The passionate capital is one of the biggest cities in Europe and, even amid the explosion of color and culture, little people are not overlooked. Madrileños adore children: they are an important part of the city's fabric and families stay out together well into the evening. In lively squares with graceful architecture, parents and carers sip rioja and nibble jamón while toddlers scale playgrounds and babies sleep in buggies.
What makes Madrid good for kids?
One way to make the most of a family trip to Madrid is to get on board with the local schedule. Dinner is late, around 10pm – and that goes for families too. Ever wondered how these children stay up so late? All hail the siesta. It's not just toddlers that take a nap, but carers too. That way everyone is fully charged and ready to explore when the evening swings around.
Getting around Madrid is very straightforward. The Metro is geared up for families and buggies, and the majority of stops have lifts. The bus network has ramps and spaces for buggies (when wheelchair users don't need them).
The downside? In the city's historic areas, older bars and restaurants don't have much in the way of baby facilities. But the good news is that a nappy change in the buggy or breastfeeding is totally run of the mill – it won't turn any heads.
Where is best in Madrid for kids?
With its spacious squares and sun-soaked streets, the center of Madrid is great for children. They'll love weaving through the stone archways at Plaza Mayor, or spotting the big bear statue in Plaza de la Puerta del Sol. Paseo del Prado is a long, lush path, good for mini bike rides, and Casa de Campo is an enormous park home to a lake, zoo and aquarium. The best way to get there is El Teleférico: a cable car that swoops 40m (131ft) into the air and offers views of the city and the Manzanares river.
Best things to do in Madrid with babies and toddlers
Parque del Buen Retiro
This elegant park belonged to the monarchy until the 19th century, and now everyone can walk along regal tree-lined paths, or paddle on the lake in a hired boat. It's spread over 1.4 sq km (0.5 sq miles) and it's an excellent picnic spot for families.
La Escalera de Jacob
This tiny theater in Lavapiés has the most charming tiled facade and a range of child-friendly performances, including a calming show for babies from three months old.
Puerta de Hierro Sports Park
One of the biggest draws of the Puerta de Hierro sports complex is the huge open-air swimming pool. While adults do laps, babies cool off in the children's pool, which is surrounded by grass lawns for sunbathing. It's open from mid-May to mid-September.
Best things to do in Madrid with school-age kids
Mercado de San Miguel
Got picky eaters in your group? This vibrant food market has over 20 stalls to pick and choose from. Try the squidgiest tortilla from Picolisto, burgers by Prrimital, and crispy patatas bravas that the family will fight over.
There are oodles cafes serving good churros in Madrid, but the oldest and most loved is La Chocolatería San Ginés, with over 100 years of experience in deep-fried treats. It's open daily and, from Thursday to Sunday, it's open 24 hours – ideal for parents with very early risers.
Teatro de Titeres
This open-air puppet theater in Parque del Buen Retiro is the stage for swashbuckling pirates, curious monsters and magical butterflies. Children will love shouting and cheering from the sunlit auditorium.
Once a private collection, the enormous stash of artwork at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza spans styles from the 13th to the 20th centuries, and it has plenty of events aimed at children. Alice in Wonderland is a bilingual event that explores literary classics through the artwork, while Co-loca invites three to six year olds to go wild and interpret the art in inventive ways like play, improvised dance and props provided by the team.
Play parks and tapas
Got kids that won't sit still in a restaurant? Join the club. One of the best things about bars and cafes in Madrid is that many have children's playgrounds outside, so parents can watch over them from the terrace. Try Café Federal or El Lugar de Martina.
Best things to do in Madrid with tweens and teenagers
With its Stunt Fall roller coaster that flies through the air at 115kph (71mph) and gruesome Zombie chase, Parque Warner is a thrilling spot for teenagers. Younger kids can explore Looney Tunes land and learn to drive in the Yabba Dabba Doo driving school. To get there ride the train from Madrid to Pinto (around 20 minutes) and take the 413 bus.
Tren de la Fresa
On spring and autumn weekends, this historic train with handsome wooden coaches from the 1920s takes visitors on a round trip to Aranjuez (adults €27.05, children €21, one hour each way). It was built in 1851 by Isabella II to link the city to her summer house and got its name from the strawberries offered to passengers en route.
Parque de Attraciones
Closer to the city center than Parque Warner (just 15 minutes by Metro), Parque de Attraciones is a 20 hectare theme park with a wide range of rides, from a vintage horse carousel hand-carved in 1927 to white-knuckle roller coasters. Loop the loop on the Tornado, catapult 63m (207ft) into the air on La Lanzadora, and spin around at 70kph (43mph) on the Star Flyer.
Planning tips for travel with kids in Madrid
Madrid Adolfo-Suárez airport has playgrounds for children, a breastfeeding room and free buggies to borrow, so do take advantage of them if you're arriving by plane.
Once in Madrid, the local BiciMAD bike hire service is convenient, eco-friendly, and costs around €2 per hour. Buy a Tourist Travel Pass (€35.40 for unlimited travel on Metro, bus and train for seven days) if you plan on zipping around a lot on public transport.