Anyone with experience taking the family to Barcelona, London and/or Paris

Discussion in 'Community Board' started by 5lilfish, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. 5lilfish

    5lilfish DIS Veteran

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    Our kids are 22, 21, 19, 12 and 12. When I type into google 'going to these places with kids' or 'family attractions,' the search engine only spits out truly kid type things. I don't really need to go all the way to Europe to do nothing but Aquariums, Zoos and Science Museums. If there is one of these places that is truly world renowned, that's one thing...but mostly I'm looking for things we can go do that are special to each city that my kids will enjoy along with us. They're good travelers and my little 2 (who are sadly not so little any more) are happy to just be together and do almost anything).

    Any tips, ideas, don't miss places/activities? How about places to stay too?

    Thank you...
    Jess
     
  2. tink1970

    tink1970 DCL Platinum

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    London-Harry Potter if any are a fans of him in your group, theater, if you have girls who like sparklies or boys who like ancient war things-Tower of London. There are all sorts of museums, the Globe Theater, a day trip to Brussels or Paris (if you don't spend more time in Paris), a day trip to Windsor and/or Stonehenge. There are some really interesting walking tours with specific themes all around the city as well (walks.com).

    I love London and DD (now 17) has been several times.

    Barcelona has Picasso museum, Gaudi tours for some truly amazing architecture; a fairly famous football stadium if anyone is into sports (FC Barcelona); eating!; a beach; oh and excellent shopping.

    I've spent the least time in Paris but DD really enjoyed the Louvre and eating :)

    Perhaps you could look at the Adventures By Disney itineraries (not to do the trips) to see what kinds of things they include.

    As for hotels, I guess I'd suggest looking at B&Bs and/or AirBnBs since European hotels (unless they are owned by American conglomerates) tend to hold only 2 people unless you get a suite or family room. For Barcelona ideas, there are some threads on the DCL forum and people definitely have their favorites! For London and Paris, I'd pick an area of the city you want to base yourself out of and look on tripadvisor. My preferred location in London is in Belgravia (short walk to Victoria bus and tube station) and the Lime Tree Hotel. Have fun planning!
     
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  4. 5lilfish

    5lilfish DIS Veteran

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    Great information. Thank you!

    Definitely doing the Harry Potter tour. That is one things we came across. Definitely plan on doing a beach in Barcelona. The Picasso Museum sounds fun/interesting...even our 12 yr old's will know who that is. We are also doing Disneyland in Paris...but only for part of our time there. Staying off site for half the time.

    Any museums stand out to you in London? Also...in any of these places, I'm very into the experience of being at a plaza/park with cafe's and just having that local type experience....any thoughts on that?

    Thanks again...very helpful
    Jess
     
  5. tink1970

    tink1970 DCL Platinum

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    My pleasure!

    We went to the British Museum because it's so amazing :) The Tower of London is sort of like a cool outdoor/indoor museum (to me). The British Library was wonderful (seeing the Beatles music handwritten in original form, the Magna Carta...a huge cool globe...special exhibits...). I'm sure I've been to others but those are the ones that stick out (because it's possible to do TOO many museums on vacation).
    The next time I'm there (next year :)) I'm hoping to go to the Churchill war rooms- https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms.

    As for outdoor eating, I've done a lot more of that in Barcelona just due to the weather, I think. It's easy though to pop into a Sainsbury or Tesco (UK grocery store) and get premade sandwiches/fruit/crisps (chips), etc and eat in a park. Once it stopped raining outside the British Museum we ate outside of it (there were food trucks or kiosks, can't exactly remember).

    Barcelona has a lot of waterfront shops and restaurants near the beach (DH and I stay at a hotel on the beach when we're there) and we like to walk up and down the beach eating gelato after having a meal near the shore. Of course on Las Ramblas, there are a lot of little cafes to have tapas (although I've been told tapas aren't Catalonia, there are a lot of tapas places in Barcelona!) and watch people go by. Paris, of course, has lots of cafes where you can people watch.

    DD has been to Europe with and without me from the ages of 13-17 and has had a wonderful time each and every time. When she and I travel together, I have her research the city and make a Must Do List of 1 or 2 things, then once we're there give her a couple of options for the day (if tours aren't booked). Some of our most memorable times were sitting in a pub watching the World Cup games eating fish and chips; riding the Underground; and discovering the treasures of the British Museum and Library. She has been to London several times and never been to Harrod's nor the Tower but I let her sleep in and do those "mom" things myself. With several children, you might want to assign each (or a couple) a city to come up with must dos, then each child has "a day" for them. Or something like that...fortunately I only have 1 so don't have to worry about being fair :)
     
  6. disykat

    disykat DIS Veteran

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    Google "attractions" and leave off the kids part. Your kids are old enough to fit the regular travel norm, so "kids" is throwing the search off. You should be able to easily map out a trip without that term. Tripadvisor is my favorite site and lists attractions by popularity.

