About this Spain, Portugal & Morocco itinerary
This 2-week Spain, Portugal, and Morocco trip was my 18-year-old’s high school graduation gift. He chose the destination of our family’s summer trip and together, he and I planned the itinerary.
Because I tend to incorporate a lot of hiking and outdoor adventure into all our trips, my son was very clear with me that THIS trip was to have none of that. He wanted this itinerary to focus on exploring cities and urban areas. He did, however, want to walk as much as possible. And obviously, I was able to incorporate some outdoor adventure!
This post will help you plan the ultimate vacation to Spain, Portugal & Morocco! It has a lot of information so feel free to read it the entire way or jump to a specific part of our Spain, Portugal & Morocco itinerary using the table of contents below:
- Is a 2 week trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco enough?
- 5 Days in Portugal
- 6 Days in Morocco with Teens
- 5 Days in Barcelona
- BONUS! Stopover in London, England
- Here are More Epic Adventures to take with your kids:
Is a 2 week trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco enough?
It’s possible to visit Spain, Portugal and Morocco in 2 weeks, but I would have loved to spend more time, especially in Portugal and Spain. With limited time, we had to make some hard decisions about where to go and what to cut from our Spain, Portugal & Morocco itinerary.
5 Days in Portugal
There were so many places we wanted to add to our Portugal itinerary. We decided on Lisbon & Porto as it was easy to travel between the two cities and we would be able to see a lot of highlights. My son also wanted the opportunity to visit some of the European soccer stadiums which we were able to do in these cities.
Below is our Portugal 5 day itinerary:
Things to do in Lisbon, Portugal with Teens (2 Days)
We began our trip in Lisbon. Our flight landed mid-morning (+8 hours from San Francisco) giving us most of the day to settle in and do some exploring. We had a long list of things to do on our Lisbon, Portugal itinerary and didn’t want to waste any time!
** I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Commerce Plaza / Praço do Comércio
Our first afternoon in Lisbon, we walked to Commerce Plaza, a large public plaza on the waterfront to check out the stores & restaurants before taking a cruise on the Tagus River. Be sure to check out Museu da Cerveja with a fabulous outdoor terrace and some exhibits chronicling the history of Portuguese beer.
Cruise on the Tagus River
We opted for a guided sightseeing tour with Nosso Tejo in one of their traditional Lisbon boats. We left from the dock across the street from Commerce Plaza.
Our cruise began by going under the 25th of April Bridge, which looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge, and down to the Tower of Belem. A river cruise on the Tagus River is a great activity to add at the start of an itinerary as it gives an introduction to Lisbon. We were able to get our bearings and learn about some Lisbon highlights like: São Jorge Castle, Alfama, Christ the King, MAAT, and Palace of Ajuda. Our cruise was just under 2 hours, but they have shorter or longer options available.
Historic Alfama Neighborhood
Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest district and is a must for your Lisbon itinerary. The area is a maze of streets and iconic buildings that meander up a steep hill from the Tagus River to Sao Jorge Castle. There is no logical layout to the streets and alleys so it’s best explored just by wandering around and getting lost. We came across quaint plazas, trendy restaurants, and stunning views at the top of the hill.
Because there was so much here, we booked an Alfama walking tour with Context Travel so we could see the highlights and learn some history. Over the years, we have done quite a few tours with Context Travel and have found the local guides to be friendly, knowledgeable, and able to tailor the tour to our interests and our kids’ attention span.
Whether you tour this area on your own or with a guide, be sure to check out: Sao Jorge Castle, The number 28 tram, Lisbon Cathedral, the Roman Theater Ruins, and Miradouro de Santa Luzia/ das Puorto del sol (for the best view point).
Fado is a type of Portuguese singing, known as the “Lisbon blues”. In 2011, Fado was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage. Fado means “fate”. The expressive & melancholic songs represent heartbreak, passion, and longing for someone who left, like a sailor adventuring off across the waters.
There are many Fado restaurants & pubs where you can hear this music. Some are touristy but others still feel authentic and local.
