I am getting goosebumps as I think back to this exact time, two years ago, when we were just a family of four, strolling the streets of Madrid, Spain, wondering if there is such a thing as eating too many churros.
For those of you who like to travel with kids and are hoping to venture into Europe some day, Madrid, Spain is a great place to start, and this is why:
- Flight Deals to Madrid pop-up often with many non-stop and overnight options (at least for us East Coast folks). We had a direct overnight flight from Charlotte, NC and it made it so much easier to travel with the kids. You can save even more if you live or are willing to fly from Boston, NY or DC.
- In spite of being 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, we never felt the need to adjust to the local time. In fact, we preferred to sleep in and wake up around noon, and then stay up way past midnight. I don’t think anyone (including kids) go to bed early in Spain. We found many playgrounds busy with kids even at midnight!
- Speaking of playgrounds, they are everywhere! Everywhere! And not just in secluded spots. Most squares and busy neighborhood streets with restaurants and cafes usually have play structures to keep the kids busy. Bigger squares/plazas are surrounded by tables and chair on the periphery with play structures in the middle. Once you see it, it seems like such a no brainer. Parents can literally have a nice dinner while the kids run and play. Makes me wonder, if they even need babysitters in Madrid!
- Madrid’s central location makes it very easy to venture out to other cities. In fact my biggest recommendation would be to use it as a way to explore more of Spain or other neighboring countries like Portugal and France.
- The food is adult and kid friendly. Mercado de San Miguel by Plaza Mayor alone was the type of place where you could eat everyday. And did I mention the churros?
No place is perfect however, so it is only fair that I also share some of the lessons learned from our trip. I wrote about them originally in one of my previous post , but here is an updated version:
- If like us you are traveling with kids, let the hotel be your biggest splurge in Madrid because you can easily save money on food and libations. I would pick a hotel or Airbnb that is directly off, or very very close to, a plaza (like my favorite Plaza de Santa Ana). This way even staying-in can still feel like being amidst the action when you open the windows or balconies. It also makes it easy to take the early risers out for a walk or play while the rest of the family sleeps-in. Our fancy hotel apartment by Eric Vokel was extremely clean and beautiful, and came with a great outdoor pool. It is a stone throw away from the Atocha train station and many of the museums, making it a terrific location for most travelers. But it killed me that it was on a very quiet street and our two big balconies opened onto an alley with trashcans instead of a bustling plaza.
- Temperatures are supposed to taper off in September, but know that there can still be a heat wave during the fall season. During our visit in September, we had a few 100 degree days that made it difficult to stay out with the kids. Which explains why we just slept in for as long as possible. I would love to go back during the winter for our next visit.
- Madrid, even with all the fantastic things it has to offer, is still a city that you can see within two to three days. Our vacation was a total of eight days so towards the end of it we did wish we had made a choice to visit Bilbao or San Sebastian in northern Spain. Thankfully, we did take two excellent day trips to Segovia and Toledo which I highly recommend!
- When it comes to food, it really helps if you know a little bit of Spanish. I was truly lost reading the menu on most days and even though the servers were nice, they didn’t speak english well enough to help me. I think this kept me from straying from the usual suspects during lunch and dinner and I missed out on a better culinary experience. That’s why Mercado San Miguel was such a favorite spot of ours because all you had to do there was point to what you wanted to eat.
- I felt extremely safe in Madrid at all hours of the day. But still, wandering around in Madrid isn’t the same as in other cities like Barcelona or Paris where everything seems charming, pretty, and historic no matter where you are. Madrid has it’s fair share of boring apartments and office buildings and we came upon them a lot during our walks!
- Unlike Lisbon, Portugal, the cobblestoned sidewalks in Madrid are smooth making it easy to push a stroller (Lisbon was a nightmare in that aspect). But those hills…you can’t avoid them and it really did seem like we were always going uphill. Consider yourself warned.
- I am a sucker for trains and wish I could have fit a night journey from, or to Madrid. For those who are up to it, I would even recommend flying into Lisbon, spending a couple of days there and then taking the night train to Madrid. There are other overnight train options too from nearby France.
Devang and I honeymooned in Barcelona and Valencia in 2010. Taking the kids with us for Madrid, Segovia, and Toledo in 2016 felt just as exciting (but definitely not as relaxing..ha!). I think it’s time to plan another trip and introduce Ajay to the land of churros and midnight playgrounds.
Have you been to Spain? Where did you go? Did you take the kids? Tell me! Tell me all about it because let’s admit it, the 2nd best thing to traveling to Spain is to get to talk about it.
Leaving you with a few of our travel pictures. Arjun seems so young! And I wish Asha still fit in those cute little frocks!