Spanish is fast becoming the compulsory language taught in schools, so give them a linguistic head start and visit Madrid, a city that has everything children and parents need to make a fantastic break.
Flight Time to Madrid: 2hrs 30 mins
Travel Tip: Buy the Madrid Tourist Pass for as many days as you are in Madrid. Valid on the Metro and the bus services in the city, it includes the surcharge normally added to the price of a Metro ticket from the airport. You can buy it online - then just take your receipt to Madrid Metro Customer Service Desk (Centro de Atencion al Cliente) just outside the Metro Station at Terminal 2 where your tickets will be issued.
From Madrid Barajas Airport, take the Metro from Terminal 2 or Terminal 4. Trains leave every 5 minutes from 06.00 – 02.00. Line 8 goes straight to the Nuevos Ministerios in the centre of the city. There is lots of walking to be done in Madrid but tired little ones love the underground trains.
Situated in the heart of Madrid, El Retiro Park has over 300 acres to run around, play and explore. You will find monuments, gardens, lakes, walk ways, exhibition halls and the Glass Palace. At the lake, you can rent a rowing boat and, for little ones, Teatro de Titeres stages puppet shows at the weekend. Teenagers may want something a little more daring, so take them to see the Fallen Angel, the world's only public statue dedicated to the devil – it sits 666m above sea level.
Nearest metro: Retiro - 1 mile
Madrid Rio has 17 playgrounds built using sustainable, natural materials designed to integrate into the surrounding environment. There are spider webs, hammocks and suspension bridges for climbing, logs for balance and swings and slides for fun. There is also an urban beach with water fountains, sprays and spouts that alternate. Whilst the kids play adults can enjoy the monuments, walkways and art.
Nearest Metro: Pirámides - 0.5 miles.
Art & Football
There are many, many museums and art galleries in Madrid. We recommend the Thyssen-Bornemisza - artists include Joan Miró a Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramicist whose paintings are bright and lively, Kandinsky whose abstract art is regularly explored at primary school and Salvador Dali with his surrealist imagery that will surely get the kids talking.
The Gallery also does family visits (need to be booked in advance) and thematic tours (themes include food, fashion, climate and performing arts) with audio guides. Hand over the gallery map to your little ones and let them lead the way.
Nearest Metro: Banco de España - 0.6 miles
For the football fan, a visit to Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is a must. Access the changing rooms where legendary players have laced their boots, before going out to the pitch. There are interactive screens so you can learn everything about one of the worlds most successful football clubs. Thanks to the interactive screens, you can even have your picture taken with your favourite player!
Nearest Metro: Santiago Bernabéu - 0.2 miles
Birds Eye Views
Kids love heights and rides, so The Teléferico, Cable Car is perfect. It reaches heights of 40m and takes 11 minutes. Exhilarating stuff!
Whilst flying in your ‘gondola,’ you will see the Plaza de España and the Egyptian Temple of Debod. Take the Teléferico from the Rosales Station, at the top there is a park, restaurant and more great views. You can do a round trip and children under 4 go free. Check opening times on the website but usually daily from 12.00 – 20.00.
Nearest Metro: Arguelles - 0.4 miles
If cable cars aren't your thing but you love the high life, try Faro De Moncloa Observation Tower. Step into the panoramic lift 92 metres up in the sky. From here you can see the Royal Palace, La Almundena Cathedral, the Gran Via and, on a clear day, the peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. Situated in the Ciudad Universitaria area of Madrid.
Nearest Metro stops are: Moncloa - 0.7 miles and Islas Filipinas - 0.4 miles.
Out and About
Street entertainers in Madrid are ingenious and you must visit the Plaza Mayor or the Puerta Del Sol to see elaborate human statues that will amaze you and the kids. The Plaza Mayor is a great place to grab a drink and tapas, it is pedestrianised so kids can run about in the square whilst parents take a little break.
Nearest Metro: Sevilla - 0.5 miles
Another open-air venue is the Temple of Debod moved from Eqypt to Madrid when the Nile was flooded and the Aswan Damn built. The Temple and hieroglyphics are fascinating for everyone – another subject covered in school. Another park for a run around or a sit.
Nearest Metro: Principe Pio - 0.6 miles and Plaza de Espana - 0.3 miles
Tastes of Spain
The Mercado de San Miguel is a market that is open from 10.00 to midnight. There are stalls serving delicious food, which you can take away, or eat in the communal seating areas. It has something for everyone so there will be no family fighting about what to have.
You will have trouble choosing from Madrids famous tapas, seafood specialities, pastas, pizzas, croquettas, paella and deli delights and that is only the main course. For something sweet there is ice-cream, cakes, chocolates and pastries.
Nearest Metro: Opera - 0.2 miles
No trip to Spain should go by without trying the finest Churros and Chocolate. At Pasadizo de San Gines in central Madrid, you will find Chocolateria San Gines. They have been serving Churros since 1894 and it still retains its authentic late nineteenth century charm. You may find a queue but believe me, it is worth the wait. There are tables indoors and outdoors and once you have ordered at the bar, serving staff will deliver direct to your table.
Dip your freshly made Churros into the thick gloopy hot chocolate and savour the moment as a family. Who said it's only kids that love chocolate?
Nearest Metro: Opera - 0.2 miles