Looking for great places for families in Madrid? Summer from Mommy Points is and instead of just commenting on her post, I’m putting up a quick and easy guide for anyone going to Spain. I can’t speak to Barcelona or the Costa Brava, but I was just in Madrid back in October and I definitely have some great suggestions if you’re traveling there — solo or with a family.
The Parks/Los Parques
Madrid is a city of parks. Almost everywhere you turn, a giant park is waiting to welcome you. I loved strolling through Parque del Retiro after a visit to the Prado where people picnic and play soccer or just wander through the centuries-old trees taking in the fresh air of Madrid. The park itself is huge and could easily eat up hours of time if you want to explore every inch. Retiro is also near several major museums, including the Reina Sofia where Picasso’s Guernica now lives, so it’s a great stop on a “museum day.” Definitely worth a visit.
The Botanic Gardens (Jardin Botanico) are also next to The Prado. Combine a visit with your Retiro tour and you’ve got a full day’s worth of activities.
Another great park to hit is the massive Casa de Campo. Here you’ll find the the city’s zoo, an aquarium, an amusement park, and a lake for canoeing and such. It’s giant, so you may want to center a whole day around a visit to the Casa de Campo.
If your kids are into old buildings, a visit to the Campo del Moro/Sabatini Gardens is a great idea. Here you’ll find the Royal Palace and a ton of super cool statues. Ignore the ominous clouds in the photo above. It was overcast when I visited.
Madrid is a wonderful place for cultural activities, too, from museums to flamenco dancing to puppet shows. The Prado and Reina Sofia are must-visits for art (although your kids may hate you for dragging them to art museums), but there’s also the Teatro de Titeres (puppet theater) in the Parque del Retiro. My Spanish isn’t as good as it used to be, but based on the website I think it may be temporarily closed. Definitely check the website to see if they’re in-season. Usually they perform every Saturday and Sunday.
Flamenco may be geared towards adults, but I think it’s something kids might really enjoy, too. Check with the flamenco bars to see if they allow children and then wait for your kid to proclaim that they want to be professional flamenco dancers.
While your children may not want to sit through long multi-course meals at fine dining restaurants or late nights at the tapas bars, they’ll love the various food halls that have become the norm in Madrid. Here are my top suggestions for dining in Madrid:
The Age of the Gourmet Food Court is amongst us. From the Ferry Building in San Francisco to Eatalies all over the globe, people want options in their eating and Spain seems all too happy to oblige. For the indecisive diner, Mercado San Anton in Chueca is a godsend. You want tapas? Sushi? Greek? The food of the Canary Islands? They’ve got all of that. Your kids will have so many choices their heads will spin. They even have a stand devoted completely to foie gras (Puturrú de Foie) where you can get savory slabs of duck liver seared to order and fried croquettas oozing with foie and mushrooms — it may not be kid-approved, but you can sneak some foie in while they enjoy some jamon. If you’d rather go for a more relaxed sit-down experience, there’s a full-service restaurant on the top floor. Be careful, though, or you could lose an entire day eating your way around this place.
Augusto Figueroa 24; Chueca
While Mercado San Anton has a more local vibe, Mercado de San Miguel skews more touristy but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Instead, pick your spots. Skip the microwaved paella place (save your paella consumption for Valencia, people!) and head to Mas, a third-generation sausage maker and cured meat vendor, where you can stock up on as much jamón as you can handle. Make like a true tourist and buy a full paper cone of jamón to enjoy as you happily cruise around Madrid. Just make sure to finish it before you head into the Prado – it’s a no jamón zone.
Plaza San Miguel, 0; Plaza Mayor
Chocolate con churros can be found all over Madrid, but there’s no place more known for this beautiful combination than San Ginés. Batons of fried dough are served with a sidecar of decadently thick melted chocolate and there’s no better place to enjoy this classic madrileño treat than this back-alley chocolateria that’s been serving since 1894. If you’ve ever had the cinnamon-sugar laden version of churros at a ballgame, you have no idea what true churros are like. Similarly, the chocolate here isn’t anywhere close to Swiss Miss. It’s more akin to hot fudge and ready to enrobe your churro in a chocolate coating so enticing, you’ll want to carry a pouch of the stuff around for dipping on-the-go. San Ginés is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so stop by anytime for your fix of authentic churros. Your kids will thank you forever.
Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5; Plaza Mayor
And there you have it! Hope you have fun in Madrid with your Ma-kids!