Visiting Madrid with Children – Cheap & Fun Activities
Carrying on from last year’s guest posts on expat’s home cities in Spain, this week Jennifer Riggins lets us into the secret of how to visit Madrid on the cheap with kids (and where to find Spiderman..)
It may not be obvious, but Madrid can be the perfect place to take your kids for a few days. It’s never too hot or too cold, is very safe and easy to get around. And, despite its reputation for great wine and art museums, we are here to tell you that there’s plenty more you can do on a fluorescent shoestring budget!
First, where not to go – or at least for too long – Madrid’s most famous museum, the Prado. It holds more that 9,000 priceless works of art, but, for your kids, it’s just a big ol’ snooze. However, just to the right of it are three amazing and free, or essentially free, must-sees. Next door to the Prado are the Royal Botanical Gardens. It’s the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch – the almost omnipresent Museos de Jamon offer a sandwich, an apple or orange, and a bottled water or soda, all to go, for just two euros. Continuing past the Gardens on the Paseo del Prado, you can make a left up the hill to enter one of Europe’s most exquisite parks, the huge Retiro. It’s another great place to have a picnic, kick around a football (soccer ball to you Americans) or rent a boat to row around the lake for an hour for only four euros. Finally, you can’t miss stopping by the gorgeous Atocha train station next door, which not only has one of the world’s largest Tiffany stained glass windows, but behind it lies an in-door jungle with a pond holding hundreds of turtles.
When you check into your hotel, make sure to look around for coupon books. Madrid always has two-for-one deals to the different amusements on the edges of the city. Madrid’s aquarium is well-stocked with exciting animals like dolphins. Now, the combined zoo (zoomadrid.com/( seems a little bit sadder, but definitely has some highlights, including rare Panda twins that were born more than a year ago. You can also visit the Enchanted Forest, (bosqueencantado.net/) which is an immense garden of more than 500 varieties, including top-quality topiaries. It’s perfect for your little princess, knight or pirate to act out her or his favorite roles — and, remember, the Spanish dress their kids up for any occasion!
One of Madrid’s hidden treasures is the Filmoteca Cine Dore (mcu.es). The stunning movie theater that dates back to 1896 is about a ten-minute walk from Puerta del Sol, a block from Metro Anton Martin. These original version movies cost only 2.50 a ticket and on weekends, they show kids’ movies, like Disney’s Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and “The Wizard of Oz” and “E.T.”
We know you may want to immerse your kids in the Spanish culture and, besides letting them try all of its culinary masterpieces, we want to recommend a few more kid-appropriate museums. Madrid’s other famous museum the Reina Sofia (named after the queen) modern art museum is right across from the Atocha train station, and is free from 1900-2100 on Mondays, Wednesdays-Saturdays and 1800-2000 on Sundays (closed Tuesdays.) You can give them their fill of the more colorful Spanish artists like Picasso, Dali and Miro. Plus, you must take them to the bookstore, which has the biggest selection of really cool kids’ art books we’ve ever seen. Five minutes in either direction of the Reina Sofia are the always-free bank-sponsored La Caixa Forum and La Casa Encendida. These are modern art and culture, more interactive museums that your kids will enjoy. Bonus, each of these three places can be walked through and talked about in less than 90 minutes, appealing to the little guys with lower attention spans.
Finally, you can’t miss Plaza Mayor’s greatest treasure — no we aren’t talking about the over-priced mediocre restaurants edging where the Spanish Inquisition used to take place. We are talking about Fat Spiderman! He’s the most famous out of the dozens upon street performers you’ll come across because he actually performs. It’s worth the euro or so you throw his way as the English-speaking masked man will make your kids laugh as you capture priceless photos of them posing with the obese version of one of their favorite superheroes.
You can read more by Jennifer at her blog: jkriggins.wordpress.com