Holidays in Spain are perfect for all the family. Here are some of our favourite places.
Family Holiday Idea #1: The Pyrenees - A Playground in the Sky
Family highlights: In summer, inhale the fresh mountain air while horse-riding, hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting and taking static hot-air balloon rides; in winter, head for one of the low-key family ski resorts – perhaps Vall de Nuria in the Catalan Pyrenees, reached by funicular railway and boasting a kids’ activity centre and ice-skating facilities.
Letting off steam: Get on your bikes to discover the spectacular landscapes of the Spanish Pyrenees, including La Garrotxa National Park with its volcanic craters. The many Vias Verdes (‘greenways’) created from disused railway lines ensure you’re far removed from traffic.
Foodie fun: You’ll find that the cuisine varies widely across the distinct regions of the Spanish Pyrenees, but popular mountain produce includes river trout, wild boar, partridge and forest mushrooms. The dishes of the Catalan and Aragon Pyrenees to the east are especially family friendly, with a heavy Mediterranean influence seen in the copious use of garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
Somewhere to stay: Choose between charming old farmhouses amidst mountain scenery (of which there is a good selection at www.coloursofspain.com), small-scale campsites or even wild camping. If you’re skiing, there’s the usual chalets and all-inclusive hotels.
Family Holiday Idea #2: Madrid - Capital Attractions
Family highlights: Older kids may enjoy the Goyas in the Prado museum, the Picassos and other modern and contemporary art in the Museo Reina Sofía, the National Archaeology Museum, the Museo de América with its displays on colonial history, the royal arms and armoury in the Palacio Real, and the Real Madrid stadium… followed, perhaps, by a spot of shopping in hip Calle Fuencarral or at the El Rastro fleamarket. Take younger kids in search of the bear statue by the Puerta del Sol, then hop on the cablecar to see the real things (and much more besides) at the city’s world-class zoo in the Casa de Campo (also to an amusement park).
Letting off steam: Play spot the statues in lovely El Retiro, Madrid’s answer to Central Park, including what’s said to be the only public sculpture of the Devil, then take a horse-and-carriage ride or watch the street performers, fortune tellers and puppet shows around the small lake.
Foodie fun: Squid sandwiches, patatas bravas and other tapas, chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and fried pastries, eaten at breakfast or afternoon tea) are interesting Madrid treats to sample with your family.
Somewhere to stay: As in most cities, self-catering apartments represent the best deal and greatest flexibility for families. A reliable source is http://en.apartamentosmadrid.com, or there’s a selection at www.holidaylettings.co.uk.
Family Holiday Idea #3: Valencia - Family Fun and Fiery Festivals
Family highlights: Check out the Santiago Calatrava-designed, ultra-modern City of Arts and Sciences, which includes a science museum, a planetarium, an IMAX cinema, a laserium, and one of Europe’s best aquariums, part of which is outdoors.
Letting off steam: Explore the lush Jardín del Turia in the former riverbed, with its fountains, playgrounds, bike paths and funfair, or flake out on the city’s Mediterranean beach. In March, don’t miss the Fallas Festival with its burning papier-maché models and fireworks (not recommended for smaller children as it’s loud and crazy!), or in August head to nearby Buñol for its equally bonkers Tomatina tomato fight.
Foodie fun: Paella is said to have originated here, but don’t miss other regional rice dishes, including arroz a banda (seafood stew), arroz negra (squid in its ink) and arroz al horno (beans, sausage and vegetables). Otherwise, shop for great local produce in the Mercado Central, one of Europe’s oldest and most stunning markets.
Somewhere to stay: Valencia has a good choice of self-catering apartments; try www.accommodation-valencia.com. It’s best to stay in the Old Town rather than by the beach or the City of Arts and Sciences.
For some great money saving tips read our guide to Family Holidays in Spain on a Budget.
P&Os family holidays Expert
Rhonda has written and edited for most of the big-name travel publishers, including Time Out and Lonely Planet and is the author of three Frommer's family travel guides - London with Kids, Normandy with Your Family and Brittany with Your Family. She’s married to horror novelist Conrad Williams and along with her sons Ethan (7), Ripley (5) and Zac (2) she regularly travels to all manner of places as commissioning editor and main features writer for www.takethefamily.com.