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8 incredible weekend trips from Madrid

Madrid is an incredible city and definitely worth a visit with so many things to do. However, if you’re looking to escape the bustling capital and see what lies beyond there are plenty of Madrid day trips to choose from. Stunning architecture, controversial history, grand palaces, natural beauty and the former home of one of Spain’s greatest ever writers. Whether it’s just for the day or weekend trips from Madrid, you won’t be short of options. From Alcalá de Henares to Toledo, these are some of the best places to visit in and around the Community of Madrid.

Segovia

Day trips from Madrid Segovia
Segovia’s famous aqueduct is even more spectacular as the sun goes down

Madrid to Segovia is one of the most popular day trips from Spain’s capital. There are three main attractions to Segovia, each one alone being worth making a day trip from Madrid. The most famous is probably the aqueduct. The curved arches of the Roman built stone aqueduct has been photographed countless times, and for good reason. Whatever angle you look at it from the sights are stunning. Especially as the sun goes down late in the afternoon.

Across town is the Alcazar. A medieval fortress that is as impressive inside as it is outside. Also make sure to head down to the grassy area below the Alcazar and admire it from another perspective. Entrance to the former fortress is €9, including access to the museum and tower, from where you get a great view of Segovia with the cathedral sitting prominently in the centre.

Speaking of the cathedral, that’s the third of Segovia’s main highlights. Many cities in Spain have an impressive cathedral, and Segovia’s is no different. You can step inside for €3, taking in the various chapels, cloister and other rooms.

If you are a meat lover, one final thing to try in Segovia is the local speciality ‘cochinillo’. The roasted suckling pig is so tender they traditionally cut the meat with a plate.

How to get to Segovia

Trains leave Madrid’s Chamartín station throughout the day and typically arrive in less than 30 minutes. However, Segovia’s Guiomar station is a long way from the city, so you’ll need to catch a bus (which are always waiting as the trains arrive) or take a taxi.

Toledo

Day trips from Madrid Toledo
The views looking at the city from beyond the walls are just as impressive as the narrow maze of streets within

Toledo is a city with a lot of history. As you might expect from a city that was once the capital of Spain. It’s easy to get lost among the tight, narrow streets, especially in the old town. But that’s when you come across an appealing restaurant in a quiet square or a shop selling medieval swords on a little backstreet.

Day trips from Madrid to Toledo are very simple and it’s a destination that shouldn’t be missed. Most of the churches, museums and monasteries are €3 to enter. The main exceptions are the Templars exhibit (€5.50) and the cathedral (€10). Some, such as Mezquito del Cristo de la Luz (near Puerta del Sol), include a free audio guide accessible by scanning a QR code.

On the outskirts of Toledo are many impressive bridges with huge stone gates serving as entranceways into the city. Marzipan is very popular too and you’ll find it in many local food products, particularly bakeries, around Toledo’s streets.

How to get to Toledo

Trains run every hour from Madrid’s Atocha station and take a little over 30 minutes to arrive.

Ávila

Day trips from Madrid Avila
Ávila’s famous city walls offer a fantastic vantage point to check out the sights around

There are many cities around Europe well-known for their medieval city walls. York in the north of England, Lugo in Galicia and Ávila to the north-west of Madrid. Ávila’s walls are in immaculate condition and you can explore them for yourself for €5. Entrance includes an audio guide, which can be accessed on your smartphone by scanning a QR code. The guide includes many points of interest with stories about the history of both the walls and the city itself.

From your vantage point on top of the walls you can see the surrounding countryside and the narrow heart of the city contained within. Several of the towers are accessible until you reach the halfway stage (around 40 minutes), where the rest of the route is closed off.

Among the most impressive buildings you can see from the city walls is Basilica de San Vicente. This, along with the city’s cathedral, is one of many religious buildings to be found in Ávila. Meat is also popular, particularly the chuletón de Ávila.

How to get to Ávila

There are several trains throughout the day from either Madrid’s Atocha or Príncipe Pío stations. The journey takes between an hour and a half to two hours depending on the route.

Alcalá de Henares

Day trips from Madrid Alcala de Henares
A statue of Cervantes takes centre stage in the main square named after the famous Spanish author

Most famous as the hometown of world-renowned Spanish Author Miguel de Cervantes, Alcalá de Henares is a city larger than many of the others which surround Madrid. Plaza Cervantes, named after the famous former resident, is the central attraction and leads from Calle Mayor to the university.

The university spreads around the city, with its many students benefiting from studying in some very beautiful buildings. Calle Mayor is the main street, as you may have guessed, and it’s where you’ll find many bars and restaurants. It’s also the same street where you’ll find Cervantes’ former home, which you can visit for free. Outside on Calle Mayor is a statue referencing one of Cervantes’ most famous work, Don Quixote.

The archaeological museum is also free to enter and has lots of interesting exhibits starting from prehistoric times all the way to the present. On the west of the city is a Roman Forum, which again is free to enter.

How to get to Alcalá de Henares

Trains run from the usual Madrid stations every hour or so and arrive just over 30 minutes later.

