As many reasons as there are to visit Spain’s capital there are almost as many reasons to take a day trip from Madrid.
Madrid is a fantastic city, of that there is no doubt. We’re huge fans of Madrid, and Spain in general, and have spent a fair deal of time there over the past few years. As great as the capital city is, there are also a ton of reasons to leave its borders and explore the region. To help you decide where to go and what’s worth seeing, we’ve put together a list of the best day trips from Madrid, so you can make a day of it and take a break from the bustling capital.
Madrid’s location in the centre of Spain puts it in a prime position for getting out and exploring the surrounding areas. The province of Madrid is bordered by six of Spain’s ‘comunidades autónomas’ or ‘autonomous communities’, including Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, and Aragon.
Each area of Spain has its own fascinating history, culture, landscape and cuisine, meaning there’s something new to be seen everywhere.
Experience the diversity of Spain by taking some time to visit some of the country’s most captivating places which lie under 2 hours from Madrid. The transport system in Spain is pretty great, so you can easily take the train or the bus to other cities from the capital and not pay a fortune. However if you’re prefer to rent a car in Madrid to explore the country click here for the best rates.
Now, without further ado, the day trips from Madrid that you NEED to take.
The Best Day Trips from Madrid
Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. Toledo brings together medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments inside its walls. Just 50 minutes from Madrid, it’s one of the closest day trips on our list. You can get there easily by train. Once you arrive at the train station you’ll be greeted by the spectacular sight of the city on the hill, then you must cross the Puente de San Martín, go through the Puerta de Bisagra, and begin climbing the city’s walls up to the old town.
Toledo’s winding streets, charming plazas, and amalgamation of cultures make it one of the best day trips from Madrid. You could probably spend more than a day here, but if that’s all you’ve got then there are a few things you must do.
The Alcázar of Toledo is a magnificent sight to behold. Sitting atop a hill, not only is it a beautiful example of Roman and Arab architecture, but it offers arresting views of the city from its exterior. The Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes is a great example of Elizabethan-Gothic architecture, and is definitely worth having a look at.
Toledo has a flourishing art scene, where you can find plenty of museums to keep you busy for hours. Most famously, Toledo was the home of renowned mannerist painter El Greco. The Museo del Greco exhibits work by the painter and explores the effect he had on shaping the city in the 17th century.
You’ll probably be hungry by now, so make a pit-stop at one of Toledo’s many, many restaurants and try some typical Spanish cuisine. Toledo is famous for its suckling pig, but if that’s not quite up your alley there are plenty of culinary choices from different cultures all over the world.
At the end of the day it’s essential that you take a walk to the opposite side of the river and climb to the Mirador del Valle viewpoint, where you can watch as Toledo’s skyline is illuminated by the setting sun. Meander back into the city to have a stroll around the city by night, when the hustle and bustle has died down and a unique sense of calm takes over the city.
Where to stay in Toledo – Hotel Princesa Galiana
Hotel Princesa Galiana is one of the best hotels in Toledo if you’re looking for luxury yet affordable accommodation. Located opposite the train station, just a 10 minute walk from the Old Town, you’ll get a cosy room with a delicious fresh breakfast included.
Day Trips from Madrid – Córdoba
Córdoba is about a 2 hour train ride from the capital. This medieval city is filled with history, culture and unmatchable cuisine, and is definitely one of the best day trips from Madrid. Córdoba is the Andalusian capital, and has a rich history which combines different cultures and religions, and the modern day city is the legacy of its diverse background.
The city is over 1000 years old, and has been designated a world heritage site. It was the capital of Spain during the Roman and Moorish times, where 3 religions coexisted. Islam, Judaism and Christianity have all made a deep impact on the city, and this can be seen in the architecture and remnants that still stand today.
If you’re only planning on spending a day in Córdoba then you’ve got a lot to squeeze in! When you arrive you’ll probably want to make a beeline for the city’s main attraction The Mezquita is the jewel of the city, and tops the list as one of the best things to do in Córdoba. The Mezquita is a breathtaking combination of Roman, Gothic and Islamic architecture, and collates the city’s diverse history in one exquisite building. We recommend getting there early, as it gets pretty packed in the afternoon.