There is also the Fado Museum in the Alfama District which tells the story of fado in English.
Other Things to do in Lisbon
Even more things to add to your Lisbon, Portugal itinerary:
- Jeronimos Monastery in Belem – This is a little outside the city center. It’s best to arrive when it opens with time to pick up a ticket.
- Belem Tower & Riverside – Check out the Monument of the Discoveries, MAAT Museum, Belem Lighthouse
- Santa Justa Lift (Baixa Chiado) – Riding this lift is one of the coolest things to do in Lisbon!
- Tile Museum
- Nations Park Gondola – The gondola is located in the more modern side of the city which is less crowded.
- Benfica Stadium – Go see a soccer game or tour the stadium which seats 65k people!
- Day Trip to Sinta
Where to Stay in Lisbon
We stayed at The Lumiares Hotel & Spa in Bairro Alto, a fun neighborhood with plenty of restaurants, bars and nightlife.
We booked a 2-bedroom 2-bath suite for 5 people. Each bedroom had a queen bed plus a rollaway bed in the large living area with a kitchen. This 50-room hotel was spacious but not overbearing. We loved the grand staircase, the rooftop bar & restaurant, and the modern decor. Each day they left gifts in our room from reusable water bottles to hats, as well as delicious snacks We could easily walk everywhere though the hotel sits at the top of a hill so we got in some good workouts.
Other hotel options we considered:
- Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon – Probably would have stayed here if there had been availability. A little bit farther away from where we wanted to be and would have been less walkable. But the hotel looks amazing with spacious rooms, indoor & outdoor pools, and even a rooftop track!
- Bairro Alto Hotel – Right in the heart of the Bairro Alto neighborhood and not far from The Lumiares where stayed.
Where to Eat in Lisbon
Lumi – located in The Lumiares Hotel, this rooftop restaurant has amazing views of Lisbon. We ate breakfast here every day as well as lunch on our first day. Or just stop by for a cocktail and enjoy the views!
M’arrecreo Pizzeria – We ate here our first night in Lisbon. I wanted to find something close to our hotel with food I knew everyone would eat: pizza! M’arrecreo Pizzeria happened to be on the same block as our hotel and the food was delicious! I was glad we had a reservation because there was a line out the door!
Time Out Market – Huge market with tons of different food options from steak to burgers to traditional Portuguese food. Plus amazing desserts and drinks. We were all able to eat what we were craving.
Bairrices – Traditional Portuguese small plate fixed course menu. To be honest, we were not drawn to Portuguese food, but we did want to give it a try. This was a great way to do it. We had a ton of small plates we could all try to see what we liked. After trying all the plates, we had the option to order more of what we liked, but we were full after 1 round. The desserts were amazing too – save room for those!
Taberna da Rua das Flores – this restaurant was recommended to us by our guide from Context Travel – one of his favorite restaurants!
Things to do in Porto with Teens (3 Days)
We took the Alfa Pendular High-speed train from Lisbon to Porto. We left from the Lisbon, Oriente station and arrived at the Porto, Campanha station. There are 2 train stations in Lisbon, the high-speed trains leave from Oriente station which is a little bit farther from the historic district. Our Uber driver first took us to Santa Apolónia station and once we realized the mistake we had to catch a cab to Oriente station.
To be honest, I found navigating many of the Portuguese websites to be difficult despite using the translation feature, especially restaurants/menus and the train system. I ended up using Rail Ninja to book our tickets because I found the site to be straightforward and I felt confident about what I was booking. I’m pretty sure I paid a premium to book through them versus booking through the rail system directly, but it was worth it because we ended up on the train we wanted!
São João Festival
We arrived in Porto on June 23rd, which happened to be Festa São João, the biggest holiday of the year in Porto. If you have the flexibility to visit Porto during this holiday, I recommend adding it to your Portugal itinerary! Participating in this special local festival was one of our favorite things of our entire trip!
The party goes all day with dancing, music & grilling sardines in the streets. Everyone carries around plastic hammers to hit each other on the head (all in good fun). We were warned to take the hammer thing in stride and not get upset. Our kids embraced this tradition by purchasing their own hammers and hitting total strangers. People also were lighting lanterns and sending them up into the night sky.
As it neared midnight, the crowds all made their way down toward the river to enjoy the fireworks. At exactly midnight the fireworks exploded over the city. The party lasts through the night, but we were all exhausted and back in our hotel by 1am.
The downside was Porto was crowded, some businesses were closed for the celebration, and it was a bit hard to get dinner reservations. But we thought it was worth it!
Cruise on the Duoro River
Make sure to get out on the water when in Porto. Porto has six bridges, each with its own history. There are lots of tours that highlight the bridges, buildings of interest, and the history of Porto. Some longer cruises go all the way to the Duoro Valley and highlight the wines of Porto. We booked a private cruise with Seakey Cruises through our hotel concierge. We had a guide who served us wines from the Duoro Valley plus traditional Portuguese appetizers: breads, cheeses, spreads, and of course salted cod.
We did the cruise on our last night. I prefer to do tours like this at the beginning of our stay because we always walk away with great ideas of other things to see, places to eat, etc.
Climb the Arrabida Bridge to Gaia
The Arrabida Bridge is currently the only bridge in Europe you can climb! Similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, you can book a tour to scale the arch of the bridge.
Walk across Ponte Dom Luís I Bridge to Gaia
Walk across the Ponte Dom Luis Bridge to take in the views and then enjoy the waterfront and explore Gaia.
- Ride the cable car: Gaia cable car – Teleférico de Gaia
- You can also take bikes across the bridge and explore Gaia by bike (or just rent bikes in Gaia)
Visit Dragão Stadium & FC Porto Museum
We were in Europe during the soccer off-season so there were no games. My 18yo, who is a huge soccer fan, still wanted to fit in soccer stadium tours wherever we could. I had never heard of FC Porto but I walked away from the tour as a fan.
We booked a same-day tour and were lucky that there were only 5 other people on our tour. We saw the President’s Box, the visitor’s locker room, and the tunnel where the busses pull into the stadium all while learning about the team.
After the tour, we visited the FC Porto museum which we all enjoyed! We spent at least an hour in the museum learning about the players and the history of the team. The best part: visiting the trophy room and seeing the UEFA Champion’s League Trophy!
Porto Food Tour
A food tour is a great way to learn about Porto’s history & culture, as well as find some great places to eat that are usually a little bit under the radar.
Check out Taste Porto which offers a Downtown & Bolhão Market Food Tour. This is Porto’s longest-running food tour which focuses on “the real Porto” experienced by locals. Context Travel also offers Porto food & wine tours tours which are led by a local chef or food writer.
Ride Bikes to the Beach or Gaia
We took a break from all the walking we were doing and enjoyed Porto’s miles of coastline by bike! We rented our bikes from Vieguini Bikes in Porto right on the Duoro River. They were very helpful in getting us set up without a reservation, suggesting the best routes for us to take and where to stop for lunch.
We rode along the river to the ocean and then headed north to Parque da Cidade do Porto and finally stopped for an oceanside lunch. There are also plenty of places to ride on the Gaia side of the river as well, but we didn’t make it that far. We were happy riding around on our own, but there are also lots of bike tours available – and even this Bike & Bites tour which looks fun!
Crystal Palace Gardens
We enjoyed walking around the Crystal Palace Gardens, the park, and the views of the Duoro River. But there wasn’t a ton to do here.
Our goal was to follow a path from the gardens down to the river and over to the Ribeira neighborhood, but our map kept leading us to dead ends. So we ended up walking through the streets instead which ended up working out fine. If you love gardens or want to find a good overlook this is worth a stop, but otherwise I’d probably skip it.
Visit Peneda-Gerês National Park
Add a stop to Peneda-Gerês National Park if you’re looking to add some off-the-beaten-path adventures to your Portugal itinerary!
Peneda-Gerês National Park is the only national park in Portugal and is only about 2.5 hours outside of Porto. This is a perfect destination if you’re craving some outdoor adventure, like hiking, kayaking, canyoning, or stand-up paddle-boarding.
