4 Easy and Epic Day Trips from Madrid, Spain
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Madrid, Spain, has a whole lot of culture to offer. It’s worth taking several days to explore. However, I recommend not getting stuck in the city. Instead, try some of these epic day trips from Madrid.
You can use Madrid as a home base for your vacation and explore the surrounding areas through a series of day trips. There are excellent, well priced hotels in Madrid with convenient access to public transportation, making this an easy itinerary plan. And I love the convenience of not having to repack my suitcase when I move to a new city every other day.
One great thing about this itinerary plan is that it leaves room for spontaneity. Wait till the day before to book your day trip and go wherever your mood takes you. The day trips from Madrid I suggest in this post are all easy to book on short notice. Just ask your hotel concierge or find a travel kiosk at Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Of course, if you’re a habitual planner, you can always book your day trips from Madrid well in advance.
Note: Availability of transportation and activities may vary due to COVID. Be sure to check availability in advance.
Ávila, Spain, is a walled-medieval village about an hour and a half northwest of Madrid. And it was one of my favorite day trips we took.
What to see and do in Ávila
The biggest initial draw to Ávila for me was the medieval wall surrounding the city. They began building this wall for protection in 1090 AD, and it took nearly 600 years to complete. Today, you can walk the perimeter of the wall or drive out to a view point of the walled city.
Another interesting sight to see in Ávila is the Convent of St. Teresa. I also highly recommend the bell tower tour of the cathedral of Ávila. For more details, you can read about what happened when my husband and I got lost in Ávila and missed our bus ride home.
How to get to Ávila
You can book a bus tour of Ávila through one of the kiosks on Plaza del Sol in Madrid. However, I would strongly suggest arranging your own transportation for more flexibility. Trains leave regularly between Madrid and Ávila and are fairly inexpensive.
When we visited, we booked a bus tour from Plaza del Sol, which only gave us an hour and a half in Ávila. The first 45 minutes was a guided tour. Afterwards, they gave us 45 minutes of free time to explore on our own. Although the tour was interesting, 45 minutes free time is not enough to explore Ávila’s beautiful cobblestone streets.
How long to spend in Ávila
I would plan to spend a half day to a full day in Ávila, depending on how in-depth you want to explore the city. Entrance lines for walking the wall can be long, depending on the time of day.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, AKA El Escorial, was Phillip II’s seat of rule during Spain’s Golden Age. During this time, Spain conquered the Incan Empire and conducted the Spanish Inquisition. What really interested me about El Escorial though, was that it had the most amazing library I had ever heard of and I had to see it for myself.
What to see and do in El Escorial
The biggest draw to the city of El Escorial is the Monastery of El Escorial. The Monastery includes a basilica, a palace, a university, tombs of Spanish royalty, gardens, and of course the library, among other things. You can take an audio guide tour through this renaissance-era complex, which lasts about 3 to 4 hours.
How to get to El Escorial
El Escorial lies about an hour northwest of Madrid. You can book transportation from El Escorial to Madrid via train, bus, or taxi. We found taking the train to be easy and convenient, as trains left about hourly from Madrid to El Escorial at the time.
How long to spend in El Escorial
Plan to spend a little over half a day in El Escorial. We arrived around 9am, and finished the tour a little after noon. However, by the time we made it to the train station, we had just barely missed our train back to Madrid.
Luckily, the next train was only an hour later. So we made the best of it. We found a quaint patio restaurant near the train station and ate a delicious lunch of Iberian ham and cheese in the sunshine. We left El Escorial around 2pm, and were back in Madrid around 3pm, with plenty of the afternoon left to explore.
Segovia lies about an hour northwest of Madrid. Originally a Celtic settlement, Segovia passed through Roman, Moorish, and lastly Catholic rule. Today, Segovia’s old town is a UNESCO world heritage site.
What to see and do in Segovia
Major landmarks to visit in Segovia include a 1st century A.D. Roman aqueduct, the last gothic-style cathedral built in Spain, and the Alcázar de Segovia (a medieval castle). For all those Disney buffs out there, the Alcázar de Segovia served as inspiration for Snow White’s castle, making this a real-life fairy-tale destination. Taking the time to explore these sites, the Jewish quarter, and the quaint cobbled streets of Segovia is an unforgettable adventure.
How to get to Segovia
Segovia is easily reached by bus or train. You can book a half-day or full-day bus tour through one of the travel kiosks in Puerta del Sol in Madrid. The half-day tour we selected offered the option to continue on to Ávila for the afternoon.
How long to spend in Segovia
Plan to spend a half day to a full day in Segovia. However, if I were to do it all over again, I’d choose to spend a full day instead of a half day. I would have enjoyed exploring the Alcázar a little longer. And as it was, we had to skip exploring the cathedral.
Toledo is a medieval, cobblestoned town about an hour southwest of Madrid. Toledo’s walled “old city” quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage site today.
What to see and do in Toledo
Toledo offers several sites to explore, including the Alcázar de Toledo, a gothic cathedral, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes and an impressive medieval bridge, the Puente de San Martín. You can also visit El Greco museum in Toledo.
How to get to Toledo
Toledo is easily accessible by train or bus tour. Bus tours were available from the travel kiosks located in Puerta del Sol in Madrid.
How long to spend in Toledo
I would plan to spend a half day to a full day exploring all Toledo has to offer.
Further Reading about Day Trips from Madrid
Check out my posts on Ávila, El Escorial and Segovia for more detailed information on what to do and see in these beautiful little towns!
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Don’t forget to add travel insurance before your trip!