    That's a great trip. We did a trip to all three a few years ago when my kids were the age of your older ones - a last big family trip. We flew into London, took a train to Paris, then Barcelona, and then flew home. I second all the suggestions above. We loved the Harry Potter museum and easily took a train out there. We also took a train to Montserrat from Barcelona. We mixed it up and did a B&B in London, a budget hotel in Paris, and an apartment rental in Barcelona.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  7. 5lilfish

    5lilfish DIS Veteran

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    Thanks… Yes I agree, I guess after all these years of having KIDS, it's hard for me to accept that my kids are growing up/grown (especially my 'little ones') LOL.

    Your trip is the exact order we are planning.

    One question for both you and Tink (you for sure, since you have done it), how exactly did you get from city to city? In our heads, we plan on using the trains. I'm guessing you did too, but any specific information on how/what you did with that would be great?

    Thanks again,
    Jess
     
  8. NYCgrrl

    NYCgrrl DIS Veteran

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    As a pp noted just look for attractions/ points of interest minus the kids/children reference and you'll expand your search greatly:).

    Paris

    There are several carousels in Paris and I would choose one closest to where I happen to be but the one in Luxembourg is convenient to various tourist attractions, and has a regular puppet show. For a sight and touch of many carousels try the Musee des Arts Forains; fun for all ages:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/life...79d81c63c1b_story.html?utm_term=.89295c15c4a7

    If it's still open the tour of the sewers of Paris is more fun than you might imagine (think the battle scene in Le Miz); same for the catacombs.
    Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is great for children and has a whimsical approach to its topic ("lions" wandering around and a gorilla too:D)

    You are only a few hours away from Disneyland Paris (1 or 2 I think) so that's another possibility as is a visit to Versailles. Children in particular like Marie Antoinette's fake village, Trianon.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  9. E&Cmom

    E&Cmom DIS Veteran

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    Following along as I recently started researching a London trip and thinking of Paris as well for my family.
     
  10. Neesy228

    Neesy228 DIS Veteran

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    We did Paris and London this past March, but I can’t help with Barcelona...

    we stayed at AirBNB’s in both cities because we are a family of 5 and hotel rooms are impossibly small. We needed space. My children are a bit younger than most of yours - 17, 15 and 12 - but they all loved the trip. This was our itinerary:

    Day 1 London:
    - Hop on Hop off bus tour - Big Bus Tours (There are several companies that do the same thing. I think I would go with the Original Tour if I was to do this again. The buses looked more modern and seemed more frequent.) It allowed us to get the "lay of the land" and drive by some of the things we weren't planning to stop to visit. When we went the weather was horrible and cold. All of these buses are open on the top which made the entire bus COLD. I'm not sure it was worth the expense overall and I would skip it next time. We also did a tour of Westminster Abbey, which was really impressive.

    Day 2: Toured Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We had a great time doing both. The Tower of London houses the Crown Jewels. The ravens there are so cool.

    Day 3: Day trip to Stonehenge with Evan Evans Tours. Worthwhile and fun. We just did the Stonehenge Express Tour since we were limited on time, but they also have day long tours that include Windsor, Bath and Oxford. Also, went to the Churchill War Rooms when we got back to the city. My oldest two really enjoyed this. It was fascinating.

    Day 4: Went to Greenwich and toured the Royal Observatory and stood on the Prime Meridian. This was fun! The town of Greenwich is so cute and there is an amazing view of London from the hilltop in front of the Observatory.
    After getting back into London, we went to the top of the Shard for some great views. We went right before sunset, so we saw the city in the daylight and as it lit up into the evening.

    Day 5: Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace (get there early! It gets very crowded), the Borough Market for lunch (a really neat experience) and to Piccadilly Circus for the evening to shop and look around.

    Day 6: We took the Eurostar from St. Pancras to Gare du Nord. The trip was about 2 hours and very uneventful. I was expecting some kind of announcement that we were beginning to go through the Channel Tunnel, but there was nothing. Upon arrival at the station in Paris, there are many people offering unauthorized taxi rides, but the official taxi stand - with licensed taxis - is to the right when you get to the front of the trains. You will get in line and there are uniformed men directing you into a taxi. Once we got to our apartment, we walked to the Eiffel Tower and went to the very top. It is obviously a must do. :)

    Day 7: Toured Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle, walked along the Seine. All beautiful!

    Day 8: Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees and the Tuilleries Gardens.

    Day 9: The Louvre. It is overwhelmingly large and at times frustrating. I knew my kids would not last for hours on end, so I picked a handful of things to see and even that took us the afternoon.

