Madrid is a city we’ll always return to. It’s got this amazing feeling of being both bustling and laid back at the same time, and has something to offer everyone from solo travellers, couples, groups of friends and families young and old. There are plenty of things to do to keep yourself busy, some of which are mentioned below.
Madrid is a very walkable city, and it is also served by an excellent public transport system. You can get the Metro from the Airport straight to the city centre in approx 50 minutes. Getting a Zone A tourist ticket for the duration of your stay gives you access to Metro (all lines within the zone including the Airport), EMT buses (excluding the Airport route), Renfe (between the suburban stations within the zone and Metro Ligero (Light Metro). It’ll set you back from €8.40 for one day up to €35.20 for a week and this covers you comprehensively for a break to Madrid, and if you do wish to travel outside of Zone A, you can purchase a single use ticket for your journey.
When you get there, you can do as much or as little as you want. The same can be said for your spending. A trip to Madrid can be as shoe string or high end, depending on your budget and style of travel. We like to explore a city on foot and using public transport in cities with a good Metro or light rail system. Buses I’m not a fan of, but occasionally we’ll make use of them if it makes the most sense. We talk up the Metro as something exciting, so the kids always look forward to using it and it’s like a mini adventure to them… for now at least.
There are an infinite amount of restaurants, from authentic Spanish food like calamari and paella, plus every sort of International cuisine you could hope for. This includes, but is not limited to: burger places, sushi bars, Lebanese cuisine & some of the finest Italian restaurants I’ve eaten in. There are cafes and tapas bars on nearly every street. I’m not even going to recommend anything in particular here, you’re guaranteed to find something you like all on your own.
Visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu – even moderate football fans will enjoy spending a morning here. You can get there on the Metro, using Line 10 (the blue one). The stop is conveniently named ‘Santiago Bernabéu. It’s also an easy 4km walk from Gran Via -it takes approx an hour, and can be a great opportunity for little people who are still in strollers to grab a nap. I highly recommend taking the tour and getting some photos. Tickets cost €25 for adults and €18 for kids, and it includes a trip through the museum, the dressing rooms, the dugouts and around the stadium. You can stop and take some pictures on the top tier – the view from up there is great!
Grab a drink with a view. For one of the most famous view in Madrid, head to The Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes. There’s a fee of €4 to get to the top, but you’ll get to take in those iconic views of the Gran Via skyline. Grab a beer and an ice cream for the kids. Alternatively, you can head around the corner to the Hotel NH Collection Madrid Suecia. It’s free, and as it’s a little bit less well known, it tends to be a bit quieter. The staff are really friendly too – they gave colouring books, crayons and sweets to the kids while we enjoyed drinks with a view.
Retiro Park – this could be a day out on it’s own if you wanted it to be. It’s a 125 hectare city park boasting Botanical Gardens, restaurants, monuments & sports facilities. Art lovers will love the Crystal Palace, or Palacio de Cristal – made almost entirely out of glass and home to regular art exhibitions, it’s one of the most striking buildings in the City. The Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez is an enclosed garden area with peacocks, which kids will probably enjoy. There’s a great playground located just inside the Alcalá Gate entrance. On Sunday’s, the park is full of street performers, puppet shows and Disney characters, which younger kids will love. You can rent a rowboat on the lake for €8 on the weekend or €6 during the week, and they hold up to 4 people. It’s also a great place to lie down and chill for an hour. You can get there on Line 2 on the Metro, and it’s a 15 minute walk from the Metropolis Building.
Head to the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid – Our kids love animals, and a trip to the zoo usually makes it on our itenery. Personally, I have mixed feelings with regards to zoos, but the kids love to go – for now at least. It’s a ten minute walk from the Casa de Campo stop on Lines 5 (green) and 10 (blue).
Spend an afternoon sightseeing. Take the metro to Opera (Lines 2 & 5) and take in the Teatro Real. From there, head through the Plaza de Oriente and take in some street performances en route to Palacio Real de Madrid. Detour through Jardines de Sabatini en route to Templo de Debod, an impressive Ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in the middle of Madrid. Then head back towards Plaza Mayor to finish up your afternoon. You’ll probably be hungry by now, so head down one of the side streets near Plaza Mayor. The food in the square is okay, but nothing to write home about, so venture off down some side streets and you’re guaranteed to find some good eats.
If shopping is your thing, you could find most of what you’re looking for on Gran Via alone. It boasts a massive Primark, H&M, Stradivarius, Zara, Bershka an Adidas store, a Nike Store, numerous shoe stores & boutiques. I usually don’t like to waste my holiday shopping, but I do always hit Gran Via for an hour on my own to pick up enough basics until I’m back in Madrid.