Half term (October 2017) I spent a few days in Madrid with my Mother and two children, Will (aged 8) and Mog (aged 2). I thought I’d share the highlights of our trip on my blog.
When travelling to a city with young children I always find it wise to plan ahead as much as possible and I booked as many of the activities as I could before we left the UK. Many visitors to Madrid would probably visit the world famous art galleries such as The Prado Museum, but that’s of little interest to the kids (or myself to be honest!), so my itinerary is very much based around food and football! What’s not to love?!
We stayed at the hotel Petit Palace Opera (Arenal, 16). This was an excellent location, on a pedestrianized street which was very central and close to tourist destinations such as Plaza Mayor (0.1 miles) and Puerta Del Sol (0.2 miles). It was also situated between the Opera and Sol metro stations. We had a family room, with two single beds and bunks. Although quite compact, the sound proofed room was quiet, warm, very clean and featured free wifi and complimentary toiletries. I’ve heard many good reviews about the breakfast here, but we opted for room only, to allow us to get and about early and sample the local produce! It was also only 9 miles and approximately 25 minutes to the airport. I pre-booked taxi airport transfers with Rideways and it cost approximately 35 euro each way including meet & greet and a tip (flat rate taxi transfers from the airport cost 30 euro).
I also pre-booked tickets for the hop on hop off sightseeing bus. It cost approximately £50 for the 4 of us for the 2 days and was a great way to take in the stunning architecture and main sights of Madrid whilst keeping the kids entertained, and also avoiding the metro with a buggy! There are two different routes that you can use. Route 1 (blue route) takes you to the main historic sights of Madrid, such as the art galleries, Palace, Cathedral, Opera House and various plazas and shopping areas. The complete loop takes about 80 minutes and you get complimentary headphones to listen to the commentary in various languages. Route 2 (green route) takes you North and stops at more museums and the Bernabeu football stadium, home to Real Madrid. The complete loop takes about and hour and there is some repetition of stops from Route 1, where you can transfer between the two tours.
With my eldest Son being such a sports fanatic, a trip to the Bernabeu was always going to be on the itinerary! Again I pre-booked tickets with a company called ‘Tiqets’ and it cost £63.75 in total. The tour of the stadium is self guided so you can do it at your own pace. It included a panoramic view of the stadium, the many, many, many trophy cabinets, the dressing rooms, tunnel, dugouts and press room. My favourite part was the ‘Sensations Room’ where there were various hologram type displays and you could listen to sounds of Real Madrid through ear pieces! They also had a display of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Ballon D’or and Golden Boot trophies that almost took up an entire wall! There were opportunities to have photographs taken with the Champions League trophy and to be digitally placed next to your favourite player! The purchase of the photographs is optional (they are quite expensive at 18 euro each for the larger size) but make a lovely souvenir for football fanatics. The only downside to the tour was the number of flights of stairs (and lack of any lifts!) which made it slightly challenging with a buggy! However, it’s well worth a visit if you have any interest in football or like me, just wanted to see where fellow countryman Gareth Bale hangs out!
The thing I most look forward to on any holiday is the food (& coffee)! Madrid is famous for its Tapas. The food is very unfussy and they use a lot of everyday staple products superbly well. Each day we visited Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market dating from 1916 but renovated and reopened in 2009. It is situated in the centre of Madrid, near Plaza Mayor. There are over 30 stall holders, all serving gourmet tapas. It is open daily from 10am through until 2am and is an ideal venue for lunch, a snack or an evening out. We spent a fair amount of time here! In fact the only restaurant we visited was McDonalds with the kids! We sampled tapas from quite a few of the stalls but could happily have returned to try even more! There was a Paella stall with four varieties of Paella (meat, seafood, vegetable & squid ink) on display in huge pans. A tapas portion was 5 euro. There was a cheese stall with dozens of types of cheese including the must try Manchego, which is a cheese made from the milk of sheep. A tapas plate of 6 pieces of your chosen cheese with grapes, bread and bread sticks was 9 euro. We also tried Tortilla de patata (potato omelette), crab toast, potato gratin, serrano ham rolls and ham & spinach quiche. On average, each item cost about 3 euro. There were many stalls that we didn’t get a chance to visit! Other Tapas available were calamari, garlic prawns, sushi, croquettes, pizza, pastries, the list goes on! You could also buy fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, handmade chocolates and cakes. There was a range of wines available from 3 euro a glass, we tried the Rioja, Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. There were also sangria, sherry and beer stalls. This place really was food heaven. It was an easy and inexpensive way to dine with the kids in tow!
Another place worthy of a mention is La Mallorquina (2 Calle Mayor) on the west side of Puerta del Sol. If, like me, you love pastries and cakes, this is definitely worth a visit, even if it’s just to marvel at the mouth watering window displays of gateaux, meringues, pastries and confectionary. I tried a ‘Napolitana con chocolate’ which is a flat chocolate pastry, similar to the French ‘Pain au chocolat’.
Of course no visit to Madrid would be complete without sampling Churros.These are crispy, deep fried sticks of dough which you dip into mugs of thick steamy chocolate. Our hotel was opposite a side street (Pasadizo de San Gines) that led to Chocolateria San Gines, where they have served ‘chocolate con churros’ since 1894. It is open 24 hours a day! Apparently churros are often eaten as a pick me up after a night out! Much more appealing than my early hour visits to Valley Kebab Shop back in the day! This might also explain why the staff were quite miserable! They were probably finishing a night shift when we arrived for breakfast! In fact I don’t think Madrid is really a place for the early riser! Evening time is when the city really comes alive.
So, all in all, a very successful trip. We sampled the Tapas & Churros, we marvelled at the trophies of the Galacticos and had a thoroughly lovely time 🙂