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Europe

9 Things To Do In Venice

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Venice to me is like a trip back through time. A place with narrow alleyways leading to hidden restaurants and ancient cathedrals, with water lapping gently at the sidewalk as you walk along the canals. It’s literally a place out of a fairytale and considering it is slowly sinking, I think it should be on every traveller’s must-see list before it’s gone forever.

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The capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, Venice is built on over 100 little islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Images of its stone buildings rising out of the water have brought 20 million tourists a year from all over the world to wander through its maze-like alleys. There are no cars and roads in Venice – just boats on canals. It’s a unique place steeped in history that I would love to visit again.

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When you visit Venice, whether it be a day or a week, be sure to do the following:

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1. Get lost
Put down the map and just wander the alleys and explore the tiny squares they will take you to. Venice is at its most authentic when you get off the beaten path and just go where your feet take you to.

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2. Take in the view
Catch an elevator 98 meters up to the top of the San Marco Campanile and get a birds eye view of this amazing city. At street level Venice is a rabbit’s warren of twists and turns and you need to get up high to really see the full impact of this city perched on top of the ocean. Get there early or just before closing to beat the queues.

3. Eat gelato
Ingest as much of it as you can, from chocolate and vanilla to tiramisú and stracciatella. Gelato contains less butterfat and air than regular ice cream and has no artificial flavorings or preservatives. Basically gelato is heaven and the Venetians do it damn well.

Venice via christineknight.me

4. Go to church
From its Byzantine domes and luminous mosaics to the 24-carat gold leaf paint, Basilica di San Marco is a sight that won’t be forgotten. Dress modestly when you visit (ie cover your knees and shoulders).

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5. Be a bird of a feather
Don’t be tempted to feed any of the 130,000 pigeons that frequent Venice’s historic centre as it’s now banned. If you’re tempted to get the classic “bird on head” shot, you’ll need to lure the pigeons without birdseed that was once sold in Piazza San Marco. The crack down is an effort to curb the “immense damage” caused by the birds, which costs taxpayers €16 to €23 per year in cleanup costs.

Venice via christineknight.me

6. See the city by sea
Technically see the city by canals, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. If gondolas aren’t your thing, hire a kayak, flag down a water taxi or relax aboard a cruise. This city is meant to be visited and viewed at water level.

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7. Soak up history
A visit to the Doges Palace is a lesson in Gothic architecture and Italian opulence. Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, was the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice) and the seat of its government for centuries.

8. Carb load
I had the best spaghetti carbonara in a tiny hole in the wall cafe in Venice. Forget any carb-free diet you might be on and just enjoy the best pasta of your life.

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9. Hear voices from the past
Join countless other tourists taking a selfie at the Bridge of Sighs, the bridge that crosses the channel between the ducal palace and prison. Built in 1962, it’s a somewhat notorious sight as the bridge was used to move prisoners directly from the court to their prison cell. The name “Bridge of Sighs” came from the vivid imaginations of the locals as they thought they heard (or perhaps really did hear!) the complaints of the convicted prisoners who crossed it.

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Venice via christineknight.me

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Venice via christineknight.me

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Venice via christineknight.me

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First time in Venice? Check out this guide.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

The Best Castles In Europe: Neuschwanstein Castle

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Many moons before the little Cheese came along, hubbie and I travelled foot loose and fancy free all over Europe. One place that has stayed with me as something out of a fairytale is Neuschwanstein Castle.

This castle is one of the most beautiful (and popular!) in Europe, and is a place that photographs do no justice to. It’s impossible to capture in a picture the majesty of this spectacular castle, perched high in the mountains.

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We visited Neuschwanstein Castle, nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace, when we were visiting Munich. We did a day tour out to the castle that included a fantastic bike ride around the country side, and ended up at the village Hohenschwangau, at the bottom of the castle.

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Neuschwanstein Castle was home to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a supposedly shy king who built the palace to keep the public at an arms length. It’s ironic that after the solitary monarch’s death his home is now one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe, with around 1.4 million visitors a year.

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Our visit was on a busy day, but the timed tour groups meant that the inside of the castle never felt crowded. It was fascinating learning about the shy king who lived in such a magnificent dwelling – like something out of a children’s fairytale. Out on the terraces people gathered in larger amounts trying to take selfies or admiring the view. It was a lot more chaotic than the photos would lead you to believe.

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Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle can only be visited within a guided tour.

