If you are spending more than a few days in Madrid you should take a day trip to one of the amazing nearby locations that are honestly really easy to get to.
Many of these towns and cities have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites! There is a huge amount of history and culture hidden within them and there is so much we can learn about Spain’s past.
These are my favourite day trips from Madrid:
It’s surprising how easy it is to reach these towns by bus or train and each location has lots to offer. If history is not your thing, don’t worry I will include fun things to see and do and plenty of food and drink.
This post will cover everything you need to know about each amazing city including:
- How to get there from Madrid
- Local history
- Things to see & do
- My tips
Toledo is a Medieval city south west of Madrid. It is a labyrinth of old cobbled streets and stone buildings, set behind an imposing city wall. The main walking entrance is via two beautiful, old stone bridges crossing the river.
How to get there from Madrid
Train – highspeed AVE trains leave from Puerta de Athoca station roughly every hour, the journey takes 30 mins and adult single ticket costs €12.90. From the station on Toledo you can walk up hill to the centre or take a taxi for €4.
Bus – you can either take an organised coach day-trip or the Alsa bus from Plaza Elpitica for €6 and it takes 50 mins.
Toledo is known as “the city of three cultures” and was declared a world heritage site in 1986 for is extensive monumental and cultural heritage. There are many churches, religious monuments and artifacts of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith.
The Toledo cathedral in particular is very important in Spanish religious history. It is over 2,000 years old and is one of the highest regarded Gothic cathedrals in Spain.
Toledo is famous for its traditional metal work and the production of blade weapons. It still a big industry today and they supply many film sets, including Lord of the Rings with stage weaponry and sells replicas as souvenirs.
There is an abundance of local cheese and wine plus a very traditional sweet called “mazapan” which is sold everywhere and a must try when visiting Toledo
Things to see and do in Toledo
- El Alcazar
- Enjoy the view of the river and old bridges
- Eat local cheese and wine
- Ride the zip line over the river
- Eat mazapan
My tips for visiting Toledo
- It gets very busy and very hot in the summer months
- Wear flat shoes, the streets are slippery
- A free walking tour starts at 11am from Zocodover square
- The streets are narrow and not often pedestrianised so look out for cars
*RELATED: For more Seeking the Spanish Sun info on visiting Toledo read – A day exploring Toledo
Aranjuez is known at the Royal Estate, it’s a city and municipality of the southernmost part of the Community of Madrid. It has been the residence of the Crown of Spain since Phillip II in 1560.
How to get there from Madrid
Train – take the Cercanias C3 train from Atocha or Chamartin. One-way adult fare is €3 and the journey takes 50 mins. The station in Aranjuez is 10 minutes’ walk from the Palace.
Bus – departs every 15 mins from Estacion Sur bus station. One-way adult fare is €3.50 and the journey takes 50 mins.
Until 1752 only royalty and noble people of the court and royal servants were allowed to stay in the city. Visitors has to stay in nearby towns.
Plaza de Toros, one of Spains earliest bull rings is in Aranjuez. It was built to hold twice as many spectators as there were local residents and royalty enjoyed a private entrance and royal box.
Aranjuez is located on the river Tagus and has great sports facilities for canoeing and paddle boarding. Fertile land surrounds Aranjuez and there are many fields growing strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus and melons. In the summer stalls will be set up selling local fresh fruit and veg.
There are lots of lovely little parks and gardens to explore and make sure you try churros from one of the many “chocolateria churreria” stands
Things to see and do in Aranjuez
- Royal palace
- Bull ring
- Eat churros
- Many museums
- Many parks and gardens
- Take a boat ride on the river
- Go to the Gran Casino
- Visit El Regajal vineyards and winery
My tips for visiting Aranjuez
- There are lots of bars and restaurants for its size, choose wisely
- Lots of local fiestas are held here, check the calendar before you plan your day trip
- If you opt for a guide at the royal place you get access to some private rooms.
