20 Best Day Trips from Madrid

May 17, 2021

by Rina Bernardo

View of Segovia city centre

Madrid is a city that offers anything and everything you need to know about Spain. From its culture, cuisine, and attractions, there are lots of things to do and places to see in Madrid to keep its visitors entertained. But why stop at the Spanish capital when you can explore and discover other cities within your reach? Day trips from Madrid are a breath of fresh air especially if you want a change of scenery and pace. It also lets you see a different side of Spain: from tranquil towns, snow-capped mountains, and UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites.

From the cafes and museums in Madrid, go on a one-day excursion outside the city and see what other cities Spain has in store of you. Best of all, you can reach these cities by bus or by train. Additionally, you can join pre-arranged group tours, have your hotel arrange them for you, or plan your own itinerary!

 

Where Is Madrid?

 

View of Madrid from one of the buildings at Gran Vía
Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

Located in Central Spain, Madrid is the country’s capital and most populous city. It is also one of the largest cities in Europe in terms of population along with Berlin, Moscow, and London. As the capital city, Madrid is also the economic, cultural, and political center of Spain. 

From Barcelona, Madrid is more or less a seven-hour drive away. In terms of location, cities like Avila, Toledo, and Guadalajara are the closest to Madrid.

 

Best Day Trips From Madrid

1. Toledo

 

Aerial view of Toledo
Photo by steven_yu on Pixabay

Toledo is one of the most popular day trips from Madrid. Also known as the “City of Three Cultures”, the city boasts influences from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures, which is evident in its landmarks and attractions. It is also one of the most accessible cities from Madrid, only a short train ride or drive away.

How to Get There: You can visit Toledo by taking a train from Madrid’s Atocha Station to Toledo. There are about 8 trips to and from Toledo daily and travel time is 30 minutes to an hour depending on which train you’ll take. Another option is by driving to Toledo from Madrid which takes about an hour or more depending on the traffic situation. Take note that the highway can get busy especially on weekends and during the rush hour. 

Things to Do:

  • Eat marzipan, a local treat made from sugar and almond meal
  • Visit the Alcázar of Toledo, the city’s highest point
  • See different works of art at the El Greco Museum
  • Marvel at the Cathedral of Toledo 

 

2. Salamanca

 

Crowds of people at Salamanca's Plaza Mayor
Photo by NakNakNak on Pixabay

The charming city of Salamanca offers plenty of tourism opportunities for a day trip from Madrid. Splendid cathedrals, a picturesque old town, and a bustling university culture make it a popular destination among tourists. Start your journey at the Plaza Mayor then visit the University of Salamanca, the oldest university in the Hispanic world. Finally, end your day tour at the Roman Bridge as you watch the sunset.

How to Get There: Salamanca is accessible by car, train, and bus. The city is a two-hour drive away by car. On the other hand, taking the train is the most convenient at two and a half hours, however, the first trip is usually before noon. Some trains also stop in different cities, which can take time. 

Things to Do:

  • Cross the Roman Bridge and see the River Tormes
  • Stop by Plaza Mayor for drinks and coffee
  • Try a traditional hornazo, a meat pie stuffed with pork, chorizo, and hard-boiled eggs
  • Visit the New Cathedral of Salamanca

 

3. Segovia

 

View of the Gothic-style Segovia Cathedral
Photo by BarbeeAnne on Pixabay

With its fairytale-like castle, historic aqueduct, and beautiful cathedral, Segovia is definitely one of the must-visit cities. Its city center, hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, should be enough reason for one to take day trips from Madrid to Seville. But aside from its swoon-worthy sites, Segovia is also famous for its architecture, parks and gardens, and cuisine. 

How to Get There: Take a high-speed train from Madrid to Segovia for less than an hour. From the station in Segovia, you can ride a bus or taxi to get to the historical center. Additionally, you can take a bus that stops near the town center, although travel time can reach up to more than an hour.