    I spent a lot of time picking and choosing what to do because we had very limited time in each city, and since we were traveling with teens, I had to keep them in mind. We missed a lot because of those factors, but overall, we got a nice taste of each city. We can always dig a little deeper on future trips.

    Random things of note:
    Big Ben is undergoing a massive refurbishment, so it's not visible, it's not chiming and there are no tours. Parliament is also under refurbishment, but it's on a much smaller scale.
    The London Eye ferris wheel is exorbitantly expensive.
    Most places offer discounted student tickets with a student ID.
    All of the museums in Paris are closed on Tuesdays.
    Traffic is nerve-wracking in both cities. We did not rent a car and relied on public transportation, Uber or walking for the entire trip. It worked out great.
    The Sky Garden in London is free to go up and the views are similar to the Shard.

    Hope that helps some. If I can be of any help, feel free to PM me. Have a great trip!
     
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  11. sunshinehighway

    sunshinehighway DIS Veteran

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    As others have said, look for things to do in those cities and leave the kids part out of the search. I haven't been to Barcelona so I can't give any advice on that.
    Maybe have everyone look at each city (and surrounding areas) and pick things they are interested in seeing.
    Both London and Paris have river cruises.
    Hampton court is a great half day trip from London. It's just a short train ride, same with Versailles.
    The Tower of London has a nightly locking up ceremony. It's called the keys ceremony, or something like that. It's free, you pay a small processing fee. The tickets are available through the national historic palaces website. They are extremely limited so that's something you definitely have to plan way ahead.
    I did a segway tour in Paris and it was absolutely fantastic. I don't know the age restrictions. It was through Fat Tire Tours. They have other tours too and are in multiple cities. I think they have a bike tour at Versailles that's supposed to be great.
    The catacombs in Paris is pretty cool, very creepy though.
     
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  12. georgina

    georgina DIS Veteran

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    :) Been to Paris 3 times and never been to the top of the Eiffel tower. I have been up in Tour Montparnasse (They say the best thing about the top of tour montparnasse is that you can't see tour montparnasse from it!) I would agree with a highlights tour of the Louvre. We liked the Musee d'Orsay better. Versailles is accessible by train and if you go on a weekend when the fountains in the gardens are on, fantastic. We really enjoyed walking around Montmarte also.

    We only had a couple of hours in Barcelona so visited Parc Guell with its interesting Gaudi creations.
     
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  13. NYCgrrl

    NYCgrrl DIS Veteran

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    Yes. More compact and less crowded. I lived in and around Paris for a bit over a year and never saw all of the Louvre, LOL.
    As for Barcelona, my first trip I had a Eurail pass so could go places as I chose. Pre-trip, I decided 1 day in Barcelona and 3 in Madrid. Once I got there stayed a week and a half in Barcelona and only 1 day in Madrid (there was an attempted coup). Last time I visited Barcelona was during the Olympics and so much has changed about the city there is really nothing for me to add to the great advice above.
     
  14. tcufrog

    tcufrog DIS Veteran

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    Honestly, the hardest part of going to London is deciding what not to do because there are too many great things to do there. We went for a week this summer and we weren't able to see everything we wanted to see. What are your family's interests?
     
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  15. rlk

    rlk DIS Veteran

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    We spent three night in Barcelona when my children were 14 and 15. We did a one-day private tour to see all the highlights. What stood out to my boys were:
    Montserrat - hiking up and getting to talk with some local s who were rock climbing.
    Parc Guell
    Las Ramblas - so much activity, it never gets boring ( and we live in NYC)
    The waterfront area/ cafes
    Barcelona zoo - surprisingly fun
    Barca Stadium
    Magic Fountain show (Montjuic)
    Just walking around and listening to street musicians.
    Picasso Museum

    Last summer we spent a week in Paris. Besides the obvious like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, etc that we saw while on a private tour. Our favorite things to do were:

    We all researched something we wanted to taste while in Paris and then we designed our own food tour. This was the best day. We had so much fun walking all over Paris trying to find the places we chose.
    Just walking the streets and sitting in the cafes, especially the ones that had such literary history.

    The top of the Pantheon. I think we like this view more than from the top of Notre Dame. We also thought the crypts in the Pantheon were very interesting.

    Watching the Eiffel Tower light up at night. We were there on a Saturday night and walked over to the Trocadero where we saw a group of locals ballroom dancing with the Eiffel Tower lights twinkling behind them.

    Sacre Coeur - we saw this with our guide and my kids asked to go back on a different day. Great views, lively market.

    I think for us, we loved seeing all the highlight in Paris, but we enjoyed just walking around and discovering hidden gems.
     
