How well-equipped is this city for those raising infants/toddlers? Specifically, are there public places to change diapers, maintained playgrounds, etc?
Spain, in general, is very child- and baby-friendly as it is such a family-oriented country. The big stores and supermarkets all have baby-changing facilities within the ladies restrooms, but not always on every floor, so you will have to ask where to find them. There are plenty of small playgrounds in the local barrios that are generally well maintained.
Where can I get a list of reliable childcare providers/nannies?
Organizations such as the International Newcomer's Club of Madrid, The American Woman's Club, etc., will often have up-to-date lists of potential babysitters. (Note: the Spanish word for babysitter is canguro, which means “kangaroo.”) We also recommend that you speak with friends or neighbors for reliable recommendations. Don't rule out your cleaning lady, as often domestic help perform a variety of tasks. The following placement agencies can provide assistance in organizing care for children:
- Tele Kanguro (C/Almirante 17, Metro: Chueca, Tel: 91-701-0519)
- Bolsa Universitaria del Hogar (C/Jeronimo de la Quintana 7, Metro: Bilbao, Tel: 91-445-1208/91-445-1258
Discuss any safety issues for children in this city.
There are no real safety problems; just use the usual common sense.
What are the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the area?
- Museo de la Ciencia - Parque de Andalucia, Alcobendas
- Interactive science museum
- Museo de Ferrocarrill - Paseo Delicias 61, Metro: Delicias, Tel: 902-228-822 - Railway museum
- Parque de Atracciones - Casa de Campo, Metro: Batan, Tel: 91-463-2900 - Amusement park suitable for all ages
- Zoo-Aquarium - Casa de Campo, Metro: Batan, Tel: 91-512-3770 - Complete zoo and aquarium featuring regular dolphin shows.
- Imax - Parque Enrique Tierno Galvan, Metro: Mendez Alvaro, Tel: 91-467-4800
- Aquopolis - Ctra. NII km. 15.500, San Fernando 2, San Fernando de Henares, Tel: 91-673-1013
- and Avda de la Dehesa s/n Villanueva de la Cañada - 91 815 6911 - Waterpark with large wave pool and many water slides.
- Diversia - In Alcobendas, junction 16 off NI - Leisure center with cinemas (including largest 3D screen in Europe), bowling, restaurants, gymnasium, etc.
- Warner Brothers Park - NIV Carretera de Andalucia km 22, San Martin de la Vega Tel: 91 821 1234 - Theme Park
What are the most popular activities for kids after school or on weekends?
Kids are very much part of the deal in Madrid so it is not unusual for whole families to go out for an evening meal at a nice restaurant. There are several ten-pin bowling alleys in the city, a growing number of leisure areas with restaurants and cinemas, and in the summer, the water parks and municipal outdoor pools are very popular.
In winter months, there are three ski areas in the Sierra of Madrid, about an hour’s drive away. For those addicted to skiing, a new indoor ski area has just opened on the N-V in the southwest of the city along with a huge shopping mall and leisure area (Xanadú - Carretera de Extremadura (N-V), Km 23.5, Margen Izquierdo, Arroyomolinos, 28939 Madrid Tel: + 34-91-647-9400 Fax: + 34-91-647-9401).
What's it like to be a teenager in this city? Are there any particular challenges I should be aware of as a parent?
Spain is a very sociable city for teenagers with a number of sports and other social activities available. It's worth noting for parents that from the age of 16, kids can visit the local discos. There is a much more relaxed attitude towards alcohol in Spain and it is not unusual for kids to drink wine with their meals. As a result, problems with alcohol consumption among teenagers are much fewer than in other countries as there isn't so much of a “drink to get drunk” mentality here.
Are there any organizations/social groups in the area that cater exclusively to young people ages 12-17?
Many schools have after-school activities, local churches have youth groups and there are the Boy and Girl Scout organizations.
I want my child to get the most out of our stay in this country. Are there any specific opportunities to teach young people about the local culture?
The Fiesta de la Almudena is Madrid’s local fiesta celebrated in September and throughout the year. Each town has its own local celebration.
Museums such as the Museo Taurino (Plaza de Toros de las Ventas, C/ Alcalá 237, Tel: 91 725 1857) would be another place to go. This museum is dedicated to the art of bullfighting, which is still a huge part of the Spanish culture.
The three main galleries in Madrid are the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Thyssen Bornemisza and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The Prado contains over 5,000 paintings, including an unrivaled collection of Spanish masters including famous works by Goya and Velázquez.
The Thyssen is home to a fantastic collection of predominantly European art dating from the 16th century up to the present day.
The Reina Sofía houses contemporary works from artists around the world, with almost an entire room given over to Picassos Guernica and the studies that led to this painting.
The Real Madrid Football club has a very good trophy room open to the public.
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