Updated: Aug 16, 2022
After moving to Madrid two years ago I quickly discovered that there is more to see in the area than the city itself. Here there are some of the most popular day-trip options which can be easily taken by public transport. If you like history and good food you won´t be disappointed!
Guest Blogger: Milena Marangon, South European Wanderings
Disclosure: Our site contains Affiliate Links. Clicking an Affiliate Link and purchasing something we recommend, won't cost you anything extra. It will though give us a small commission which will help this site remain a free resource for travelers to explore our world together.
For Centuries the city of Toledo was a greater cultural and political center than Madrid. Toledo was the capital of the Kingdom of Castilla and then of the unified Spanish Kingdom until the XVI Century. The city was also a place where the Christian, Jewish, and Arab religions co-existed pacifically during most of the Middle ages. Today, the influence of the three religions is found all over the city’s architecture. Nowadays Toledo is divided in a lower and upper part, with the older city located on top of a hill, surrounded by the river Tajo.
There is a lot to see in Toledo, for example, the Mezquita Cristo de la Luz, one of the oldest Spanish mosques that was later converted in a church, the Plaza de Zocodover, the central square, and the Gothic Cathedral. One of my favourite areas of the city is the Jewish quarter which is made up of quiet small streets and where there are many craft shops devoted to the city’s medieval past. The old synagogue, although small, is well worth a visit. Toledo’s swords and medieval armours are still produced here and are internationally used in historic re-enactments.
Many small shops also sell a different kind of pastries, the most typical are the marzipan or toledanas (cookies filled with sweet pumpkin filling), while in the restaurant you can have the Perdiz Estofada (roasted partridge) and the Arroz a la Toledana (paella-style rice with chicken, pork, mushrooms and squid).
How to reach Toledo from Madrid:
By high-speed train from Atocha Station. The journey lasts about half an hour.
By bus ALSA from Intercambiador de Plaza Eliptica. The journey lasts about 50 minutes.
Segovia is another of the most popular day-trips from Madrid. This city of Roman origin is located at the feet of the Sierra de Guadarrama, a mountain area in the North of Madrid. The landmark of Segovia is surely the spectacular 28m-high Roman aqueduct that dates back to the 1st Century A.C. You can easily spend some time wandering in the square surrounding it and admire how well-preserved the structure still is after more than 2000 years. Close to the aqueduct, there is a small hill that is possible to climb to get a view of the natural landscape of the Sierra of Guadarrama.
The rest of the city has a medieval origin, Plaza Mayor is its most lively point, a place where it is nice to sit down for a coffee or a vermouth (the most popular aperitif in Spain) and admire the ancient buildings around, including the Cathedral, one of the most important Gothic pieces of architecture in Spain.
Segovia´s paved streets offer interesting sights like the Casa de Los Picos, a building with a diamond-shaped pointed facade. It was built in the XV Century as the house of the local governor and nowadays it hosts an art school and it is possible to visit it for free.
Another must-see in Segovia is the Alcazar, the city’s castle that has a special place in history: here Christopher Columbus met the Queen Isabel of Castilla and obtained financing for his mission that lead to the discovery of America.
What to eat in Segovia? Like many places in Spain, the local gastronomy is pork-based, specifically, Segovia’s most famous dish is the cochinillo, roasted piglet which is prepared in many restaurants across the town. Another typical dish is the Judiones de la Granja, giant beans with chorizo and bacon. If you are vegetarian you can still enjoy the Ponche Segoviano, a dessert made with sponge cake, marzipan and custard cream.
How to reach Segovia from Madrid:
By high-speed train from Chamartín Station. The journey lasts about half an hour.
By Bus from Intercambiador de la Moncloa run by the company Avanzabus. The journey lasts about 1h and 20 minutes.
San Lorenzo del Escorial
San Lorenzo del Escorial is a small village, located just about 40 km from Madrid in the mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama. The reason for its fame is its beautiful monastery which dates back to the XVI Century. The building was originally built by King Felipe II as the location for his court and was erected in 20 years, which is a record for the times considering the imposing size of the place. The site was divided in a monastery, still inhabited by monks today, and a Royal Residence.
