Family Vacations to Madrid, Spain

Family Overview - Madrid, Spain
MADRID'S PALACIO REAL: western Europe's largest palace (Corel)

Madrid Highlights

  • See art by El Greco, Rubens, Goya, and others at the world-class Museo del Prado.
  • Tour the expanded Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, one of the world's largest modern art museums.
  • Bike through the Parque de Retiro, Madrid's city oasis.
  • Attend a flamenco performance.
  • Bargain for finds at El Rastro, a flea market.

Fine art and flamenco are signatures of Madrid, Spain's capital. In decades past, Barcelona, with its diversity and flash, seemed to overshadow Madrid, but not any longer. With a futuristic $100 million addition to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia as well as stylish restaurants serving way more than tapas, Madrid's on a fast track to trendy.

Any museum with 7,000 paintings will make gradeschoolers groan. The trick to enjoying the Museo del Prado with kids is to combine a few must-sees with lots of serendipitous wandering. Seek out the pieces by El Greco, Rubens, Goya, and others, then let your kids find their fancy, whether it's searching for canvasses featuring dogs or horses or just taking off down a promising hallway.

The red, mushroom-shaped extension to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid's modern art showcase, doubled the facility's cache as well as its size, making it one the world's largest modern art museums. Among the masters represented are Miró, Dalí, Calder, and Picasso, including his powerful and massive Guernica.

With more than 2,000 rooms, the Palacio Real, (Royal Palace) is Western Europe's largest palace. Highlights include the Banquet and Throne rooms, the Royal Apartments, and the Armory with its collection of saddles, shields, and helmets.

Meander along the Plaza Mayor (Main Square), an impressive arcade square with shops and cafes. Take a break to snack on churros, sweet fried dough, and wash it down with hot chocolate. The city's omnipresent tapas bars serve moderately priced small plates, making it easy for kids to sample new and local tastes.

Bike or stroll through the Parque de Retiro, the city's 330-acre fountain-filled oasis complete with a lake. In another Madrid park, Casa de Campo, cool off with a swim in the city-operated pool. Young kids may enjoy the respite from museums and palaces at the park's zoo and aquarium.

Steer your teens away from the high-priced shops by having them rummage for finds on Sunday mornings at El Rastro, the city's most popular flea market. The lively warren of stalls spreads out from Plaza Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores. Be sure to watch out, though, for pickpockets doing a little "shopping" of their own.

Flamenco is another Madrid tradition. Although flamenco clubs are plentiful, many are strictly tourist grade. For some that boast more authentic moves, check out Las Tablas, Las Carboneras, and Sala El Juglar, known for its young, energetic dancers.

From Madrid take a day trip to Toledo, about 40 miles away, and to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 30 miles away, known for its 16th-century monastery.

Tip: August is not only hot in Madrid, but many shops and restaurants close as locals head to the beach. The prime times to visit are April, May, June, September, and October.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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