- MARVEL AT THE MAGIC FOUNTAINS – Sure, they’re touristy (‘Ola! Selfie!’ shout the vendors selling selfie sticks here), but the stellar displays of light, colour and aquatic acrobatics at Magic Fountain of Montjuic, in the Montjuic neighbourhood, will wow even the most jaded cynic. To find out for yourself, take the metro to Placa d’Espanya, Barcelona (Thursday to Sunday in summer; Fridays and Saturdays in winter).
Magic Fountain of Montjuic
- GET THAT FC BARCELONA FEELING – From a museum stuffed with trophies to a megastore bursting with Barcelona goodies (Messi travel mints, anyone?), the FC Barcelona experience isn’t exactly subtle. But seeing a game beats everything. Chants of ‘Barca, Barca, Barca!’ ring out around the stadium. Catalan flags billow. “You get a real close look and you see it in real life when they score,” says Sam. “You’re basically right beside the greatest footballer in the whole world.” We see Ney mar’s Ferrari. Dani Alves runs around like the Duracell Bunny. Suarez fights for everything, and at one stage, looks like fighting the goalie (“I hope he doesn’t bite him,” Sam quips). My daughter Rosa (10) has brought a book (“1 might suffer from deadly boredom,” she warns). It never comes out of her backpack.
- FIND NEMO AT L’AQUARIUM – A moving walkway keeps the crowds moving through the 80-metre tunnel in this aquarium’s largest tank, the tropical area offers plenty of kicks for fans in search of Nemo or Dory, and kids aged 8-12 can stay overnight on the first Friday and third Saturday of the month (holidays excluded) for €90 (£80), although you’ll need sleeping bags.
- BUFFET AT LA BOQUERIA – La Boqueria is the quintessential Barcelona market (get there early to dodge the crowds). We pick our way from stall to stall, buying paper cones of Manchego cheese, skewers of jamon, and end up pigging-out at a gigantic candy stall. It’s a brilliant exercise in bustle — and we return later for tapas at Casa Guinart. A few skillets of patatas bravas with garlic and chilli sauce, a plate of velvety anchovies and more nibbles makes fora fine, good value, supper.
- EAT CHURROS IN GRACIA – One of my bribes forgetting the kids to explore hip Gracia is the promise of fresh churros. We find them at a food truck at Placa de Lesseps, the man draws the dough, clips off finger-shaped portions, pops them into oil and they sizzles away till golden. Handed to us in a brown paper bag, with a Styrofoam cup of chocolate sauce, they’re wolfed down on a park bench, for all of €4 (£3.50). Be sure to hop off the metro at Fontana, too — the Mercat de la Llibertat is worth a mosey.
- GAUDI’S GEMS – “Buildings don’t have to be about straight lines and square windows.” That’s our kids’ verdict on the cartoon-like architecture of Antoni Gaudf. At the Park Guell, we peruse its swirling balconies, fairytale houses and vibrantly tiled gecko (Sam spots that one of its eyes is the base of a bottle). Gaudi’s Palau Guell is another hit.
- CHECK IN: LE MERIDIEN BARCELONA – At Le Meridien, our suite comes with a great turn down service (including cookies and chocolate milk), free tickets to the Palau Guelland a selfie stick. The slate-tiled bathroom with a rain shower and his-and-hers closets and location near La Boqueria aren’t bad, either.