Madrid, Spain is a city with a variety of fun activities and parks for children and families. It has efficient, affordable public transportation (bus, metro and train) that can take visitors and residents pretty much anywhere they need to go. All in all, Madrid is a great vacation destination for families, with some enchanting “secret” spots to entertain the kids.

The capital of Spain has a walkable city center where you can enjoy the atmosphere of its lively old streets or stop at one of the many cafés or fast food outlets, many of which are familiar to American tourists. There are also plenty of areas with safe playgrounds for children, often surrounded by terrazas (outdoor cafés) where adults can stop for a cerveza and a tapa. Locals are welcoming and friendly to visitors, so it should be easy for your children to meet playmates at the playground with who to practice their Spanish.

Read Related: Family-Friendly Vacation Packing Tips

Tour guides and websites will show the main points of interest in Madrid. Here’s our selection of lesser-known places that will delight the whole family, especially your children.

Madrid Río: The most famous public park in Madrid is El Retiro, but two years ago the fantastic Madrid Río was opened. This park spans the river Manzanares (over 6 miles) and is children´s paradise. There are 17 play areas made with sustainable, natural materials, suitable for all ages. Don´t miss the slides hill, the log jungle and the zip-line! There is also a small urban beach and visitors are welcome to skate and cycle (rentals are available) all over the park.

Madrid’s Best Kept Secrets for Kids-Photo2City Center: The Madrid City Council organizes guided tours for families specially geared towards children. One of their family walks is named “Imagine Madrid.” It’s a fun field day in which kids solve riddles, learn about old legends and find clues to discover the hidden treasures of Madrid. The tours are free for children under 3 years of age.

Family Creativity: The major museums of Madrid, such as the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen, organize family visits and workshops for children throughout the year, especially during the summer and on weekends. Activities are usually linked to their temporary exhibits, most often classical art. But if you want your children to explore their creativity, attend workshops related to the environment and contemporary art, have fun listening to pop music for kids or even go dancing at a roller disco, you shouldn’t miss the fabulous programs of Matadero and La Casa Encendida. The activities are free or very affordable, although you sometimes have to make reservations in advance.

Madrid’s Best Kept Secrets for Kids-Photo3Popular Holidays: Madrid is a cosmopolitan, modern city, but the downtown neighborhoods retain the charm of a small village, where people often party in the street with food, drink, music and attractions for children. If you travel in May or August, do not miss the fiestas of San Isidro and La Paloma, respectively. Listen to music, peruse flea markets and visit street vendors where your children can taste traditional, delicious churros like nowhere else in the world. For Christmas, the Three Kings Parade on the magical evening of January 5 is a must-do in the city center.

Summer Fun: Enjoy a leisurely summer like the locals do. Madrilenian children have summer vacation from late June to early September, so there are many options to keep them entertained during the long, hot summer days. Public pools are comfortable, clean, affordable and very safe. Kids love the summer movies at night, where you can bring your own sandwiches and popcorn from home and enjoy watching family movies outdoors.

Madrid’s Best Kept Secrets for Kids-Photo4

Day Camps: If you are going to stay in Madrid for an extended vacation or for the duration of the summer holidays, consider taking your kids to an urban camp. Recreational and educational, they are an ideal place for your children to socialize … and let adults enjoy sightseeing alone for a few hours!

Head for the Hills: In just an hour, the commuter train can get you to Cercedilla, a charming village located in the mountains 18 miles away from Madrid. This is a fantastic place to enjoy marked trails, natural pools, a lunch in the picnic area and, of course, a visit to Aventura Amazonia, one of the biggest adventure parks in Europe, with dozens of games in the trees, zip-lines and adventure circuits.

Two tips to keep in mind when visiting:

  • Traveling the city with a stroller can be tricky. They only allow one stroller per bus (yes, you read right!) and in most downtown metro stations, there are no elevator, so you will need to drag the stroller up and down the escalators or even the stairs!
  • Consider the Spanish schedule. Most small shops are closed between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Lunch is usually served between 2:00pm and 4:00pm, and dinner is from 9:00 pm till 11:00 pm. So you may want to eat at fast food chains that remain open all day if you prefer not to keep the kids up too late.

Cozy and traditional yet eclectic and modern, Madrid is a city that captivates visitors for its tolerant and welcoming character and generous leisure and culture offerings. Above all, when visiting Madrid, I recommend spending some time just slowly wandering around, enjoying its genuine spirit.