I have visited the monastery recently and due to the COVID-19 situation, the guided tour that is usually offered to visitors was not available. It was possible however to follow a self-guided itinerary through the main areas of the monastery and the Royal apartments, including the basilica, the library, the Royal Pantheon and the peaceful cloister, usually closed to the public.
While the interior is rich in details and decoration, the most striking part of the monastery is probably the exterior, in particular, the enormous cupola of the basilica is one of the most recognizable elements of the monastery from the distance.
The village of San Lorenzo del Escorial is very quaint, with a calm atmosphere, although its tranquillity during my visit was probably due to the pandemic circumstances and the almost total absence of foreign tourists. The pretty historic centre is built on different levels and it is populated with bars and restaurants that offer tapas or typical dishes of the surrounding regions such as the Chuletón, a roasted beef steak typical of the nearby town of Avila, or the Cocido Madrileño, a stew made with different kinds of pork meat, chickpeas and vegetables.
If you arrive by train, you should know that the train station is located about 2 km from the monastery, in the village of El Escorial. You can reach the monastery in San Lorenzo del Escorial (which is a different village) from the train station by bus, the journey is just about 5 minutes long or alternatively, you can walk. Since the monastery is uphill my suggestion is to take the bus on the way up and then to come back by foot by crossing the beautiful Parque Casita del Principe, a royal park created in the XVII century. This is a really nice downhill walk on a path surrounded by cypresses.
How to reach San Lorenzo del Escorial from Madrid:
By local train (Cercanias) from Atocha or Chamartín train stations. The journey lasts about 1 hour.
By bus from the Intercambiador de la Moncloa. The bus is ran by the company Herranz.
Ávila is a medieval town located in the region of Castilla y León, about 120 km from Madrid. Ávila is famous for its very well preserved city walls built using stones from pre-existing Roman buildings. These walls are so massive that it is possible to walk around them through most of their 2 km perimeter. It is a nice experience that also allows for admiring the countryside landscape around the town.
The other reason for the town´s celebrity is for being the hometown of Santa Teresa, a popular catholic saint who was a noun and a monastic reformer. She is remembered in the convent that takes her name and also includes a religious hostel and a museum. The square surrounding the monastery is one of the most beautiful spots in Ávila and it is located near one of the city’s medieval entry doors.
A constant in Ávila is the smell of grilled meat that accompanies visitors all over the town. In fact, the speciality of Avila is the chuletón, a huge beef steak, often accompanied by patatas revolconas (a potato puré with paprika and garlic). The typical dessert is instead the Yemas de Santa Teresa, which consist of cookies made of egg yolk.
One thing to consider when visiting Ávila is its location at about 1200m on the sea level. While in summer this may only mean a slight relief from the heat of Madrid (there were 34 degrees when I visited it in August), in winter the temperature is significantly lower, so it is better to bring an extra layer with you.
How to reach Avila from Madrid:
By local train from Príncipe Pío or Chamartín station. The journey lasts from 1.30h to 2h.
By bus with the company Jimenez Dorado from the Estación Sur de Autobuses Méndez Alvaro. The journey lasts 1 hour and 20 minute.
Guest Blogger Milena Marangon is an Italian Food Travel Blogger based in Madrid. She have opened the blog South European Wanderings to inspire readers to visit less-known destinations in Southern Europe. Recently, she have been focusing on Spain, findings plenty to write about in her surroundings, from nature to cultural events to gastronomy. Visit South European Wanderings and follow Milena on her Instagram.
Madrid Day Trip Guide
In this Day-Trip Guide to Madrid in Spain, you'll find day trips to Toledo, Segovia, San Lorenzo del Escorial and Ávila. Read about destinations you can travel from Madrid in one day, what to do and what to see and eat. Take a break from Madrid for a day with this Trip Guide and discover the best sightseeing nearby the city of Madrid in Spain.
#madrid #madriddaytrip #tripguide #guide #daytripguide #guidetomadrid #madridinspain #daytrips #toledo #segovia #sanlorenzodelescorial #avila #destinationsyoucantravel #destinationsyoucantravelfrommadrid #madridinoneday #whattodoandwhattoseeandeat #discoverthebestsightseeing #nearbythecityofmadrid