Things to Do:

  • See the Segovia Aqueduct
  • Explore the Alcazar of Segovia, one of the most beautiful castles in Europe 
  • Walk along the streets of the Jewish District
  • Savor a delicious roasted suckling pig, locally known as cochinillo asado

 

4. Aranjuez

 

Entrance to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez
Photo by JoaquinAranoa on Pixabay

Located less than an hour south of Madrid, Aranjuez makes a perfect day trip. Its main star is the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, a stunning Renaissance-French palace reminiscent of Versailles and other castles in France. Other than the palace, Aranjuez also has several noteworthy sites and activities. Its old town, with its Baroque style, is perfect for morning walking tours while its gardens are the best place to visit for a relaxing afternoon.

How to Get There: You can take the commuter train from Madrid to Aranjuez. Travel time is about 45 minutes to an hour. On weekends from summer to autumn, ride the Strawberry Train, a vintage-style carriage that also offers strawberry tastings. Other transportation options for day trips from Madrid to Aranjuez include buses, cars, or private transfers.

Things to Do:

  • Visit the Royal Palace of Aranjuez.
  • Ride the Strawberry Train to and from Madrid (available only from summer to autumn)
  • Explore Casa del Labrador
  • Take a walk along Jardín del Príncipe

 

5. Avila

 

View of Avila's city walls and town proper
Photo by jackmac34 on Pixabay

Avila is one of the most popular day trips from Madrid due to its proximity and tourist landmarks. As one of the well-preserved cities in Spain, Avila boasts stunning cathedrals, monasteries, and churches, earning it its nickname, the “Town of Stones and Saints”. Its iconic medieval walls are intimidating from afar, but upon climbing it, you can see the beauty of the city. For travelers who are fascinated with Gothic cathedrals, churches, and ancient places of worship, Avila is definitely one of the must-visit cities.

How to Get There: Avila is 80 minutes away from Madrid by car and two hours by train from Principe Pio. In addition, buses from Estación Sur take about an hour and 20 minutes. You can join organized group tours and combine your Avila day trip with another nearby city for convenience.

Things to Do:

  • Walk along the city walls
  • Try Amarguillos (traditional almond-flavored pastry) and yemas de Ávila (snacks made of candied egg yolk and sugar)
  • Visit different churches and cathedrals
  • Learn about the city’s history on a visit to Museo de Ávila

 

6. Cuenca

 

Exterior view of Cuenca Cathedral
Photo by ellenwhyte on Pixabay

Perched on top of a rocky hill, Cuenca is a beautiful city waiting to be discovered. It is most famous for its Casas Colgadas, a complex of houses located near the ravine of the Huécar River. Cuenca offers picturesque views of the mountains, whether you’re looking from the hanging houses or the San Pablo Bridge. In addition, its historic center and museums are also worth visiting on your short day trip from Madrid.

How to Get There: Take the high-speed train from Atocha to Cuenca. Depending on what kind of train you’ll choose, travel time ranges between an hour by high-speed train and around three hours for regular commuter trains. Buses are also available at Estación Sur and travel time from Madrid to Cuenca is around two hours.

Things to Do:

  • See the Hanging Houses of Cuenca
  • Cross the San Pablo Bridge
  • Enjoy drinks at Plaza Mayor
  • Visit the Museum of Abstract Art

 

7. Valencia

 

Piazza in Valencia overlooking the cathedral
Photo by ebroslu on Pixabay

Past Cuenca is another quintessential must visit city in Spain, Valencia. This city on the eastern coast of the country offers stunning beaches, breathtaking architecture, and delectable cuisine making it one of the best day trips from Madrid. Taste an authentic paella, explore the neighborhood of El Carmen, and stop by the Central Market for fresh local produce. Lastly, don’t miss the City of Arts and Sciences, an impressive complex that showcases the best of Valencia’s architecture.

