Spain is a good country to travel with children of any age; they will be well received everywhere, and babies and toddlers, in particular, will be the centre of attention. You will probably have to change your usual routine, since young children stay up late in Spain, especially in the summer. It’s very common for them to be running around pavement cafés and public squares after 10 or 11pm, and yours will no doubt enjoy joining in. It’s expected that families dine out with their children, too, so it’s not unusual to see up to four generations of the same family eating tapas in a bar, for example.
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Many holiday hotels and self-contained club-style resorts offer things like kids’ clubs, babysitting, sports and entertainment. The only caveat is that, of course, you’re unlikely to see much of Spain on these family-oriented holidays. The two best cities to take children, hands down, are Madrid and Barcelona, which have loads of child-friendly attractions. Otherwise, Spain has various theme parks and leisure activities specifically aimed at kids, while the long Spanish coastline has a bunch of popular water parks.
Museums, galleries and sights throughout Spain either offer discounts or free entry for children (it’s often free for under-4s or even under-7s), and it’s the same on trains, sightseeing tours, boat trips and most other usual tourist attractions.
If you’re travelling independently, finding accommodation shouldn’t be a problem, as hostales and pensiones generally offer rooms with three or four beds. Bear in mind that much budget accommodation in towns and cities is located on the upper storeys of buildings, often without lifts. It’s also worth noting that some older-style pensiones don’t have heating systems – and it can get very cold in winter. If you want a cot provided, or baby-listening or baby-sitting services, you’ll usually have to pay the price of staying in a more expensive hotel – and even then, never assume that these facilities are provided, so always check in advance. Self-catering accommodation offers the most flexibility; even in major cities, it’s easy to rent an apartment by the night or week and enjoy living like a local with your family.
Products, clothes and services
Baby food, disposable nappies, formula milk and other standard items are widely available in pharmacies and supermarkets, though not necessarily with the same range or brands that you will be used to at home. Organic baby food, for example, is hard to come by away from the big-city supermarkets, and most Spanish non-organic baby foods contain small amounts of sugar or salt. Fresh milk, too, is not always available; UHT is more commonly drunk by small children. If you require anything specific for your baby or child, it’s best to bring it with you or check with the manufacturer about equivalent brands. Remember the airline restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage if you’re planning to bring industrial quantities of Calpol to see you through the holiday.
For babies’ and children’s clothing, Prénatal (prenatal.es) and Chicco (chicco.es) are Spain’s market leaders, with shops in most towns and cities. Or you can always try the local El Corte Inglés department store.
Families might eat out a lot, but things like highchairs and special children’s menus are rare, except in the resorts on the costas and islands. Most bars and cafés, though, will be happy to heat milk bottles for you. Baby-changing areas are also relatively rare, except in department stores and shopping centres, and even where they do exist they are not always up to scratch.
Most establishments are baby-friendly in the sense that you’ll be made very welcome if you turn up with a child in tow. Many museum cloakrooms, for example, will be happy to look after your pushchair as you carry your child around the building, while restaurants will make a fuss of your little one. However, breast-feeding in public is not widespread, though it’s more acceptable in big resorts and the main cities; the local village café is probably not the place to test rural sensibilities. Noise is the other factor that often stuns visiting parents. Spain is a loud country, with fiesta fireworks, jackhammers, buzzing mopeds and clamouring evening crowds all adding to the mix. Babies sleep through most things, but you might want to pick and choose accommodation with the location of bars, clubs, markets, etc firmly in mind.