There is something magical about Madrid. It is a stunning city rich in culture and history, a window into the world of Spain’s majestic past and modern, cosmopolitan future. In this article I describe a few options for a family-friendly expedition to the capital city of Spain.
Hit the streets
Most young kids only have a limited capacity for walking. While hours of walking and wandering through neighbourhoods is often the best way to discover and explore a city, it is no fun doing it with children that are tired and just want to stop for ice-cream. If you are going to tackle a bit of walking in Madrid then focus on the Gran Via. This is a huge, wide street that stretches for about one kilometre in length. Start your walk from the Metropolis building, grab a few selfies with its stunning bronze dome and statue. This is a busy, vibrant street with lots of shopping, but it will give you a real sense that you are in the heart of one of the world’s great cities.
Enjoy the views
A relatively low-rise city, there are quite a few opportunities to get up above the city and appreciate the fantastic skyline. The best bird’s-eye view is from Teleferico de la Casa de Campo and the children will enjoy the cable car ride up there. Also the lookout point from the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande is also stunning if you don’t mind climbing a few stairs. Madrid has great churches, but it’s likely that your family is going to have only limited tolerance for visiting churches, so if you combine a great look-out opportunity then you kill two birds with one stone.
Hang out in Plaza Mayor
When you think of “old Madrid” then you are thinking of Plaza Mayor. Sure the cafes are a bit touristy, but this is the kind of old square where you can really get a sense of how the people in this city have lived in past centuries. There’s a great Churro ( a Spanish doughnut) shop here so after a bit of exploring and wandering around the small narrow streets, you will be able to reward everyone with some outstanding hot chocolate and a big plate of Churros to share.
If you think the kids will be up for checking out a market, then on Sunday head to El Rastro which has the well established city flea market. You never know what you’ll find in a market like this, but exploring and discovering is what makes it fun. Get there early if you can – it gets very busy.
The children will enjoy the wonderful play areas at the Madrid Rio Project, a 820 hectare park on the Manzanares River which includes the “Urban Beach”.
One of the challenges of a family holiday in Madrid is that nothing really happens that early. It would be ideal if you could adjust your family’s sleeping patterns to Madrid time, but obviously that’s easier said than done. Most shops and museums open after 10:00. Lunch happens sometime after 14:00; and dinner happens sometimes after 21:00. You might need to have a few contingencies up your sleeve and a few snacks in your rucksack in order to get through the day.
Madrid is a beautiful city and a fantastic place to visit. Start planning your family expedition now!