Madrid, founded in the 9th century as "Magerit," became capital of the Spanish empire by the order of Philip II in 1561, and remains the capital of Spain today. Exploring Madrid, will it be the glories of the Museo del Prado, boating in the park, collections of armor in the Palacio Real, Spanish pastries from a local bakery, or walking along the wide promenades at twilight?
Tiled street plaques - In the old quarter of Madrid, look for tiled street plaques, the street names are beautifully illustrated, e.g. Calle de la Sal (Salt Street), Calle del Leon (Lion Street), Calle de las Jardines (Gardens Street), Plaza de la Villa (coat of arms of Madrid), Calle de Calderon de la Barca (famous author). Kids will have fun taking snapshots of their favorite streets.
Equestrian statues - Spanish horses are legendary, and you'll find statues around Madrid with famous figures on horseback. Here's a few of our favorites - King Felipe III at the Plaza Mayor, Felipe IV at the Plaza de Oriente, statue of Don Quixote on his nag and Sancho Panza on his donkey at the Plaza de Espana, Alfonso XII in the Retiro Park, Carlos III in Puerta del Sol.
Ride the Metro - The Metro system here is great so you can discover neighborhoods on foot, knowing the subway is usually nearby. Buy the Abono Turistico (Tourist Travel Pass), unlimited rides day pass, at the tourist office located at the Plaza Mayor.
Tip: If you have a toddler and stroller, be aware many stops do not have elevators, or escalators.
A delicious snack is "chocolate con churros," thick rich hot chocolate accompanied by churros (a doughnut-like pastry). Kids can dip their churros into the hot chocolate for the full effect. Two of our favorite places are Valor Chocolateria and Chocolateria San Gines.
Madrilenos have a sweet tooth, and kids will want to sample the wide variety of pastries in the bakeries and sweets such as violet candies. Also, fresh squeezed orange juice (zumo de naranja) is a great snack.
For a special dinner treat, have a meal at the Restaurant Sobrino de Botin, the oldest restaurant in Madrid, in business since 1725. The restaurant serves traditional Spanish meat and fish dishes. In the window is a super little model of the restaurant itself, and the interior is atmospheric dining.
Fun things to buy in Madrid are Spanish style hair combs, shawls (manton de manila), fans, small swords, miniature bulls, Real Madrid soccer shirts, and replicas of the street tiles (pick your favorite street).
Here's our own Travel for Kids hand-picked list of family hotels, all styles and price ranges, convenient to fun things to do with kids in Madrid: