Costa Brava with Kids
Finding a stress free holiday location can be tough when factoring in Children’s needs.
There are so many options out there, so I sat down and considered what exactly I was looking for in a 2 week holiday. I focused on what was important in a location, taking into account the children’s ages.
- Flight Time
- Small beach town with enough restaurants within walking distance
- Towns near by for day trips
- Child friendly / snootiness level
- Stroller accessibility
We decided that the beachtown of Calella de Palafrugell, in the province of Girona ticked all these boxes.
It is nestled on the coast with neighbouring beach towns close by for day trips (Llofriu, Tamariu and Llafranc). Llafranc was within a 15 minute walk and Tamariu was a 20 minute drive with the most amazing coastal views.
We flew to Barcelona with Vueling, as Ryanair were striking on that date. However, we flew home from Girona with Ryanair on a non strike day!
Palafrugell is a 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Barcelona airport, and about 45 minutes from Girona airport. We rented a car with car seats which was only ok, but we couldn’t find a petrol station in time when returning the car, so we ended up getting charged and penalised.
We checked 1 bag on, both myself and husband had a carry on wheelie case, and a small backpack each. We had a light cheap stroller for our 2 year old and I carried my 3 month in the ergobaby 360 carrier.
The checked in bag was full of my baby and toddler’s clothes, nappies for 1 week ( we were staying for 2 weeks so i got more nappies and wipes over there) Hipp Milk formula and Ella’s pouches for the toddler.
Calella Palafrugell is the beach town, the actual town of Palafrugell is a 10 minute drive away.
When I looked for accommodation online, there was only 2 or 3 hotels, and a few apartments. It really is a small little beach town.
We stayed in a hotel called Hotel Alga, which had a wonderful outdoor swimming pool, a great help yourself breakfast and lovely staff. The hotel had 3 types of rooms, 1 was a family room, which were located on the ground floor with their own little terraces but we wanted a view so opted for a smaller room so we could have a balcony. We knew we would enjoy sitting out on the balcony with a glass of vino in the evenings, watching the sea and seeing stars settling into the sky while the babies fell asleep.
The Swimming pool had a toddler pool, which was a game changer. He was able to walk around the water, as it was the perfect level. So he would play in it for a good hour or more each day.
We visited in early September, which was the start of the quiet season, so the town was perfect, you could easily get a table in any restaurant by the seafront.
There was 1 tapas bar, Calau, which was very popular, we tended to go for food at 7 or 8pm which was always before the locals filled it up. Calau has tapas at the bar to pick up yourself, and waiters walking around with freshly made/ hot tapas.
Another memorable restaurant there was La Blava, under the archway on the beach with maybe 4 tables outside and tables upstairs overlooking the sea.
We went here twice, the food was delicious and the staff were really helpful and kind with my toddler whom on both occasions wanted to leave after about 30 minutes. The manager can come across as brusk but I think he is just busy and is very nice in person!
I will mention 1 place so people can avoid it! It was called Can Gelpi, right on the beachfront. We had lunch in it to escape a thunderstorm and later that day sat down to have drinks on their empty terrace only to be asked to move as it was for diners only. I would usually move but there were no other diners and the drinking tables were beside people smoking and I had started feeding my baby a bottle when we were told to move. I read reviews later on trip advisor and I could understand why it was empty. Shame really, as they are taking up a prime location.
Beaches: Callela Palafrugell has a number of small beaches, with only 1 realistically accessible with a stroller. Most of the others had steps down to the beach. I did not see any public toilets on the beaches here for changing into bathing suits etc.
Llafranc, a 15 minute walk with stroller had fewer restaurants, but it did have Chez Tomas. We ate here twice, and booked a table the 2nd time, as it is quite popular, and you need to be organised with a stroller as many restaurants just don’t have the space for one. Food here was fresh fish, lamb and veal. I got fresh fish both times, and it was chargrilled, soooo tasty.
There was only 1 or 2 small shops in the beachtown that sold beachy furnishings and clothing.
Llfranc had a pharmacy with baby nappies, wipes, and formula. It also had a nice smoothie shop and 3 clothing shops.
Beach: Llafranc had a very pretty stretch of beach, with a public toilet for changing into beach costumes. This beach was stroller accessible.
Tamariu is a 20 minute drive (you cannot walk, as it is around the mountainous coast line which has no paths). A small beautiful enclave of maybe 5 restaurants by the beach with 3 shops selling beach paraphernalia, children’s toys and snacks.
We did not dine here, but had a beach day here. I grabbed fresh sandwiches from a local cafe for the beach.
Beach: The beach here was stunning, most people seemed to leave their strollers on the walkway above the sand. Note though that the sea dipped sharply, so take care when swimming.b
There were public toilets right at the start of the beach.
We did a few day trips to surrounding towns, mainly on rainy & cloudy days.
A short 20 minute drive from Calella Palafrugell. This town had many cafes and shops, most of which were not brand name shops but independant spanish clothing and shoe shops. I loved strolling around here, there was a massive port and big long stretch of flat beach. The beachfront part of the town had a promenade which was perfect for the stroller, and we spotted a small playground just off the promenade which our toddler played with for a while.