Aranjuez

The royal palace in Aranjuez
The royal palace is as impressive as any either in Spain or elsewhere in Europe

To the south of Madrid is Aranjuez, a town most famous for its spectacular palace. Entrance is €9 and it’s open Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 7pm. Outside and around the town are many beautiful parks and gardens. From the shaded walkways of Jardín de la Isla at the rear of the palace, to the small but pretty Jardín del Parterre. A little further away (around 10 minutes) is the massive Jardín del Principe, which includes many sites of its own as well as the same lovely gardens.

Casa del Labrador (a place for members of the royal family to escape from the pressures of court life) and a barge museum are both found in the spacious grounds of Jardín del Principe. All of the gardens are free to enter and Aranjuez itself has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.

How to get to Aranjuez

Trains run from the usual Madrid stations to Aranjuez regularly on Cercanías line C3 and take about an hour.

Chinchón

Plaza Mayor in Chinchon
The small town of Chinchón is incredibly pretty, especially around Plaza Mayor

It’s easy to see why Chinchón is so popular. The narrow streets and traditionally styled buildings, it feels more Spanish than many other places around the capital. The main attraction is the central square – Plaza Mayor. All around are people, restaurants, market stalls and bakeries. It’s the bustling centre of what is otherwise a quiet town.

Whilst standing in Plaza Mayor you’re right in the centre of the action, to get a better view of the town head up to the viewpoint and clock tower overlooking the square on Calle de la Iglesia. Here you’ll also find the cathedral, while on the other side of the town centre is the ruins of a former castle.

Bodega del Nero is one of the most popular spots to try some local wine and the town is also famous for its aniseed falvoured liquor, commonly known simply as Chinchón. Garlic is used in many foods, which can be bought from the local bakeries. Craft shops are another common feature in town, with plenty scattered among the narrow streets.

How to get to Chinchón

Bus 337 runs from Plaza del Conde de Casal roughly every hour and takes 45 minutes to an hour to arrive. The 337 bus stop isn’t the easiest to find but there are information boards with locations of the bus stops to help. Walk away from Plaza del Conde de Casal with the city centre behind you and look for a line of bus stops. You want the fifth one.

El Escorial & Valle de los Caidos

Day trips from Madrid El Escorial
Aside from the palace and gardens, the views of the nearby mountains are incredible

Over to the west of Madrid, very close to the border with the community of Castile Y Leon, is the town of El Escorial. It’s actually two towns; El Escorial and San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The first is just a normal town and the location of the train station, whereas the second is the location of a stunning palace.

You can explore Monasterio del Escorial for €12 and it’s well worth the price. Despite what you might think from the name, it is actually a palace and was a historical residence of the King of Spain. There are many rooms to visit, so allow a couple of hours at least if you want to see everything.

Outside are the royal gardens, which can be visited for free, and all around town are incredible views of the surrounding green forests and mountains. The old town is well worth a wander too.

How to get to El Escorial

Trains leave the main stations in Madrid every hour or so and arrive just over 50 minutes later. From El Escorial train station it’s a 20-minute walk to San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the palace.

A little over 15km from the town is a controversial place in the form of Valle de Los Caidos. The memorial site was constructed under the orders of former dictator Franco and it’s where he was buried until a couple of years ago. Entry is €9, or free for EU citizens on Wednesdays and Sundays.

How to get to Valle de los Caidos

There is just one bus every day, leaving at 15:15 and returning a couple of hours later. Line 660A shuttles between San Lorenzo de El Escorial and Valle de los Caidos with tickets costing €5.20 for a return trip.

Patones de Arriba

Views of the reservoir on a hike from Patones de Arriba
A far cry from the busy centre of Madrid, you can find some amazing views around Patones de Arriba

If you want to get away from the cities, head to the north of the Community of Madrid. Patones de Arriba is a ridiculously cute town with narrow lanes and houses built into the hillside. It’s a little touristy and some cafes and restaurants can be more expensive than other places around.

But it’s not just about the town. There are two picturesque walks from Patones de Arriba that aren’t too strenuous and reward you with incredible views. The hike to Cancho de la Cabeza covers 12.5km and the suggested time is around 4 hours (although in reality it’s more like 2.5 to 3 hours). There is only one uphill section that’s a little difficult, whichever way you go, but the views at the halfway point are more than worth the exercise.

Alternatively, Vuelta al Cabezo is less than 7km and can be done in 2 hours or less. Both routes are circular, so whichever direction you start in you always return to the town after.

Another option for getting away from Madrid is Pantano San Juan to the west of the city. It’s a popular place for locals to go for a swim on a good day, although without access to a car it’s more difficult to reach.

How to get to Patones de Arriba

Bus 197 runs from Plaza de Castilla bus station. The journey is an hour and a half (depending on traffic) to Patones. From there it’s a nice walk up the hill to Patones de Arriba. Make sure to get the bus heading to Uceda, which are less often as the majority only go as far as Torrelaguna.

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