Entrance tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle can only be bought at the Ticketcenter in the village of Hohenschwangau below the castle. More info. To get from the ticket office to the castle, you can take the 30-40 minute walk (Around 1.5km uphill) or check out these other options.

Info from the website: Your entrance ticket is valid for a guided tour of the castle at a particular time. We would like to explicitly point out that the tours begin punctually. Please allow sufficient time to get up to the castle, as if you arrive too late you will no longer be able to participate in the tour.

Please note that during the high season entrance tickets for a particular day may be sold out. We would therefore ask you to reserve your tickets well in advance.

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Neuschwanstein Castle
Hours: 19 March to 15 October: 9am-6pm
16 October to 18 March: 10am-4pm
Open daily except 1 January and 24 / 25 / 31 December
Admission: From 12 euros (adult) / 11 euros concession). Children and young people under 18 are free.

Neuschwanstein Castle via christineknight.me

Getting there (c/o the castle website)
By car or coach
Take the A7 motorway (direction Ulm-Kempten-Füssen) until the end. From Füssen first follow the road B17 to Schwangau, then the signs to Hohenschwangau
or take the A7 motorway until the exit Kempten and then the road B12 to Marktoberdorf. Follow the road B16 to Roßhaupten – OAL I to Buching – and then take the road B17 to Schwangau and Hohenschwangau.

By public transport
Take the train (www.bahn.com) to Füssen, then the bus RVA/OVG 73 in the direction to Steingaden / Garmisch-Partenkirchen or the bus RVA/OVG 78 in the direction to Schwangau until you reach the stop Hohenschwangau / Alpseestraße.

Information about the local bus lines: http://www.rvo-bus.de

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Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Barcelona: Casa Batllo

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One of Antoni Gaudi’s most well-known masterpieces in Barcelona, Casa Batlló is must-see architectural work in the centre of Barcelona.

 

Casa Batlló is the former residence of the Batlló family, built in 1877. Gaudi was commissioned to redesign the building between 1904 and 1906. He replaced the original facade with a completely new front of stone and glass, and had the external walls redesigned to give them a wavy shape, plastering them afterwards with lime mortar and a mosaic of fragments of coloured glass and ceramic discs.

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This Gaudi masterpiece is a work of fantastical imagination. It really looks like a setting of a surrealist dream. Every room is full of magic and fantasy – a blend of colours, shapes and light. Of Gaudi’s four most popular works, Casa Batlló is the smallest, and is easily do-able with children. There is very little to break, and a lot to see.

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While the house is famous for its steep staircases, it is also wheelchair and stroller accessible. The most important parts of the house can be accessed by the elevator. The rooms are tight, however, so I would advise leaving a stroller downstairs if possible.

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A special feature of the Casa Batlló is the video guide that is included in the price of general admission. While the audio is certainly interesting, the most exciting part about this guide is the iPod it is connected to, which gives a virtual reality tour of the house while you are walking around. Holding up the iPod to various features in the room gives an alternative view to showcase the architect’s boundless imagination.

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We had thought Cheese would be too young for this video guide, but of course it is a screen and hence she loved it. Casa Batlló is extremely welcoming to children, and has a section of their site dedicated to how kids can enjoy their visit.

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When visiting Casa Batlló, tickets may be purchased in advance to save queuing up. We did this but then found there was no queue, but on busy days this could be helpful.

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Casa Batlló
Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Adults 21.5 Euro, juniors (7-18) 18.5 Euro, kids 6 and under free.

Looking for more of Gaudi in Barcelona? Get info on visiting his crypt.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia

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The highlight of our Barcelona visit was, without a doubt, Sagrada Familia. The pinnacle of Antoni Gaudi’s architectural achievements, Sagrada Familia, is the number one thing you absolutely must see on your trip to Barcelona.

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Gaudi worked on Sagrada Familia for 43 years, from 1883 until his accidental death in 1926. Gaudí was buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.

The Sagrada Familia is temple, built to be a symbolic expression in stone of the Christian faith. It is also a place for people of all faiths to share love, harmony and peace together.

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Most notable for me about Sagrada Familia was the stunning coloured glass windows that crated rainbows of light across the room. Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia to be a celebration of light and colour. He was quoted as saying that colour was the expression of life, which is why colour is such an important part of the temple.

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When visiting Sagrada Familia, book your tickets online in advance. Queues form early, with admittance limited to timed intervals. We didn’t book ours online and regretted it when we lined up for over half an hour to get our ticket, and then had to wait another hour to get in.

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Lucky for us there is a park across the road from Sagrad Familia with a decent little playground in it that kept Cheese entertained while we waited to get in.

Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me

Once inside the temple, remind kids to keep voices low and to stay close by. The temple requests visitors keep from raising voices (eg shouting) and also from running.

Sagrada Familia has towers that can also be visited, but only by children aged six and over. People in wheelchairs are also not permitted up in the towers.

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Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me Sagrada Familia With Kids via christineknight.me

La Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Adult: €15, Children under 11 are free.
Allow at least 1 hour for your visit.

Visit the towers is an extra €4,50 extra per person

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Barcelona: Parc Guell With Kids

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A big drawcard for many (including me) with Barcelona is the amazing works of Antoni Gaudi. One of his famous works, Park Güell, makes for a fabulous short day trip out of the city.

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Park Güell is a large park split into two different areas: the Monumental Zone, which requires the purchase of a ticket, and the free access area which is open to all visitors at no charge.

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To get to the park, catch the underground line L3 to the station Lesseps. From there it’s about 10-15 minutes by foot (follow the signs from the station). It’s all very accessible until you get to the last stretch up the hill, where an escalator or stairs are required to enter the park.

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While you don’t need to get a ticket in advance to enter the monumental zone, it’s recommended that you do as visitors are limited to 400 each half hour.

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Antoni Gaudí built the Park Güell as a tribute to nature. Gaudi was tasked with the project in 1890, with the park opening to the public in 1922. Along with the Sagrada Familia, this is the largest of Gaudi’s projects. In 1984, the park was included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage.

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There are several levels and areas to the park, the most famous being the blue lizard in the middle of the staircase that runs directly through the centre of Park Güell. The staircase leads to a room consisting of 86 Romanesque columns, designed to be a marketplace for the residential area. Interestingly, this was the originally purpose of the Parc Güell.

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Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

The park is a challenge for wheelchairs and strollers. I suggest taking a carrier or light umbrella stroller if you must have one. You are not permitted to leave the stroller at the entrance and several areas are only accessible by long flights of stairs.

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Park Guell Day Trip via christineknight.me

After walking through the park you can take a short stroll (200 metres) from the main entrance easterly to the Gaudí Museum. The museum is inside Gaudi’s former resistance and was opened in 1963 as a museum.

Park Güell
Tickets: 7 Euro adult, kids 6 and under free but must have a ticket.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Barcelona: Montjuic Day Trip

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Montjuic Castle, on top of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona, Catalonia, is an old military fortress dating back to 1640. It makes for a great day trip out of the city, offering stunning panoramic views of Barcelona, a walk through Barcelona’s historic past, and a fun cable car ride to boot.

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While you can walk up and down Montjuic hill it’s much more fun to take the Teleferic de Montjuic cable car in at least one direction (I suggest up!). The trail that leads up and down the hill is smooth and wheelchair/stroller-friendly, but who really wants to push someone up a hill when you can have a scenic ride instead?

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We caught the cable car straight to the top and visited Montjuic Castle (also called Castelle de Montjuic) first. I’ve learned when travelling with a small child to always go straight to the main event and then downwards in priorities as you never get to see everything you want when a small person is dictating your schedule.

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A visit to the castle takes around an hour – a bit longer if you are able to check out their exhibitions. We preferred to enjoy exploring the castle grounds. The entry level is stroller/wheelchair-friendly, but if you want to see the top level of the castle access is stairs only.

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The ground level has lots for kids to explore, with nooks and crannies and rocks to climb, all set against the spectacular view of Barcelona on one side, and the ocean on the other. There is a very small stall selling drinks, ice creams and snacks. Kids can freely run around in the wide spaces, but you will need to keep a close eye on little ones who might run too close to wall edges. We have thankfully passed this stage and had a wonderful time climbing over walls and scampering over rocks.

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The top level of the castle has four really fun turrets at each end that were excellent for playing hide and seek in as well as admiring the view and architecture from.

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Barcelona: Montjuic Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Montjuic Day Trip via christineknight.me

After the castle visit, make your way back down the hill. The quickest way is the cable car, but we chose to walk to the next cable car stop, and discovered a children’s playground featuring two steep slides that were too dangerous for our preschooler, but no doubt would thrill older kids.

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We jumped back on the cable car for the last part of the journey, but you can also continue walking down through the gardens of Parc De Montjuic.

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Montjuic Castle
General Admission: € 5, under 16 free

Teleferic de Montjuic cable car  
Adult return ticket: €11.50, single ticket: €7.80
Child return ticket (from 4 to 12 years old): €8.40, single ticket: €6.00

Visiting Montjuic with a baby? Get tips here.

