Madrid, being the capital of Spain, is a beautiful cosmopolitan city that is definitely worth a visit. But while you are in Madrid, you should also take the time to visit the surroundings and explore other incredible towns and cities nearby. Toledo, Ávila, Segovia or Sigüenza are just a few of the many charming destinations you can visit on a daytrip. Here we will show you which are the best daytrips from Madrid and what to visit in each one of these cities!
Perfect if you like: Medieval charming towns
Toledo is a walled town that seems straight out of a fairy tale! Every street and every corner screams romance and exudes a medieval charm. It is easy to see why Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 1986. Toledo is actually one of the largest heritage sites in Europe! The city has 2,500 years of history and is one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations. Surrounded by the Tejo River, Toledo preserves the memories of a multicultural medieval society with its churches, synagogues, mosques and museums, as it was a capital under the Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians. Wherever you go, you can quickly see the traces that these religions and cultures have left in the city. Toledo, with its cultural charm and aesthetics, is the town where El Greco, a famous painter, settled in Spain, and is the hometown of Dom Quixote de la Mancha, the character created by Cervantes. The old town sits atop a steep hill, and if you want to make the most of your visit, be sure to stroll through the narrow, winding streets and visit the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, a highlight of 13th-century Gothic art. Watch the sunset and explore the old town at night - it's a different kind of magic!
Perfect if you like: Walled historical towns
Known for its perfectly preserved walls, Ávila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it preserves a unique historical legacy. It is the hometown of Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of the great mystics, reformers and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church. The city of Ávila was the battlefront between Muslims and Christians for three centuries and it changed hands several times. The town’s fortified wall is one of the best-preserved medieval defences in the world. One of the best ways to explore this town’s beauty and grandiosity and to learn about its history is to walk along its walls. The magnificent views of the cathedral (considered the first Gothic cathedral in Spain) and the outskirts of this mystical and peaceful city are definitely worth the climb! Be sure to enjoy the sunset from the stunning and unique Los Cuatro Postes viewpoint. Walk through the lovely cobblestone streets, visit the interesting churches and soak up the medieval atmosphere! The ideal destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and discover the essence of medieval Spain.
Perfect if you like: Pastoral and quiet towns
Segovia is a medieval, pastoral and tranquil town with a unique architectural heritage, as you will see from its medieval walls, Romanesque churches, ancient royal palace and Gothic cathedral. The colossal Roman aqueduct (acueducto) is one of the main attractions and the most important symbol of the city. Built in the first century AD, it is one of the best-preserved Roman monuments in the world and offers magnificent views over the city. Segovia is also a World Heritage Site (no shortage of those in Spain, right?) and it's easy to see why. The Alcazar, perched on a cliff, is a beautiful, romantic castle with hidden passages, shaped like a ship's bow, and is said to have inspired Walt Disney in the making of the film “Sleeping Beauty”. If you want to get to know Segovia, be sure to take a walk through the old town and explore its streets filled with orange and yellow houses. Finally, be sure to try the city's most typical dish, cochinillo (tender suckling pig).
San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Perfect if you like: Green landscapes and monasteries
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a majestic city surrounded by mountains and forests. It features peaceful green landscapes and lovely houses overlooked by the monastery. The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a monumental 16th-century Renaissance building surrounded by fountains and flowers and is definitely the main attraction of the city. In fact, the whole city is built around this monastery, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. King Filipe II was the one who commissioned the construction of this complex in order to build a royal palace and mausoleum for his parents. However, this complex ended up also having a basilica, a library and even a laboratory. The monastery was originally intended for Hieronymite monks, but is now inhabited by members of the Order of Saint Augustine. Mount Abantos, its pine forest and the pastureland of La Herrería form the natural backdrop to the town. Be sure to stroll through this green landscape and enjoy the fresh air. The old town is characterized by picturesque streets and squares and is also a World Heritage Site. When in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, be sure to visit the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), a monument built in 1958 to commemorate the victims of the Spanish Civil War.
