When we decided to make our first family foray into European travel, we thought long and hard about which destination would be best for taking a young toddler. I spent a great deal of time researching travel guides and online travel forums in order to glean as much information about each area as possible.
What criteria did I use in my search? I looked for family friendly destinations (not necessarily children’s amusement parks, but things the whole family would enjoy such as aquariums and science museums). I also searched for a place that made families with young children feel more welcome.
What did I discover? The people in the guidebooks and forums raved about Spain being a family friendly place. From what I gathered (from the advice of Spain natives as well as our trip experiences) the Spanish culture is a very family centered culture.
In Spain, dining out is a family affair (little tykes included) and can often go late into the evening. I was happy to discover this since we often take our young daughter out to eat with us. (We don’t push it by taking her to fine dining establishments.) In some countries when we’ve dined out we have found ourselves to be the only ones in the restaurant with a child in tow. Also, the streets and plazas of Spain are filled with children, especially during the evening “paseo” (family stroll). I loved watching mothers and daughters of all ages walk arm and arm along the cobblestone streets. Another family-centered scene that stuck in my head from our visit was of the multiple generations of “kids” playing soccer in the neighborhood plazas. Unlike some other European countries, many places in Spain (subways, shops, etc…) are stroller friendly.
So what family-friendly places did we visit in Spain? Oceanografic, Europe’s largest aquarium in Valencia is a must-see. Many parks and gardens including The Retiro Park and Jardin Botanico (botanical gardens) in Madrid are lovely places for kids of all ages. The amazing Boqueria market in Barcelona offers many exotic sights, smells, and tastes for visitors. La Barceloneta is one of Barcelona’s beaches along the Mediterranean Sea offering beautiful scenery, sunbathing, and seashell collecting. No family visit to Barcelona would be complete without a trip to the chocolate museum, Museu de la Xocolata. This is just a small sampling of what visiting families can enjoy in Spain. We have many things on our list to repeat and try new when we return.
Like much of their climate, the Spanish are a warm people who made us feel very welcome. I can’t wait to go back and get to know them better.