How to Get There: Driving to Valencia takes more or less four hours, so it’s highly recommended to take a train from Madrid. High-speed trains from the Atocha Station in Madrid to Valencia only take less than two hours.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the City of Arts and Sciences
  • Try the local cuisine at the Central Market
  • Attend the Fallas Festival, one of the best festivals in Spain
  • Relax at its beaches

 

8. Ribera Del Duero

 

Fresh grapes at a vineyard
Photo by Berho on Pixabay

For wine lovers, day trips from Madrid to the gorgeous RIbera del Duero region are a must. It stands out as one of the best Spanish wine regions thanks to its geography and climate, producing some of the world’s best red wines. Explore different wineries and learn about the meticulous process of winemaking while sipping on a glass of wine. If you’re up for it, you can also hike the Zarceras or grab a bite at Aranda de Duero.

How to Get There: Unlike other cities, it’s best to visit Ribera del Duero by car. If you’ll take the train from Madrid’s Chamartín Station, you’ll have to take a bus or taxi to get to the city centre. Travel time is also at four hours as compared to a two-hour drive by car. Lastly, driving to Ribera del Duero is better since you can also enjoy the view of the vineyards.

Things to Do:

  • Visit different wineries
  • Explore Aranda de Duero
  • Join pre-arranged wine tasting tours around Ribera del Duero
  • Hike and see the Zarceras

 

9. Cordoba

 

Cafes and shops along the cobbled streets of Cordoba
Photo by franky1st on Pixabay

While people tend to favor Granada or Seville as Andalusian destinations, one shouldn’t miss Cordoba. The city is a quick train ride away from the capital and offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities. Cordoba’s historic centre alone is a must-visit area with its courtyards and narrow, cobbled streets. Plan your visit on the second and third weeks of the month and you’ll get a chance to see the houses in bloom for the Courtyard Festival.

How to Get There: High-speed trains from Madrid’s Atocha Station to Cordoba only takes roughly two hours. On the other hand, it’s a four-hour drive from the capital via the A-4 highway.

Things to Do:

  • Watch a Flamenco show
  • Visit the Mezquita of Cordoba
  • Cross the Roman Bridge and see picturesque views of Cordoba
  • Try a bowl of salmorejo, a soup made of tomato, bread, and garlic

 

10. Zaragoza

 

View of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar during sunset
Photo by Pedro Sanz on Unsplash

Between Barcelona and Madrid is another city worth visiting for a day, Zaragoza. It isn’t heavily visited unlike its neighboring cities, but it boasts an interesting culture and history, visible in its cathedrals and plazas. The Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is arguably the city’s most popular sight due to its mosaic roof and stunning Baroque design. Additionally, its plaza is filled with several traditional restaurants, cafes, and other establishments you can visit.

How to Get There: High-speed trains are the best option for transportation to get to Zaragoza. From the Atocha Station, Zaragoza is only a two-hour train ride away.

Things to Do:

  • Visit the impressive Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
  • Explore the courtyards of the Aljafería Palace
  • Cross the Stone Bridge
  • See intricate tapestries at the Museo de Tapices

 

11. Pedraza

 

Medieval houses along Pedraza in Spain
Photo by Richard Mortel on Flickr

If you’re planning to visit Segovia, you can also add in a side trip to Pedraza. Although an underrated destination, Pedraza is one of the best day trips from Madrid if you want to go somewhere less touristy yet still beautiful. Feel as if you’ve stepped back in time as you walk around its cobbled streets, admiring its medieval architecture. 

How to Get There: By car, Pedraza is only an hour and 30 minutes away via the A-1 highway. This is better than taking a train and bus, which takes more or less four hours since you have to switch trains at Segovia.

Things to Do:

  • Watch the Concierto de las Velas held on the first two Sundays of July
  • See the ruins of Pedraza Castle
  • Take photos of the buildings at Plaza Mayor
  • Savor a plate of delicious cordero asado (roasted lamb)

 

12. San Lorenzo de El Escorial

 

Outside view of the El Escorial Monastery
Photo by hruskajar on Pixabay

San Lorenzo de El Escorial is home to two of the country’s most famous landmarks: the Monastery of El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen. Visiting these two sites is easily one of the best day trips from Madrid and allows you to get a better insight into its history. Explore the opulent Monastery of El Escorial and roam around its halls, catacombs, libraries, and more. At the controversial Valley of the Fallen, learn more about Spain’s dark past and find out what makes the site the topic of so many debates.

