Category Archives: Outside Madrid

Passing Thru Historic Tordesillas

Last year, we stayed the whole length of the Holy Week in Madrid. In my case, I resolved to be a recluse, to confine myself at home even if just for a few days, to no avail.  This, upon learning that most of the establishments in Puerta del Sol was open for business, and got me tempted into visiting this popular part of the city centre.

This time, however, everyone decided to spend Good Friday out of town in far off Valladolid, which is some two and a hours away from the city. One of the major towns outside Madrid and within the the community of Castilla y Leon, I got interested in seeing the place having learned about the varied religious processions held there during the Lenten season.

But first, our group had to pass thru Tordesillas, a small, quiet town some 25 kilometers on the Southwestern portion of the provincial capital.

The organizer of the group insisted that we see Tordesillas if only for the great history behind it, the town being the site of the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal. The treaty was an agreement between them specifying how they would divide the ownership of the newly discovered Americas.

He mentioned the local event called the Toro de la Vega festival, which the town is known for. Year after year, the festival is being prevented by animal rights group from being held as it features a bull which was to slaughtered by toreros on horseback.

What to see in Tordesillas

Iglesia Museo de San Antolín de Tordesillas

2017_041617_2933_342The Museum of San Antolín was built during the first half of the 17th century under the helm of Gil de Reynaltos. Found within the old San Antolin church, it is known to house numerous valuable art pieces that originated from other Churches. Such collection of art workwas initiated by Ismael Rodríguez Paniagua. Most of the important art works are undergoing continuous restoration to ensure their preservation.

2017_041618_0000_275
2017_041617_2849_976Alley and outside stairway, rustic parts of the town leading to the Casa de Tratado
2017_041618_0028_838This particular road is lined with bare, lifeless-looking trees on its sides, with their  branches, totally without leaves, reaching out to touch and intertwine. 2017_041618_0000_275Not a soul in sight for most streets and alleys of Tordesillas last Holy Friday, like the one seen above
2017_041617_5943_688The Plaza Mayor of Tordesillas resembles most other Spanish square. It has four sides as its boundary and is surrounded by old houses, bars and other establishments. The upper floors of the edifices are supported by strong porticoes. While looking simple and rustic, it is considered by the town folks as their meeting place, with locals enjoying their afternoons and late nights having dinners and copas of vinos on the terraces of bars and restaurants found within.

Casas de Tratado de Tordesillas

2017_041617_2859_375 Relief that represents the historic treaty stands in front of the Cases de Tratado de Tordesillas. Houses of Treaty in English, these two edifices are actually merged palaces, and are said to be the site where the then world powers Spain and Portugal held vital negotiations. Here was also the place where the two countries signed the treaty that involved the New World.

Plaza Mayor

2017_041618_1158_191The plaza mayor opens its four doors, its gateways to the outside town particularly to the important neighborhoods, such as Santa Maria and San Pedro. Old-type homes of bricks or wood are noticeably dominant as you wander about the immediate areas — an indication that Tordesillas is one of those ancient Spanish towns.

How to go:

2017_041617_2944_634The Avanza bus in Estacion Sur at Mendez Alvaro is the easiest and most popular means to reach Tordesillas. Travel time is a little over 2 hours, with one way bus tickets costing around 13 euros.

Map:

Las Fallas, Valencia: Festival of Ninots and Fireworks

2017_032623_2915_626How do putrid gunpowder smell, fire, fumes, noise from almost incessant firecracker blasts, fireworks display, more fire, and crowded streets pedestrianized for the holidays appeal to you? Would you wade thru throngs of frenetic merrymakers as you wander around town for hours on end, until you find yourself trudging along on already wobbly knees yet determined to witness the midnight finale, which is the destruction by fire of beautiful papier mache works of art?

This is exactly what I did at Valencia’s Las Fallas, that time when the town becomes Spain’s biggest street party, and everyone was in deep festive madness. It was March 19, and I was feverish the moment we arrived, never wavering up until the day’s end.

Las Fallas, Valencia: What to See and Do

2017_032612_4942_711The celebration is a four-day long affair that started on the 15th of March, when locals take to the streets to assemble and display their ninots with pride. These are structures made of paper erected to reach a number of stories, and built to look like they are scaling up the skies. There are also minor ninots or the ninot infantile, smaller ones that I observed were burned hours before the finale.

The festival culminates on the 19th of March, when finally, most ninots are burned and subjected to a fiery destruction until only ashes remain, this amidst the cheering of the spectators and participants. The festival coincides with the Feast day of the patron saint of carpenters and builders — Saint Joseph.

What can you expect during Las Fallas?

Impressive Ninot Displays on strategic points of the town

2017_032812_2851_883image image imageimage2017_032820_4844_622imageThe best of Valencia’s sculptors and artists design and create impressive ninots, which were built with popular cartoon characters and nationalities as themes. Some neighborhoods boast of both huge and small ninots, with the latter being burned to ashes hours before the burning of the larger ones, as seen on the picture immediately above.