Rent a car and explore on your own, or book through a tour operator like Oporto Adventure Tours. With limited time in Porto, we didn’t have time for this but I wish we had! Their canyoning excursion looks amazing! This kayak & waterfall hike option is a little less strenuous!
White Water Rafting on the Paiva River
Head to the Paiva River for a white water rafting day trip adventure! Oporto Adventure Tours has a rafting option – additionally, you can try a smaller river canoe raft for 2-3 people!
Visit Duoro Valley
If you have time in your Portugal itinerary, spend a couple of nights in the Duoro Valley wine country. Had we focused our entire trip in Portugal, we would have liked to stay at the Six Senses Duoro Valley. If you can only spare a day, take a day trip to explore the region and the wines!
Where to Stay in Porto
We stayed at Le Monumental Palace in the heart of Porto and it was amazing!
We booked 2 rooms (a suite and an executive city view room). Both rooms were large with high ceilings and views of the plaza and Town Hall. Daily breakfast was included with an extensive breakfast buffet as well as a la carte menu items. There was an indoor pool which we used, as well as a gym. Because we had booked a suite, we also had access to the extremely helpful hotel concierge. They helped us book several dinner reservations as well as our river cruise. We walked everywhere: to restaurants, the river, and a trendy shopping area.
Where to Eat in Porto
Enoteca 1756 – located in Vila Nova de Gaia, Enoteca 1756 sits right on the banks of the Douro river with a panoramic terrace facing Porto’s old town. Lots of seafood on the menu, but we liked this place because they had some non-seafood options for our kids, like pizzas & pasta.
Flow – Located in the heart of Porto incorporating both Portuguese & Mediterranean flavors. We liked Flow because it also had a more robust menu for our kids. Had a fun atmosphere too!
Escama – Escama means “scale” and most everything on the menu here was seafood. We are not heavy seafood eaters so generally we like to have some other options available. Our pickiest eater decided to skip this dinner and order a pizza at the hotel, but the rest of us enjoyed our meal. Escama has a great wine list and a fun bar as well.
Elemento – Everything here is cooked on firewood and the menu changes daily based on available ingredients. We sat upstairs in a small private room (just big enough for our table), but we also had a deck just off the room that we could use. We ate here during the festival so could hear all the hammers and commotion from the crowds on the street. It definitely gave it an extra festive feel for us.
6 Days in Morocco with Teens
While I usually love to plan our itinerary, I reached out to Black Tomato to help plan our Morocco itinerary for several reasons:
- We added Morocco to our itinerary a bit late and needed help with last-minute availability
- I was worried about the summer heat and wanted advice on the best places to go
- Since we would most likely be traveling to remote places, I wanted the security of a local guide who could help us navigate
Black Tomato put together the best Morocco itinerary and secured fabulous hotels and activities for our family. And while I sometimes have a hard time giving up control, I always enjoy not having to make any decisions when we travel.
Portugal to Morocco Flights
From Porto, we flew on TAP Portugal to Marrakech, Morocco. There was only 1 direct flight a day from Porto to Marrakech and the timing was not ideal. So we ended up connecting through Lisbon – also not ideal. I had already purchased our flights from San Francisco to Lisbon, but in hindsight, I would have rather flown into Porto and then taken the train to Lisbon and continued to Marrakech from there. Having to connect in Lisbon felt unnecessary and added to our travel time.
After we went through customs in Marrakech, we were immediately welcomed by our guides. Usually, they would have preferred to start our itinerary in Marrakech, but because of availability, we started in the Atlas Mountains and ended in Marrakech.
The drive from Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains is about 2 hours. We went from the bustling flat desert city to rolling hills and mountains with lush green trees, agriculture, and streams. It was a contrast I was not expecting!
We stayed at Kasbah Tamadot which is a destination in and of itself! As soon as we checked in, I realized why they typically end their trips here. Kasbah Tamadot is a fabulous resort and we had lots of downtime to enjoy the property.
