This museum is probably one of the smallest you will see as it has only one room containing 17th century paintings of Madrid and two large wooden models showing how Madrid would have looked in the 17th century (you will have to use your imagination and geographical knowledge to recognise buildings such as the royal palace and the cathedral as they are not indicated on the models). A video screen taking you on imaginary walks through 17th century Madrid is interesting as it shows you which buildings of 17th century Madrid still exist today and which ones have disappeared over the centuries as Madrid has got ever bigger. Entry is free .
calle Fuencarral, 78
Nearest metro station: Tribunal
Google map: bit.ly/UCsTlX
The Spanish have their own version of the tooth fairy albeit in mouse form and he is known to Spanish children as Ratóncito Pérez. Hidden away in a tiny shopping centre in central Madrid is a cute tiny golden statue of this famous Ratóncito Pérez. Upstairs on the first floor of the shopping centre is a small museum dedicated to the history behind this mouse.
This park is in my opinion better than the
El Retiro park in central Madrid. It is more geared towards children and families. Children will love it as there is lots to discover such as ... I am not going to tell you. Go to the park, ignore the plan of the park, lose yourself and discover the many buildings within it for yourself.
I assure you that around every corner you will discover something new. It will feel like you are nowhere near Madrid at all (El Capricho park is in fact right on the very edge of the Madrid) as it is small and showy with colourful roses and sunflowers all year round. The sun brings out the autumnal colours. Take food and drink with you though as unlike El Retiro park there are no food or drink shops within the park itself. Although there is a free tap providing free drinking water within the grounds near El Capricho palace. My favourite spot to stop and sit was on the seat by the artificial lake opposite the waterfall on the manmade island in the middle of the lake. Sadly this park which was previously unknown to many tourists and Madrileños has been discovered and is now very popular and can be busy which is why they have a daily limit of 1,000 people in the park at any one time. This has spoiled the serenity of the park somewhat but there are still some secluded spots left within the park to escape the crowds which is good. If you are lucky like I was you will be treated to some free dancing and acting outside the dance hall in the park (usually between 12.00am and 13.00pm). Entry is free but the park is only open Saturday and Sundays from 9.00am to 21.00pm.
Calle de la Galera, 0, 28042 Madrid, Spain
+34 917 42 97 87
Nearest metro station: El Capricho
The long 45 - 60 min metro journey from central Madrid is worth it I promise you!
Exit El Capricho metro station (there is only one exit) and follow the brown signs which say Parque El Capricho which will lead you across scrubland and past some flats to the park entrance on the opposite side of the zebra crossing.
Google map: bit.ly/TpdqoR
Monday afternoon between noon and 2pm is the best time to sit in the shade by the mermaid sat on her fish by the lake in El Retiro park. The monument to Alfonso XII provides a suitable backdrop to watch people messing about on boats in the lake next to the monument. It is funny to watch them trying to row their boats as there are the occasional crashes between boats. Don't forget to smack the mermaid's bottom for good luck before you reluctantly leave the lakeside!
The most famous cycling race in Spain which easily rivals the more famous Tour de France. The 9th September is usually when the race finishes in Madrid. It is free to stand behind the barriers by the road and cheer the cyclists on as they race past you at an alarming pace (be quick to rein in your camera after taking your photo otherwise it will be shot out of your hand and broken by passing cyclists). I managed to get some brilliant photos of the riders and of the prize giving ceremony after the race. Don't be discouraged if the police move you on from some of the barriers by the finish line as they actually did me a favour as I got to be right next to the barrier and could practically touch the cylists. It was one of the best experiences of my life as it was exciting to actually be there in Madrid instead of watching it on the TV. Top tip - find a barrier on the right side of the track (where you will get the best photos) at 12.00pm and keep your spot. Arrive later than 12.00pm and you will loose your spot!
The atmopshere is fantastic and exhilirating. It is not intimidating at all even for children so it is perfect for families. There are police everywhere to protect spectators and cyclists so don't worry about safety but do as I did and keep your rucksack on your front and NOT on your back to avoid things being stolen from it without you noticing. There will be lots of people around you but unlike the Tour de France you wont be jostled about and knocked all over the place - everybody looks after each other (even if your not supporting the same rider!)
The Vuelta de España follows this route into Madrid city centre: c/Princesa,
Plaza de España, Gran Vía, c/Alcalá,
Plaza de Cibeles, then passing the Thyssen museum, Fuente de Neptuno, Paseo de Prado, Gta de Emperador Carlos V and back up to Plaza de Cibeles then down again to
Gta de Emperador Carlos V (10 times) before the cyclists cross the finishing line
(la meta) for the final time near Plaza de Cibeles. The exact route is usually announced on the website of the
Vuelta de España and in the local and national newspapers every year
Google map: bit.ly/Ph2plP
The hotel Laura in Madrid is a great place for families in the very centre of this wonderful city. Modern and comfortable design, friendly staff and affordable. It's just a B&B so you have to explore the city for food. Go to the Latina district for tapas and avoid the Plaza Mayor for overpriced and badly cooked food.
Don't join the long line of people waiting to get in the Prado. If you are with your kids go to the Reina Sofia instead and see some marvellous contemporary and modern art paintings like Picasso's 'Guernica'.
After, go to the café/restaurant for some great food and of course a bottle of wine from the Ribera Del Duero region, superb.
Teatriz restaurant in Madrid is a fantastic restaurant designed by Philippe Starck, converted from an old theatre. I had lunch there on Christmas Day with my family to celebrate my wife's birthday and it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten.
Calle Hermosilla 15, Tel.91-577-53-79
This looked a good thing, but we found that by walking and judicious visits to attractions, it was not cost effective. I can appreciate families may have youngsters, but we oldies can walk and we spent far less than the card in our week in Madrid.
Two huge pools and a kids' pool, in a fantastic location. Get there when it opens - 11am. Leave before the gangs of dive-bombing boys turn up - 1pm. Closed after the first weekend of September.
Next to Lago metro station
In the heart of Madrid you'll find this beautiful park that's a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Amble around the wide winding lanes through fabulous park land and greenery and make sure you visit on Sunday as the place comes alive with musicians and street entertainers alike.
It allows you unlimited access to museums and other attractions for a set number of days. Includes the fun fair - v good for all ages just off the metro - zoo, cable car, all the museums, palace, Imax etc. Go in August it's hot but there's nobody there - so no queues.
www.madridcard.com/en/Inicio.aspx We got ours in our hotel.
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