Perfect if you like: Palaces and gardens
Aranjuez is characterized by its majestic royal palace and its extensive gardens on the banks of the Tejo River. Its historic center – an excellent example of Baroque urbanism – has been declared an Historic-Artistic Site. Thanks to its large and monumental gardens, the city's landscape was classified as a Cultural Landscape of Humanity by UNESCO. One of the main attractions of the city is undoubtedly the Royal Palace, which houses several Baroque pieces. However, the magnificent gardens also shape the identity of this beautiful city. The features that make Aranjuez what it is today date back to the reign of Felipe II in the 16th century, who gave the city the title of Sitio Real. In Aranjuez, the palatial architecture blends with the gardens. For example, opposite the east façade of the palace you will find the English-style Jardín del Parterre, filled with sculptures and fountains. The train station is also considered a monument to the city. It takes you back in time, especially between May and September – it is when the Tren de la Fresa, an old steam locomotive, starts operating.
Alcalá de Henares
Perfect if you like: University cities, picturesque buildings and literary heritage
Alcalá de Henares is the hometown of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous author of "Don Quixote de la Mancha", and the seat of the legendary University of Alcalá, one of the oldest in Europe with centuries of history. This university turned Alcalá into the first planned university city in modern times, giving it the nickname “City of Knowledge”. In fact, the historic center and the university have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO! One of the main attractions of this charming city is the Casa Natal Museum, the house where Miguel de Cervantes was born. The wide, sunny squares and picturesque sandstone buildings characterize this city, which was once one of the most important cities on the peninsula (as you will see from the remains that are still preserved). Make the most of your visit and check out the beautiful Cathedral of St Justus and St Pastor, locally known as Catedral de los Santos Niños. Be sure to stroll down Calle Mayor, the largest arcade-lined pedestrian street in Europe, and enjoy the city's architectural heritage. Also, take the time to wander through the Plaza de Cervantes, the former market square of Alcalá and a beautiful space to just relax and admire the stunning buildings. Finally, try to catch a theatre performance at one of Spain's oldest comedy houses, the Teatro Corral de Comedias, which has preserved its original architecture since the 17th century.
Perfect if you like: Medieval architecture
This historical city, crossed by the Henares River, has an extensive, rich, medieval architectural heritage. It is easy to see why Sigüenza has been declared a Historic-Artistic site! The main attractions of this beautiful city are undoubtedly the castle, the cathedral and the Plaza Mayor, although you will also find numerous buildings of great beauty while walking the city streets. The Plaza Mayor is surrounded by buildings from the 16th century and stands out for its Renaissance style. The castle built in the 12th century on the ruins of an ancient Moorish fortress is now a Parador, although important remains of the walls are still standing. The majestic 12th-century monument you will find in the heart of the historic center is a Romanesque cathedral that has a number of Gothic and Renaissance elements. From the outside, this cathedral looks like a medieval fort. Inside, you can admire an important art collection! From Madrid to Sigüenza, you can take the medieval train that will take you on a journey back in time to the Middle Ages. On this train, which usually runs on several Saturdays in spring and autumn, troubadours, stilt walkers and jugglers climb aboard to give you a kind of medieval show. Let yourself be enchanted by the medieval atmosphere of this city!
Talavera de la Reina
Perfect if you like: Ceramics and monuments
Talavera de la Reina stands by the Tejo River, which divides the city in two. This lovely city owes its name to a gift given by King Afonso XI of Castile to Maria of Portugal on their wedding day. It is a developed urban city, with plenty to see! Amongst its residential buildings you will find beautiful monuments and green areas. Talavera de la Reina has been famous for centuries for its ceramics production and there are many buildings that pay homage to this tradition, such as the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Prado, decorated inside with beautiful ceramics and surrounded by the Jardines del Prado. This tradition has earned the city the nickname “City of Pottery” (La Ciudad de la Cerámica). The Teatro Victoria, decorated in shades of blue and gold, is another of the city's main attractions. Be sure to stroll through Plaza del Pan, the city's main square, and visit the Archiepiscopal Palace, a 17th-century Baroque monument. Talavera de la Reina's most attractive religious building is the late 12th-century Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor, in Gothic-Mudejar style. The Museo de Cerámica Ruiz de Luba and the Puente de Santa Catalina are some of the other incredible attractions.
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