Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a bustling metropolis with well over three million residents. Visitors who travel here enjoy manicured boulevards, world-famous European art museums, sporting events and a warm Mediterranean climate. And, of course, there is plenty to do — and eat — here for families. In fact, you'll likely see children running around all over the city, at all hours, especially in the summer months.
Read our list below for the best things to do with kids in this beautiful city.
Spread Out at Buen Retiro Park
This 350-acre park, in the heart of the city, has it all—manicured gardens, boating, a stunning crystal palace, sculptures (see if the kids can find the sculpture of the fallen angel), running paths, art exhibits and live music. This is the place to relax after a morning of sightseeing and walking all over the city. Pack a picnic and enjoy a restful afternoon. The people-watching at Buen Retiro Park is great too. You'll really get a sense of the easy-breezy lifestyle of Madrid.
Visit a Famous Square
Plaza Mayor, or "Main Square" was once the center of Old Madrid, where people convened for socializing, bull fights, and even executions. Today, this popular Instagram-worthy colorful square, with cobblestones at the center, is at the heart of all things charming — boutique shopping, coffee shops, street vendors restaurants, and independent artists. Visit just as the sun begins to set and watch the natural light dance over the buildings.
Race at Carlos Sainz Go-Kart Center
You may not have been previously aware, but Madrid is home to some serious Go-Kart racers. The Carlos Sainz Go-Kart Center is the largest track in all of Europe, satiating kids' need for speed. Experts are on-hand to show drivers techniques and offer skill training sessions. There's also a huge indoor playground for little kids that aren't ready to get behind the wheel.
Dance the Flamenco
Madrid is a wonderful place to see authentic Flamenco dancers, singers and guitar players. No two dancers or performances are alike — improvisation is the name of the game. Visit Tablao Las Carboneras on Conde de Miranda Street, on the bottom floor of the palace of the Count of Miranda. All your senses will be engaged as you watch, listen, and dine at this one-of-a-kind traditional show.
Ride Bikes Around Madrid Rio
Positioned along the banks of Manzanares River, Madrid Rio is the perfect place for peace and relaxation. Rent bikes and ride around the grounds, breathing fresh air and seeing the sites as you go. There are historical bridges as well as cool new modern bridges — it's interesting to see the mash-up of the two styles. Kids will love any one of the 17 play spaces along the way — some even have zip lines and climbing walls. Skateboarders will love the skate park. Of course, there are lots of places to snack and dine to get your fill.
Find a Bargain at El Rastro
Visit the most famous open-air flea market in Madrid, held every Sunday as well as on public holidays yearlong: El Rastro. You can find the most magical oddities here — art, second-hand goodies, clothing, antiques, toys — and kids will love exploring the various vendors. Afterward you can stop for ice cream or coffee —or a small glass of beer (called a caña) — in one of the many cafes that line the streets. The market is located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, sandwiched between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo.
Nibble Your Way Through San Miguel Market
Of course, your family will need to eat—daily as it were—and so, a visit to San Miguel Market will fill your bellies. This is the place to go to try lots of new and exciting foods—walk around more than 30 stands, full of Spanish cuisine. You can order small portions for your picky eater—the risk is low if your kid doesn't like what's being offered. This covered market, built in the early 1900's, is as beautiful as it sounds. Sit and stay or order to-go—either way, you can be sure that you'll find something satiating here.
Splash Around at Water Parks
After traveling around Madrid, exploring its culture, museums and dining, your kids might want to take a break. Take them to one of Madrid's theme parks. Parque Warner Madrid, also known as Warner Brothers Park, is a great option with its 42 thrilling rides plus the Parque Warner Beach waterslide haven. Parque Warner, located southeast of the city of Madrid in San Martin de la Vega, is accessible by public transportation, making it easy to visit while on vacation without a car.
Catch a Thrill at a Theme Park
There are two theme parks close to Madrid (one very close to Madrid): the Warner Brothers'-themed one in San Martín de la Vega and the imaginatively titled Parque de Atracciones. Both have the big scary rides for the bigger kids and areas aimed more at the young 'uns.
Parque de Atracciones is near the city center — it's just a ride on the Madrid Metro away. Kids can scream to their heart's content on loads of rides and rollercoasters, divided into five different thematic zones: La Gran Avenida, Tranquility Zone, Engineering Zone, Nature Zone and Nickelodeon Land.
Pro Tip: Book online for special savings and download the park's app to have maps and information accessible.
See Wildlife Parks
Kids love visiting animal parks and seeing wildlife and Madrid has a number of great places to visit. The Zoo Aquarium Madrid is a popular zoo and aquarium, situated on nearly 50 acres. This zoo and aquarium is one of the most-visited and largest zoos in Spain. Kids will love visiting the white tiger habitat, seeing the giant pandas nosh on bamboo sticks and watching the dolphins swim around. Families can view over 6,000 animals — 500 different species — while strolling the grounds.
The Faunia Ecological Park Madrid is another popular place to visit with kids in tow. This zoo and botanical garden, divided up by different ecosystems, experiences less tourists and is affordable for families.
Burrolandia is a cute little place to meet some donkeys. Located in Tres Cantos, kids can take part in Burrotherapy, which is a way for kids to interact with the donkeys, take part in their care and experience the benefits of nonverbal communication with animals.
Fly High in a Hot-Air Balloon
Hot air balloons in Madrid are inexpensive compared to in other countries. The landscape around Madrid can be beautiful, but the most exciting part would be to fly around historic cities such as Segovia or Toledo. Kids will love seeing the city from above — way above — on this bucket list (see what we did there?) adventure.
Visit Madrid's Transport Museums
Planes, trains, and automobiles fire up the imagination of most kids. Luckily, there's plenty of museums to appeal to little petrol-heads in the Spanish capital.
Museo del Aire offers viewings of miniature and full-size airplanes, Anden 0 lets families step back in time to see what a metro station looked like in the 1960s, Madrid Train Museum (Museo del Ferrocarril) is designed for children with a fascination with trains (that's all of them, isn't it?), Madrid's Naval Museum is a free museum for kids that like boats, the Fireman's Museum will teach kids about fire safety in a fun and engaging way and, finally, the Royal Automobile Foundation Museum (Museo de la fundación RACE) displays vintage cars at the old Jarama Formula One circuit. You'll find that these museums have quite a bit of history attached to them, which will enrich the experience as you learn more about Spain's role in past events.
View Art the Kids Can Enjoy at the Reina Sofia
Spanish modern art, including such luminaries as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, is the kind of thing that anyone can enjoy. And with a variety of interesting and even bizarre works on display, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía really is a treat.
Children and families can take part in one of the program offerings at the museum to enhance their visit. Explore dance, visual arts, music and more in a hands-on environment, led by artists and museum educators.
Watch a Real Madrid Match
Real Madrid, a professional Spanish football club, is Europe's most successful soccer team and always has a roster of some of the biggest footballers in the world. A match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium will excite any child interested in football. Stadium tours, which last about two hours, are also available. Sports fanatics will definitely get their fill at Real Madrid.
Ski at Madrid Snow Zone at Xanadu
Madrid Snow Zone is Madrid's only indoor ski slope, with 'real' snow. Kids can ski, snowboard, and play in the snow all day long. Families can also take a ride down the hill in a toboggan or try out a snow bike. Lessons are available for all skill levels and there are runs organized by varying difficulty levels: Green, Blue, Red Black.