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A Perfect Day in Madrid With Kids

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When visiting Spain on a family vacation with limited time, deciding which cities, sights, and activities to include can be challenging. Here are a few ideas to make the most of your day in Madrid, enjoying the best the city has to offer: culture, nature, and food.

Visit the Prado Museum Early

Madrid’s Museo del Prado (known simply as “The Prado”) is Spain’s most famous art museum and is among the finest in the world. It’s a must-see for any family visiting Madrid. The Prado is located in the central Alonso Martínez neighborhood (or “barrio”), along with many of the city’s best historical and cultural sites.

The Museo del Prado, which is nearly 200 years old, houses some of the finest works of art created between the 12th and 19th centuries. The most famous exhibit is arguably the Francisco de Goya collection, the museum’s largest collection from a single artist. The museum also features significant bodies of work by El Greco, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, and Hieronymus Bosch. If time is short (or the young ones are short on patience), these are the collections to focus on. With efficient planning, you can see many of the major artistic achievements of the past millennium before noon.

Admission is €14 per adult, and for an extra €9, you can hire a guide. Seniors pay half price, while children (under 18 years old), students, and the disabled enter for free. For young children, the museum offers a treasure hunt for ages 8–12. Audio guides are also available for both adults (€3.50) and children (€1).

A half-day is plenty of time to take in the highlights of the Prado, though seeing everything would be rushed. Morning is the best time to visit, as it’s quieter. The museum allows free entry after 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sundays) and it gets very crowded. The museum opens at 10 a.m. every day of the year except January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. Another tip: Skip the lineup at the ticket booth by buying your tickets online in advance.

For children too young to appreciate cultural activities, Madrid also has its share of kiddie attractions. The city’s amusement park, Parque de Atracciones, the Zoo Aquarium at Casa de Campo (which houses over 6,000 animals), and Parque Warner, Warner Brothers’ answer to Disneyland, will keep them busy.

Explore Parque del Buen Retiro

Right beside the Prado is Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro, also known as “Retiro Park.” It’s one of the most exquisite urban green spaces in Europe. This three-century-old park is a central hub for urban life in Madrid. On any given day, you might encounter gypsy fortune tellers, musicians, and public art exhibitions. Much of the activity takes place around the lake, lined with a variety of edifices, including the Monument to Alfonso XII and an Egyptian fountain with Sphinxes.

Picnics in the park are “officially” prohibited, but it’s one of those rules that nobody listens to. Many people do it, park employees don’t seem to care, and it’s a great way to enjoy a sunny Spanish afternoon while the kids get some fresh air.

Sample some of Madrid’s best family restaurants

Dining abroad with picky eaters (and by that, we mean your kids) can be tricky. Fortunately, the Spaniards’ love of family is equally matched by their love of food, and Madrid has several traditional, yet playful, family-friendly restaurants.

Ask for dining recommendations at your hotel and Casa Mingo is almost guaranteed to be one of them. Casa Mingo is Madrid’s oldest cider house. It serves a small, but varied, selection of reasonably priced Spanish meat dishes and salads. Most patrons, however, come for just two things: the roast chicken and the cider. The simple wood dining hall with high ceilings is over three centuries old and has kept much of its original charm with exposed beams, large windows, and an ever-present stack of wooden cider barrels.

For something more familiar, Pizza Marzano serves quality comfort foods, such as pizza and pasta, at reasonable prices and has several locations around the city.

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