Culture: an essential trip motivation

These are bad times for culture. The economic crisis that has affected administrations and private investments has reduced the quantity and quality of what we can enjoy in Spain. Nevertheless, fight continues and it seems that, right now, with few money, is when both institutions and businessmen notice that the cultural plans of a destination can make the difference and it can even turn it into one of the most efficient tools to make tourism less dependent on seasonal factors in Spain.

Culture has been always one of the most important travel motivations, especially in urban destinations. Cities of all over the world have worked in this concept and have polished it making it the philosopher’s stone for their tourism. Bilbao is a great example in Spain, as well as Barcelona, and now Madrid is also standing out in this sense.

Hotels in the centre of Barcelona and Madrid have joined this cause and there are many accommodation in these cities giving their guests tickets and cultural plans as incentives to close a sale. Musicals, museums with high quality temporary exhibitions, concerts or festivals… Now we see how initiatives like the indie music festival BBK Live, that this month is celebrating 10 years of existence, have achieved to fill hotels in the centre of Bilbao in dates that used to be deserted because of the high competition of beach destinations.

The same happened with the pioneer celebration in the capital of Catalonia, that year after year fill the rooms in the centre of Barcelona with the celebration of two of the most powerful music festivals in the country: Primavera Sound and Sonar, every one with a special style and combined during the year with other both professional and leisure events: opera seasons, concerts of big international groups, football, design and fashion catwalks…

Madrid, which has been always much related to the business trade thanks to the unstoppable schedule of IFEMA, is gaining ground in terms of culture. Besides the classic musicals that have always attracted a large number of tourists to the capital, they are investing in theatre, live music and specially, in gastronomy. Yes, gastronomy as a cultural option… or the bar culture, but in a more select way than now: tapas specialising in different tours, gourmet restaurants with unique proposals, renovated markets such as San Miguel, next to Plaza Mayor… This type of events and cultural attractions of the city (which keeps opting for night as its mainstay) are filling hotels in the centre of Madrid even during summer months, and not precisely with foreigners.

Cultural plans for children are also an important investment in the main cities of Spain, as well as cinema: some examples are San Sebastián and Málaga, which have made their film festivals a real international attraction. In fact, it is not strange if the first thing you see in hotels in the centre of Málaga and San Sebastián is a fully booked poster during these dates.

Cultural industry keeps thinking that efforts to support these initiatives are very few. The cultural VAT (21%) is not very helpful. This is the current battle: to achieve a more affordable access to culture for all social classes because there are all types of travellers and affordable prices are always welcome.

Christmas in Madrid

If you search for “Christmas in…” with Google, you will see the trending destinations for 2014 to spend the most traditional family celebrations in winter: Christmas in the Canary Islands, Christmas in the Caribbean, Christmas in Morocco, in Tenerife, in Europe, in Milan, in Majorca and, of course, Christmas in Madrid with children.

The capital of Spain is undoubtedly one of the most versatile destinations when you plan a Christmas holiday with your children out of home.  It is, in fact, the best time to visit Madrid with kids, since the city is renewed for them. Madrid turns into an authentic amusement park plenty of Christmas plans for all the family and it is one of those budget-friendly trips if you choose a good accommodation.

The hotels in the centre of Madrid are usually more expensive than those located in areas distant from the old quarter, such as Barajas, the hotels in Arturo Soria or the surroundings of Casa de Campo park.  In some cases, booking in advance, you can get family rooms next to La Gran Vía in Madrid at bargain prices, but the most usual is to stay in adjoining rooms or book rooms with extra beds.

 Navidades en Madrid

Staying right in the centre of Madrid, although more expensive, has advantages, especially if you travel with children. Moving across the city in public transport is comfortable if you do not need many metro stops or connections from metro to bus. The heart of the city offers the most interesting plans: Tribunal, Alonso Martínez, Gran Vía, Sol, Latina and Paseo del Prado. El Retiro Park is also a must visit if you travel with children to Madrid on Christmas.

