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Dos and Don’ts on a city break to Madrid with a toddler

Madrid is a fabulous city. It is compact and small enough to easily walk around, yet packed with tonnes of wonderful sights, sounds and smells to engage and intrigue a toddler. Here are our dos and don’ts if you fancy taking a short family break there.

Breezy | Courtesy of GermanyEngland1. Do eat tapas with your toddler. The tapas restaurants are generally very relaxed and they’ll welcome children. As you share tapas, it’s a great way to encourage children to try new foods as they’ll love participating, eating the same as you and helping themselves to the food. Favourites among young children are croquetas, calamares (deep fried squid), chorizo, tortilla and cazon (marinated shark). They don’t have an adult’s preconceptions about eating ‘weird’ stuff; so go ahead and let them try whatever they want.

2. Do Ditch the buggy. During busy times in Madrid, you might find it difficult to negotiate a buggy on the narrow pavements that often have trees planted in the middle of them. You could consider a back carrier, or reins for when your toddler fancies a wander. If walking a long way isn’t an option, the metro is cheap and easy to negotiate and children love trains.

3. Do go to Faunia. This animal park out in the Madrid suburbs is fantastic for children and adults alike. The animal houses are organised by ecosystem for example, a hot and humid jungle zone houses exotic parrots and an area where you can wander around with squirrel monkeys, or there’s the penguin enclosure, complete with snow. The displays are excellent and you don’t need to understand the Spanish commentary to enjoy them. At the centre of the earth zone you are bound to see something you’ve never seen before. The park itself is small and easy to walk around and you can take a picnic along with you. See the website for details on how to get there. (http://www.faunia.es/ Avenida de las Comunidades 28, 28032 Madrid)

4. Do visit Retiro Park on a Sunday. You could easily spend a full day in this enormous green space in the middle of Madrid. If you’re there on a Sunday around July time, you might be fortunate enough to catch the local band. Pull up a chair along with hundreds of Madrilenians and let your toddler dance away. They start at 12 so there’s plenty of time to explore the park before then. Check out the many play areas, works of art, the crystal palace and the beautiful rose gardens are bound to stimulate a toddler’s senses. If you have the energy, hire a boat on the lake, but do that early in the day before the sun is too strong. Best of all for the children are the street entertainers. There are often living sculptures and performance artists on the main pathways through the park and always a puppet show or two. If the sun gets too warm, find a spot under one of the thousands of shade providing trees.

5. Do make a plan of the parks before you go. There are lots of green spaces in Madrid and a few play areas scattered over the city too. There’s a fabulous one in Plaza Oriente, which will keep your toddler happily occupied for a while. The parks give your child more freedom to wander away from the traffic and sometimes crowded streets.

6. Don’t expect too much in the way of baby friendly facilities. Your child will be welcomed in most restaurants, but it doesn’t mean that they necessarily come well equipped. You may find yourself improvising when it comes to nappy changing without a baby changing station and it is best to take a travel seat that fits on normal chairs for eating, in case a restaurant doesn’t have high chairs.
7. Don’t go in August. You’ll have Madrid to yourselves in August as many locals head off to the coast, but there is a reason why. Madrid temperatures can exceed 40 degrees celsius (100+ farenheit) in August and that’s no fun with a toddler. Winters are chilly, but often with beautiful blue skies. Early summer or early autumn are probably the best times to go.
8. Do rent an apartment. With a toddler, you never know if they’ll sleep well, how they’ll respond do different eating times or just how much energy they’ll burn up during the day and therefore they will need a place to recharge. An apartment gives you the flexibility to work around your toddler and give you all a space to relax.
9. Do enjoy yourselves. The Spaniards generally love children and your toddler will no doubt get plenty of attention, in the street as well as in restaurants. Have a fantastic time while stimulating your toddler’s senses and giving you all a taste of a different culture.

This article was written by Clare Sparks, writer for www.babyabroad.co.uk. For more on holidaying with your baby or toddler visit BabyAbroad for family holiday reviews, baby and child travel information and all your family travel gear. Or you can catch up with BabyAbroad on Twitter @babyabroadnews or facebook.com/babyabroad

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Dos and Don’ts on a city break to Madrid with a toddler + travel