How to Get There: San Lorenzo de El Escorial is easily accessible by bus, train, and private car. By car, the city is only an hour away depending on the traffic conditions. There are also plenty of buses at Moncloa and trains at Atocha or Chamartín that depart hourly.

Things to Do:

  • Visit the Monastery of El Escorial 
  • Take a trip to the Valley of the Fallen
  • See different insects and other crawling creatures at the Insect Park
  • Walk around the Bosque de La Herrería

 

13. Sigüenza

 

Plaza del Mercado in Sigüenza
Photo by Angel de los Rios on Flickr

Despite being a relatively small town, Sigüenza is a charming place to spend the day at. Taking the Medieval Train, a unique form of transportation to get to the city is already one of the best things to do in Sigüenza. Like most Spanish towns, the area surrounding the Plaza Mayor is perfect for walking tours as it lets you learn more about its history and heritage.

How to Get There: Driving to Sigüenza by car takes less than an hour via the A-2 highway. From April to November, you can also get to Siguenza by taking the Medieval Train from Chamartín. The train service includes food tasting, informative commentary, and performance of troubadour songs.

Things to Do:

  • Have a meal at Parador de Sigüenza Restaurant
  • Relax or go people-watching at Plaza Mayor
  • Visit Catedral de Sigüenza
  • Take a tour of the massive Castle of the Bishops of Sigüenza

 

14. Alcalá de Henares

 

Plaza de Cervantes at Alcala de Henares, named after Miguel de Cervantes
Photo by metalvibes on Pixabay

Alcalá de Henares’ claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of the famous Don Quixote. That being said, Alcalá de Henares is one of the must-visit day trips from Madrid especially for fans of the literary masterpiece. But even if you haven’t read Don Quixote, the city is still perfect for spontaneous day trips due to its proximity to Madrid.

How to Get There: Alcalá de Henares is one of the most easily accessible cities near Madrid. By car, it only takes less than an hour to get here while trains take more or less 40 minutes from Atocha to Alcalá de Henares.

Things to Do:

  • Learn about the life of Miguel de Cervantes at the Cervantes Birthplace Museum
  • Visit the Magisterial-Cathedral
  • Admire the houses of Calle Mayor
  • Go for a stroll at Plaza de Cervantes

 

15. Consuegra

 

White windmills at Consuegra
Photo by javierAlamo on Pixabay

Take a break from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Mudejar-style buildings and marvel at the windmills of Consuegra. Don Quixote reads can immediately recognize the municipality as its windmills played an important part in the novel. But aside from these popular windmills, Consuegra has other attractions and landmarks. If you’re visiting Toledo from Madrid, you can easily squeeze in a short sightseeing tour of Consuegra.

How to Get There: Bus rides from Madrid’s Estación Sur to Consuegra take more or less two hours. Meanwhile, it is easier if you go to Consuegra by car as the travel time is only an hour and 30 minutes via the A-42 and CM-42 highways.

Things to Do:

  • See the white windmills
  • Explore the castle grounds of the Castle of La Muela
  • Dine at Gastromolino, an old windmill turned into a restaurant
  • Marvel at the saffron flower fields in October 

 

16. Chinchón

 

Tourists riding a donkey at the plaza in Chinchón
Photo by Fernando García Redondo on Flickr

While most cities in Spain are famous for their Plaza Mayors, the small town of Chinchón takes the cake of having one of the most unique plazas. The oval-shaped plaza is surrounded by traditional green-and-white buildings lined with arcades, restaurants, and other establishments. From the plaza, you can begin your sightseeing: whether to the Iglesia de la Asunción or to the 14th century Clock Tower.

How to Get There: From the Conde de Casal bus stop in Madrid, Chinchón is only 45 minutes away by bus. From the bus stop in Chinchón, Plaza Mayor is only a walking distance away. By car, the city is only a one-hour drive away.