We stayed in a 3-bedroom suite with a living area, multiple outdoor patios & decks, and a private pool. The grounds were stunning: full of gardens, a huge lawn set up for outdoor movies, a farm area with goats, horses, etc. In addition, there was a spa with an indoor pool, a library filled with books & games, and so many hidden areas to explore.
Breakfast & dinner were included in our room rate. We ate most of our meals in the covered outdoor restaurant, but one night, they had dinner set up on a patio on the roof!
E-bike in the Atlas Mountains
On our first morning, we got up early (to avoid as much heat as we could) for a mountain biking excursion around the Ouirgane Valley. We rode along dirt roads and single tracks, through villages and orchards while learning about the area. This was my first time on an e-bike and I was sold! It made traversing the hills so much easier.
Explore a Berber Village
We did a hike through hills surrounding a Berber village. Lots of things amazed me about the village and the hike. While the heat was almost unbearable in the sun, once we were walking along the paths under the cover of trees it felt quite pleasant.
We walked through orchards and along streams running down from the mountain peaks. We learned how the streams are diverted to different properties for irrigation. We learned how they construct their homes with thick mud to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and paint white along the window edges to keep out ants. We passed by Moroccan Hammams and learned how these bathhouses play a role in Moroccan culture.
Instead of going to the Sahara Desert, we went to the Agafay Desert. In the summer, the Sahara is just too hot. The Agafay Desert is a rock desert (not sand like the Sahara) and is only 45 minutes outside of Marrakech, making it more accessible than the Sahara which is approximately a 9 hour drive.
Had we visited at a cooler time of the year, I would have preferred to go to the Sahara. However, making this trip would certainly add a few days to your Morocco itinerary. We happened to be in Morocco during an “excessive heat wave” so I’m not sure how much cooler the Agafay Desert actually was!
We stayed at Habitas Caravan, a tented resort in the desert. We had 2 fairly spacious tents, both with a bathroom inside. It was “unseasonably hot” when we arrived and everyone apologized for the weather. Honestly, it was sweltering. We immediately jumped in the pool which was not heated and extremely refreshing.
Once the sun went down, the air cooled considerably. We enjoyed a sunset camel trek and dinner in the open air restaurant. Despite fans and opening the windows, our tents just did not cool down to a comfortable temperature. Again, we were there during an excessive heat wave so I imagine the tents are typically much cooler at night!
These desert camps are extremely remote with fun but limited activities. We felt like 1 night was plenty of time to enjoy the experience. Had we traveled far (like to the Sahara), I could justify staying 2 nights.
Dune Bashing in the Agafay Desert
We spent several hours crisscrossing the Agafay Desert in two-seater desert buggies. There were plenty of places to pick up speed and go fast, as well as more technical rocky landscapes.
My husband, 18yo, and I each drove a buggy. I was nervous about driving as I tend to be a bit cautious and didn’t want to hold up the group. But I had no problem keeping up aside from seeing through all the dust kicked up by the buggies in front of me. My husband and son both got called out by our guide for being too aggressive at certain points.
We finished the course with tea and cookies in an orchard. It was fabulous!
Sunset Camel Trek in the Agafay Desert
Chasing the sunset while riding a camel is something I will never forget! We trekked across the rocky landscape as the sun was going down and reached an amazing overlook as the sun set. The desert colors were simply amazing! Riding a camel was slower than a horse, but I thought it was much more comfortable!
Star Gazing in the Agafay Desert
The desert night sky was extremely dark and perfect for stargazing! Black Tomato arranged for an astronomer to help us find constellations, some unique stars, and learn some new facts about the moon. It was a perfect way to end the day!
Things to do in Marrakech with Teens
Cooking Class at La Maison Arabe
Our cooking class with La Maison Arabe was so much fun! We had a chance to explore the gorgeous grounds and then got set up at our stations in the expansive kitchen to prepare a traditional Moroccan meal. We made tagine chicken, a cucumber & tomato salad, and dessert. Then we enjoyed our meal outside in the gardens. As a surprise, they sent us each home with a tagine to bring Moroccan cuisine into our own home.