 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Barcelona: A Day Trip To Montserrat

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This breathtaking monastery perched on a mountain top is a day trip from Barcelona. An hour by train followed by a cable car (or rack railway) up the mountain, the whole experience is very accessible for families and strollers.

Trains leave every hour from Placa Espanya and go directly to the mountain, where you change to either the cable car (Aeri ticket version) or rack train mountain ride (Cremallera ticket version). When you buy your tickets from Placa Espanya, choose between the cable car and rack train – they are not changeable. You will need to get off the train a station earlier for the cable car.  The train is easy and fast – just use this guide to make sure you board the right train on the right platform.

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We chose the cable car because it looked like the most fun and it’s also a bit shorter. There is no seating on the cable car and strollers need to be folded. For larger strollers or if you will need to sit down, take the rack train instead.

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Up the top, there are mountain walks for the more adventurous. Take one of two short funicular rides to see even more spectacular mountain views (a funicular is a mountain train that goes up or down steep slopes). We took the funicular down to Santa Cova cave and chapel, an important pilgrim site where an image of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been seen (an additional €3.70 return unless you buy the combined ticket).

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The winding path to Santa Cova runs along the cliff face. It’s not very suitable for strollers or wheelchairs so I’d advise staying up at the monastery if you rely on either of these – or if you have a child who is likely to bolt over the edge of the cliff face, as there are no barriers around the walk.

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We are thankfully past the age of bolting toddlers and managed to complete the walk without any near death experiences. The walk from the end of the funicular to the chapel is speckled with massive religious carvings that have been placed along the way, embedded into the rock face. The chapel at the end was built to blend into the rock face, and appears like a secret opening into the cliff. Please note that the chapel is considered holy and visitors are asked to be quiet.

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The other funicular options is up the mountain (an additional €10.00 return unless you buy the combined ticket), which promises magnificent mountain views of Catalonia and the Montserrat mountains.

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

There’s plenty to see and do around the main area of the monastery too, such as a museum (better suited to older kids) featuring works by Caravaggio and Picasso, and the 1000 year old basilica.

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

The Montserrat Boys’ Choir sings daily in the basilica at 1pm – while the choral voices are magnificent it gets very crowded and the organ is extremely loud and a bit jarring. It’s a bit much for little kids with sensitive ears.

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

Barcelona: Montserrat Day Trip via christineknight.me

When planning your visit, pack plenty of water, particular in summer. You can take your own food or dine in the reasonably-priced cafeteria with basic food on the mountain.

Montserrat was a highlight of our Barcelona trip. It’s a spectacular site to behold, and is an easy day trip out of Barcelona, even with young children.

Montserrat Day Trip:

Train fare plus cable car/rack train: Adult Return €20.20, Child Return €15.65 (children under four are free)

Trans Montserrat Ticket €29.30
This combined ticket includes return train fare from Barcelona to Montserrat and either cable car or train track mountain train ride to the monastery, 2 return journeys on 2 different funicular rides once you are at the monastery, and 2 free metro rides with this ticket (value of €2.15 each).

Want more tips on a Montserrat Day Trip? Bel Around The World managed to get in much more hiking that we did!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kids

Travel Guide: #Barcelona With Kids #familytravel #Spain via christineknight.me
I’ve always dreamed of travelling to Spain, and recently spent a wonderful week in Barcelona with Alec and the Cheese. Spain is crazy cheap right now, making it an affordable holiday option.

Park Guell #Barcelona via christineknight.me

Bring a stroller
Cheese used her stroller so infrequently in Sydney that we gave it away. We bought a cheap stroller on our 2nd day after we’d walked between 10 and 15 kms and carried our jet lagged, exhausted kid for much of it.

Hotel Barcelona Catedral: Barcelona Travel Guide via christineknight.me

Stay central
Barcelona is really spread out. We stayed at Hotel Barcelona Catedral and were very happy with the location (right near the gothic cathedral, restaurants and Gaudi sites) as well as the quality of the actual hotel. It also had a pool on the roof which we used a few times when we were taking a break from site seeing in the afternoons.

#Barcelona with Kids via christineknight.me

Barcelona and kids
Kids are tolerated in Barcelona. Not welcomed, exactly, and certainly very little to cater for them, but you’ll be able to to take kids basically everywhere with you. Lots of metro stations have elevators, making stroller-access easy. If you’re checking out some of the Gaudi houses or Park Guell, you’ll find that there is nowhere to park your stroller. There are very few playgrounds for kids, and the ones we found were for toddlers. There are very little in the way of attractions for kids, too, unless you want to go to the beach, aquarium or zoo. All of the “adult” attractions are do-abe with kids (and usually free for little kids as well), which was our focus for the trip.

