“Madrid te abraza!“. . . Madrid embraces you. Family-friendly Madrid was full of pleasant surprises for all of us. It was quite a beautiful, international and welcoming city with clean streets filled with happy-looking people. As a capital city it has many things to offer visitors, including us families with little kids in tow. But, if your family has only one day and one thing to do or see in Madrid this summer, for whatever reason, which one should it be?
Hands down, our free electrons family (he, he, he… a little shameless self promotion here : ) recommends Madrid’s parks and gardens. The area of green, well-maintained spaces, catered for both children and adults, in this city is incredible–something that we had not seen in any other major city. Specifically, Parque de el Retiro and Madrid Río are on top of the list! Why we like them? They are outdoors, free, have plenty of relaxing things to do and plenty of shade (very much appreciated in a 35-plus-degree summer sweltering heat).
Parque de el Retiro
It’s the big green space, the “lung” of the city, slightly to the right of the center of Madrid. Easily a pleasant half-day collection of activites where you can see some live music, go for a stroll or for a boat ride on the lake with your family, with the monument of the “benevolent King”, Alfonso XII, watching over. In this wide open green space your children can be. . . well, children. . . run around the dog-poop-free park, ride bicycles, play to their hearts contents at several playgrounds for various ages, and wonder-watch puppet shows on the weekends. . . for FREE! Save some fun and invest in your family fun time by having a picnic here too. How to get to there? Take Metro stops: Retiro, Banco de Espana or Atocha.
Parque Madrid Río
Like El Retiro, here you can relax, go for casual stroll, have a picnic and let your children enjoy their free play at the open spaces and several playgrounds that have more uniquely interesting structures, slides and. . . yes, ziplines! The highlight of this park, and this is especially useful in the summer, is the 3 oval-shaped areas called “beaches” where you and your hyper-heated, heat-seeking, missiles-of-a-children can cool off. Thanks to the various water jets, splash pods and water spray clouds. Not exactly a beach where you can sunbathe and swim. Still, you can spend hours (I’m talking about hours) of fun just on these waterplays in the sun! Happy kids, happy wife! (and happy wife = happy life ; ) . . . just a little reminder for the hubbies. How to get to there? Located a little more to the southwest of the city. Take Metro stops: Piramides or Principe Pio.
If you have a second day in Madrid?
Go for a slow walk in the center to see some of the famous places close to each other. First, take the Metro to Puerta del Sol and find the iconic monument of a bear looking for nookie in a tree. Snap, snap! Walk west along Calle Mayor with its unique street artists with one-of-a-kind ideas to make a buck. Head towards Madrid’s famous and expansive, pedestrian-only square, Plaza Mayor. Find the tourist information center here for more info and maps. Continue west, along Calle Mayor and grab some grub/tapas from the market on Plaza San Miguel. Stop by the other little quiet plazas on your way to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) with a beautifully well-kept Gardens of the Moorish Camp (Jardines del Campo del Moro), where you can have a family picnic, and the Catedral de la Almudena. If you have time towards the end of your day, go 2 blocks up where the Templo de Debod sits atop a hill. This 2,000 year old stone temple was brought there stone by stone from Egypt and is the best place to watch sunset.
And if you have another day?
I recommend a couple of hours visit to the National Museum of Natural Science (Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales) for a fee, where you can feed your children’s (and your inner child’s) sense of wonder at prehistoric preys and predators, relics of neanderthal cavemen, dinosaurs and nature-focused exhibitions. For a truly unique Spanish place to visit, however, stop by the House Museum of the Mouse Perez (Casa Museo del Raton Perez) where the famous mouse–the Spanish version of a tooth fairy in Luis Coloma’s story–lived.
Madrid has too many cool and fun things to do and see to see for both solo travelers and families with toddlers. Some are free, like most of the things we mentioned above. And many more have fees. But for our slow-go family, if we can see one thing a day in a city. . . well, that’s good enough for us. Always save some for later!
Next: If there is one thing for your family to see in… ZARAGOZA… which one will it be?
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Family Camping Road Trip with kids, Day 3-5: Madrid.