Things to Do:

  • Have lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Plaza Mayor
  • Head to the Iglesia de la Asunción for picturesque views of the city
  • Try their local anise liquor, also known as Chinchón
  • Attend the Garlic festival, one of the unique festivals in Spain 

 

17. Puerto de Navacerrada

 

Slopes at one of the ski resorts at Puerto de Navacerrada
Photo by Antonio Tajuelo on Flickr

If you’re visiting in the winter, Puerto de Navacerrada is one of the best day trips from Madrid to take. It is a ski resort along the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, towering 1,858 meters above the ground. Here’s enjoy various winter activities: from Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ski mountaineering, and more. Amateur skiers and those without experience wouldn’t have to worry as the ski resort has different ski schools and equipment rentals available.

How to Get There: Puerto de Navacerrada is only an hour away from Madrid via the A-6 and M-601 highways. There are also trains available at Chamartín and buses at Moncloa that take you to the ski resort

Things to Do:

  • Try different winter activities and sports
  • Learn how to ski at one of the schools
  • Explore the nearby village of Navacerrada
  • Have a relaxing winter staycation at one of the hotels

 

18. Guadalajara

 

View of Guadalajara from the Castillo de Doña Urraca
Photo by jacinta lluch valero on Flickr

Guadalajara is one of the small municipalities near Madrid that offers unique architectural styles. Although it doesn’t boast the styles of Barcelona or Madrid, its combination of different architectures is worth noting. Around the city, you can find religious buildings combining Romanesque and Mudejar elements as well as Moorish and Renaissance features. 

How to Get There: Traveling to Guadalajara takes less than an hour by car via the A-2 highway. On the other hand, buses and trains to Guadalajara may take more than an hour depending on the stops and on the traffic conditions. 

Things to Do:

  • Admire the Gothic-Mudejar style of the Palacio del Infantado
  • See different art and archaeology collections at the Museum of Guadalajara
  • Pay respects at the Catedral de la Fuente
  • Visit the Catedral de la Fuente

 

19. Cercedilla 

 

View of Cercedilla and the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountain Range
Photo by Javier Costas Franco on Flickr

For travelers who want to spend a day out in nature, Cercedilla and the neighboring Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range is one of the best day trips from Madrid. They offer picture-perfect trails that give you the best vantage points that overlook the Fuenfría Valley. For the ultimate nature experience, head to the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, only a few minutes away from Cercedilla.

How to Get There: There are trains from Atocha to Cercedilla that only take about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the municipality. In addition, buses from Moncloa to Cercedilla take only an hour.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the vast Sierra de Guadarrama National Park
  • Catch panoramic views at the miradores scattered around Cercedilla
  • Go on nature walks and trails
  • Take a dip at the pools of the Las Berceas leisure park

 

20. Buitrago de Lozoya

 

City walls surrounding Buitrago del Lozoya
Photo by santiago lopez-pastor on Flickr

Buitrago de Lozoya is one of the most charming medieval villages near Segovia and Madrid. Its Old Town, surrounded by towering walls, gives you a different perspective of the municipality. As you explore, you can find various structures, churches, and chapels that date back to the 15th and 15th centuries.  

How to Get There: Buitrago de Lozoya is only 45 minutes away from Madrid by car via the A-1 highway. For travelers who prefer public transport, take a bus from the Plaza de Castilla transport hub.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the Buitrago del Lozoya Castle
  • See the city from a different perspective on top of the city walls
  • Find different works of art at the Picasso Museum
  • Go for a swim at the Riosequillo Recreation Area

Discover the Cities and Municipalities Near Madrid

While Madrid in itself is a must-visit destination, there are also neighboring cities and municipalities waiting to be discovered. They offer different cuisines, sites, and architectural styles that let you in on Spain’s rich history. Because of their proximity to the capital, you can visit them by train, bus, private car, or by joining organized group tours.

Whether you want to visit the beaches of Valencia, the vineyards of the Ribera del Duero region, or the mountain ranges of the Sierra de Guadarrama, you can all visit and explore them through convenient day trips from Madrid!