Entertaining children in Spain has its challenges but overall this is a country where the little ones have a ball. Get the low-down on things to do when you’re in Madrid with kids.
For parents who go to Madrid with kids, it’s all too common to run into a problem; little Billy is hungry, and the local restaurants haven’t even set the tables yet. With Spaniards usually lunching from 2pm or later, and having dinner at anywhere from 9 to 11 at night, restaurant opening hours can make the country seem anything other than child-friendly.
Once inside a Spanish bar or restaurant, however, it’s a different story.
In his book Ghosts of Spain, British writer Giles Tremlett contrasts the treatment children receive here to the reception they get in his native Britain where some pubs are off-limits to youngsters. “Whereas small children turn British parents into social lepers, they elevate Spanish parents into privileged human beings,” he writes. “Rather than be shown the door or taken off to a ‘families only’ quarantine zone, you find the waiters’ attention and efforts doubling. There will be crayons, colouring books and delicacies for the kids. And when your child karate-chops his glass of mosto, sweet grape juice, onto the tiled floor, the waiter appears not just with a mop, but with a smile and a new, full glass.”
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Madrid as a child-friendly city of Spain
When you’re in Madrid with kids, never fear. The city is perfectly child-friendly once you get the hang of things. If your children are already bringing their Spanish playmates home, you may have gotten a taste of what Tremlett describes as Spain’s “spoilt star-turn – the child”, the “imperious little princes and princesses of the, now typical, one or two child Spanish family”. The Spanish over-indulgence towards children has one distinct advantage – your (of course, beautifully well-behaved children) can have a ball.
Most Spanish cities, towns, and villages run regular children’s events and festivals. In big cities, a good source of information is the Guia del Ocio; this has a special section dedicated to children’s entertainment. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, the list of theme parks, children’s films, plays and suitable museums is a useful starting point.
To get you started, here’s a pick of some of our favorite ways to stay amused in Madrid with kids.
Nature parks and amusements for your kids in Madrid
Faunia – At Faunia, in the east of Madrid, you can introduce city children to the wonders of the planet, with ecosystems like the jungle, the Arctic and the Antarctic recreated. It’s part-zoo, part-theme park and can be a fun place to celebrate a child’s birthday.
Parque de Atracciones – At this amusement park in the west of Madrid, there are rides ranging from baby Viking boats to a Tarantula roller-coaster. Don’t expect the zing, shine or have-a-nice-day attitude of American theme parks, but this leafy park nevertheless has something for children of all ages and scare thresholds. It’s accessible by the Metro Batan (Línea 10). Learn more on their website: www.parquedeatracciones.es
Madrid SnowZone (AKA Parque de Nieve) – If you fancy your nippers mingling with the Beckhams’ progeny, this may be the best place to find them – having skiing lessons at Europe’s largest indoor snow slopes. With one slope for beginners and another for experts, constant snow kept at optimum conditions and children’s classes and summer camps on offer, there’s something for everyone sporty. Happily for Posh, the slopes are set inside a shopping mall which also contains other entertainment like cinema and go-carting.
Madrid SnowZone is inside Xanadu shopping centre. You can find all the details for your indoor winter sports at: www.madridsnowzone.com
Arts and culture with your kids in Madrid
Children’s theatre – Madrid has a lively children’s theatrical scene – everything from a puppet theatre festival in the summer and puppetry in Retiro park to regular plays for youngsters in both small and large theatres. Check out Sala Montacargas, a small independent theatre which tends to have at least one children’ play a week; La Casa Encendida, which has children’s entertainment, whether jugglers, a play or a film, every Saturday and Sunday at noon; and Teatro San Pol, which mounts all sorts of children’s plays.
Museo del Ferrocarril – For children who like trains, this museum is heaven. It has one of the largest collections of railway equipment in Europe. On Saturdays, children and their parents can ride on a small steam train. The train museum is accessible from the metro Delicias. You can check out all the details at their website: www.museodelferrocarril.org.
These, and many more activities, can keep you happy in Madrid with kids. It can also help to join a mamas’ group to socialize and get tips from other expat parents and families. If your kids haven’t yet enrolled in school or daycare, see our article on daycare and preschool in Spain.