Retiro Park and Prado
Museo del Prado - The Prado Museum is a biggie, and not be missed. What's great about this museum is that it's filled with paintings Spanish artists, especially Velazquez and Goya's portraits of people from centuries past. Kids will have fun with princes on horseback, princesses in fabulous dresses, and big family scenes.
You can make a beeline to see the famous Las Meninas but don't miss our favorite portraits by Velazquez - Prince Balthasar Carlos on Horseback, dashing Conque Duque del Olivares, sulky Queen Marianne of Austria, best dressed Princess Margarita of Austria.
Look for these Goya paintings - The Family of the Duke of Osuna (two boys in green suits, two girls and the mom are gauzy pink and gray dresses) Don Francisco de Paula (the boy looks quite mischievous), Tadeo Arias de Enrique (incredible hair and costume), Carlos IV and His Family.
Goya also has paintings which will get the attention of teenagers - all his "Black Paintings" along with the La Maja Vestida and La Maja Desnuda. Other European painters to see - Bosch's sci-fi fantasy, The Garden of Earthly Delights and Durer's self portrait and Adam and Eve.
Go to the museum early in the day - to avoid long lines to buy tickets and enter the museum.
In the Paseo del Prado, across from the Prado, there's a small playground
with swings and climbing structures, perfect for toddlers.
Naval Museum - In the heyday of the Spanish Empire, the Spanish sailed world (and don't forget they sent Columbus to the new World, launched the Armada, and brought back tons of silver and gold from Latin America on their ships). The Naval Museum is a treasure trove of models of Spanish galleons, collections of cannons and swords, paintings of battles at sea, and models of forts from the 15th - 18th century. The museum is free.<
Fountains in the Paseo del Prado - Take a stroll north on the Paseo del Prado to Plaza de la Cibeles, a splashy fountain with the goddess Cibeles on her chariot, and two adorable lions. Just down the paseo at Plaza Canovas de Castillo is the fountain of Neptune - Neptune balances on his shell chariot, drawn by two foaming horses. The soccer teams always celebrate at these two fountains - Real Madrid at Cibeles, Atletico Madrid at Neptune.
Parque del Retiro (Retiro Park) - The Retiro is the place to go after the kids have had enough museums.
- At the artificial lake, called the "Estanque," rent row boats and expend a little energy on the water. Or, take a solar powered barge, the "Barco Solar," for a leisurely turn around the lake (get there early to take the Barco, the lines can get long).
- There's always a puppet show or two in progress (in Spanish). Little kids will still like watching the antics of the puppets.
- There's an absolutely wonderful playground just west of the Puerta de Hernani (north entrance to the park) - it has super climbing and play structures (even bigger kids have fun at this playground). There's also another playground at Paseo de la Argentina and Calle de Alfonso XII.
The park has lots of cafes and snack stands, or bring a picnic. This is also a great place to bring a ball to kick around, play with balloons, and everyone in the family can just relax.