Another must visit place is the Christmas market situated every year in Plaza Mayor. Plenty of lively stands with small figures for the Nativity scene and funny house Christmas ornaments, children really enjoy to wander round the small streets, exhibitors and shelves. The stalls with traditional sweets (churros, porras, turrones…) fill the square’s and Puerta del Sol’s atmosphere with scent of party and whet the appetite. Here are not excuses to satisfy the appetite: from the traditional squid sandwiches in a pub in Plaza Mayor to the exquisite San Miguel Market, where we find all types of gourmet, healthy and innovative proposals which will captivate even the little ones.

The ambience you feel in the entire square, Puerta del Sol and Preciados passes on to the centre of Madrid. Cinemas and bars in Gran Vía offer hoardings and new events targeted, above all, at families: famous musicals such as The Lion King, which have kept the children and adults amused during several Christmas, or puppet theatre… Galleries and museums are some of the most active centres in this sense.

The education department of Reina Sofía has special commented visits for children of Primary and High School. For the little ones, it offers now two really interesting exhibitions: Matter in motion and Bodies and identities, inaugurated the past October. It will be opened to the public until summer beginning.

The Museo del Prado has a special program for families during the entire year and offers a complete selection of activities to enjoy with children the centre of the city, its collection, its exhibitions and the art. El Prado en familia (El Prado with family) propose for the end of 2014 Érase una vez el mar (Once upon a time the sea) targeted at families with children between 4 and 12 years old. It is a project whose main figure is the sea, inviting to know the museum driven on by its waves. The activity includes a really good family workshop. If you stay in a hotel close to El Museo del Prado or next to Serrano Street and Salamanca neighbourhood,  you will be right in the heart of the triangle of art, allowing you to plan your visits at your leisure.

La Caixa Foundation and its Caixafórum Madrid are other must visits. This year, Caixaforum Kids programme includes an entertaining family cinema season for Christmas that will captivate parents and children during the entire month of December. Ernest and Celestine, Monsters, Inc, Ratatouille, Wall-e, stories converted to movies thanks to the digital animation.

Weather permitting, we can enjoy Madrid as it should be: in the open air. Besides El Retiro Park, where you can enjoy some of the best afternoons next to the lake, in the small boats, contemplating improvised theathre or practocing Tai Chi with the kids, you can also visit Madrid Rio Park which extends throughout Manzanares. Sport lovers can take one of the public bicycles of the Madrid Council, cross the park and even arrive to the green area of Casa de Campo, ideal place for a picnic with kids.

On the other hand, specially conceived of for rainy days, Madrid has dozens of shopping centres, both in the city and in the surroundings. Visiting one of them will allow you to organise a shopping say, funny food and cinema or playground. If you have a car, you can visit Xanadú and even practice indoor ski.

Information of interest:

Madrid public bicycle.

Madrid bikeway network.

Madrid Río Park’s Map.

Madrid with family.


Accommodation in the centre of Madrid for families with children


Clíper Gran Vía Hotel

Londres Hotel

Atrium Hotel

La Gran Vía: a must-visit

La Gran Vía is synonymous with charm, tradition and modernity.    The perfect place for gazing at the multiplicity of its architecture, for knowing, tasting the cuisine of Madrid, enjoying the best theatres and shopping.  If you go to Madrid, do not miss La Gran Vía.

Its construction started in 1910 with the purpose of connecting the Northwest part of the city with the centre.  It has become one of the most emblematic streets in the Spanish capital because of its variety in the offer of cinemas, theatres, bars, restaurants and fashion stores.


La Gran Vía - Madrid

Walking thought this street is one of the most fascinating experiences for any traveller, thousands of alternatives and places to stay.  Shops and hotels still preserving its old architecture despite more than 100 years of existence of this street and its buildings, as in the case of Gran Vía Suites Apartments, a hotel in Gran Vía situated in a historical building that, nevertheless, hides a really modern space.

Gastronomy, nightlife and accommodations for all tastes, emblematic buildings, luxury shops, art and history.   We could say that visiting and staying in the centre of Madrid is a must, a world we need to know.

Links of interest:

Things to do in La Gran Vía

Accommodation close to La Gran Vía