When thinking about a holiday to Spain, Madrid doesn’t tend to be at the top of everyone’s wish list. However, there is so much to see and do in Madrid it doesn’t deserve to be overlooked! It’s the perfect sized city for little feet as everything is walkable and has the perfect climate for an off season trip. Here’s how we spent the best week in Madrid with kids!
El Retiro Park
El Retiro is one of the largest parks in the city of Madrid and in 2021 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We returned to El Retiro several times in our week-long stay in Madrid because there was so much to see and do. The playgrounds were a huge hit with our munchkins and there were so many lovely parts to look around.
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. 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 person 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 is a focal point of El Retiro. The area around the lake is also very beautiful. With fountains, bustling cafes with lots of outside seating, buskers, green areas for picnics and of course the ability to hire a boat on the lake.
The Cristal Palace is owned by the Reina Sophia Museum and is used as exhibition venure to house temporary installations.
The Cristal Palace sits in the most lovely setting in front of a pond which includes fountains and low hanging trees and the water full of turtles! We could have watched these little guys plod about the place all day. Such a treat for the kids to see too!
We spend 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 and they are perfect to take a relaxing walk around. Even the kids enjoyed the sheer amount of flowers and colours everywhere.
Royal Palace and Cathedral
The Royal Palace and Cathedral are located on the west side of the city. Be aware, this is a popular attraction to visit.
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 – Best week in 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. There are some wonderful views of the palace to see from Jardines de Sabatini and, so I have been told, it’s the best place to see sunset in the city!
For those travelling with kids it is worth mentioning Plaza Espana. It is home to the most exciting playground my kids have ever seen! Mostly, 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. Perhaps a good place for a picnic in the middle of the day too.
Temple of Debod – Best week in Madrid with kids
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 – Best week in Madrid with kids
Piscina el Lago is your answer to those hot city days when 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.
There is one olympic sized swimming pool on the entry level used for mainly adults. Then on the upper terrace there is a children’s pool and another adult sized one.
The whole place is looked after beautifully and on the upper terrace there are even some city views to be had. There are quite a few rules when you get in the swimming pool, but I think this is one of the reasons it’s so nice. There are large changing facilities and toilets and lots of room to set yourself out for a few hours.
You must also buy tickets online before you go if you do not have a Madrid residents card. 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, the man on the gate was wonderful and so helpful. Tickets are either for the morning or the afternoon. 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 part 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 – Best week in Madrid with kids
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
Plaza Mayor – Best week in Madrid with kids
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. There are loads 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 presents itself like that from the beginning. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an extremely upmarket equivalent of all the other markets.
I have to admit it was pretty impressive to wander around and the food for sale in side was incredible! However, 30 euros for a cone of ham was a little too expensive for us, so we made do and 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.