Madrid: A Family Guide to the Most Spanish of All Cities

Photo by Carlos Delgado.
Photo by Carlos Delgado.

When going on a family holiday trip, you often have to choose between having a kid-friendly or an a more engaging cultural experience. Famously called “the most Spanish of all cities” by  Ernest Hemingway, Madrid allows you to have both.

Whether you desire majestic historical attractions or time at the zoo, you’ll soon find out why Madrid is one of Europe’s most visited destinations.

One of the city’s top family attractions the Zoo Aquarium of Madrid, located in the Casa de Campo area. Founded in 1770, this zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals from  hundreds of different species. Your kids time will be able to do close examinations of wildlife in their natural habitats. When everyone is too tired to walk around anymore, settle down for fantastic shows with dolphins and birds – all included in the ticket fees.


Parking is scare in the city on the weekend, so consider opting for public transportation, with its people-watching possibilities. Or soar high above it all in cable cars, with  stunning views of the urban landscape. However you get about, you’ll soon get hungry. Stop for a bite at any of the locations suggested by My Little Madrid blog. Despite blog’s name, the online guide run by a Madrid native is not little at all: It covers everything from weekend adventures to an annual book market , and is full of delightful anecdotes.

A family trip should also include a visit to  the Parque Warner Bros, formerly known as Warner Bros Movie World Madrid. The Park is found in the south of the city, about 30 minutes from the core. The studios offer fantastic live shows, revealing the “behind-the-scenes” secrets of Hollywood’s special effects.  

800px-Tragabolas_en_la_Puerta_del_SolThe Puerta Del Sol square is the centre of the city’s life, offering many excellent restaurants, bars and  shopping opportunities. Rising proudly above all is the famous statue of Madrid’s most prominent symbol – the bear and the strawberry tree, El Oso y El Madrono. “Madrono” refers to the strawberry tree and connotes aristocracy, while the strong female bear (El Oso) is a symbol of fertility and fullness of life in Madrid.

For more history, you should also visit the Arab Wall. You’ll find the vestiges of the Moorish military outpost that became Madrid  on Calle Cuesta de la Vega. The walls once protected a fortress constructed in the 9th century by Emir Mohammed I. The site had lots of water and was called Mayrit, Arabic for “source of life,” which is probably source of the city’s name.

These four attractions will serve as an admirable introduction to the most Spanish of cities. But they are only a start; make sure you leave yourself time to explore further. A good place to do planning is this list of 50 essential things to do in Madrid, ranging from entering one of its most alluring secret gardens, “el Jardin del Principe Anglona,”   to eating a calamari sub.

If you want to see more of Spain, start by heading to south for the beautiful, bustling beaches of Andalucia. For a family-friendly base for your Spanish holiday, consider staying in the supreme comfort and privacy of a luxurious villa. For other Spanish travel ideas, check out our  posts on What to Eat in Barcelona and the Highs and Lows of Girona.


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