You can opt to take a guided tour of the Mezquita if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the place and its history. Be cautious with your timings, as attractions tend to close for a couple of hours in the afternoon – this is siesta country after all!
If you purchase a guidebook to Córdoba the image on the cover will most likely be that of the city’s splendid Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers). This narrow, cobbled street is filled with arches and typical Andalusian style houses, and lined with beautiful flower pots hanging lazily from the walls.
Getting lost in the maze of streets in the old town surrounding the Mezquita is a great way to discover what life in Córdoba is like. Delicious smells waft from restaurants, locals unwind outside cafes sipping cafe con leches, and the city’s renowned verdant patios lay in wait around every corner.
After you’ve spent some time wandering the old town, make your way to the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge), where you might even recognise a scene or two from Game of Thrones! Another must see is the The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, which is a grand moorish palace located next to the Guadalquivir river. It’s open fairly late, so make the most of the Spanish sun and take a stroll through the gardens in the early evening.
Located on the outskirts of the city is the Medina Azahara which contains the ruins of a fortified moorish palace-city built by the first Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba. It’s a spectacular historical site, and definitely one of the best things to do in Córdoba if you’ve got the time.
Of course you’ll get peckish at some point, so be sure to make a stop in one of the city’s charming restaurants or cafes to sample some delicious traditional Andalusian cuisine. Try the salmorejo or gazpacho (traditional soups), or flamenquín (breaded pork loin wrapped with slices of ham). Accompanied by a cerveza or glass of Spanish wine, it’s the perfect wind-down meal after your busy day exploring Córdoba.
For more on this fascinating little city read our complete guide to things to do in Cordoba!
Where to stay in Córdoba – Córdoba Carpe Diem
Córdoba Carpe Diem is a budget hotel which has all the features you’ll need for a comfortable stay. Rooms are modern and affordable, and you even have access to a rooftop terrace which is perfect for enjoying the evening sun. Located just 450 years from La Mezquita, Córdoba Carpe Diem is one of the best hotels in Córdoba for travelers seeking comfort and style while on a budget.
Day Trips From Madrid – Segovia
Segovia is the most popular and certainly one of the best day trips from Madrid. This historic city is truly breathtaking to behold. It’s just under two hours from Madrid, and is easily accessed by train or car. Segovia is small, and you can easily see most of what the city has to offer in a day.
Segovia has a history entailing centuries of diverse settlements, which is reflected in the architectural marvels that still stand today. Its medieval walls, Romanesque churches and a Gothic cathedral amalgamate the different cultures that have called Segovia home in the past.
Probably the city’s most famous attraction and top of your list is the Alcázar de Segovia. Sitting strikingly on top of a rocky crag above the meeting point of two rivers, the Alcázar is shaped like the bow of a ship, making it a truly unique and memorable monument in Segovia. If you didn’t know, the Alcázar de Segovia was apparently where Walt Disney drew his inspiration for the Disney castle. It’s pretty big and filled with information, so set aside a few hours at least to visit all the halls and rooms in this castle.
The aqueduct of Segovia is another must-see, the Roman structure is a landmark of the city and features 2 tiers and 167 arches, and stretches for 894 meters. Segovia’s cathedral is a powerful example of Gothic architecture, and definitely shouldn’t be missed. Wander the streets of the old town and you’ll stumble across plenty of fantastic restaurants and bars serving up menu del dias or tapas and raciones. Spain is famous for its carnivorous nature, and Segovia is no different. Try the cocido (meat and chickpea stew) which is typical of inland Spain, and a great way to warm up on a chilly day.
If you love castles, palaces and great food then Segovia is definitely one of the best day trips from Madrid.
Where to stay in Segovia – Hotel Real Segovia
Located in the center of Segovia, between the aqueduct and the cathedral is Hotel Real Segovia, which is definitely one of the best hotels in Segovia for travelers who like their comforts. Rooms are affordable and elegant, breakfast is included, and you’re in an ideal position to begin exploring the city. What’s not to love?
