From mouthwatering tapas to Barcelona’s amazing architecture to Ibiza’s hip nightlife to Seville’s iconic Plaza de Espana, Spain has a reputation for being a country that attracts all type of travelers for different reasons. And although Walt Disney World is the obvious choice for creating invaluable memories, Vacation wants you to expand your travel portfolio to include a family vacation abroad to visit Madrid. Spain’s capital city has a lot to offer parents traveling with kids, including historical sites with Spanish Royalty connections. What’s better than providing your kids with a tangible history lesson that instantly comes to life? Here’s my short list of must-see sights in Madrid you should consider to immerse the entire family in its rich history and culture, including a fun stop in a royal park.
Step Back in Time for a History Lesson About Spanish Royalty
The Royal Palace is a fascinating look in to the history of Spain’s royal families. Today, the palace is not the official residence of the King of Spain and his family, but instead used for state ceremonies, official banquets and other functions. Completed in 1764, the palace contains 3,418 rooms and is one of the largest royal palaces in Europe. Take a tour of through the palace to marvel at the ornate décor with marble, gold leaf and priceless works of art, including paintings by Italian painter Caravaggio. And don’t leave this popular attraction without seeing the complete Stradivarius string quintet – the only one in the world! The tour takes you through only a portion of the palace but gives you a good look in to how the Spanish royalty lived.
Vacation Expert Tip: The palace is very busy even in the off-season (May through August). Buy your tickets in advance, and they are printed with your assigned tour time. Once you arrive, enter the gift shop area to grab your audio headset because the line can be long. And just FYI, backpacks are not allowed inside the palace. Before you enter the palace, use the lockers located near the gift shop to store your backpack, purses or other valuables you don’t want to carry around on the tour.
See More than 200 Years of Paintings at the World-Renowned Prado Museum
From the Royal Palace, The Prado Museum is one of Spain’s most famous art museums. Located in the heart of Madrid, the Prado features original works from many famous Spanish artists, including Bosch, Picasso and Dali. The museum offers audio or guided tours, which I highly recommend, because the sheer size can be overwhelming, and children can easily get lost. There are so many incredible pieces of art here that you can spend multiple days exploring. Before you go, plan out what you want to see first. And then if you have extra time, you can roam freely and enjoy all of the beautiful artwork – most of which was commissioned by Spain’s Royalty since the 16th century.
Vacation Expert Tip: A travel agent can help arrange your family tour of the museum later in the day to avoid the morning crowd, and to have access to the pieces of art you really want to see.
Spend Some Quality Family Time in Park Retiro
After the Prado, there’s nothing better than spending time outdoors in the city, and Madrid has the perfect place to do that. Park Retiro was a private park created for the Royal Family, but it was opened to the public in 1868. It boasts perfectly manicured gardens and iconic fountains, but the most famous attraction is the boat rides. Set within a manmade pond, you can rent a boat, enjoy the views and get a reprieve from the Madrid summer heat. This is also a great place to let your kids explore the park’s paths and burn off their extra energy. The park has a large playground where your children can mingle with some of the local kids and maybe pick up a few new Spanish words.
Vacation Expert Tip: Bring your camera! There are so many photo ops for the perfect Instagram pic or family photo, including the Monument to Alfonso XII, the pond’s biggest feature, as your backdrop.
Our Hotel Recommendations
There are numerous places to stay when visiting Madrid, but our network of travel agents have a few favorites, including the Gran Melia Fenix Hotel, Westin Palace Madrid, ME Madrid Reina Victoria and Gran Melia Fenix Hotel. If want you want to feel like Royalty, consider staying at the Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques, the former residence of the Dukes of Granada from Ega and Villahermosa. And for a family-friendly hotel, stay at the Eric Vokel Madrid Suites located 10 minutes from Prado Museum and Plaza de Espana.
Getting around: The subway system in Madrid is inexpensive and easy to navigate. Buy a multi-day pass as it will save you money and time getting to those popular Royal attractions. A pass can range between $16 - $83 USD, depending on the metro zones and the number of days (2 days to a week) you’ll need it.
Food: There is no shortage of restaurants in Madrid that offer a delicious immersion into its culture – from classic tapas to traditional cuisine – including Viridiana, Horcher and El Corral de la Moreria. A Vacation travel specialist and your hotel concierge can provide more recommendations based on your family’s tastes.
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