Destination guides, Europe, Wanderlust

MummyTravels guide to the Costa Barcelona

If you had to name one of Europe’s top city breaks, you’d probably pick Barcelona – no surprise really, as it’s only a short flight from the UK, with great weather, fabulous architecture, a beach, great food, and a popular cruise port. But how many people venture further outside the city? Not so many…

View of the beach through grasses looking out to sea on the Costa Barcelona - one of 13 reasons to visit Costa Barcelona with kids

Frankly, they’re missing out. Oh the Costa Brava to the north is no great secret, or even the Costa Dorada to the south; but the Costa Barcelona, the stretch of coastline around Barcelona itself has plenty to tempt, from beaches and watersports to vineyards, castles, forest and ancient hot springs, not to mention making a great base to explore.

When I was invited to explore by the tourist board, I discovered it’s great for families too – here’s my guide to the Costa Barcelona, and why it should be on your holiday list for Spain.

Getting there/around
A string of airlines fly directly into Barcelona El Prat airport, from both London and regional airports – too many to list. You can also take the Eurostar and connect to high-speed trains across France and in to Barcelona, spending less than nine hours on board (plus a connection in Paris) is you pick the right trains.

The train from Barcelona runs along the seafront to destinations including Calella, Malgrat de Mar, and Casteldefells, although if you want to explore further afield, it’s worth hiring a car.

Where to stay
We spent our trip at various campsites along the coast near Calella and Malgrat de Mar, with safari tents at Camping La Tordera as well as lodges to choose from. But you’re not short of choices with seafront hotels, family apartments and AirBNB. Check out some of my favourite accommodation if you’re travelling with kids or my review of Camping Roca Grossa.

What to see
Considering how much there is to choose from, it’s astonishing that this area gets overlooked for its more popular neighbours. To start off, here are 13 things to do on the Costa Barcelona, including if you’re travelling with kids.

If you’re after adrenaline thrills, head to Castelldefels where you can try cableskiing or canoeing at Canal Olimpic, created for the Barcelona Olympics – it’s also home to some very stylish beach clubs (keep an eye out for footballers) and the old fortress which has withstood pirates and the Spanish Civil War.

If you’d rather discover more about the region’s Cava, one of the vineyards should be on the list – we sipped ours at Alta Alella which has fabulous views down to the sea, some very lovely wines, and activities for kids.

If you simply want some beach time, try Malgrat de Mar, also home to a gigantic playground, or to Calella which was one of my favourite parts of the trip. We visited on one of the big feast days but there are events running year-round, as well as being named an official Catalan Family Holiday Destination, with plenty to entertain kids and help keep them safe. Don’t miss the lighthouse, with some fascinating history and great views onto the water. There are more beach clubs to discover there, and the chance to work up an appetite out on the water first – high-speed banana boat optional.

If you’d like a complete contrast to the coast, Montseny Natural Park was another favourite – the pretty village high in the hills is worth a stop but the woods themselves have something from gentle strolls along the river to more intense hikes taking you through a range of scenery. And while the activities our guide showed us were intended for kids, they were huge fun.

If you’re looking for history, Caldes de Montbui should also be on the list. The Romans knew about the hot springs here, and you can still bathe in the thermal waters today, while various springs in the town pump out steaming water and the museum is a great introduction to life here over the centuries. The imposing church has its own stories and legends, along with some beautiful stained glass – check out my photos from Costa Barcelona for a taste.

And the city itself? Definitely worth a day trip – whether you’re travelling to Barcelona with kids or without. The Travel Hack has a great Barcelona guide to start you off, while if you have small kids in tow, check out Tinbox Traveller’s 48 hours in Barcelona with a buggy as well as her review of the Barcelona aquarium.

If you’re travelling with teens, Family Travel Times got a 14-year-old to share her Barcelona favourites. Or football fans should check out the Camp Nou Experience from the Family Adventure Project.

What to eat
Everything… Sitting in the sun, soaking up the views of the sea and scenery, you suddenly start to understand why lunch in Spain is a major event. Along with traditional paella, discover a baked version and fideua, using noodles rather than rice, addictive ‘Pa amb tomàquet’ bread rubbed with tomato and garlic, traditional Catalan dishes including ‘canalones’ – similar to cannelloni but with a distinctive twist – and rabbit.

There’s endless ham, cured meats and cheese, plus seafood, pastries. Basically you won’t go hungry.

Plan your visit
For more information on the local area, check out the tourist office website, whose slogan is ‘Barcelona is much more’, as well as the guides from my travel companions including Travel Loving Family and One Tiny Leap.

And check out the Spain Travel Guide from Lonely Planet, as well as their Discover Barcelona guide for more on the city.


My guide to the Costa Barcelona in Spain - from vineyards and castles, to forest, beach clubs, watersports and hot springs, the coastline outside the city of Barcelona has plenty to tempt visitors to this part of Spain


Share your tips – if you’ve been to the Costa Barcelona (with or without kids), please add any advice and links in the comments!

Disclosure: My trip was courtesy of the Costa Barcelona tourist board. All opinions, suggestions and tomato bread addictions are my own.

Images and video copyright MummyTravels