Escriba Bakery #Barcelona via christineknight.me
What to eat and drink
While the water is drinkable, it tastes a bit off. We bought bottled water at nearby supermarkets. We enjoyed trying local food like tapas, paella and sangria. Pretty much every single restaurant and cafe we stopped by was delicious and offered a wide variety of food, so even the picky child could find something to eat. We particularly enjoyed a bakery called Escriba that had delicious tarts, macarons and chocolate as well as savoury food like quiche. Food in Barcelona is very cheap – you can get coffee and a croissant for €2.

Getting around
The Metro system is very fast and easy to use. The cheapest way is to buy a T10 ticket, which gives you 10 single fares at a discounted price. Be prepared for few elevators by bringing an umbrella stroller or baby carrier.

Where to go:

Sagrada Familia: Barcelona With Kids via christineknight.me
Sagrada Familia
This was our favourite place in Barcelona – a Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was magical beyond belief.

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Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona with kids via christineknight.me

Tip: Familia is on everyone’s Barcelona bucket list, so buy your tickets online to avoid the queue. If you’re waiting around with kids, there is a playground in the park across the road. Read more about our experience here.

Parc de la Ciutadella: Barcelona With Kids via christineknight.me
Parc de la Ciutadella

A 16 hectare park on the northeastern edge of Ciutat Vella, it features a giant mammoth, boating lake with a waterfall, band stand, a massive fountain, playgrounds, and the Barcelona Zoo.

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me
Literally hours of entertainment (particularly running up and down those stairs), but nowhere to eat – so BYO picnic lunch.

Montserrat #Barcelona via christineknight.me Montserrat
This breathtaking monastery perched on a mountain top is a day trip from Barcelona. An hour by train followed by a cable car (or rack railway) up the mountain, the whole experience is very accessible for families and strollers. Up the top, there are mountain walks for the more adventurous, two short funicular rides up and down areas of the mountain to various lookouts, a museum (better suited to older kids) featuring works by Caravaggio and Picasso, and the 1000 year old basilica, which is suitable for everyone.

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me

The Montserrat Boys’ Choir sings daily in the basilica at 1pm – while the choral voices are magnificent it gets very crowded and the organ is extremely loud and a bit jarring. It’s a bit much for little kids with sensitive ears. Pack your own lunch and snacks, or dine in the cafeteria and restaurant on the mountain. The cafeteria is reasonably priced and has basic food. Getting there by train is easy and fast – just use this guide to make sure you board the right train on the right platform. Read more about our experience here.

Park Guell #barcelona via christineknight.me Park Güell
A masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi, it’s a short train ride and steep uphill walk that is worth the effort. Park Güell has 2 different areas: the Monumental Zone, which requires the purchase of a ticket, and the free access area which is open to all visitors at no charge.

barcelona-park-guell-8 Parc Guell - Barcelona with kids via christineknight.me barcelona-park-guell-15 barcelona-park-guell-12

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me

The monument zone is spectacular, full of stairs, twisting buildings and tiled masterpieces, surrounded by floral gardens. Plenty to entertain kids even if all they enjoy doing is running in and out of columns. Read more about our experience here.

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me
Cathedral Barcelona
A gothic cathedral with a soaring ceiling, the cathedral is best visited early in the morning to avoid queues (also, it’s free to visit in the morning).

Barcelona Cathedral - Barcelona with kids via christineknight.me

Barcelona Cathedral via christineknight.meWalk through to the cloisters to meet the cathedral’s pet ducks.

Basa Batllo #Barcelona #Gaudi via christineknight.me
Casa Batllo
A famous Gaudi masterpiece in the centre of Barcelona. Cheese enjoyed climbing the many stairs and looking for the dragon whose tail pokes over the top of the roof. She also stole my virtual reality video guide and entertained herself with it while we marveled at the modernist masterpiece.

Gaudi architecture - Barcelona with kids via christineknight.me

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me

Casa Batllo caters best to older kids, but is suitable for all ages. Read more about our experience here.

Montjuic #Barcelona via christineknight.me
Montjuic Castle
Take the Montjuic Cable Car up the top of the hill to Montjuïc Castle, an old military fortress, with roots dating back from 1640. The view is spectacular and kids can freely run around in the wide spaces.

