The sea is the heart of Barcelona, and ships of all kinds docked in the harbor over the centuries - fishing boats, sailing ships with cargoes from all over the Mediterranean, gigantic rowed war galleys, and today, fishing boats still come and go, as well as sightseeing boats, leisure sail boats, cruise ships and container ships.

Mirador de Colom (Columbus monument) - When Columbus returned from the new world in 1493, he dropped anchor in Barcelona and was received with ceremony by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. In 1888 a lofty statue was erected to commemorate his voyage. Columbus stands at the top of a column high in the sky, but kids will enjoy the four big lions at the base of the statue.
Maritime Museum (Museu Maritim) - The Museu Maritim is housed in the building of the royal shipyards, dating back to the 13th century. The museum is a treasure trove of ships, both models and the real thing, and the building itself is very atmospheric, conjuring up smells of pitch and tar and sailing the oceans. Be sure to get the free audio guides in English (most the exhibits are labeled in Spanish and Catalan).
The museum has a super collection of model ships, including models of Columbus' three ships and a scale model of the port in the 15th century. There are also traditional Catalan fishing boats, an early submarine, actual cannons and figureheads from ships, and re-creations of life at sea - quarters, food, cargo holds. But the big draw is the full-size replica of the royal galley of Juan de Austria - the flagship in great battle of Lepanto against the Turks in 1571, 196 feet long, rowed by 236 oarsmen.
After you've toured the museum, head over toward the Rambla del Mar walkway to the sailing ship Santa Eulalia , an early 19th century schooner. Kids can run through the crew's quarters, take the helm, feel the boat swaying underfoot and the wind in the rigging.
Las Golondrinas - A cruise around the harbor is fun - pick up "Las Golodrinas" sightseeing boats across from the Columbus monument. On a 35 min. ride, you'll have great views of the Montjuic castle on the hill, the container ships loading and unloading, and boats going in and out of the harbor. There's also a 1 ½ hour cruise at goes east along the coast, up and back, but the primary interest is new architectural landmarks, less interesting for kids, so the shorter cruise is your best bet. Click here for schedules.
Moll d'Espanya - This harborside development includes several things in one – lots of restaurants, an aquarium, walkways and promenades, and a great place to just relax in the sun. There’s also plenty of grassy areas and long granite benches with views of the water, so bring a picnic and sit outside.
Rambla de Mar - Take the wavy pedestrian walkway that goes across to the Moll d'Espanya. It's also a bridge, that swivels and rotates to let sailboats from the marina go out - this is very cool to watch if you have budding engineers in the family. Also, two white statues with faces pointing skyward are always the home to seagulls perched on them.
L' Aquarium - Discover marine life of the Mediterranean, off the coast of Catalonia. In shallow sandy bottoms, rocky caves, Neptune grass fields, tidepools, live Moray eels, scorpionfish, seahorses, red sea stars, snakelock anemones, stringrays, blue lobsters and spider crabs. Don’t miss sharks gliding overhead in the Oceanarium. Little kids have fun playing in Explora children's area (hop on a turtle)and rooftop play area.
Rent bikes - Barcelona is a wonderful city for biking - there are miles of dedicated bike lanes. Rent bikes down by the waterfront, and bike along the beach, east past the Port Olympic, Poblenou Park, to Diagonal Mar and the Forum. You can rent bikes at the kiosk close to the Columbus monument, just west of the Barceloneta metro stop, and on the Passeig Maritim along the beach. Tandem bikes, kids' bikes, bikes with child seats are available.
Walk along the waterfront - Our favorite walk is to start at the Columbus statue. Walk east along the big promenade lined with trees, passing under the giant crayfish (looks like a big shrimp with floppy claws). Turn right at the red, blue and yellow Lichtenstein head sculpture, and continue around to Passeig de Joan de Borbo, past all the outdoor restaurants in Barceloneta. At the end of Joan de Borbo, run over to Sant Sebastia beach. (Or continue walking to the Torre de St. Sebastia, to take the cable car across the harbor.)
Ride the cross-harbor cable car - For a panoramic view of the harbor and Barcelona overall, take the cable car (teleferico) across the harbor from Torre St. Sebastia to Plaça de la Armada at the southeastern corner Montjuic Park. The ride up the elevator to the top of the tower is exhilarating in itself, then board the cable car, which travels high above the water, a great aerial skyway. No need to buy a round trip ticket - the cable car is a dramatic way to get to Monjuic Park.