To follow is a list of parks in Madrid which are particularly good for toddlers, with details of specific areas and features which would interest this age group:-

El Retiro

There are playgrounds on all sides of the park but perhaps the best area is the side of the park close to the street Avenida de Menendez (enter the park from where metro Ibiza is and then head left a bit). Close to here there are a couple of bars and also public toilets with a fold-down baby-changer. A little further south of the playgrounds and further into the park, is the Palacio de Cristal. Small children might like to toddle around this lake, where they pass a little waterfall and can see ducks, geese, black swans and turtles. Alternatively, again near the play areas mentioned above, but out towards the edge of the park, is an enclosed garden (open at one end) with peacocks strolling around inside. The area around the main lake in Retiro is particularly good to visit at weekends when there are musicians and puppet shows to distract little ones.

Royal Botanical Garden (near Atocha station)

Plaza de Murillo, 2 (just behind the Prado museum)

It isn’t large, as city botanical gardens go, but a nice place to spend an hour or so and where your toddler can look at (and hopefully not pick) plants and flowers or run up and down the paths. It opens everyday at 10am. Closing times vary with time of year (see website). Entrance is 2,50 euros for adults; children have free entry. Tel: 91 420 3017

Parque Juan Carlos I (metros Alameda de Osuna and Campo de las Naciones)

A large, fairly modern park with lakes, lawns, sculptures and botanical and themed areas. Maps can be obtained from the two information points near the park entrance on the Campo de las Naciones side. The lake that is close to the side of the park by Avenida de Logroño is a good one for feeding ducks (though be warned that there is no fencing so hold on to your toddler as they throw in the bread!). There are public toilets at one corner of this lake, and others near the main car park.

Playgrounds for very small children can be found in two main areas: (i) in the area called Pinar de Verano, close to the auditorium (walk right along the side of the lake and then up the road by the bridge, continue past auditorium on the left and up a bit further. There’s a playground on the left and another very close by (near the basketball court); (ii) There is another play area suitable for toddlers more or less in Paseo Central (in the centre of the park). The pirate ships near the pyramid hill on the Corralejos side of the park are not safe for under two-year-olds  on their own, but if parents are feeling energetic, they can climb onto them with their little ones and help or accompany them down the slides.

The park is a great one for cycling if you have a child bicycle seat. Bikes can also be hired free of charge at one of the information points. There is also a little tourist train which runs around the park (train ride takes around 20 minutes). The train is free of charge and there is just one stop for passengers to get on and off, on the road on the west side of the park not far from Pinar de Verano mentioned above. For the train timetable, see the web-link below.

In summer, you and your toddler can cool off running through the tall fountains close to the main car-park (on the west side of the park by the M40) (see Summertime Activities page).

www.parquejuancarlos.net

Parque Juan Pablo II

A new park located at the crossing between Avda de Machupichu and Avda de los Andes, with segments of the park on either side of Avda de Machupichu. Not a great place to be in the height of summer but good for cooler sunny days. There are playgrounds on both sides of the park but the west side (furthest from the M40) has more to offer kids. As well as the main play area, there are various little activity objects dotted around. Water features are also an attraction: continue west to the little lake and an area called “Babylon” where there are manual water pumps to play with. I can also recommend taking a simple model plastic boat (or make one at home if you know how) so that your toddler can launch it in one of the flowing water channels in the park. Nearest metros are Campo de las Naciones and Canillejas, though both at least a 20-min walk away. Otherwise various buses will take you there or drive and park in Avda de Machupichu or the side street along the east side of the park.

El Capricho (metro El Capricho)

Unfortunately this park only opens at weekends (from 9am to 6:30pm in winter and from 9am to 9pm in summer). It is a lovely shady park with tall trees and plenty of lawn for your toddler to let off steam. There is a small lake with ducks and black swans, and various other attractions and oddities in the park, including a small vegetable garden and hermit’s house. Beware: the park employs wardens to impose a number of rules. In theory food is not allowed but in practice they will let you feed your baby or toddler. Pushchairs are to be kept off the grass and no balls allowed!

Casa de Campo park

This big park on the west side of Madrid is the location of the zoo/aquarium and the parque de atracciones (amusement park). There is also a lake in the park with boats for hire, and an outdoor pool. Beware that the park is also a place of prostitution: stick to the main paths and attractions. A fun way to reach the park is by teleférico (cable car) from Paseo del Pintor Rosales.

Big Pirate Ship, Alcobendas

Calle Anabel de Segura and Avenida Olimpica. See the following map:-

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The ship is built on rubber ground which undulates to look like waves. There are pictures of fish and seahorses, dolphin garbage bins, little boats to climb in, swings and rocking toys. The pirate ship has 3 different slides, walkways and lots of areas with netting and hidden sections with games. The area lacks shade so in summertime go early in the morning or late in the day.

Parque Europa, Torrejón de Ardoz

An extensive park just outside Madrid (to the NE, along the A2 towards Barcelona), dotted with models of famous monuments from European cities. Other features include a boating lake, playgrounds for under-5s and over-5s (my 3-year-old was fine playing in this one), and a little farm (just a pretend farm: there are no animals!). There’s also a large model village, with houses built in the styles of all the Spanish provinces and a plaza, where you can find two bars serving food.

For time-table and how to get there, see www.parqueeuropa.es