Day Trips from Madrid – Cuenca
Cuenca is an impressive city that sits atop a steep promontory at the meeting point of two deep river gorges. Here you’ll find a fascinating meeting point for old and new, and a sense of calm that make it a popular day-trip escape from the capital. Best accessed by car or train, Cuenca is just under 3 hours from Madrid, but it’s definitely worth the trip! Its intriguing history, breathtaking location and relaxed Spanish atmosphere make Cuenca one of the best day trips from Madrid.
The fortified walls and cobbled, narrow streets reveal the historic nature of this city. Cuenca was built in the 12th century by the Moors, and has managed to preserve its medieval charm. It’s famous for its casas colgadas (hanging houses), which jut out over cliff edges. It’s pretty glorious to behold, as you stare up at the wooden balconies that look like they’re about to topple forward.
Firstly, you’ll want to take a stroll around the old town. Imposing and colorful buildings buildings line the streets, which are filled with charming cafes where you can stop and have your first cafe con leche of the day. Take a walk across the Saint Paul Bridge which crosses the river below and affords incredible views of the city and the casas colgadas. If you’re a bit scared of heights you might want to skip this one.
Cuenca also has a flourishing art scene, and we recommend a visit to the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, where you can find works from some of Spain’s best abstract artists. Cuenca cathedral is also a must-see, and is one of the best examples of gothic architecture in Spain.
Don’t forget to try Alaju – a delicious Cuencan pastry stuffed with almonds and honey.
In the surrounding hills and mountains you can find plenty of hiking trails if you fancy getting out into nature for a few hours. You’ll find picturesque scenery all around you, and plenty of reasons to get your camera out.
Its absorbing history, natural surroundings and laid-back atmosphere are some of the reasons why Cuenca makes our list as one of the best day trips from Madrid.
Where to stay in Cuenca – Parador de Cuenca
Probably the most well known place to stay in Cuenca, there’s a reason why this hotel is continuously named one of the best hotels in Cuenca! Housed in a former convent, Parador de Cuenca is stylish and comfortable, and affords guests incredible views of the famous “hanging houses” of Cuenca. Take a dip in the outside pool and try the delicious food at the restaurant!
Day Trips from Madrid – Ávila
Just over 100 km from Madrid, a journey of about 90 minutes, Ávila has been given the nickname the “Town of Stones and Saints”. It was founded in the 11th century to protect the Spanish territories from Moorish invasion, and is the birthplace of St Teresa. Ávila lies in the Spanish countryside, nestled amongst rolling hills and sheltered by the picturesque Sierra Gredos Mountains, the sight of the city is pretty breathtaking from afar. If you love history and architecture then Ávila is definitely one of the best day trips from Madrid for you.
Located in the autonomous community of Castilla y Leon. The harsher climate, vast plains and spectacular mountain ranges aren’t the typical image your mind conjures when you think of Spain. However, this region is seeped in history and culture that’ll give you a different understanding of this incredibly diverse country.
Ávila is a profoundly religious city, and has drawn pilgrims from all over the world to the cult of Santa Teresa de Ávila for centuries. The life of the city is enclosed within its incredibly intact medieval walls, which feature 8 monumental gates and 88 semicircular towers jutting out.
Ávila is filled with churches, monasteries, cathedrals, and convents that exemplify a diverse range of architectural styles including romanesque and gothic. We recommend walking along the city walls, where you can view Ávila from above and get an idea of what it would have felt like to be a soldier defending the city as you look out across the vast plains to spot your enemies. Take a walk to Los Cuatro Postes, a pilgrimage site to the west of the city, where you’ll be met with incredible views of Ávila and its fortress walls.
When you’ve soaked up enough of the city’s history, take a break at one of the tapas bars in the El Sol, El Tablon, and La Oca areas of Ávila. Ávila’s signature dish is Ávila veal, often served with beans, and it’s delicious.
Its close proximity, abundance of architectural wonders, and historical significance make Ávila one of the best day trips from Madrid, and a great place to experience the true Spain.
Where to Stay in Ávila – Guesthouse Antika Snoga
Located within close proximity to the centre of Ávila, Antika Snoga is one of the best hotels in Ávila for its great atmosphere and affordable price. With twin rooms for under 50 euro, all modern and super comfortable, you really can’t go wrong here.
So there you have it guys, 5 awesome places you should visit on a day trip from Madrid. Which one will go go see? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, happy travels, and we’ll see you on the road!
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