Hot Air Balloon Ride in Marrakech
We woke up early to experience a sunrise balloon flight over the Haouz Plain and High Atlas Mountains. Our pilot flew us low over some villages where we could hear dogs barking and roosters crowing, and then high above the mountains to get perspective.
The pilot explained all about ballooning and how the balloons drift in different directions at different elevations based on the wind. You can be floating along in a 25mph wind and yet feel like you aren’t moving. I am not a fan of heights, but riding in a balloon is extremely peaceful.
To top it off, they served us a traditional Moroccan breakfast on the balloon! We had parfaits, fruit, pastries, and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had! Such a fun morning!
Sidecar Excursion in Marrakech
We met up with 3 guides to take us on a sidecar excursion through the busy streets of Marrakech. Each sidecar fits 2 passengers, one behind the driver and the second in the sidecar.
Our kids each rode in one of the sidecars while my husband and I both sat behind a driver. I had never been on a motorcycle before and to be honest, had no desire to. But, this was such a fun way to explore the medina and the surrounding area. We wove through the labyrinth of streets inside the medina and explored cool places outside the walls.
Pottery Workshop with a Moroccan Artisan
We spent an afternoon with a local artisan at his pottery studio. He showed us how to make a variety of pieces on his manual wheel as well as a powered one. In about 10 minutes he made the most perfect tagine, cup & saucer, a bowl, and a vase! Then he let us try too!
Our 13yo loved the manual wheel, and our older two preferred the powered ones. While they were spinning clay, my husband & I got to paint some pieces. It was so fun to ask the artisan about his business, where he sells his finished pieces, and life in Marrakech. We also learned that he was the artist who created all the tiles at the top of the tallest mosque in Marrakech!
Because we weren’t in Marakkech long enough for him to fire the pieces we made, he sent us home with tiny tagines as well as some hand-painted tiles!
Enjoy a Moroccan Banquet
Having a traditional Moroccan dinner is a must! We ate at Yacout which was a highlight of our trip. The menu had been pre-determined for us and there was so much food! We started with an amazing appetizer that had at least 20 small plates with different sauces and vegetables. Next, we had a main meal of rack of lamb with couscous and vegetables, plus dessert. We had been warned that Moroccan plates were huge and we felt so bad that we couldn’t possibly eat all of it!
As we finished our dinner, they brought out dancers and music – what an experience!
Medina Souk Tour
One thing we didn’t do, that I wish we had, was have a chance to explore the souks of the Medina (open air market). Because we were there over a holiday, most of the souks were closed which was unfortunate. So whether you go exploring by yourself or book a guided tour like this one, definitely check out this unique experience in Marrakech.
Where to Stay in Marrakech
We stayed at Villa des Orangers in the heart of the medina. From the street, the entrance looked like a huge wall with a door. Once we stepped inside, we were blown away by the gorgeous space. Villa des Orangers is a riad, a traditional Moroccan home with an interior courtyard built in the 1930s.
There are 27 rooms and suites, 3 pools, a spa, a restaurant, room service, and amazing service. We couldn’t have been happier with our stay.
5 Days in Barcelona
From Marrakech, we flew nonstop to Barcelona on Ryan Air. The flight was a little over 2 hours. We decided to spend all of our time in Barcelona rather than explore more of Spain. We were able to pack a lot into our Barcelona, Spain itinerary!
If you go to Barcelona, you need to know about Antoni Gaudi, a famous Catalan architect & designer. You most likely have seen his main work, the church of the Sagrada Familia, but his influence is felt throughout Barcelona.
We did a private tour with Context Travel which focused on the Sagrada Familia as well as the Hospital de Sant Pau. While I didn’t initially get the connection between these 2 venues, seeing both helped us better understand Gaudi and his work. We also learned about other venues throughout Barcelona where you can see his work: Casa Batilo, Casa Vicens, Palau de la Musica Catalana, and Park Guell to name a few.
Hospital de Sant Pau
Our walking tour began at the Hospital de Sant Pau designed by top architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1930. Montaner was Gaudi’s teacher and we learned how he influenced Gaudi’s work.
