3-Day Family-Friendly Guide to Madrid, Spain
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Madrid is a must-see city if you are visiting Spain for the first time. Rich with history, art and architecture as well as green spaces and delicious food, Madrid is a great European destination for families of all ages. Whether you are searching for local fare like Jamón Iberico or Paella or if you want to take in all the museums the city has to offer, you will find that you can cover a lot in three days thanks to Madrid being a very walkable city with a great transit system. You will find this itinerary has a great balance of activities, sights and places to let the kids roam and play.
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Pestana CR7 Gran Vía
Elegant hotel set in a 1920's building on Gran Vía, Madrid's bustling shopping district.
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Day 1: Explore Madrid's museums and green spaces
The first day in a new city is often when we have the most energy to explore so today will offer some green spaces to explore as well as some of the museums Madrid is most famous for. All of these are within walking distance to each other so you can pick and choose to create your own adventure.
El Retiro Park, including the Embarcadero where you can rent boats to get on the lake. A helpful landmark to help you get started in the right direction is the Fountain of the Galapagos.
There are also many landmarks within the park if you want to explore on foot.
Love flowers and native botanicals? Then be sure to check out Madrid's Botanical Gardens. Here you will find walking trails as well as seasonal displays and activities. It is a great, safe place to let kids walk along side you without the worry of traffic or heavy crowds. There is so much for them them to look at and discover.
If you love museums, you are in the right city. There are so many to choose from but the three that are the most popular are:
Prado Museum: The biggest and most famous, filled with Renaissance art.
National Museum of Anthropology: For all the history-lovers in the group.
Museum of Reina Sofia: If you love modern art, this is the place for you!
One of the most famous landmarks of Madrid is the Puerta de Alcalá, the famous arch in the city. Like the Eiffel Towel or Arch de Triumph of Paris, it's one of those must see spots if you like to see all the classic sights.
If you are traveling with kids and they are ready for something a little more "fun" and playful, take them the Sweet Space – a modern museum filled with lights and bright colors, even has a candy shop. This is really fun for kids and adults alike, especially if you like to take fun pictures!
if you are staying in this area for dinner, there are endless options but a few to choose from are: La Lupita, a Mexican restaurant, Pimento Verde, offering classic Spanish Cuisine, or Bel Mondo, for Italian fare.
A note from Juli
Many restaurants in Spain open late so if you are traveling with kids, be sure to check times before you go!
Day 2: Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid & Casa de Campo
This day is designed to see some of the famous sights around the city. It will be a big walking day. You can also use the metro to get around—like other major European cities, the metro is easy to navigate—just be sure to keep your eyes open and valuables close. Pick-pocketing can be an issue.
While there is no way to see all of Madrid in three days, you can certainly squeeze in a lot if you wear comfortable shoes and pack light for the day. Be sure to check the weather before you go, Madrid experiences all four seasons and you don't want to get caught by surprise!
Start your day off at Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square. Here you can see sights, eat, shop and experience the energy of Madrid. Grab a coffee or a light breakfast and witness the energy of the city unfold in front of you.
Palaces and castles are so traditionally Europe and Madrid is no different. If you love all things royal, be sure to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid. Tours are available if you are interested, just be sure to buy tickets in advance or you can walk around the grounds.
Castles and churches go hand in hand in Europe, if you'd like to take in a variety of architecture in the city, be sure to visit Almundena Cathedral, a famous church you can visit or walk around.
If you are craving something sweet and want to try a classic Spanish dessert, make time to stop by La Mallorquina, they are known for their Nepolitana dessert.
Love to go where the locals go? Be sure to visit San Miguel Market, a local market filled with shops, stands and a great place to grab local food. Here you can find unique items, gifts from local makers and take home a little piece of Madrid.
If you need a break from sightseeing and tours a great outdoor space to explore would be Casa de Campo, Madrid's largest green space. A fun way to make your way to this area is the Madrid Cable Car. This area is a little outside of city center and a chance to rest your feet is always a welcomed treat! Especially considering all the fun that can be had once you get there.
This is a great place to take the kids - they can run around, feed ducks or watch peacocks within the park. Not to mention there is a zoo and amusement park. It's very shady and a great place for a hot day, the various walking trails will lead you to gardens, fountains and more. If your crew likes water activities, head towards Casa de Campo Lake. At the lake you can rent kayaks and canoes - getting on the water is a great way to see the area and enjoy an afternoon. If boating is not for everyone in your group, they can simply stroll on the lakeside paths and take pictures of you on the water.
There are many restaurants around the lake. One suggestion is El Urogallo Casa de Campo. With travel being so popular now, it's always suggested to make a reservation in advance, esp. if you are traveling in peak season or want to grab dinner at peak time. The restaurants in the area, including this one, offer lake views and personally I can't think of a better way to end the day than with a cold glass of wine and sunset on the lake.
Day 3: Final day of exploring Madrid
Chances are by day three, you are a bit tired! Start your day off slowly and enjoy a local cafe. In a city the size of Madrid there are plenty to choose from but here are three I recommend.
10.10 Coffee: Offers toasts and sandwiches as well as coffee and teas.
Cafe & Te: Casual location with various breakfast options.
Cappuccino Madrid: The most options for breakfast foods that are most commonly found in the US. Sometimes you just need a little taste of home, especially if you are traveling with kids!
Depending on what you've covered on your first two days and when you are departing the city, if you have the time (and energy) there is still plenty more to see in Madrid.
Can't get enough of the bustling squares of Madrid that are so distinctly their own with ornate statues, fountains or gorgeous architecture? Two close by Calle Gran Via are the Meneses Building and Metropolis Building. This area is right on the subway line which can easily take you to the train station so if you are jumping on a train to see more of Spain later in the day, this is a great spot to be in before you depart.
Looking for the best churros and chocolate before you go? Locals highly recommend Chocolatería San Ginés.
If your group is growing weary of sight-seeing and would like a break, one option is to visit Calle Gran Via, the famous strip in Madrid filled with shops, restaurants and more. This is also an area to wander through to or from your activities or you save it for the evening and return to have dinner here. It is so pretty all lit up at night and is in a very central location of the city.
If you are in the area for dinner, Vinitus Gran Via Madrid, a Mediterranean restaurant is a great option for dinner, especially if you enjoy tapas.
Day Trips from Madrid
If you have the time and want to see more of Spain, I highly suggest a visit to Barcelona! The high speed trains run on a regular basis and it's a great way to see the country - just be sure to buy your tickets in advance and for a few extra dollars, I would recommend upgrading to the comfort level. You get assigned seats and more leg room and after three days in Madrid, you might want it! The trip from Madrid to Barcelona is about 90 minutes and could be your chance to take in the views of Spain's countryside with your feet up.
Need to Know
Madrid is a very-family friendly city so no matter which spots you choose, know that taking the kids with you is always an option. There are parks in so many areas of the city and they truly can give everyone a break from the traditional sightseeing. My advice for Spain is to take it at your own pace, stop at cafes and bakeries along the way and enjoy your surroundings. Sometimes sitting in a park or local square can give you a great sense of a city and if you are just wandering the side streets and popping in local shops and talking with the locals, you will find that your visit is truly enriched by those interactions.
For more family-friendly travel tips, check out my guide to Copenhagen: 4-Days of Family-Friendly Travel in Copenhagen.
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