Madrid Day Trips
Alcalá de Henares
The birth place of Miguel de Cervantes and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Alcalá de Henares is also home to one of Spain’s most famous and oldest universities. The old university adds to the picturesque medieval character of the city, which is marked by cobblestone streets, a historic and pedestrian Calle Mayor and central Plaza, and many storks. In summer months, visitors may take the Tren de Cervantes to Alcalá, on which actors recreate scenes from Cervantes’ life and are given a guided tour of Alcalá upon arrival. The town is a great place to walk around in, picnic, and people watch.
How to get there: Alcalá de Henares is located 35 km to the northeast of Madrid and may be reached easily by Cercanías train (35 minutes). Round trip tickets cost around 5 €.
Aranjuez is the site of one of the palaces of the Royal Family of Spain, most well known for its sprawling gardens that were historically used to relieve residents from the hot summer months. The city itself has many small squares, gardens, fountains, and picnic areas by the river. Aranjuez is also the source of many of Madrid’s strawberries during late spring and summer. During these months, too, visitors may take a special weekend train, El Tren de la Fresa, where they are offered fresh strawberries on their way to the city.
How to get there: Aranjuez is located 48 km south of Madrid and may be easily reached by Cercanías train (1 hour). Round trip tickets cost around 5 €.
Ávila, located in the province of Castilla y León, is the highest provincial capital of Spain, located atop a boulder-covered hill amidst little vegetation with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding countryside. The town is most known for its medieval walls built of brown granite in the year 1090. The city’s Gothic cathedral is part of the city’s enclosing walls and is characterized by fortress-like architecture. Ávila is a great site to try typical northern Spanish cuisine, as well as its yemas de Santa Teresa or egg-yolk candies.
How to get there: Buses leave daily from Madrid to Ávila, the trip lasting a little under two hours.
Chinchón is a small town of almost 5,000 people to the Southeast of Madrid well known for its quaint Plaza Mayor and vibrant festivals throughout the year. The Plaza Mayor is a classic medieval plaza that dates from the 15th century characterized by both Gothic and Baroque architecture and is unique for the 234 wooden balconies that overlook the plaza. The Church of the Ascension on the Plaza Mayor is home to one of Goya’s paintings. In Chinchón there are many churches, a clock tower, and a castle, as well as small streets, old houses, and many cafés where you can enjoy the town. Major festivals include: the anise and wine festival at the end of March; the October garlic festival; bullfighting season that begins on July 25 and culminates in a festival in October; and other patron day festivals.
How to get there: Buses to Chinchón depart from the Conde de Casal station (Metro Conde de Casal), bus number 337. 3,10 € for a one way ticket.
Located in the province of Toledo, Consuegra is home to two famous landmarks of Spain: windmills and a castle. The restored windmills of Consuegra– known for their representation in Cervantes’ Don Quijote– are situated outside of town, offering a view of the 12th century castle and city. 12 of the 13 windmills have been restored. Consuegra´s central plaza dates to the 16th century and also houses the 17th century ”Los corredores” building that is a typical structure of La Mancha and once functioned as a town hall.
How to get there: Buses leave from Madrid’s Mendez Álvaro station daily.
Cuenca is located in central Spain and is most known for Las casas colgadas, or the hanging houses that hang from cliffs. Cuenca is located high above the Júcar and Huécar rivers, and as such is characterized by deep gorges and sprawling views of the countryside. Sights in Cuenca include: four museums; a Baroque-style town hall; an old Arab fortress; a bishop’s palace; St. Paul´s bridge; and many churches and convents. Above all, Cuenca is a beautiful retreat from Madrid where one will find few tourists, a vibrant café life, and many meandering streets to explore.
How to get there: Cuenca can be reached from Madrid by Renfe train or bus (2-2.5 hours).
La Sierra de Madrid
For those looking to go hiking or skiing, La Sierra de Madrid offers a mountain retreat away from the bustle of the city. The two most well known natural areas of the Sierra are the Parque de Peñalera and the Hayedo de Montejo. The 42 municipalities of the Sierra have small churches, hermitages, and museums for visitors to discover.
How to get there: Depending on where in the Sierra you want to go, most spots are reachable by bus or Cercanías train. More isolated routes may require travel by car.
For more information: Sierra Norte de Madrid Website
Well known for its university and stunning landscape, Salamanca is perhaps best visited over two days. The university has a student population of 30,000 and is known around the world for its teaching of Spanish language. The city has a beautiful Plaza Mayor, good shopping and eating, nice walks by the river, a student-centered nightlife, and its center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
How to get there: Salamanca is located 200 km west of Madrid and may be reached by train or bus (2.5 hours, 20-25 €).