Segovia is a World Heritage city north west of Madrid in Castille-Leon. Its rich in architectural history and has many important Roman and Gothic buildings.
How to get there from Madrid
Train – the highspeed AVE leaves Madrid Chamartin station regularly and takes approximately 30 mins. Standard adult, one-way tickets cost €12.90 From Segovia train station it takes 15 mins by bus to get to the centre.
Bus – you can take the bus from Moncloa for €9 each way and it takes 1 ½ hours or join any number of tourist bus tours.
The huge Roman aqueduct is an iconic view point and one of the most famous landmarks. It was constructed almost 2,000 years ago and has a distinct style whereby each 2 tonne stone is placed on top of the next with no adhesive material keeping them together.
The Alcazar Fortress of Segovia or “Castle” is another stunning sight, it’s a fairy tale shaped building that was the residence of Alfonso VIII. It’s said to be the inspiration for the Disney logo castle! You can go inside the Castle, it now houses a museum and military archives and entrance for adults starts at €5.50.
Segovia is famous for its roast sucking pig “cochinillo asado” a very simple dish of wood fire roasted whole, baby pig. It is served as crispy skinned, sweet, succulent and tender chunks with no more than bread and salad on the side. The sign of a real “cochinillo de Segovia” is that the waiter can slice it with a plate so they tend to serve the pig whole at the table and carve it in front of you
Things to see and do in Segovia
- Jewish Quarter
- Eat suckling pig
- Take a hot air balloon ride
My tips for visiting Segovia
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, it’s very hilly
- You can hire local guides from the visitor reception centre at Plaza de Azoguejo
- The best views of the Aqueduct are at the tops of Postigo steps
*RELATED: For more Seeking the Spanish Sun info on visiting Segovia read – A day exploring Segovia
El Escorial is a vast building complex and another historical residence of the King of Spain. Its north west of Madrid and has functioned as a palace, monastery, library, museum, university and hospital.
How to get there from Madrid
Train – the Cercanias line C3 takes around 1 hour and one-way single adult tickets are €5.40. From the train station it’s a 15 min walk your you can take another bus.
Bus – take the bus from Moncloa for approximately €4 for 1 hour journey.
Its located in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is situated at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It was awarded World Heritage in 1984 and over 500,000 tourists visit it every year.
It is the burial site for most of the Spanish Kings. There is a pantheon chamber containing the remains of past Kings and Queens.
The building is divided into many parts and has grand manicured gardens including a hedge maze. There is a huge library which holds more than 40,000 books. An art gallery with works from across Europe and a museum displaying architectural tools, document and blueprints.
A typical local dish is “Cocido Madrileno” a kind of soup/stew with chickpeas, meat and vegetables
Things to see and do in El Escorial
- Courtyard of the Kings
- Eat Cocido Madrileno
- Art gallery
My tips for visiting El Escorial
- Don’t spend all your time inside the buildings make you walk around the town and gardens also
- Half-day might be sufficient here unless you love history and want to scour every room of the building
Salamanca is an old city north west of Madrid past Segovia. It has many iconic buildings and a very prestigious University, which is the oldest in Spain. It attracts many international students and is a very popular location to learn Spanish.
How to get there from Madrid
Train – There is a highspeed direct Renfe from Chamartin station that takes only 1 ½ hours so I recommend that you pre-book this as it only runs a few times a day. The standard train takes 3 hours and costs roughly the same price, €24 for a one-way adult ticket.
Bus – The Avanza coach goes from Estation Sur De Autobuses and takes approximately 2½ hours for €20.
Formal teaching in the University of Salamanca is said to have started back in 1130 and in 1218 it was awarded a royal charter, which lead it to become one of the most significant academic centres in Europe. The 16th century saw the height of its splendour while it hosted the world’s most important intellectuals.
Salamanca was Franco’s chosen headquarters and main base of his Fascist rule of Spain during the devastating Spanish Civil War in the mid to late 1930’s.