Travel Guide: Barcelona With Kid via christineknight.me

Montjuic - Barcelona with kids via christineknight.me

Walk back down the hill through the gardens of Parc De Montjuic. Just down the hill from the castle entrance is a children’s playground featuring two steep slides that were too dangerous for our preschooler, but no doubt would thrill older kids. Read more about our experience here.

Magic Fountain #Barcelona via christineknight.me
Magic Fountain of Montjuic
The “magic fountain” lights up and plays music at night. It was on too late for us with a preschooler, so we visited during the day instead.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

South of France, The Highlights

After an amazing week in Paris, we flew south to Montpellier, picked up another hire car, and drove to Arles for a two-day stay.

Arles is famous for two things – most recently, Van Gogh lived and painted here, but a long time before that, Arles was conquered by the Romans. The remains of the Roman civilisation are still visible in Arles, including the theatre, baths and arena. We were lucky enough to see a gladiator match being put on in the arena when we visited.

Arles is a funny place – from the outside looks quite run down and old, but the narrow streets remind me a lot of Venice – a rabbit warren of streets, revealing treasures tucked into corners. The insides of the derelict buildings have all been renovated, so it’s quite the town of surprises.

The Roman arena.


From Arles we drove to Carcassonne, where we rented an apartment for four nights. Carcassonne is quite amazing to see when you approach the city. The old city is perched on a hill top and is quite majestic!

We spent a lovely day exploring the old city.


The area is rife with castles and is rich in history, particularly from the Cathar period. Many of the castles are actually more like fortresses, designed to protect the people, and the Cathars, from the religious crusades.

The castles are just amazing. Perched on the top of mountains in terrain that is so inhospitable it’s just extraordinary imagining people climbing up and down, or laying siege to, in every-day life.

One of the castles, Montsegur.

Sunflowers – everywhere!


Lastours castles.

Matchy-match at Lastours.

Final view of Carcassonne.

We ended our France leg by driving to Toulouse, spending the night, then catching a flight to London early the next morning.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Paris, France – Getting Engaged!

The absolute highlight of both Paris and the trip was getting engaged.

Alec went to a lot of effort to create the perfect day for me, and it truly was!

First, Alec booked an amazing hotel for us to stay in for two nights, called Jays Paris. They also upgraded our room for free, which was unexpected! The hotel was made up of only six suites, all of which were individually themed, and extremely luxurious. The service is also what sets Jas apart. We found chocolates on our pillows, fresh fruit left for us in the evening, and the weather report was put under our door each morning! Our suite looked over a private garden, so we could enjoy looking at beautiful flowers every morning.


Since I had fallen sick when we drove through Giverny, we decided to take a day trip back. It was so beautiful – the most amazing day trip. The gardens are just so exquisite I can see how Monet was inspired to create his masterpieces here. Alec told me later he was planning on proposing at the gardens, but the ring was stuck in the bottom of his bag and he couldn’t get it out!


Next on my perfect day was chocolate shopping and dessert sampling at Fauchon, a Paris institution that was recommended to me by my dear friend Masa. We spend a few happy hours here buying delightful chocolate and trying more avante guard desserts, like the one below (it looks like any other tart, but believe me when I say I think I found the source of Zumbo‘s inspiration!)

We decided to go out to dinner somewhere special for our last night in Paris, and went back to the hotel to get changed. I was ready to go and waiting for the taxi in our suite when Alec came around to where I was sitting, dropped to one knee, and presented me with a Tiffany & Co box.

Even though we’d been talking about marriage for a while, nothing prepares you for the moment! I had tears in my eyes as he opened the box, took out the ring and asked me if I would marry him.

Dinner to celebrate was at L’Arpege, a three-Michelin star restaurant that focuses on vegetables. It was the perfect place to celebrate being newly engaged! The food and service was just divine, with friendly people happy to explain every detail about the food, help us chose wine, and accommodate our every eating desire. The food was just exquisite – the best meal of both our lives, with amazing wine to match, chosen by the sommelier. Four hours passed in a flash, and we have never been to a restaurant so lovely before – and doubt we might for a long time again.

This was taken at the end of dinner by our very friendly waiter.


And so it was back to the hotel! The most amazing day every was coming to an end, but the most exciting things are still to follow – planning our wedding with our family and friends, and beginning our life together as a married couple. I can’t wait!

At the hotel after dinner – totally blissed out.

My new bling, close up.

Proudly displaying my bling – loving being a newly engaged girl!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.