La Granja, San Ildefonso

About an hour’s drive from Madrid, close to Segovia, the gardens at La Granja are great for little ones to run around in. Tickets have to be purchased on days when the main fountains are working, i.e. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 3pm but there is free entrance on other days. There is also a laberinth. The river on the way into La Granja is a good place for a walk – flat and quite shady.

Tres Cantos park

Spacious green park in the town of Tres Cantos (out towards the Sierra) with a good play area suitable for toddlers.

La Pedriza (in the Sierra)

Very scenic area with easy walks along by the river Manzanares. To get there, take the motorway to Colmenar (M607). Take the turn-off to Soto del Real/Manzanares (M609) and then take the M862 to Manzanares. Go round the edge of Manzanares and you then reach a roundabout. Go straight over and take the M608 for about 1km until you see a turn-off sign-posted “Centro de Interpretación, Cuenca Alta de Manzanares”. Take this road and keep going until you reach a barrier. You can park here or, if there isn’t too big a queue of cars, go through the barrier and continue until, at the top of this road, you get to another car park. You can walk from here or continue down into the valley where there’s another, bigger car park called Cantocochino (there’s a bar here). Most walks in the area go from here. Walk down from here towards the river, cross two bridges, and you’ll find the riverside path, which is nice and easy for toddlers. In the summer they can paddle at various points along the walk.

Monumento de la Guarda Forestal

Nice open area with lovely view which is ideal for picnics and for your toddler to just run around and play (and somewhere nice and cool in summer). Take the road to Colmenar (M607). Follow signs to Navacerrada and then continue up to Puerto de Navacerrada. At the top of the hill, take the turn right (where there is a big car park on the right) (M604). After a considerable distance there is a left turn signed “Monumento de la Guarda Forestal”. Follow this road through the forest and then uphill until you reach a car park in an open space with a view-point. Park here and walk up the path a little.

Tren de la Fresa (Strawberry Train) to Aranjuez

This ride is probably best for children of 3 and up. The train runs from May to October. It departs from the Museo del Ferrocarril (www.museodelferrocarril) – see the Museums page) and goes to Aranjuez and back. It costs 26 euros per adult. Children under 4 go for free, though it states on the website that this is as long as they don’t have a seat (otherwise cost is 18 euros per child). If you ensure that you are amongst the first to get on the train, especially on a day when it’s likely to be full, you will hopefully get a free seat for your child. Every passenger is given a box of strawberries for the journey, and there is on-board entertainment for part of the journey, though this will go over the heads of non-Spanish speakers, and may not be to the taste of all who do speak Spanish! The price includes a guided tour of the palace and gardens at Aranjuez.

El Tren de Cervantes

As above, this is probably not great for under 3s. This train goes at 11am from Atocha station to Alcalá de Henares, north east of Madrid (birth-place of Cervantes). It also includes on-board entertainment and passengers get to try sweets that were typical of the Cervantes era. Price is 19 euros per adult, 15 euros per child. The website doesn’t say anything about small children going free. The ticket includes a guided tour of Alcalá when you get there and discounts in certain restaurants.