One of Europe's party hotspots, Madrid has a lot more to offer than unadulterated night-time fun and can also be a great place for family city breaks, or for longer family holidays that also take in the surrounding area.
The country's capital, situated in the centre of Iberia on a fairly bleak and vegetation-free plateau – baking in summer, chilly in winter – Madrid is probably the most modern of Spanish cities and after years of problems and neglect is finally coming into its own.
Don’t come here for beautiful buildings or for the climate, but do come for the culture, the people and the cafés. This is a city that hums with life and that is often eccentric (think Almodovar films) but always fun.
Things to do with kids in Madrid
Take the kids to the Palacio Real – an enormous, sumptuously decorated palace boasting more rooms, more books and more treasures than any other European palace (don’t even attempt to see everything). This is mad Baroque at its showiest best.
Take the thrilling 15-minute trip on the Teleférico cable-car from Paseo del Pintor Rosales to the Casa de Campo, where you will find the Parque de Atracciones, Madrid's themepark.
Go for a browse at the gargantuan weekend fleamarket, El Rastro.
Visit the Prado, with one of the most important art collections in the world, with works by Bosch, Velázquez, Goya, Titian and El Greco (interest younger kids by asking them to spot animals and the like). It has a good restaurant and café to keep you going.
Explore the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales or Natural Sciences Museum, with five levels of exhibits including a whale skeleton, a dinosaur replica and fossils.
Take young footie fans on a tour of Real Madrid's famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium, to see the President's Box, dressing room, players' tunnel, benches and coaching area, pitch, and Trophy Room – and the official Real Madrid shop.
With tots, head for Grey Elephant, a funky bilingual creative space with workshops, crafts, music, dancing and adult Pilates sessions.
Rollerblading in the Parque del Retiro.
Madrid offers some of the best and freshest food in the whole country, although it has yet to fully embrace international cuisine so get used to the idea of introducing your kids to the likes of chickpea stew, garlic soup, snails, potato omelette and baked bream. Snacky tapas can be a handy fall-back. And don't forget that the Spanish take their kids out with them at night and that dinner often starts as late as 10pm, so plan your day accordingly.
Dining alfresco in Plaza de Santa.
When to go to Madrid
As in much of the rest of Spain, spring (March–May) and October are great times to take the kids to Madrid, as the weather is generally mild and it isn't too packed with tourists.
May sees Madrid's biggest fiestas, Fiesta de la Comunidad de Madrid (2 May) and Fiestas de San Isidro (15 May), but accommodation is trickier to find at this time, so book ahead.
Plaza de España at Christmas.
Madrid's array of restaurants, cafés and bars cater to all budgets. If you choose self-catering accommodation too, a family holiday or break here can be relatively inexpensive.
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Flying time2.25hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint1.12 CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
The Telerifico cable-car.
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Rollercoaster at the Parque de Atracciones.
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