In 1988 Salamanca was awarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its Plaza Mayor is one of the most spectacular squares in Spain with beautiful Baroque style. It has 2 cathedrals, one is 12th century Romanesque and known as the “old cathedral”. The other is 16th century Gothic and known as the “new cathedral”.
Chainfaina is a simple, typically local dish of lamb (often offcuts, tripe and blood), cooked with onions and spices then served with steamed rice. Hornazo is a meaty pie stuffed with pork, chorizo sausage and boiled eggs which is still very popular.
Being a big university city and full of students, there is a vibrancy about Salamanca that helps to stop it from being overly stuffing and dull. There are lots of great cocktail bars, cheap drinks and crazy flavoured shots or “chupitos” of schnapps are served everywhere and there is a buzzing nightlife
Things to see and do in Salamanca
- Plaza Mayor
- Old cathedral and New cathedral
- Many chapels, monasteries, and churches
- Many parks and plazas
- Archive of the Spanish Civil War
- Visit Casa Lis Art Nouveau and Art Deco museum
- Many small museums and art collections
- Eat Chainfaina and Hornazo
- Cycle by the river
- Enjoy cocktails in lots of great bars
*RELATED article: To read more about Salamanca go to this article – Exploring the city of Salamanca
My tips for visiting Salamanca
- The Spanish Civil War is not much talked about in Spain because it was such a dark time and still raw in many people memories. The collection of documents here gives rare information, albeit small and written in Spanish
- Get the latest bus or train back to Madrid so that you can experience the fun nightlife
- Around Plaza de San Juan Bautista & Calle Bordadores are where the high concentration of night bars can be found
Have you visited any of these amazing cities?? Or do you have a favourite day-trip from Madrid that I haven’t mentioned? Tell me all about it in the comments box below 🙂
You might also like to read these Seeking the Spanish Sun Madrid information guides…
What you need to know before visiting Madrid
A weekend in Madrid – City itinerary
Are you interested in learning more about Spain and the countries varied culture and interesting sights? Read these articles…
A quick guide to the different regions of Spain
Common misconceptions about Spain
Why Spain is great for winter sun
Good website beautiful and interesting to see
Thank you so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed it.
If we only have one day for a day trip, would you recommend Segovia or Toledo?
If you can only choose one, I would say Toledo. It’s a tough decision but I think Toledo just edges it
Hi Perri, When I visit a city, I usually also try to see something of its surroundings. I didn’t know that so many beautiful cities can be reached from Madrid in a daytrip. I have never visited Madrid and its region and hope to change this soon. Your article is very useful to plan an itinerary. Cheers, Ricarda
Hi Ricarda, thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope it’s given you some inspiration to visit Madrid and some ideas on what you might see and do. Its a great city and there is a lot to explore!
I went to Segovia from madrid, but can’t believe we missed out on so many other awesome places! Something to keep in mind the next time I visit!
I love Segovia! Definitely try one of the other’s when you visit next time 🙂
What gorgeous towns. I love how accessible they are from Madrid. Visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites is one of our favorite things to do. Thank you for sharing. I’ll definitely be saving your post for future reference 🙂
Awesome! I hope you have a great time if you do get a chance to visit one of them. Thanks for reading and saving this post Michelle 🙂
I really want to explore more of Spain so this post was fab! Thanks for sharing x
Great! Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Such great ideas. I was planning to revisit Madrid for a few days. I might take your advice on one or 2 of these day trips.
Thanks Ana, hope you enjoy!
I have somehow never thought of visiting Madrid but your post inspires me now to travel there just to make these day trips to Toledo and Aranjeuz 🙂 I really like the breakdown of the information, great post!
That’s great to hear! Thanks for taking the time to read this post Ameeta
Wonderful ideas! I’ve been to Madrid only once for a short weekend and definitely plan to go back. Maybe a bit longer and do some trips. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks! Try to squeeze one of these trips in when you next visit Madrid, they really are worth taking the train or drive 🙂