  16. sunshinehighway

    sunshinehighway DIS Veteran

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    Yes. Just walking around and finding things, exploring is great. I've had more time in London than Paris and that's my favorite thing to do there. There are all these little, tiny streets and alleys. You can find great shops, interesting spots, cafes by just wondering around.
    I've found it best to have a loose itinerary, let's go to x site and x site, and just meandering through the area to get there .
    Sometimes doing that will give you greater memories and experiences than checking off a list of things to see. Walking and finding a particular bakery with excellent hot chocolate and then sitting in the grounds surrounding the Louvre eating and drinking our snack is actually a memory that I think of more than hustling through the Louvre with all the crowds to see famous works of art.
     
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  17. piccolopat

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    In Paris, we especially enjoyed La Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine. It is a museum filled with full size pieces (like the entrance to a building) of French architecture throughout history. Also loved the Rodin Museum and the Musee de Armee at Invalides. We also second others here for recommending Versailles, St. Chapelle, Sacre Coeur (and Montmartre right behind it), Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. We enjoyed strolling down the Champs d'Elysee but it is quite commercial. The Eiffel Tower is nice but if you want to go, buy your tickets online in advance. The Seine Cruise is a nice way to see some of the major sights without visiting them.

    In London, we did a tour that went to both Oxford and the Harry Potter Experience. It was neat to see the sights in Oxford that we the inspiration for many things in HP. In the city we loved the Imperial War Museum, Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London. There is a cool museum almost entirely about James Bond (London Film Museum) loaded with cars, props and other things Bond. The Thames Cruise to Greenwich is great by itself but even better when you can explore Greenwich. The Observatory and London views on the way up the long hill were great. We didn't bother with the Changing of the Guard but loved the tour of Buckingham Palace (only August and September). It was also very interesting to take the tour of Parliament and learn the differences between our government in the U.S. and that of the UK. Note that the Elizabeth Tower which houses Big Ben and a lot of the Parliament building are currently covered in scaffolding due to renovation work.

    Take time to enjoy the parks in both cities. Enjoy!
     
  18. CynBeth

    CynBeth DIS Veteran

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    Same here for next summer but it is all adults.
     
  19. NYCgrrl

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    bout the Familia Sagrada in Barcelona and Ferris wheel in London....if any of your party has height issues either avoid (that would be the London Eye) or have a care touring the Spanish cathedral (there is no glass in the tower windows) depending on the degree of any family members vertigo. I was able to walk up the stairs of the left tower but since there was no handrail on the right had a serious anxiety half hour. That’s how long it took me to walk down about ten steps...just sad and wussy too.

    Should you like a special meal in Barcelona you might consider Tickets Bar. It’s an upscale tapas restaurant that follows in the footsteps of El Bulli.

    Can’t really say much about London either as it’s frequently just a stopover for me and way to get to the Continent inexpensively. Someday I’ll give it the attention it deserves. Still haven’t taken the Chunnel train into France. I fly over when on a business trip or do the ferry for that “Dunkirk” feeling even though I actually come into Calais to catch the train at Ville to Paris. To leave Paris to Barcelona you have to use the Gare de Lyon station should you opt for train travel. Paris has several long distance train stations.

    When in Paris I stay with my former SIL, friends, or hotels the friends still work at. I need to search out a new place to stay in Barcelona as the last two hotels I stayed at closed down. Gentrification is strong in that part of Spain.
     
  20. I-man

    I-man Earning My Ears

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    Has anyone done these trips over Christmas? We are doing London from 12/22-24; Paris 12/25-27; Rome 12/28-31 and the only thing I have scheduled is eating dinner in the Eiffel Tower on Christmas Day. It seems like things are only closed on Christmas Day itself but I would love to have confirmation those in the know and any information regarding Christmas fairs or festivals in any of those towns would be great too.
     
  21. NYCgrrl

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    Christmas and New Year's Days you'll find most every attraction and many eateries closed down at least in Paris (never been to Rome or spent time in London over the holidays) but mass transit still runs albeit on a holiday schedule. Both days are considered a time for families and friends and the best eating and partying happens in private residences. Choose where you decide to eat with care as it's definitely geared towards tourists.

    As for Christmas markets? I bookmarked this link a few years back but you can read the list, decide which style most appeals to you and find current dates:

    https://www.timeout.com/paris/en/paris-christmas-markets

    I've visited the Alsatian market but none of the others. Great German style food provisions that's a bit harder to find in one locale w/i Paris. I spend my time in the homes of friends and family when holidaying over December and January so really can't recommend any place for holiday meals beyond the larger hotels. You’ll be in Paris for Christmas Eve, so I’d look for an eatery that’s serving a Reveillon menu that night-it’s more important than Christmas Day dinner for most French people. Or should you be renting a private apartment this is a great time to peruse the local markets and eat "en famille". There are finally some American style supermarkets in Paris but you'll do better as many of the locals do and get foods from the smaller specialty shops.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
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