Sant Pau was an active hospital until 2009 and covers 9 square city blocks. It has recently undergone an intense renovation and the results are simply stunning. We learned about Barcelona’s city planning since the 1930s, walked through tunnels beneath the hospital, and were wowwed by the intricate design details throughout.
We also learned about what it would have been like to be a patient during this time: the instruments they used, where they did surgeries, and what the rooms looked like.
Love it or hate it, you cannot visit Barcelona without going to the Sagrada Familia. There are so many details within the Sagrada Familia, we would have missed 90% without a tour guide. We learned about Gaudi’s main influences within his designs: nature and religion – and were able to find examples of these throughout his work. The crypt and the apse are in the Gothic Style while everything after is in an organic style. The inside of the church is meant to look like the inside of a forest.
Park Guell is another of Gaudi’s projects. This was originally going to be a housing development with 60 homes planned in the early 1900s. But this fell through for a variety of reasons and was turned into a public park which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. We explored the gardens, climbed a lot of stairs, wandered among the paths, and toured one of the 2 homes that were built.
Tickets are required to visit the monumental area of the park. Tickets are time-based and limited so be sure to buy them before arriving to ensure availability. You can enter the park up to 30 minutes after your start time. You will need to bring a printed ticket or show a QR code on your phone. We bought our tickets for the later afternoon thinking the crowds may have thinned out, but we were wrong. Once you enter the park, you can stay as long as you’d like, so purchasing one of the first available time slots is probably best.
Be sure to add the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona to your Spain itinerary. This area has so much history and character. My husband and I spent a few hours with a guide who took us to places we never would have found on our own: Roman ruins, spots where executions took place, scars from wars, hidden plazas, cool alleys, restaurants & shops.
Roman Ruins at the Museum of the History of Barcelona (MUHBA)
The only museum we went to was the Museum of the History of Barcelona (MUHBA) and I found it fascinating! Our tour guide suggested this museum and we peeked through the windows during our tour of the Gothic Quarter where we caught glimpses of some of the underground ruins.
This museum covers how the city and its citizens have evolved over 2000 years. We saw the historic remains of the Roman colony: walls, wine vats, baths, detailed floors, and hundreds of artifacts. There were detailed signs throughout which explained what we were looking at.
We visited on our last morning in Barcelona and learned with our ticket purchase, we had access to many more museums throughout the city. We wished we had visited earlier in our stay to better understand the history and so we could visit some of the other historical sites.
Tickets were 7 euros (16 and under are free). Closed on Mondays.
La Boqueria Marketplace
Located on La Rambla, a famous and lively tree-lined street in the heart of Barcelona, La Boqueria is a popular food market. It has over 300 stalls known for selling some of the freshest meats & produce, as well as sweets and some places to sit down for tapas & drinks.
Our guide recommended Bar Boqueria for fresh oysters & drinks. There are also food tours offered within the market. We didn’t have a chance for either of these this time! But we did pick up some sweets to take with us.
Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress and was originally built in 1640. It sits over 500 feet above sea level and has 360-degree views of the area. Over its history it has been used to both defend & bombard Barcelona and in the late 19th century was used as a prison.
Enter by crossing a bridge over the moat (now just a pretty landscaped garden). We didn’t spend too much time here but enjoyed the views of the Port of Barcelona from the massive sea facing wall and of the city from the terrace and watch tower (the highest part of the castle).
We toured Montjuic Castle on our own, however, another option is to join a tour. This small group tour begins at La Rambla, visits La Boqueria, and finishes with a tour of Montuïc Castle.
To get to the castle, we took the Montjuïc cable car. There were good views although the ride was very short (distance: 750 meters; height: 85 meters) and maybe not worth the price ($15/adult 12+; $11/child; under 4 years free).
If you plan to visit on your own, you can buy a Roundtrip Cable Car Ticket here.
Day Trip to Montserrat
We did technically travel outside of Barcelona on a day trip to Montserrat.
