From delicious tapas and colourful flamenco shows to paddle boating in the park and viewing famous paintings, Spain's capital has much to offer all ages
The cobbled street of Las Letras
It's easy to lose yourself in the cobbled streets of Las Letras (The Letters), a quaint little Madrileño neighbourhood that was once home to literary giants such as Cervantes and Quevedo. Tantalising delicatessens intersect tall townhouses; dusty but delightful tapas joints and bustling bars bulge from every street corner. The large square that is Plaza de Santa Ana serves as the heartbeat of the district, but head down any of the hilly lanes off the square (forget high heels here, thanks to those aforementioned cobbles) and you'll find yourself face-to-face with Madrid's Golden Triangle, thus named due to the three iconic art museums that reside there. Impossible to miss is also the fabulous Hotel Ritz, Madrid, which nestles alongside them.
Viewing Velázquez at the Prado
If you're in Madrid as a family, there is arguably no better hotel for keeping parents and children happy in tandem. Once a belle-époque palace, built in 1910, this stunning landmark remains just as opulent and elegant today. Family-friendly to the extreme, there's no need to harness up your little ones on arrival. Older children receive sweet treats in their room, while cribs and cot beds are provided for the smaller ones. The Ritz Garden offers a charming spot to enjoy tapas and some sunshine, with plenty of space for children to roam, and the hotel's friendly concierge will gladly organise babysitters in case you fancy dinner à deux in the more formal Goya Restaurant.
Venturing from the hotel's luxurious, five-star arms, you couldn't find yourself in a better area of the city. Museums don't always delight children, but there is something for all ages in the Golden Triangle. The Prado, an iconic 18th-century neoclassical building, houses the requisite Spanish greats, including Velázquez, and while such austere work may not keep your six-year-old happy for long, Hotel Ritz, Madrid dials up the fun by offering a ‘treasure hunt' through the gallery. The hotel's concierge will ask children to find certain paintings, and once they arrive back with a marked gallery map they'll receive a Ritzy stuffed toy for their efforts.
The Ritz Garden offers a charming spot to enjoy tapas and some sunshine, with plenty of space for children to roam
A family room at Hotel Ritz, Madrid
However, if you choose just one museum with which to inject some culture into your family, the Reina Sofiá is a top choice. Its bright, light interior exhibits colourful Salvador Dalí canvases and it is also home to Picasso's Guernica, and as such is a wonderful space in which to educate your children, while keeping them at bay from Madrid's searing midday heat in the summer.
Flamenco at Casa Patas
If outdoor play is what you hanker after, the Retiro, located right behind the hotel, is arguably one of the most beautiful and well-maintained capital-city parks in the world. When in full bloom, its Rosaleda garden is picture-perfect; from there, stroll towards the magnificent lake at the centre of the park, where you can rent a paddle boat. Cafés are peppered throughout this expansive green space, but, far nicer, is to head back into Las Letras to the locally-loved San Antón food market, where you can purchase your own picnic.
No Madrid feature is complete without a mention of what is, arguably, some of the finest flamenco in all of Spain. So if your little ones can be kept up late enough to enjoy it, exit through the gilded, gorgeous doors of the hotel and, after a few minutes' walk along Calle de los Cañizares, you'll come across the small, unassuming entrance of a tapas bar. Make your way through to the back room of Casa Patas, however, and you can enjoy an intimate and breathtaking flamenco show of the highest order. The music and dancing are as unexpected as the place itself, and as a way to introduce flamenco to your family, this is undoubtedly the finest little joint in the city.
Cass Chapman is the founder and editor of luxury family-travel site