Get off the well-trod tourist path and experience the Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia that local Spanish families see; with discounts for kids and grandparents.
Spain is bursting at the seams with delicious food, mid-day siestas and notorious late-night partying. For a multi-generational family vacation, however, you might be in search of a little more than the world’s best paella (although you can never go wrong with the traditional Valencian rice dish!). Here’s how to make the most of your visit with school age children.
Barcelona for Kids
Ronder General Mitre 226
34 (0) 93 413-2400
This park, now a World Heritage Site (designated by UNESCO), was designed by AntonÃ GaudÃ. The stunning architecture pulls visitors into a different world. Be sure to check out the famous mosaic dragon. Also keep an eye out for the Room of a Hundred Columns, with 84 crooked pillars of glass and ceramic mosaic, and the Gran Placa Circular, a balcony of brightly colored mosaics that also offers a spectacular view.
Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village)
Av. Marques de Comillas, 13
34 (0) 935 086-300
The Poble Espanyol was built in 1929 as part of the Barcelona International Exhibition and can still be visited today. It includes a 12-acre open-air museum with architecture from Andalusia, Catalonia and Aragon. This “museum” depicts a Spanish village – with 117 buildings, streets and squares it is a “village within a city.” The Children’s Village has craft workshops and kid’s shows games and storytelling; check the website for a calendar of events. Reduced admission for seniors, students with ID, and children ages 4-12. Ask about family discounts as well.
Pl. De Tibidabo, 3-4
34 (0) 93 211-7942
This famous amusement park sits on top of a hill at the highest point in Barcelona. It can be accessed by the last remaining trolley in the city, the Tramvia Blue. A four-dimensional movie theatre, amusement park rides and Robot Museum are sure to provide hours of entertainment for the family. Reduced children’s admission based on height. The Tibidabo is open daily from 11 am between early March and early December.
Toy Museum of Catalonia
Carrer de Sant Pere, 1
Hotel Paris Figueras
34 (0) 97 2504-585
The Toy Museum of Catalonia boasts more than 4,000 objects, including dolls, puppets, miniature theatre sets, tricycles and more. You can chart toys through time, and many are accompanied by old photos showing children playing with the toys. Several objects in the museum had famous owners, such as Salvador Dali, Federico Garcia Lorca and Joan Miro. This fun museum has extended hours in summer.
Madrid for Kids
Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park)
Plaza de la Independencia, s/n
Madrid, 28001 Spain
34 (0) 91 588-8790
Family members of all ages will be delighted and amused by the street performers in Retiro Park. Here they can also ride in horse-drawn carriages, rent a rowboat to go out on the lake, or watch the puppeteers perform shows. This is the most popular park in Madrid, so it is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local environment and get a feel of what life is like there.
Museo del Prado
Ruiz del Alarcon 23
34 (0) 91 330-2800
Housing European art from the 12th through 19th century curated by notable scholars including Pablo Picasso himiself, the palatial Museo del Prado was founded as a museum for paintings and sculpture. Today it houses thousands of drawings, prints, coins, medals, and decorative art. Entrance to the permanent collection only is free Tuesday-Saturday from 6-8 pm, Sunday from 5-8 pm and on certain Spanish holidays. Children under age 18 are always free.
Madrid Zoo and Aquarium
Casa de Campo
s/n 28011, Madrid
34 (0) 90 234-5014
The zoo has more than 5,000 animals from 5 different continents, and the aquarium has more than 500 species. A big crowd-pleaser at the zoo is the panda collection; two baby pandas arrived in December 2010. If you’ve got antsy young travelers with you, check out some of the great hotel/zoo package offers that grant families a room and breakfast, plus free admission to the zoo, aquarium and nearby Warner Bros. theme park.
Safari Park at Aldea del Fresno
Carretera de Extremadura N-V
34 (0) 91 862-2314
The Safari Park offers an opportunity to see animals like elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes not native to Europe. Its prime location is close to a lake and the Alberche River. The safari aspect – viewing the animals from a car – offers a different experience than the typical walk-around zoo and makes for a fun day outing. Reduced admission for children ages 3-10; under 3 free. The park is open daily year round from 10:30am to sunset.
Puerto Navacerrada (Xanadu) 4
28939 Arroyomolinos, Spain
34 (0) 902 361-309
For a day of winter fun (even in the summer), check out Madrid SnowZone. The adventurous among you can tube down 800-foot slopes, and the calmer in the bunch can play in the snow. Building snowmen, making snow angels and even having a good ‘ol-fashioned snowball fight is a great way to relax from the stress of your travels and bond with the family. It’s also totally refreshing in Madrid’s humid summers. Staying in town awhile? Sign the kids up for their ski racing team.
Valencia for Kids
L’oceanografic at City of Arts and Sciences
Junta de Mars i Valls
34 (0) 90 210-0031
Europe’s largest marine park has 500 species of animals and 45,000 fish within a large science center complex. There are seven aquariums with different environments, underwater tunnels with sharks, and a dolphin aquarium. A contact pool allows you to get into the water and touch some of the animals. Regular activities such as Saturday morning music classes aimed at parents with children up to 4, in which music and stories about the sea are shared, as well as Shark Sleepovers, can be found on their website. L’oceanografic also has several restaurants where you can stop in to reenergize before you check out the rest of the facilities. This futuristic “city within a city” also has a Hubble telescope and rotating exhibits, a planetarium, science museum and performing arts center. Reduced general admission price for kids ages 4-12; group rates available as well.
Autopista A7, Exit 65A
34 (0) 90 202-0220
Located on the Mediterranean coast south of Valencia, this large theme park offers a variety of rides and nearly 80 shows a day. Count on hours of family-friendly entertainment, including water rides for those notoriously hot days. Major rides have smaller replicas for young children. Grab the kids and go for a ride on the Magnus; Colossus, the longest wooden coaster in Europe! The attractions are divided into themed areas representing Rome, Greece, Iberia, The Islands, Ocionia and Egypt, so get ready to explore! Inquire about their reduced admission with the Family Pass; open seasonally.
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