This article was written by Dr. Almudena Cros of Across Madrid, an art historian educated in Britain who has extensive experience teaching art, history and culture to different age groups in Italy and Spain.
With its blend of culture and beautiful places to relax and play outdoors, Madrid has plenty to offer those who want to soak up local culture. Just few days in the city provides families with opportunities to learn about art and participate in both creative and athletic activities together.
One of Madrid’s most popular destinations for outdoor fun is Retiro Park. Right in the center of the city, its 350 acres contain some 15,000 trees. The park features a lake with rowing boats for hire, and, along its shores, plenty of street entertainers will captivate your child’s attention. On the weekends you can enjoy puppet shows, face painting, magic shows and balloon sellers. The locals love this park too, so enthusiastic parents travel from all over Madrid by subway carrying their kids’ bikes and other sports equipment, making the Retiro Metro stop pretty crowded on Sunday mornings.
Lake Near Crystal Palace
A nice alternative to the sometimes crowded central lake is the smaller lake near the Crystal Palace, where you can feed the ducks, black swans and fish. The walk from the central lake to the statue of the Fallen Angel is a pleasure in the heat of the summer — the shaded path is truly relaxing, and it is bike-friendly.
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Parque Juan Carlos I
Farther away from the city center to the northwest, yet still easily accessible by public transportation, Parque Juan Carlos I offers all sorts of activities free of charge: electric tourist train, bikes on loan and guided walks. It features a canoeing lake, lots of playgrounds, sculptures, olive groves, sport fields and a skating area. There is also a themed garden dedicated to the three main religions that coexist in Spain: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Another fun and unique idea offered by Across Madrid is a three-hour tour that introduces families to the history and traditions of the city. Children will feel like they are on a treasure hunt as they watch out for bears, lions and all sorts of heroes and historical creatures.
Pintaencopas Pottery Workshop
If your children are aged 8 and over and you are staying in Madrid for at least four days, this pottery-painting café offers a few hours of creative fun. You can choose from more than 100 different pottery pieces, with prices starting at €13 for a mug. Once you have decided on an item, you can take your time decorating it while you enjoy a hot drink. The painted piece must remain in the shop to be finished in the oven, but it will be ready for pickup three days after your visit. The family-friendly environment provides a nice break from busy sightseeing and is a great way to rest everyone’s feet while children create a unique souvenir, the perfect alternative to the commercial keepsakes sold elsewhere!
Note: Kids under 8 are welcome, but only in the mornings.
Museo del Ferrocarril
This great museum is located in Paseo de las Delicias, 61 (Metro Delicias). It contains a superb collection of steam, diesel and electric engines, lots of railway models and even a miniature train circuit with rides available on Saturdays. While you’re there, enjoy a reasonably priced snack and drink in the elegant 19th-century cafe-wagon.
Museo del Prado
This world-class museum is home to the Spanish royal collection of paintings, and although it can be overwhelming to try to take it all in, hiring an art historian to guide your family through the exhibits will ensure that it is a fun learning experience for everyone. Across Madrid tours at the Museo del Prado keep children engaged as they learn about the highlights of the collection. Also on offer is a guided visit to the National Archaeological Museum.
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