mountain climber makes his way down from the sandstone towers.

Water Adventure

The rivers run down from the Pyrenees into the valleys of Huesca. They are perfect for lots of different water-based activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, canyoning, stand up paddle boarding and white water rafting.

We went white water rafting with UR Pireneos in the Murillo de Gallegos about 1/2 hour from the city of Huesca. The company provided everything and also speak excellent English. On a hot summer’s day, white water rafting was a high-adrenaline way to cool off!

Family water rafting is available for those with children who are at least 8 years old. For older children and more experienced rafters, there is a separate course that is considered class 3 (with one sneaky class 4 thrown in for good measure).

The company also have weekly family camps where you can learn do water-based family activities together (e.g, rafting, canyoning) with an experienced guide and transport. UR Pireneos can arrange your accommodation as well if you so wish.

Skiing

Abutting the Pyrenees, in winter Huesca provides skiing opportunities as well. There are 6 ski resorts in Huesca which are a bit further west than the ones in Andorra or Bequeira-Beret where we have previously skied. The resorts are about 2000 sq. m. above ski level so snow conditions may vary from year to year.  The most extensive is Formigal with 16 ski lifts and an array of blue, red and black runs.

Practical Information for Visiting Huesca

Huesca is situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees on the Spanish side of the Franco-Spanish border.

Getting There:

You can fly directly into Zaragoza airport from London via Ryanair. Zaragoza airport is approximately one hour away from the city of Huesca. Barcelona and Madrid are a bit further away (approximately 3 hours and 4 hours, respectively).

Huesca Hotels:

In Huesca, we stayed at the modern Abba Huesca, a short walk from the city centre.  The hotel has a pool and children’s facilities.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

The inviting pool at Abba Hotel in Huesca

Although we did not  stay at the Real Posada de Liena in Murillo de Gállego, we had lunch there. It is a small and charming boutique hotel near the Los Mallos de Riglos with duplex family rooms. I thought it was pretty perfect and the only things my kids would miss would be a pool.

Family-Friendly Huesca, One of the Most Beautiful Places In Spain

The view from the Posada over the landscape is stunning

My stay was courtesy of the Aragon Tourist Board. All words and opinions are my own. This site also generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

Most people have heard of Antoni Gaudi’s famous unfinished cathedral in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia. Immensely popular, this cathedral receives some 3 million visitors a year! In the factory town of Colonia Guell, located in the outskirts of Barcelona lies the unfinished church crypt of Colonia Guell. The Colonia Guell Crypt is where Gaudi tried out his ground-breaking ideas for the La Sagrada Familia before implementing them at the cathedral. Although Gaudi was commissioned to build the church at Colonia Guell, only the crypt was ever finished. Even unfinished, Gaudi’s crypt is a masterpiece and has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

See the church near Barcelona where Gaudi road-tested some of his ideas for La Sagrada Familia

Gaudi and the Guells

The remarkable Colonia Guell Crypt came about because of the long-standing friendship between Catalan tycoon, Eusebio Guell and Gaudi.

Eusebio Guell, the best patron ever

Eusebio Guell first met Gaudi at the Paris World Fair in 1878. Guell was one of the richest men in Barcelona having taken over and expanded upon his father’s money and businesses. His father was one of the Catalans who had gone to make his money working in Cuba. Upon his return he married well and become even wealthier in Barcelona’s booming textile industry.

Eusebio became a patron to Gaudi in the style of the great Italian Renaissance families. Leonardo da Vinci had the Medici, the Sforza and Cesare Borgia for patrons. Gaudi only needed one patron because Eusebio pretty much gave him a blank check to do whatever he wanted.

The Results…

Among the works that Gaudi created for Eusebio Guell were Park Guell, Palacio Guell and the crypt at the Church of Colonia Guell.  These are some of Gaudi’s greatest works and all three are UNESCO World Heritage Listed.

“I don’t like your architecture. I respect it.”

– Eusebio Guell to Antoni Gaudi

Thank goodness Guell recognised Gaudi’s expensive genius which has continued to appear relevant in the contemporary context. In the favelas of Sao Paulo Brasil, we met a man who has converted his entire house into an homage to Gaudi. In Rio de Janeiro, we have visited the famous mosaic steps created by the Chilean-Brasilian artist, Jorge Selaron, who also cited Gaudi as an inspiration.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

Intricate mosaic work at the front entrance

The Church of Colonia Guell

In 1898, Eusebio Guell asked his favourite architect to build a church for the workers at his factory town, Colonia Guell. Gaudi agreed but said it would take a while. He was busy working on La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. He also wanted to use the church of Colonia Guell as a working design laboratory for the cathedral.

The original plans for the Church of Colonia Guell

It took Gaudi 10 years to prepare the plans for the Church of Colonia Guell. The results were what you would expect from someone who dreamed up La Sagrada Familia.

