Not wanting to get out of Madrid one of the last “puentes” (bank holiday weekends) like thousands (or maybe millions?) of Madrileños, my husband and I decided to take our nephews of 8 and 10 to the zoo by Air Tram (Teleférico). My youngest nephew and I love pandas, so we try to go at least once a year to pay them a visit, but we’ve always gone by car. We discovered a way that’s more fun, albeit slightly more expensive and much more time-consuming.
We started the day off at 11:00 at the door of the Air Tram station in Moncloa, just when it opens. There was already a line that was quite slow-moving, so if you’re concerned about getting to the zoo early I would suggest getting there a bit before opening to be first in line. We purchased an Air Tram + Zoo Entrance pack that saves you a bit of money (24,45€ instead of 5,90€+23,30€). Around 11:40 we boarded our individual Air Tram car and off we went! We tried to joke with the boys that only two of the Air Tram cars fall from the sky per day, so our odds were pretty low, but they weren’t too concerned. The views of Madrid were amazing and there was a recording playing (only in Spanish) telling which important buildings were in view and why they were important. We saw Plaza de España and the Egyptian temple of Debod, also the Parque del Oeste Park with La Rosaleda (a very beautiful rose garden), the Principe Pio Metro Station, the Torrespaña communication tower, the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and the Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida. Looking to the other side, we saw the part of modern Madrid with the 4 Towers buildings. It was a hot day but there were windows partially rolled down so we got a nice breeze.
A bumpy landing pulled us into the station at Casa de Campo, to add a bit of excitement to an otherwise quite smooth ride, and we plugged in the Zoo on our Google Map and saw that it was about 2KM away. We set off trudging through the uneven terrain with only a few complaints from the boys. Twenty minutes of walking later we entered directly into the zoo with the passes purchased at the Air Tram station, feeling very smug that we didn’t have to wait in the endless lines at the ticket stations.
It was a beautiful day, thus the zoo was quite packed with people, some highlights included seeing the two baby elephants playing and splashing around, the dolphin show, and of course, our favorite, the Pandas. With the good comes the bad, some things we found irking were families allowing their children to feed chips and nuts to the animals, despite the “DON’T FEED THE ANIMALS” signs posted everywhere, and long, slow-moving lines of people to see the Pandas.
My sister-in-law had sent the boys with ham and cheese and Spanish omelette hoagie sandwiches, bottled water and chips, so at Spanish lunch time (14:00) we found a bit of shade and set up a picnic. If you’re on a budget, I highly recommend this option as there are plenty of places to eat but very overpriced. There were lots of families like ours who were picnicking, so you won’t get any dirty looks, just please don’t feed the left overs to the animals!
The twenty-minute walk back was a bit excruciating, I didn’t realize that the walk there had been downhill but I definitely felt the burn of the uphill walk on the way back! The boys too, so no old lady jokes, please. The trip back by Air Tram was quiet as we were all tired out, but everyone, even my husband who was the most reluctant member in our party, agreed that it had been a perfect day and the Air Tram was much better than simply going by car.
So, if you have a free day and you feel like getting a birds-eye view of Madrid and seeing some interesting animals, I know you will have an enjoyable time like we did. You can also take the Air Tram without going to the zoo, other things in the area include the Casa de Campo Park and the Parque de Atracciones Theme Park with rides and roller coasters.