I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: is Madrid a good choice for a family holiday? What is there for families to do in Madrid? Well, in our opinion, the answer is a resounding yes and there’s loads to do in Madrid! Madrid is a great choice for a family-friendly city break with kids! We spent a week in Madrid and we all fell in love with Spain’s culture-rich capital city as it has so much to offer! From Olympic sized lidos, to UNESCO parks and a palace fit for a king, it doesn’t deserve to be overlooked!
Madrid is a great option for a family holiday as it’s the perfect sized city for feet of all sizes and ages! Everything is very walkable and the shopping is fantastic! A family holiday to Madrid is also a good choice for any time of the year as the climate is generally quite warm, even in the off season! This isn’t just a run down of what you can do on a family holiday to Madrid. It’s also a great resource to discover the best things to do in Madrid for free too! Here’s how we spent the best city-break family holiday in Madrid with kids!
El Retiro Park
We returned to El Retiro several times during our week-long stay in Madrid because there was so much to see and do! The playgrounds were a huge hit with our little munchkins and there were so many lovely parts to look around, starting with…
Estanque Grande and Monumento a Alfonso XII
Estanque Grande is also known as the boating lake in El Retiro Park. The most popular thing to do here is hire a row boat to go out on the lake which is a great excursion for those on a family holiday in Madrid. These things can often be quite expensive, however, the prices were very reasonable at 6 euros per boat for 45 minutes with a maximum of 4 people per boat. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Around the back of the lake sits the Monumento a Alfonso XII, a memorial to the King of Spain who reigned in the 19th century until the age of 27. The monument and the lake are both a focal point of El Retiro with fountains, bustling cafes, buskers and it offers green areas for some wonderful picnics!
The Cristal Palace is owned by the Reina Sophia Museum and is used as exhibition venue to house temporary art installations.
It sits in the most lovely setting which includes a pond with fountains, low hanging trees and turtles! We could have watched these little guys plod about the place all day. Such a treat for the kids to see too!
Playgrounds – a must on a family holiday to Madrid
We spent an afternoon walking around El Retiro just visiting all of the playgrounds. This was by far the kids favourite part of the park and, thankfully, El Retiro definiety delivered on this front!
The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden is in the south end of the park. It is well worth a visit, especially when the flowers are in bloom. The area consists of a collection of fountains and manicured gardens. It’s a lovely space to just amble around. Even the kids enjoyed the sheer amount of flowers and colours everywhere.
Royal Palace and Cathedral
The queues to go into the palace are long, but they do start to wane around 3pm. However, you don’t have to go inside to enjoy the Palace and Cathedral area.
The square between the two buildings is big and accommodating and offers great views of both places. If you are looking to save money or are holidaying on a budget you could simply sit on the steps of the cathedral and eat a chocolate donut taking in the view – just like we did. Whatever you decide to do, they are worth seeing.
Jardines de Sabatini – things to do on a family holiday to Madrid with kids
Before you leave Madrid’s Royal Palace you must take a walk around the back and visit Jardines de Sabatini. These gardens were added to the palace in the 1930s and are open to the public. Jardines de Sabatini offer some great views of the palace and, I have it on good authority from the locals, it’s the best place to see the sunset in the city easily making this one of the top things to see and do in Madrid with your family.
Plaza España – a great stop on a family holiday to Madrid
For those travelling to Madrid with kids it is worth mentioning Plaza Espana. It is home to the most exciting playground my kids have ever seen! Mainly I think it was because the slides were really high and the park was really big. However, this is a great place for them to blow off some steam after a visit to the palace.
Temple of Debod – family holiday to Madrid
The Temple of Debod was gifted to the city of Madrid by the Egyptians to save it from being flooded by the creation of the Aswan Dam. Pretty cool gift.
The temple is free to have a look inside but in busy periods expect a queue.
The temple is situated in the lovely green gardens of La Montaña Park. A little hill that has great views out to Casa de Campo. You quite often get the odd busker here and it’s a nice place to chill out for a moment or too and just enjoy the views or sit under a tree and enjoy the shade.
Piscina El Lago – one of the top things to do on a family holiday to Madrid
Piscina el Lago is your answer to those hot city days and there is no beach around. Situated near Casa de Campo this municipal lido is a beautiful place to hang out and cool down in your swimmers.
The olympic sized swimming pool is mainly for adults. Then on the upper terrace there is a children’s pool, with some city views to enjoy, and another adult sized pool too.
Piscina el Lago is well looked after and visitors are expected to abide by a pretty strict set of rules. However, I think this is one of the reasons it’s so nice. There are large changing facilities and toilets and lots of room for you to enjoy the sun and the water.
When visiting Piscina El Lago you must buy tickets online before you go. Only those with a Madrid residents card don’t have to do this. On arrival we had no idea about any of this and found buying the tickets a bit tricky. However, if the people in the ticket booth are not very helpful because they are too busy, the men on the gate are wonderful and so helpful. Tickets are sold in either morning or afternoon slots. Once your allotted time is up you are asked to leave.
Lago de la Casa de Campo
The lake in Casa de Campo is a bit of a walk from the centre of the city. However, it is still pretty doable. If this feel a bit too far on foot, Madrid has a good Metro system which you can take there too.
The nicest bit about this part of the city are all the waterside restaurants and the lake walks you can do.
It is also home to the city’s Zoo Aquarium Madrid, Parque de Atracciones de Madrid and Nickelodeon Land.
Gran Via and the Shopping District
The shopping in Madrid is brilliant! From Plaza Mayor to the Gran Via the streets are FULL of shops. It’s genuinely exciting walking past all the boutiques, restaurants, well known chains and everything in between!
Shops to look out for in Madrid are:
- the chocolate shops and traditional sweet shops. They always offer free tastings (it’s addictive) and did you know Spain was the country that brought Chocolate to Europe over 500 years ago!
- Bocadillos de calamares (calamari sandwiches)
- Churros with dunking chocolate
- Garlic shrimp
Did you know Plaza Mayor translates to ‘Town Square’? And this is exactly what this is. Plaza Mayor is a huge square with some of the most beautiful buildings.
Events are held in the square at key times of the year and there are lots of restaurants and shops under the arches. One to look out for is La Torre del Oro. If you find it let me know what you think. But, don’t let your kids look too closely at the pictures!
You can also find the ‘old town’ part of the city on the south west side of the square.
San Miguel Market and other Food Markets
You cannot go to Madrid without exploring all the food markets. Food markets are scattered all over the city, but the most famous one is the San Miguel Market.
San Miguel is a little pricer than the other markets, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an extremely upmarket equivalent of all the other markets.
It was pretty impressive to wander around and the food for sale inside was incredible! However, €30 for a cone of ham was a little too expensive for us but thoroughly enjoyed window shopping.
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
If you’re a football fan a trip to see the Bernabeu Stadium is probably a must. It is a little way out from the centre of the city but you can easily get there on the Metro.
If you want to buy tickets to go inside you will need to book these at least a month in advance.