Gaudi didn’t do anything on a small scale. The original plan called for a ramp up to the main church which would be laid over a smaller church. The smaller church at the bottom would be for everyday masses for the workers. The top church would be a grander affair. Its 40 meter tower would be as high as the factory’s tower so that Eusebio Guell would be able to spot his property from a distance.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The crypt with the flat roof where the upper church would’ve been

Did Eusebio Guell blink? Not at all. He was delighted. He gave Gaudi the usual unlimited budget. Every architect’s dream.

Why the build came to a screeching halt

Gaudi worked on the crypt from 1908 until 1914. Old man Guell had 10 children and was getting on in years. In 1914, two of his sons paid Gaudi a visit and told him that the crypt was good enough for a factory town. They were spending no more money on either Gaudi or their father’s expensive vision.

Not only was Catalan Modernism a very expensive architectural style (all those flourishes and artisanal touches take time and money), Gaudi would redo stuff he didn’t like. It was after all a design lab for him. He’d tinker away at features until he was happy. Why not? Money was not an issue.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The inclined pillars inside the church are all different including the one on the left which is made of basalt stone

Considering Eusebio Guell died in 1918, Gaudi would not have finished the church of Colonia Guell even if the sons hadn’t stepped in four years earlier. It took Gaudi 10 years to come up with plans, and 6 years to build the basement. How long do you think it would have taken to build the upstairs church?

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The windows in the Crypt are placed so that they follow the light of the sun throughout the day

Currently, Gaudi’s Crypt is a fully functional little church because it got consecrated as one in 1915. It’s roof has been paved and is the floor for what would have been the full completed church of Colonia Guell.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The relatively simple altar is similar to that at La Sagrada

Gaudi’s Crypt

Gaudi’s crypt is a hodge podge of his ideas. Most of these ideas did not make it to La Sagrada Familia. You can see, however, many of Gaudi’s ideas in action.

  • There are no straight walls in the crypt in line with Gaudi’s belief that curves are what nature intended.
  • The front of the crypt is full of inclined columns which hold up what would have been the ramp up to the  main church.
  • Lots of references to nature and there are arches everywhere.
  • You can see the use of trencadis – mosaics made by broken tiles.
Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The giant arches inside the Crypt

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

These windows open up like a butterfly

Colonia Guell

The Colonia Guell is a factory town made in the model of British factory towns. Catalans had brought the ideas of the British Industrial Revolution to Spain. Similar to the situation in Britain, the new machines were feared and unpopular with workers. Barcelona was rife with unrest. Factory owners decided to move out of the city and stick their workers in the middle of nowhere where they would be more isolated.

There are about 100 factory towns in Catalonia. In 1890, Eusebio Guell moved his textile factory to one of his properties at Santa Coloma about 25 kilometres outside of Barcelona. For all intents and purposes in those days, the area would have been Nowheresville, Spain.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

Even though it was a factory town, Colonia Guell was built on decorative Catalan Modernist principles

Eusebio Guell had Colonia Guell built on fairly liberal principals. Looking around you can tell that he was not a penny-pincher. The three main buildings in the town were the Church, the factory and the school. The school was closed on the day we went but is an impressive building.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

The grand school Guell had built for the workers’ children at Colonia Guell

There were about 1000 workers are Colonia Guell. They were housed in little houses with toilets and gardens. They could keep chickens and rabbits to help with food.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

Workers’ houses at Colonia Guell

Of course, Guell wanted everyone in the town to know who was responsible for their good fortune. The main town square has a statue of him where people would have to pass multiple times a day as they went to work or to school.

Antoni Gaudi’s Crypt at Colonia Guell, a Catalan Modernist Factory Town

Don’t you forget about me.

Visiting Colonia Guell and Gaudi’s Crypt

You can visit Colonia Guell fairly easily by car, bus and train from Barcelona. There are reduced priced tickets for students. You can get an audioguide tour or guided tours for either the crypt, the colonia or both.  We had a guided tour and I thought he was excellent. You can’t visit the actual factory at Colonia Guell because it is used as a business centre.

Accomodation

If you chose to stay in Barcelona, we can recommend the three hotels that we have used. We have stayed by the beach at the 5 star Hotel Arts, on Las Ramblas at the 4 star Hotel Royal Ramblas and the 5 star Grand Hotel Central in the Gothic Quarter.

On this trip, I stayed at Hotel Masd Mediterraneo in Casteldefells, an upmarket suburb of Barcelona. It took us 20 minutes by car to reach Colonia Guell. Casteldefells is a charming town with a great beach. In fact, it’s known as the beach where locals from Barcelona hang out. The hotel was modern, spacious and luxurious – definitely better value than staying in central Barcelona.

I was hosted on this visit by Costa Barcelona which has had no effect on my opinions or endorsement. This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.