Madrid is a wonderful city, full of art, fun and good food. The Reina Sofía and El Prado Museums, the Buen Retiro Park… There’s a lot to see. But one of the things that make this city the truly perfect destination for a trip with the family, with your partner, or with friends, is its location: wonderful little villages and towns are a mere car or train ride away, far from the bustling tourism of the capital. If you want to experience a day or a weekend like a true local, taste the traditional cuisine, and immerse yourself in the most authentic Spanish culture, we propose committing to one of these five excursions during your holidays in Madrid.
Just half an hour away from Madrid by train, or an hour away by car, in the autonomous community of Castile and León, we find this beautiful town surrounded by mountains and brimming with history. One of the first things that will have you in awe is its large Roman aqueduct right in the heart of the city, built around 200 CE and preserved in perfect condition. Other must sees included the Alcázar, which according to many served as inspiration for the Disney Palace, and its magnificent cathedral. If you are a bit of a foodie, you have to try the city’s most typical dish, cochinillo segoviano asado (Segovian roasted suckling pig), truly delicious!
The historical town of Toledo lies in the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha, a half hour drive from Madrid. It is the birthplace of the great poet Garcilaso de la Vega, and it is known as the “city of the three cultures” because for many centuries it was the peaceful home of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Among its most beautiful sights we recommend the cathedral, the Alcázar and the Mosque. The perfect souvenir? A miniature replica of Toledo’s popular swords. This town’s most typical dish is called carcamusa, made with beef, peas, tomato and a spicy sauce.
Little over an hour away from Madrid by car we find Ávila (in Castile and León), which is famous for its towering walls with a perimeter of approximately 2500 meters, making for the oldest and best-preserved town walls in Spain. You’ll be able to climb up for a walk upon the walls with great views over the city. Other points of interest are the cathedral and the Basilica of San Vicente. And if you enjoy meat, don’t miss out on their renowned Ávila ribeye steaks.
Alcalá de Henares
Alcalá de Henares (in the autonomous community of Madrid) is less than a forty minutes’ drive from the capital. It is known, among other things, for being the birthplace of the great Miguel de Cervantes. Everything in this town reminds us of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha: the Cervantes Square, the statue of Don Quixote… You’ll even be able to visit his house! If possible, try to visit during the Cervantine Week, celebrated to commemorate the writer’s christening (October 3rd to 19th). Even the traditional cuisine of this town tries to replicate that of the world-famous book. A true journey in literature!
The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Reaching the Escorial (Madrid) takes less than 50 minutes by car, and we guarantee the trip is well worth it. This architectural complex was commissioned by Philip II in 1563 as royal residence and pantheon of the King of Spain, and many considered it to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. In 1984, the Monastery was declared a World Heritage Site, and it is a mandatory stop in your visit to Madrid.
All these places can be easily reached by car or public transport at favorable prices. We are sure you no longer have any excuses to postpone your trip to Madrid.
And for the perfect holiday in the Spanish capital, don’t forget to read our tips for Low Cost Plans in Madrid: Under 20 Euros