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The best Spanish destinations for families

It would take lot to knock Spain off its pedestal as a favourite holiday destination of the British. Diverse landscapes, blissful beaches, siesta-soaked afternoons and flamboyant flamenco nights are just some of its many attractions. Amanda Morison picks three child- and parent-friendly mainland favourites

01/05/2022Updated 25/10/2023

Marvellous Marbella by the Sierra Bermeja mountains (Adobe Stock)

The glam

The Andalucian province of Malaga is as famous for being Pablo Picasso’s birthplace as the gateway to the Costa del Sol, which means a beguiling mix of beaches and culture. The larger beaches tend to have a children’s playground nearby, and – particularly around Marbella – you’ll find private beach clubs, some with organised activities for kids, bookable by the day. Try Bono Beach or the more expensive (but worth it!) Marbella Club. Culture vultures will love Malaga’s Pompidou Centre and Picasso Museum.

Don’t miss: Declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, the Caves of Nerja feature prehistoric paintings in a succession of caverns over three miles long. If you’re lucky, your trip might even coincide with a rock (age…) concert held in a natural amphitheatre. Yabba dabba do!

Stay: A gorgeously luxe hotel, even by Malaga’s glitzy standards, is the Anantara Villa Padierna Palace. It ticks all the boxes and offers everything from a comprehensive kids’ club, three golf courses and a Roman amphitheatre to more than 1,200 artworks.

Take off to Malaga

The ancient city of Empúries, Catalonia (Adobe Stock)

The great

The Costa Brava was Spain’s first region to seek out British tourists and, as a result, boasts plenty of sangria sessions in all-inclusive high-rise resorts. But the further north you head, the quieter and slower the pace of life, amidst the kind of natural beauty you’d expect from Spain’s ‘wild coast’. Families love the numerous Blue Flag beaches, diving, sailing and other watersports. And there are three Salvador Dalí museums dedicated to the artist who lived and worked here. You’ll recognise the region’s distinctive green pine and terracotta hills region in many of Dalí’s works, melting clocks aside.

Don’t miss: It’s not just about the beaches. The Costa Brava boasts three National Parks and there are hiking opportunities for the committed and the ambler alike – with plenty of children’s playgrounds to help power you from A to Z. And the Greco-Roman ruins at Empúries are one of Spain’s most important archaeological sites and deliver a stunning location overlooking the Sant Martí d’Empúries beach.

Stay: Hotel Aigua Blava sits on one of the world’s prettiest beaches, one hour from Barcelona. It has a prime seaside position and volleyball, badminton and tennis courts, bike rental and diving lessons on offer. It’s ideal for families who like to be active together but don’t want a formal kids’ club.

Take off to Barcelona

The Costa Cálida, Murcia – also opening image (Adobe Stock)

The good

A 250km stretch of golden and often dramatic coastline warmed by more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in Spain – welcome to Murcia’s Costa Cálida. Southeast from Alicante away from lager-and-chips Benidorm, the region’s bustling fishing villages, historic cities and marine reserves add to its charms. The quality museums offer incredible value, and Murcia’s Museo de la Ciencia y el Agua dedicated to science and water is fabulous fun for kids, with messy play, a planetarium, and children’s activities in the summer. The region has a long growing season and is as famed for its vegetables as its seafood – try caldero rice dishes, named after the iron cauldron traditionally used for cooking on fishing boats, octopus cooked low and slow for tenderness and tuna with plump tomatoes. Careful with the paparajote, though. These battered lemon leaves are fragrant cinnamon heaven, but you’re not supposed to eat the actual leaves, as many visitors find out too late while chewing a citrus cud!

Don’t miss: Getting wet! Lo Pagán mud baths offer a wallow in mineral-rich black mud, and it’s a rare child who wouldn’t enjoy coating themselves and their parents before washing it all off in the waves. Then give a day to the Aqua Natura water park, with water slides, a lazy river and splash areas.

Stay: The Hotel Atrium in Mazarron is popular with Spanish families and offers great value apartments with kitchenettes, many with sea views and balconies.

Take off to Murcia