After two years of steady business travel to Spain – including a couple weekend jaunts to Barcelona – we finally took our three kids on a 10-day excursion to beautiful España. We spent the first half of our Spain trip in Madrid (you can read about it here), and the rest in Barcelona. The best money and time we spent in Barcelona was the trek to mighty Mount Tibidabo!
Seriously, who can resist a high mountain with awesome views of Catalonia and an amusement park on top? Don’t worry – if like us you are watching the wallet and not planning on riding the rides – it’s still worth the time and energy to venture up.
(BTW, it’s pronounced tee-bee-DAH-bō – and I know, you can’t stop saying it, right?)
Here are the Top Three Reasons to take your kids to Mount Tibidabo when you’re in Spain:
The Fun(icular) Journey to the top
There is only one way to the top of Tibidabo, but a few different ways to get there using a combination of bus, taxi, tram, and good old hoofing it.
If you’re like us and the journey is as fun as the destination, you’ll enjoy planning your route from Barcelona’s city center to Mount Tibidabo and back. It isn’t difficult, but then again, it’s not as easy as walking or taking a single mode of transport.
And be prepared for spending energy or burning calories if you’re trying to get your steps in – you’ll burn more than enough if you do what we did.
We don’t always opt for it, but in Barcelona the hop-on, hop-off bus tour service has three different routes, one of which will deposit you at the foot of Mount Tibidabo. From there you can choose to take a tram another part way up the hill (the historic Tramvia Blau), or simply walk. And of course we chose to walk and see the neighborhood on foot.
Warning: we had been told it was about a ten-minute walk to the next leg of our journey, but it was more like 30 minutes – more for us because we stopped to take pictures. And if you do this, take water!
And now for the fun-icular! It’s an easy-to-follow route to the next mode of transport: a funicular that will take you up a steep grade to the main entrance for Tibidabo. It isn’t often in your 40s that you can ride a mode of public transportation that you’ve never taken before. Funiculars aren’t very widespread in the U.S. so I simply had never had the chance to ride this type of cablecar/train hybrid.
The funicular ride took less than ten minutes but be forewarned: it’s a little pricey for five people, and you only get a discount if you’re planning on entering the amusement park, which we weren’t planning to do. It cost the five of us around $60 USD at the time. A little expensive for a short ride, but after walking up the mountain to that point, we didn’t want to walk further and we wanted to ride the funicular!
(And just to close the loop, when our day atop Tibidabo was over, we simply took the funicular back down, strolled down Avenida de Tibidabo to our Bus Turistica stop, hopped on, and enjoyed the slow and scenic bus ride back to the stop near our apartment.)
The Views and Photo Opportunities
The views of greater Barcelona from Mount Tibidabo are breathtaking. From this vantage point, all of the city’s geography comes together, from the airport to the south, the Mediterranean beaches, the Sagrada Familia cathedral, the Camp Nou, the 99,000-capacity soccer stadium for FC Barcelona.
Similarly amazing is the amusement park, constructed up the side of the mountain on six levels to the very top. The history of its construction is fascinating, and rides that jut out from the side of the mountain to hundreds of meters below is enough to give you a little stomach drop just from watching.
Surprisingly, Tibidabo was far from crowded even though we visited on a mid-June day. And thankfully, there were many food options available to those of us who didn’t buy admission to the amusement park.
The Cathedral Watching Over the City
By this point in our travels, we admittedly were a little worn out of visiting cathedrals and other architectural wonders. However, atop Mount Tibidabo sits Tibidabo Cathedral del Sagrat Cor – which can be seen from virtually any point in Barcelona. We took plenty of pictures outside the cathedral while we ate our ice cream and meandered back to the funicular. Unfortunately we didn’t go inside – but that’s why there’s always a next time…right?
TRAVEL HINTS AND TIPS:
- We loved the Barcelona Bus Turístic – three routes, all around the City, not a lot of waiting time, and a terrific way to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time. The two-day tickets for a family of five run close to $200 USD, but for us, the expense was well worth it – especially if you plan to spend one day, for example, taking the various routes and spend day two using the buses as transport to the sites you want to see that are far flung from your accommodations.
- Can’t stress enough – take your own water bottles and granola bars or your snack of choice. We found plenty of places and ways to refill water bottles, and were amazed at the amount of water we drank on our Tibidabo day.
- The Tramvia Blau is a historic remnant of Barcelona’s old streetcar system, and dates back to 1901. Part of the reason we walked to the funicular was that the lines for the tram were long, and we thought we could walk just as fast as waiting for the tram and then riding it would take. In the end, the tram maybe would have saved us 10 minutes. But we would not have traded the sights along the walk for the tram ride. And don’t forget, the tram will cost about $8 USD per person, one-way. So we saved about $80 by walking.