baby and child friendly holidays - Madrid, Spain
Here's a parent's eye review of
Holiday Type: City break
Your overall rating as a holiday suitable for children: 3 stars
Is Madrid good for the kids?:Madrid is busy and bustling and perhaps not everyones' cup of tea when it comes to holidaying with children, but, there are many things for children to do in Madrid. There are lots of parks and pedestrian areas all over the city so you can escape the busier traffic filled streets. Many Spaniards adore children and make them feel very welcome and as their own children stay up late, you can comfortably enjoy summer evenings in the city without fear that your childrens' presence will be frowned upon. Madrid is extremely warm in July and August (upwards of 40 degrees at time) so perhaps too hot for children.
What was your accommodation?Type: Stayed with friends/family
How was the accommodation for the children?:Accommodation suitability for children rating: n/a
Did you eat out in Madrid with your children and how was it?Eating out for children rating: 4 stars
Our children were made welcome in the restaurants, though high chairs weren't always available. We found that the children really enjoyed tapas as its a really social experience and gave them chance to try lots of new things without having a plateful to finish in front of them. Our children particularly adored tortilla de patata (potato omelette), croquettas, chorizo, (especially the small cooked chistorra), morcilla (Spanish black pudding), cazon (deep fried, very tasty fish), gambas (prawns) and paella. Although the Plaza Mayor is slightly overpriced and touristy - it is a good place to watch the world go by while you eat and there is plenty to amuse the children too. I wouldn't recommend eating in the cafes in the park. We took a baguette sliced cheese, chorizo and a bag of apples and had a picnic on the grass there instead.
Are there things to do for the children in Madrid?Activities for children rating: 5 stars
CosmoCaixa is Madrid’s science museum - its on the outskirts of Madrid, but is accessible by the metro. The ground floor temporary displays are fantastically visual and even our youngest (2 years old) enjoyed it. The displays were easy to understand and very hands-on and there are many exciting things for young and older children to do. Its excellent value and well worth a visit. (CosmoCaixa is open from Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 8pm. Entrance to main displays – 3€ adults, 2€ reduced ticket including children (under 3s are free). The planetarium and other activities are extra. Entrance is free on the last Sunday of the month. For more information visit: www.cosmocaixa.com.)
Our 5 year old enjoyed the palace but it wouldn't have been suitable for our 2 year old. The queues were long to get in so get there early to avoid this. The rooms are opulent and a visual delight for children. The armoury complete with knights suits, weapons and full scale horse models in armour is of great interest to children, I was alarmed to see children’s suits of armour but apparently they weren't for use in combat! (Esmadrid.com has useful information on the Palace opening times and prices.) There's a playground next to the palace in the Plaza Oriente - great for the kids to let off steam and parents to take a rest.
Parque del Retiro
Retiro park is huge and is great for the children; a boating lake, entertainers including puppet shows, clowns and living statues. Also, there are a number of play areas including one offering more interesting play things for slightly older children. There is loads to discover fountains, statues and ornate buildings- you can probably spend most of the day here if you bring a picnic. There are many trees, so refuge from the summer heat is possible. Cafes in the park offer drinks and baguettes – but I think it's perhaps best to visit a bakers and/or deli and take your own with you.
Madrid zoo is located in Casa de Campo. The zoo has an open feel, as they use ditches to hold back animals rather than fences but I did feel I needed to keep good hold of my youngest to prevent her getting into a couple of the enclosures! I felt that some of the enclosures were a little small and some were too concretey for my liking, but the aquarium was good and the dolphin show excellent. I wouldn’t recommend the restaurant, the baguettes were very ordinary, and a particular headache for parents is the adjoining toy shop with its display clearly visible from the restaurant. The website is www.zoomadrid.com and has an English option.
We and our children preferred Faunia (www.faunia.es). It’s on the outskirts of Madrid but accessible by bus and metro. It’s an animal park, but unlike any I’ve seen before. The displays are by ecosystem and contain some very different animals – for example, a hot and humid jungle area houses exotic parrots and a squirrel monkey area where you can wander around with the monkeys, or the penguin enclosure, complete with snow. The displays are excellent, and you don’t need to understand the Spanish commentary to understand them. It’s a really different day out and was interesting for us all – for our 2 year old, her parents and her grand parents!
Other places to visit. I haven’t visited these but they are popular attractions for children.
Parque de atracciones (theme park), website: www.parquedeatracciones.es
Museo Cera (wax works museum), website: www.museoceramadrid.com
Aquapolis (water park), website: www.aquopolis.es
You could also take your children to one of the three art galleries in Madrid.
Any other things you think parents should know about Madrid?You can probably spend a day or two in Madrid itself in the park, etc but the best children's attractions are around the edges of the city, so you'll need to be prepared to travel. However, the metro is pretty easy to use and people are generally really helpful if you need information.
Pharmacies are plentiful and stock baby milk, nappies and baby food, but cheaper options are available in the supermarkets.
Not all restaurants have baby changing facilities or high chairs. You may need to discretely change your baby in their buggy.
Would you like to visit Madrid? Check out the hotels in Madrid from Expedia
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Photo courtesy of Carla Carvalho Tomás via Flickr