We ate in an old family fish restaurant “Celler De La Planassa”, popular with the locals. It was located by the fishing port after the beach. I had fresh sea bream, and my partner had hake. It was a little more expensive than most other restaurants but it was part of the Cuina de L’Empordanet cookery collective, a group of restaurants whom use regional, local produce, so worth the extra dosh.
I liked the slightly rugged edge to this town, some parts looked a little run down but the vibe and welcome from the locals was relaxed and happy.
I would recommend here for good fresh fish and children’s clothes shopping, if you wanted to get Spanish brands as opposed to big brand named clothing.
A picturesque town in the hills, with beautiful medieval towers and a beach. This was 20 minute drive. There was a big public open air market on when we visited selling clothing, Fresh fruit and veg, plants, antiques and books. The streets are narrow, so it was a little tight at times with the buggy. There were lots of art shops, beachy/furnishing shops and clothing shops, with 1 or 2 artisan food shops, all very small.
We wanted to walk up to the old castle “Castell de Begur” instead of walking down to the beach. It was a slope all the way up, so I made it up with the stroller, but it was a bit of a work out! The views over the town from the top of the castle are beautiful, and I would recommend doing it to catch the sunset.
There were 2 designated parking areas that I could see, both of which had steps though, so I had to carry the stroller up a good 50 steps or so. Some parts around the castle walls were only accessible by steps also which made exploring a little frustrating in the heat with the stroller.
The birthplace of Salvador Dali is a 1 hour drive from Calella de Palafrugell. It is a typical Spanish town, with the big branded Spanish shops (Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Stradivarius) and big open squares. While we were there, a Catalan Castell (human tower) were practicing together. An amazing thing to see, as they all rely on each other to hold up the human tower, with children making the final tower at the top.
We mainly chose here for the Dali Museum, which he built himself before he died. The museum is worth seeing, mainly because its just so quirky and eccentric. The museum had a mixture of his paintings, art installations, sculptures and jewelry. Some of the installations were crazy, with old one eyed dolls and lions featuring heavily.
We booked our tickets online while having lunch there, and the queuing system let people in for each 30 minute slots, so it was well run.
Some of the museum (staircases and corridors) were very claustrophobic and even though we visited in September it was still very busy.
We were not allowed to bring the stroller into the museum, so bear that in mind with kids.
Tip: There were not many decent places to eat here, so bring a packed lunch!
We had to visit the old romantic, rustic city, as it was only 1 hour drive away. There were many parking options on our gps, and we ended up right beside the bridge into the heart of the old town. Big university there, so there were plenty of students milling around the town. There were plenty of cafes, smoothie bars and bars around too. We found a very non touristy vegetarian cafe beside the walls to the old castle, which was delicious but not very child friendly, and I ended up changing my child on the bathroom floor (thankfully I have a good padded mat).
Girona was very rustic but a little run down in parts, and could do with some funds since Spain get most of their tourist taxes from Catalonia alone! I would probably recommed this place for a romatic break with just you and your partner. The streets were cobbely (not fun with a light stroller), and not many places to change the children.
Places we did not make it to, but are worth seeing!
Cadaqués: White washed fishing village, rocky port and cobbled streets, Dali was hugely inspired by the white washed houses and this can be seen in many of his paintings. It is now more like an artist’s village,but do take the cobbled streets into consideration if you have a light stroller. 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Calella de Palafrugell.
Pals: Just 5 km west of Begur, this medieval town is supposed to be a stunner. Its famous for its rustic cuisine and the beach has a gentle slope, which is ideal for children.
Food: Having pouches was a fab idea, as my 2 year old went off his food over there, being out of his comfort zone. It was hot there too, so I was buying juice cartons like a demented person pushing them on him to ensure he did not get dehydrated. I had also brought over Oat bars, but I wish I had more.
A Tablet Device: loaded with his usual cartoons. Being out of his comfort zone, having his usual cartoons made him relax more into his temporary environment. We had Booba and Despicable Me downloaded on Netflix (Tip – Turn smart download off so it does not delete episodes after being played). We also had Amazon Prime loaded with Bing, and Tumble Leaf.
What did not work
Baby Carriers: I brought 2 carriers, the structured ErgoBaby 360 and a cotton wrap. I wore the cotton wrap on the way to Barcelona and by the time we picked up the car, the wrap was loose and hot! So it was no longer supporting my baby properly or being helpful to me with bags etc, it was a nightmare.
Bites: We got bitten a lot by Ants, they were everywhere but I forgot to bring my usual natural Calamine lotion, which stops itching straight away. Will be prepared next time!
Girona Airport Security Gate: For a family this was a nightmare. Be prepared for a lot of hassle from the airport staff when you pass through. We had everything ready for inspection and clearly on display. They made me take off my baby from the carrier and hand it to staff while I walked through. Then my husband was told to take toddler out of buggy and put buggy on the luggage conveyor belt for x-ray while keeping hold of our toddler and being told toddler had to walk through on his own. They were far from family friendly and kept shouting at us, so be prepared for it.
Old Town Girona: Don’t even try to get around the old town part of Girona with a light stroller, (ours was the Joie Nitro) the cobbles make it impossible to push. Or at least don’t do it if your child is napping, as it will give them a rude awakening!
I hope this helped give you a glimpse of traveling with kids through the Costa Brava, let me know your child friendly destinations below!