Take a day trip to Montserrat about 30 miles northwest of Barcelona. We took the train from the Plaça Espanya station in Barcelona to Monistrol de Montserrat. It was about a 1.5 hour train ride with some pretty views of the countryside.
The monastery is located above on the mountain. There are 3 options to reach it.
- Cable Car. Get off the train at Aeri de Montserrat station. This is the fastest way if heights don’t bother you.
- Rack Railway. Get off at the stop after the cable car: Monistrol de Montserrat station. The railway runs approximately every 20 minutes and climbs up the steep mountainside. We chose this option. It took about 15 minutes to arrive at the monastery.
- Hike! I would have preferred this option, but we didn’t have time.
What to do once you’re there:
- Visit the Basilica. We went inside and listened to a choir sing for a bit.
- Listen to the boys’ choir. The Escolania is the oldest music school in Europe.
- Visit the Black Madonna. Many people come to see the Black Madonna. It’s believed she has healing powers. When we were there, you had to have a reservation to see her. A reservation allowed you to stand in line to see her. The line was long. We could actually see her high above the altar from inside the Basilica which was enough for us.
- Tour the museum
- Ride the funicular
- Hike in Montserrat Nature Park
- Enjoy the views
Truthfully, I think we would have gotten more out of this trip if we had a guide at Montserrat. The museum was helpful, but I would have rather spent more time outside hiking and exploring. This Montserrat half-day tour has roundtrip transportation from Barcelona, a guided tour, and includes time for a hike.
FC Barcelona and Camp Nou were at the top of my son’s soccer stadiums to visit. Unfortunately, as soon as the soccer season was over, they immediately began renovations on the stadium and were offering limited tours (a virtual tour and the shop & museum were open as well).
My husband had some connections at FC Barcelona and they were able to offer us a “hard hat tour” of the stadium. This tour was only open to those 18+ so only my husband and 18yo were able to go while I took my 16 & 13yo to a nearby coffee shop.
Then all of us were able to go to La Masia (the youth training facility) and get a tour from one of the directors of the fields and residence. THIS was our favorite part as we learned so much about their program, the athletes, and FC Barcelona.
Without these extras, I suggest skipping the stadium tour until they resume tours. Again, we were there when there were no games – it’s probably best just to go to a game!
BONUS! Stopover in London, England
The morning we were scheduled to fly home, we woke up to a text from United informing us our flight had been canceled. We had no flight options out of Barcelona unless we waited a few days. However, we needed to get home because our 16yo was scheduled to have ACL surgery in 3 days. We ended up changing our United flight from London Heathrow to SFO the next day. But we needed to get to London. So we booked a flight on British Airways, arriving in London at 8pm that night.
When we arrived in London that night we took a cab to our hotel, ate dinner, and then walked around London. We went to bed late and got up early to explore as we needed to leave by 11am to return to the airport. It actually worked out well because there were no crowds out that early.
Luckily both my husband and I had been to London before (although never together) so we had an idea of where we wanted to stay to maximize the highlights we could see in a short amount of time. Here’s what we did:
Where We Stayed in London
We stayed at the Conrad London St. James. This worked out extremely well as we were within walking distance of a lot of highlights. The hotel is right across the street from the St. James tube station.
That night we ate at a pizza place a few blocks from the hotel. We had hoped to eat in a pub but we arrived so late they were either no longer serving food or wouldn’t allow our kids in.
After dinner, we walked by Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, across the Thames, and back to our hotel.
London Highlights in Just a Few Hours
The following morning we first walked to Buckingham Palace and then through Kensington Gardens to 10 Downing Street. Then we walked over to Trafalgar Square and out to the River Thames. We admired all the boats and the London Eye (which wasn’t open much to my kids’ disappointment).
We walked by the London Dungeon where I got to tell the story about how when I was 18, I passed out here after getting very queasy learning about all the torture devices once used (enter at your own risk!). We walked back over to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey to see them in daylight.
It was quick but so much fun! I think we made the most of our canceled flight.
Whether you have 2 weeks or 2 months, I hope these tips & suggestions help you plan the ideal family trip to Spain, Portugal & Morocco!