Four Day Trip Destinations from Madrid
You’re unlikely to get bored of Madrid. The flavours, the depth of history, the surprises waiting around every corner — it’s a spectacular city.
However, it’s also a great jumping-off point for a variety of day trips; a stay in Madrid is an excellent chance to take a taste of another area of Spain. Plus, each of these destinations are easily reached in under an hour.
Stunning UNESCO-listed Toledo is the one of those iconic cities-on-a-hill — narrow streets lined by huddles of medieval buildings. You’ll love it.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the marzipan, which Toledo is famous for. Even if you aren’t a fan of this almondy sweet, it’s worth a try, since Toledo’s version may taste quite different to the over-processed marzipan many people are familiar with.
From there, wander around the city to enjoy the range of architectural styles on display. You’ll notice Jewish, Islamic and Christian influence. The Cristo de la Luz mosque is a great place to see a collection of different building styles all in one place.
Make sure to duck into the Cathedral crypt for a brief view of the interior, or go in through the main entrance if you’d like some full immersion. There are many other churches and synagogues to check out, depending on your interest. The Spanish military museum is also worth a visit.
After a day of wandering, make your way to the Parador hotel on the opposite hill for a full-city view of Toledo (great for photos) and relax with a drink on the balcony.
If you’re at all interested in Roman history, you can’t miss Segovia. Its iconic aqueduct is still standing almost 2000 years after it was completed, and with more than 160 arches, it’s pretty impressive. The city certainly deserves its UNESCO status.
Segovia is easily walkable, and a wander through the cobbled streets will take you past a range of shops and cafes. Stop for a drink in the Plaza Mayor and admire the cathedral before continuing your walk on to the Alcázar (fortress). Allow a couple of hours to explore the fortress.
For lunch, non-vegetarians should try Segovia’s most famous dish: suckling pig (cochinillo).
Another UNESCO site, Aranjuez will amaze you with its opulence. Make sure to allow enough time to visit the Royal Palace (a former residence of the Spanish monarchy), and also wander around the many gardens and admire the statues and fountains.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous day, hire a kayak and head out onto the river. Aranjuez, like many central Spanish cities, gets very hot in summer, so spending time on the water could be a good way to cool down.
Alcalá de Henares
Although Alcalá is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote), it isn’t very well known as a tourist destination. However, it’s well worth a visit! Start at the plaza, where you can drop into the semi-destroyed church of Santa María la Mayor to see the baptismal font where Cervantes was baptised. From there, head down the pedestrianised Calle Mayor (the longest collonaded street in Europe, apparently), and stop in at Cervantes’ house along the way.
If you are in the area around the second week of October, you’ll be able to attend Alcalá’s famous medieval market, which takes over the entire city centre for several weeks. Snack on street food, admire the costumes, and pick up a souvenir or two.
If you’re not around in October, spend your time in the bars instead. Unlike many cities in the area, bars in Alcalá provide a free tapa (small plate of food) with every drink. We loved La Taberna de Rusty, Indalo, and El Quinto Tapón.
Oh, and yes, Alcalá is UNESCO-listed too.
Where next? The rest of Spain
From Madrid, the rest of Spain (and Europe) is your oyster. If you have time for more than just a day trip, consider heading to Valencia on the mediterranean coast, or Jerez in the south for a taste of sherry. Walk some of the Camino de Santiago in the north, finishing up in the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela, or hop across to Portugal to the east for a drop of port. Madrid is also a hub for flights to the rest of Europe, so consider a quick trip to Paris, Vienna, or Rome as part of the itinerary.
However you choose to spend your time in Spain, you’re sure to have a great time. Buen viaje!
Getting Around in Spain – Podcast Episode
For more tips and information about getting around in Spain, listen to Indie Travel Podcast’s episode below.
And read the show notes for more information.
This post was brought to you by Linda Martin of Indie Travel Podcast.
Linda is a New Zealander and full-time traveller who has been travelling around the world with her husband, Craig, since February 2006. In late 2006 they started the Indie Travel Podcast to share tips and stories about independent travel; they also run a website development and hosting business, Performance Foundry.