12 Things to do in Madrid with kids

Madrid, is often seen only as a gateway to other parts of the country. We found it to be a beautiful city in its own right. Located in the heart of the country, it is full of architectural wonders like grand palaces, magnificent monuments, tree-lined boulevards, charming fountains and unique green spaces. Although we visited Madrid with our kids, the attractions below are not specific to children and can be visited even if you are not traveling with children. I would recommend at least two full days here.

The capital of Spain since the 16th century, it is a delightful fusion of old and new. Here you can see historic neighbourhoods and modern skyscrapers, cobblestone alleys and modern tree-lined boulevards. Although evidence of pre-historic occupation was discovered, Madrid was only officially founded by the Emir Muhammad I of Cordoba in the 9th century. He built a fortress there to protect the capital, Toledo. Eventually, Madrid replaced Toledo as the Spanish capital in 1561. Miguel de Cervantes of Don Quixote fame was born nearby and died in Madrid in 1616.

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Cobblestone alleys

Madrid is one of Europe’s greenest capital cities, according to the European Green City Index. We arrived in Madrid on a public holiday while the UN Climate Change Conference was in progress and the city was buzzing. The crowds became denser as the day wore on. Festive lights decked the plazas and the streets as the night came in.

Here are 12 Things to do in Madrid with kids (or without)

1. Experience the royal life at Palacio Real De Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid)

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Palacio Real De Madrid (CC: Rafesmar via Wikimedia Commons)

As the name suggests, this is the official residence of Spain’s royal family, although it is now only used for state ceremonies. The king and queen live in Zarzuela palace just outside Madrid. With over 3400 rooms and sprawling gardens, the Palacip Real is believed to be the largest palace in Europe. It can be visited as a museum everyday except when state ceremonies are being held. The palace still contains most of its original striking furniture. Do visit the exquisite neoclassical-style Sabatini gardens on the northern side of the palace, too.

2. Indulge your inner artist at some of the worlds top art galleries

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Museo del Prado (CC losmininos via Wikimedia Commons)

Madrid is home to three of the worlds top art galleries - the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen Bornemissza, which can all be found on the Art Walk – which spans approximately one and a half kilometres of green space. You will be able to see artworks by some of the worlds most renowned artists here. A large portion of the art at Prado comes from Spain’s royal collections and includes works by Spain’s ‘big three’ – Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velázquez. Reina Sofia has a fascinating contemporary art collection including the Picasso masterpiece, Guernica, and Thyssen Bornemissza is home to some great Renaissance artworks.

3.     See the ancient city gate - Puerta de Alcalá

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Puerta de Alcalá

Once upon a time, Madrid used to be a walled city with five entrances used to receive visitors. Built in 1778, the Puerta de Alcalá was one of them. The walls have fallen but the gate remains as an impressive monument surrounded by a small garden. If you look carefully, you will be able to see “scars” caused by bullet and shrapnel damage during the Spanish Civil War.

4. Admire the beautiful gardens at El Retiro Park

Things to do in Madrid with kids

El Retiro Park

This historic park is an oasis in the centre of Madrid. Originally created as a sanctuary for the Royal Family, it was opened to the public in the late 1700s. The park has a boating lake, stunning gardens including a circular rose garden, the iconic Crystal Palace observatory and the Velazquez palace, where exhibitions are held.

5. Go on a tour of Real Madrid’s home stadium - the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

This one is for the football fans . The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium has been the home stadium of the popular Real Madrid football team since 1947. The final of the European Cup/EUFA Champion’s League was held here four times! You can get a guided tour of the stadium. It is currently undergoing renovations which will make it the best stadium in the world. The upgrade is planned to be completed in 2023.

6. See some of Madrid’s most famous icons at Puerta del Sol

Puerta Del Sol

Puerta Del Sol

This is the most famous and central square in Madrid. It was the first place we headed to when we arrived in the city. Three of Madrid’s best-known icons can be found here:

Kilometre 0 – A stone slab which marks the point from where all the major radial roads in Spain start.

The Statue of the Bear and Strawberry Tree – which represents Madrid’s coat of arms.

Clock of the Puerta del Sol – for over a century now, people across Spain welcome the New Year by eating twelve grapes to the chimes of this clock.

7. Experience the Madrileno lifestyle at Plaza Mayor

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Plaza Mayor

Did you know that the people of Madrid are called Madrileños? Close to Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor is another popular square in Madrid . It is surrounded by magnificent buildings with balconies facing the centre. In the past, this plaza was the venue for bullfights, executions, football matches and national celebrations. Today the plaza is home to sidewalk cafes, restaurants and Madrid’s Tourism office.

8.     Discover a part of ancient Egypt at the Templo de Debod

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Templo de Debod (CC: Annie Dalbéra via Flickr)

Madrid may be the last place you would expect to see an Egyptian temple, however there is one in the heart of Madrid’s city center. Although the temple was originally built in the 2nd century BC, it was given to Spain by Egypt in 1968, to save it from floods when the Aswan Dam was built. This is a popular place to see the sun set in Madrid.

9. Get panoramic views of the city at Faro de Moncloa

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Faro de Moncloa (CC: Carlos Delgado via Wikimedia Commons)

The Faro de Moncloa is a 110-metre-high communications tower. A glass elevator will take you up to the observation deck where you can get panoramic views of Madrid and some of its most prominent landmarks, including the Royal Palace, the La Almudena Cathedral, and the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range in the distance.

10. Enjoy the delicious churros

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Churros con chocolate

If there’s one food that you must try when in Madrid, it’s churros con chocolate. Churros are a staple food item in Madrid and you will find Churrerias (churro shops) around every corner. Locals eat them with thick, rich, hot chocolate for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, and it didn’t take long for us to join them. This was one of the main highlights of Spain for my children.

11. Get a taste of the rest of Spain at Mercado de San Miguel

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Mercado de San Miguel

This is a historic indoor food market which was opened in 1916, and the only one of its kind remaining in Madrid. The wrought-iron-and-glass structure reflects early 20th-century architecture. The market sells food and fresh produce from around the country. However, it is also a popular place to meet friends and family. It was really busy when we went there.

12. Explore Toledo

 

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Toledo is a fascinating medieval city and UNESCO World Heritage Site perched high above the Castilla La Macha plains, close to Madrid. The castles, cathedrals, ancient bridges and ruins will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a medieval fairytale. It can be easily visited as a day trip from Madrid by bus or train. We loved exploring Toledo.

How to get to Madrid

We took the high-speed Renfe train from Barcelona to Madrid. However, you can also fly into Madrid's international airport.

How to get around Madrid

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Madrid City Tour Bus

Madrid is best explored from the ground, as you make your way through its historic streets that lead to fascinating markets, parks, plazas or street performers. But if you don’t have much time there – like us – then the best way to see the city’s main attractions in a short space of time is to take the Madrid City Tour Hop-on Hop-off Bus. This is also an easier option when traveling with children. For self-guided travel, Madrid has an extensive public transport system, consisting of trains, buses and metros. Other eco-friendly transport options in Madrid include E-bikes, zero-emission motorcycles, segways and bicycles.

Things to do in Madrid with kids

Alternative transport?

If you’re looking for a place to store your luggage while you explore Madrid, we used Wonder Tours close to Mercado de San Miguel.

Do you have any tips on things to do in Madrid with kids ?

For more information, visit Madrid Tourism.

Find accommodation in Madrid here or here.

Book your activities in Madrid.

Find cheap flights to Madrid.

Plan your trip to Spain.

See things to do in Barcelona.

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Things to do in Madrid with kids

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