Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day trip ideas near Madrid

Many people coming to Madrid make a day trip to Segovia or Toledo, but the area around Madrid is rich in historical towns and sites, many of them with UNESCO status and feel a world away from bustling Madrid. These places can be easily reached in less than an hour and a half on public transport. If you have a spare day or two (although we're sure you'll find plenty to do in Madrid!), here are ten places worth discovering:

1. Segovia- a beautiful sleepy city with a Disney like castle, Roman aqueduct and excellent food. One of our favourite cities in Spain!

day trip madrid
The castle at Segovia

2. Toledo- former capital of Spain and rich in medieval history. This city was once an important religious centre in Europe for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

3. Aranjuez- charming UNESCO town with many former royal residences and elegant gardens. In the summer, a stream train runs between here and Madrid.

4. Alcalá de Henares- birthplace of Miguel Cervantes (writer of Don Quixote) and home to one of Spain's oldest universities.

5. Cuenca- slightly further away, but can be reached by high speed train. Cuenca is famous for its 'hanging houses' which are perched dramatically over a cliff face. It also has an excellent modern art museum.

The hanging houses of Cuenca

6. Ávila- home to perhaps the most famous walls in Spain! The town has impressive medieval architecture and is known for its restaurants. From the city you can enjoy breathtaking mountain views.

7. Chinchón- ideal for a half day visit. Chinchón will transport you back to medieval times. The main square is very pretty and lined with many ancient houses with overhanging galleries. A great place to visit for lunch and a stroll. We also recommend trying the local Chinchón tipple!

Step back to the Middle Ages in Chinchón

8. Manzanares el Real- if you're here in the summer months, Manzanares makes a great escape from the heat of Madrid. It's an attractive small town in the Sierra de Guadarrama located next to a lake. The town has a picturesque castle, which kids will love.

9. El Escorial- a massive monastery and royal palace. This UNESCO site will amaze visitors with its elaborately decorated stately rooms by masters like Titian, El Greco and Velasquez. It's also the final resting place for Spanish monarchs.

10. The Sierra de Guadarrama- you don't have to go far out of Madrid to reach spectacular mountains and unspoilt nature. Although these mountains are best reached by car, from Cercedilla or El Coto (both accesible by cercanías train or bus) there are excellent walking and hiking opportunities with incredible views. In winter it's possible to ski at nearby Val de Esqui.

sierra de guadarrama
Walking in the Sierra

We have an excellent section on excursions which includes more about these places on our website. Visit it here

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