Hi, I’m Rachel of the Born to Travel Blog! My husband is a tropical medicine doctor, so we travel six months out of the year for his research, along with our two year old daughter. Our family recently had the opportunity to spend a month traveling around Spain, including Madrid. While many top restaurants and sights can feel like grown up places, the culture is quite family friendly. With a little planning and flexibility, Madrid can be a wonderful city to visit with your toddler!
Where to Stay in Madrid with toddlers
Madrid is a huge city, but the area most tourist are interested in is small and centrally located. Puerto del Sol is in the center, with the Royal Palace to the west and Prado Museum to the east. Anywhere you chose to stay in this area will be reasonably convenient, but I recommend the east side near the Prado for families. Madrid’s spectacular Retiro Park runs along this side of the city center, making it an ideal place for toddlers.
If you stay in the central part of the city, you should be able to get around exclusively by walking or occasionally taking the metro. Every street we walked had wide sidewalks or was pedestrian only.
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Madrid is a somewhat less touristy city than Barcelona or some of Spain’s other popular destinations- although slightly fewer “must see” attractions, Madrid makes up for quantity with remarkable quality while also offering a great opportunity to see a modern, “lived in” Spanish city.
Yes, you can take your toddler to a Flamenco show! Our daughter was absolutely mesmerized by the dancing and costumes. It can get a bit loud, which conveniently drowned out the sound of her little voice occasionally exclaiming “this is awesome dancing!” I highly recommend Las Carboneras located by Mercado de San Miguel. Make sure to reserve your tickets in advance, including any children, although the show is free for kids under eight years. We chose to book the show without dinner to shorten our time there for the sake of toddler attention span. Aspiring little dancers may also enjoy attending in one of the popular Flamenco dresses sold in every tourist shop.
The Royal Place
No visit to Madrid is complete without seeing the spectacular interior of the Royal Palace! There is one very wide, shallow staircase at the beginning, but the rest is perfectly stroller friendly. I recommend bringing a lightweight stroller you don’t mind briefly carrying upstairs to use throughout the Palace. As with many bathrooms in Spain, the handicap stall near the entrance has a changing table. There is a carousel right outside the Palace which was a fun treat for our little girl after we were done with the tour.
The Prado Museum
One of the most impressive art museums in Europe is not exactly a toddler activity, but it is absolutely worth seeing. It’s easy to maneuver a stroller, so we were able to enjoy it while our daughter played her tablet with headphones. It’s also right next to Retiro Park, so you can let them burn some energy beforehand and maybe nap through the museum if you’re lucky!
This massive public park features beautiful sculptures, fountains, carefully manicured gardens, and of course, playgrounds! There is also a huge carousel, as well as food trucks and art stalls on the weekends.
Also located right next to the Prado are the lovely Royal botanical gardens. This is a great place to get some nice family pictures. Hours of operation are seasonal and there is a small entry fee.
As of this writing the plaza is under major construction. Walking by we noticed signs showing a massive playground planned for the space. Keep an eye out on your trip to see if it’s open!
The city center has since moved to Puerto del Sol, but Plaza Major historically served this purpose. It’s now a fun, open square lined with various restaurants and tourist shops. It’s also a safe space for toddlers to run around the cobblestone plaza without worrying about traffic.
Eating in Madrid
Most of the best tapas restaurants have limited space and are sometimes standing room only, some cannot accommodate strollers. You can still go if you arrive early in the evening or make a reservation to ensure you get a table. Most restaurants in Spain either require or recommend a reservation. It’s helpful to mention you have a small child when you make the reservation, either by phone or email. The Spanish usually eat dinner late, with many restaurants opening around 8:30 pm. We sometimes fed our daughter dinner early and let her fall asleep in the stroller before our own reservation. It’s a pretty common practice to park a sleeping child in the corner as long as there is room. Lots of places were very accommodating and gave us a corner table so we could park her near us out of the way. Ask for a trona (pronounced throna, like throne) if you need a high chair.
For a more casual meal, make sure you visit Mercado de San Miguel near Plaza Major. The market features snacks and small plates from rows of vendors. Wander through and grab several things to sample. It’s almost always busy, with very limited seating, but you can always take it to go or find a bench directly outside the entrance.
For coffee and incredible pastries, check out Mallorquina in Puerto del Sol. When you enter downstairs it can be a bit overwhelming-there’s always a crowd standing at the espresso bar or ordering pastries to go. The toddler travel pro tip: look for the inconspicuous staircase between the pastry counter and espresso bar. Go up the staircase at the back of the room and have a seat on the second floor. They offer the option to order any of their treats off menu and have them brought to your table to enjoy away from the chaos downstairs.
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