The 10 Best Things To Do in Madrid With Kids
Madrid is an incredible city for so many reasons. It’s got beautiful architecture, some of the best museums in the world, and fantastic weather. The wine is cheap, the food is exquisite, and the people are the friendliest you’ll ever meet.
I fell in love with Madrid when I visited for the first time back in 1997, and I moved to Spain in 2000. Back then it was just me, my suitcase and a one-way ticket. Sixteen years later, I’m just as passionate about it as I was that very first trip, but now it’s me, my boyfriend, our daughter and our dog.
As I’ve discovered in the last few years, Madrid is an extremely child-friendly city. It’s not unusual to see kids everywhere, and at all hours. And there are lots of unique and culturally interesting things to see and do, depending on how old your kids are, like going to a bullfight, visiting the Prado Museum, or taking a tour of the Royal Palace.
Here is the lowdown on 10 of the very best things to do with children when you visit Madrid.
Buen Retiro Park: This 350-acre park is one of the city’s main attractions, and it’s dotted with monuments, galleries and sculptures. There are plenty of places to have a drink, a snack or an ice cream, and you can rent bikes or even a rowboat to take out on the pond. Sundays are the most popular day to go, and there are lots of musicians and vendors as well as a puppet theater for kids.
Faunia: From peacocks to penguins, this zoo/botanical garden will not disappoint. Spread across 14 acres, it has 13 thematic areas and 4 different ecosystems, and generally takes about 4 to 5 hours to visit. Kids can pet and feed many of the animals, and there are many interesting exhibits and activities on offer, such as riding ponies, swimming with sea lions, seeing the Komodo dragon and learning about birds of prey.
Parque Warner: This is a fantastic theme park that rivals Disneyland Paris. Located about 30 minutes outside of Madrid, you can find plenty of roller coasters, water rides, and attractions for kids. Take a picture with the Loony Toons characters, catch a stunt show, watch a parade, or visit any of its thematic areas such as Cartoon Village, the Old West or DC Super Heroes World.
Rastro: This is Madrid’s famous flea market, held every Sunday. It’s generally chock-a-block and there’s an extremely wide range of interesting vendors, as well as interesting people to watch! You can find everything from art, second-hand items and antiques to clothing, jewelry and plants. Be sure to pop into any of the cafés that line the street to refuel with some paella or tapas and wash it down with a caña (a small glass of Spanish beer).
Carlos Sainz Go-Kart Center: Madrid is home to the greatest indoor karting track in all of Europe, so if your kids have a need for speed, then this is a must-see attraction. The facilities also include an outdoor track and timing scoreboards. The staff is very professional, the gear is well-maintained and clean, and the cars are—as you might expect—fast! (for kids 8 and up)
Plaza Mayor: This stunning cobblestone square is Madrid’s most popular and famous by far. It was built during the Hapsburg period and was designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva. In the center is a statue of King Philip III. If the walls could talk! Historically, the Plaza Mayor was the site of all kind of events: soccer games, markets, bullfights, and even public executions. Today it’s a beautiful place to wander around and it’s filled with street artists, cafés and traditional shops.
San Miguel Market: San Miguel is hands-down the most vibrant, bustling, and varied food market in Madrid. If your child is an adventurous eater (and even if he’s not), this is a great place to stop for a nosh or even just to look around. It’s housed in a beautiful glass building and there is food and drink a-plenty: fish, seafood, olives, ham, desserts, sherry and cava (for the adults, of course). You can buy small portions of most foods, so it’s the perfect place to try some new and exciting flavors.
Madrid Río: If you’re looking for a break from the center of Madrid, this is a beautiful and extensive park built around the Manzanares River with lots of things to do. You can rent bikes, hit the walking trails, or relax at the outdoor cafés. There are more than a dozen play areas for kids, with different equipment in each one and all of it made from natural, sustainable materials. The tree trunk jungle and the super zip-line are sure to be a hit.
Teleférico de Madrid (Cable Cars): Get a bird’s eye view of the city as you ride the cable cars over the Manzanares River up to Casa del Campo, another of Madrid’s parks. It’s a short ride, but you’ll get to see some major sights like the Almudena Cathedral, Plaza de España, the Egyptian Temple of Debod and the Royal Palace. The restaurant at the top offers beautiful panoramic views of the city, and there’s even a special playground for kids.
See a Flamenco Show: Flamenco is a very unique type of song and dance that originated in southern and western Spain. There are usually a few dancers performing, along with musicians who sing, play the guitar and clap their hands. There are many places to see a show, from large venues to small bars, and it’s a wonderful cultural experience for any child. In 2010, UNESCO included flamenco on the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Samara lives in Madrid with her boyfriend, daughter and their dog. When she’s not exploring the city or hanging out with her family, she’s usually chained to her computer. You can find her blogging over at Tiny Fry.