We spent three nights in the Spanish capital, Madrid, when Mrs T was one year old. I have to admit, it wasn’t the easiest age to be traipsing around a city as we were very conscious of her needing to have a crawl about now and then. But, we still had a great time and hopefully our experiences will help anybody visiting Madrid although here are some extra tips and recommendations for those travelling with a toddler.
Royal Palace Of Madrid
Why? An impressive looking palace from the outside, inside it is even more magnificent. Highly recommend taking a look.
Background King Carlos III was the first royal to live in the palace in its current design in the 1760s after the former palace was destroyed in a fire in 1734. The final plans for the design were drawn up by Juan Bautista Sachetti following the unexpected death of his mentor Filippo Juvara. Although it is the official residence for the current royal family, they no longer reside there with the palace only used for state ceremonies.
Our Experience Mrs T loved looking at the shiny, luxurious decor (so did we) and we marvelled at the very extensive rooms filled with plush furniture, fine art from the likes of Caraviaggo and Goya and historical ornaments such as those found in the Royal Pharmacy room.
Downsides Don’t go inside the palace when your child needs to sleep as there are a lot of stairs. There is a designated place where you can securely lock your buggy away. Mrs T was still light enough to go in the BabyBjorn carrier and thoroughly enjoyed having a nose around. As long as you don’t get a guided tour you can view the palace as quickly (or slowly) as you wish. It is fine to take the buggy around the grounds.
Price 10 euros
Buen Retiro Park
Why? This park is HUGE (320 acres in fact). It is a beautiful, quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of Madrid and has some stunning monuments, landscaped gardens and a huge artificial lake overlooked by a giant monument to Alfonso XII.
Background The park was envisaged by Felipe IV in the 17th century as a recreational area for the royal family but opened to the public in 1868. It still has a very regal feel to it. This park is home to the Palacio de Cristal which was built in 1887 and used to exhibit plants from the Philippines. As the name suggests it was influenced by London’s Crystal Palace. It is now used as an art exhibition space.
Our Experience We loved it there and after a morning of sightseeing, it was a welcome refuge for Mrs T to have a crawl and for us to rest our feet and chill out. There are several playgrounds for children to enjoy. If you have older children you can hire boats on the lake.
Downside – It gets busy at the weekends as locals flock there. Depending on which gate you go in through (we went through the one by the Museo De Prado), some of the paths in the park are gravel so can be a tricky with a buggy and there were some stairs too.
San Miguel Food Market
Why This isn’t just any food market – (sorry Borough but you have work to do). It has 33 stalls with everything from baby eels to macaroons to local wines. Go there to buy some local produce, try some delicious tapas, drink the local wine and experience a huge variety of high quality Spanish cuisine under one roof.
Background Located next to the Plaza Mayor, this traditional market, built in 1917, has been given a modern revamp and has a buzzing atmosphere to while away your time.
Our Experience We went when Mrs T was having her afternoon nap so were able to relax and soak up the atmosphere and sample a wide range of food. It is casual dining at its best and if you are into your food then this is a must.
Downside It can get crowded and seating is very limited with no highchairs or provisions for younger children.
Price Spend as much or little as you wish
Museo Del Prado
Why? Huge plethora of European artwork – particularly Spanish artist Goya.
Background Building was designed by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 and opened to the public in 1819. Today it houses masterpieces such as The Nobleman with his hand on his chest bu El Greco, The Family of Carlos IV by Goya and The Pearl by Raphael.
Our Experience We went when Mrs T was asleep which was a wise move otherwise she may have got a bit bored. We were incredibly impressed with the calibre of art work and the layout was spacious, airy and well signposted. You need a lot of time to get through the huge amount of artwork under one roof. We spent about an hour and a half there, and only got onto the second floor – still worth it though!
Price 14 euros for adults, free for under 18s
Background This is the central and most popular plaza in Madrid. It has a statue of King Philip III in the middle of the square. The current design was, once again the work of Villanueva (see above). Over the centuries it has been used for bullfights, soccer games and even public executions. It is now the home of many street artists/living statues, restaurants and shops.
Our Experience Ok so it is a bit of a tourist trap but there are amusing street artists to look at and the architecture is impressive. There are lots of traditional shops to have a nose at (although if you are squeamish then avoid the bar filled with pictures of bull fighters in action).
Downside DON’T be tempted to eat at the many restaurants/bars there, they are very expensive and touristy. For some great food either go to the San Miguel Food Market or head to Calle Cava Baja where there tonnes of restaurants serving excellent tapas and pinchos at reasonable prices. Alternatively if you fancy a ‘plaza experience’ try the Plaza Santa Ana. It is less touristy and there are some great restaurants there (We loved Lateral if you want something a bit upmarket). You can take your children to the plaza without worrying about them making a noise or waking up if they have managed to drop off to sleep (most Spanish kids are still up and playing past 10pm).
Have you been to Madrid? Or would you like to go? What other hot spots are good to visit with children? I’d love to hear your thoughts, just comment below.