Everyone participates at the Festival

2017_032807_5624_620This couple is off to join their neighborhood’s street party
imageBefore this smile, the princess sobs as the ninot burns, as if to express grief from its destruction
imageChildren hold hands to form a circle, dancing and chanting in front of the ninot infantile, a small-sized ninot found in many neighborhoods
2017_032700_0211_169Beautiful child princess, together with other children of the neighborhood, look over the burning of the ninot
imageYoung musicians playing a lively piece celebrating the burning
2017_032700_0230_401I wore the white and blue scarf associated with the Las Fallas known as the Pannulo de Hierbas
2017_032812_2832_906Having the time of our lives in Valencia

Impressive Firework Displays

imageAs if the blinding, spellbinding bursts of fire and light created from the burning of the ninots are not enough, Valencia further brightens its night skies by igniting beautiful fireworks, sending them up high to create colorful, dancing incendiary displays. The fireworks are an integral and indispensable part of Las Fallas. One of the best places to witness the fireworks is at the Carrer L’arquebisbe Mayoral.

Bullfight games throughout the festival

imageThe best bullfights events happen at the festival, and so afficionados of the sport can expect a truly exciting spectacle. Bullfighting has been part and parcel of the celebration of the Las Fallas.

Las Fallas / Valencian Food Delicacies

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imageThese are bunuelos, local pastry likened to a donut. Made of pumpkin paste, it is one of the traditional foods at Las Fallas. To make for a truly delicious snack, have a hot choco drink where you can dunk your bunuelos in. Half a dozen sells at 2.50 euros

  • imageAlthough I love senyoret, or the sea food paella, I ordered valenciana instead. The one on the photo is just right for two persons, and approximately costs 29 euros, or 14.50 euros per head. Tastes great! My friend with whom I shared it, however, didn’t want no rabbit meat, and so, I have all of it for myself.
    imageChurros, like bunuelos, are also sold aplenty during las Fallas. Eaten best when dunked in a thick chocolate syrup

    Burning of the Ninots

    The efforts of the artists were hardly futile as the best ninots are identified, and awards and recognitions are handed to the artists and their winning creations. Well, for the rest, the fact that their works of art were chosen to participate and was admired by everyone was still a great recognition. In the end, at the finale, hundreds of huge and minor ninots will be sent burning into flames.
    2017_032610_3700_510This Sino-themed ninot, with all the vital Chinese elements, a towering, colorful papier-mache masterpiece…2017_032610_4149_553…met its fiery fate at around 12 midnight, to the shouts and cheering of spectators. Immediately after the structure was engulfed by strong flames, steady water was doused from the firefighters’ hoses to control the fire.

    The Las Fallas, undoubtedly, is one of the must-see festivals of Spain. All roads lead to Valencia at this time of the year.

    One word of advice, though; if you’re not used to loud firecrackers, its best to come to Valencia on the first day of the event. This way, you’ll get used to the booming noise by the time Las Fallas culminates on the 19th, and the fireworks are at their strongest and loudest. I must say everything about the Las Fallas is spectacular (do watch the fireworks video below), and strongly recommend that everybody attends the event next year.

Suffice it to say that it was total excitement throughout the last day of the fiesta. By the time we boarded the bus en route back to Madrid, I was dog-tired, but happy nonetheless to have gone thru the experience, and confirm what every one else is saying about it, that Las Fallas is Spain’s best of the best.

Ten Nearby Madrid Towns that are Bona Fide Day Trip Destinations

So charming is Madrid, Spain that first-timers are likely tempted to stay within its confines and wallow in its beauty. Every barrio of the city is unique and fascinating that it is pure fun to hop from one place to another, walk thru paseos, loiter around the plazas and calles, and soak up on what it can offer. Trust me, I did all this a countless number of times — and every time, it’s just insane fun.

Everywhere in Madrid are breathtaking sites and attractions — world-class museums like Prado and Reina Sofia, among many others; towering basilicas and cathedrals such as San Gines and Almudena; and gargantuan parks and gardens like Retiro and Sabatini, respectively.

The city is a gastronomic paradise.  Restaurants and cafes of different shapes, sizes, and culinary delights are scattered all over — there’s Museo del Jamon, Bar Santurce, Botin, Cafe Melo’s Bar, to name a few of my favorites. I swear there must be a joint offering sumptious Spanish comida in every street corner.

Madrid is where you blend easily with the crowd at evening street parties and gatherings — events commonplace in the city, on any day of the week. Here is also where you can witness solemn processions that venerate the Lady and various saints, and participate, to your heart’s delight, in thunderous festivals held all throughout the year.

Still, did you know there’s so much to see and discover on the outskirts of the city? So many towns are situated very near the capital, and needless to say, all are a must-visit as they boast of tons of attractions as well.

I myself had traveled, wandered, and explored quite a number of these pueblos. Referred to as day trip destinations, they are so near that you can go there, experience and relish these places, and be back in Madrid — all within the day.

Here are my top 10 beautiful and exciting towns near Madrid:

1. Avila

Bright yellow walls of AvilaOne of Spain’s major Castilian towns, Avila is famous for its perfectly preserved Murallas or Town Walls. The haunting Catedral de Avila is touted as one of the first Gothic churches built in the country. And if you happen to be in Avila, make sure you have a taste of its popular yema, a sweet delicacy, among many other traditional pastries offered by the town.

How far from Madrid: 2 Hours
Recommended Mode of Travel: Autobus – Avanza Bus (at Estacion Sur)
Cost of Fare: More or less 14 euros (lda y vuelta)

2. Alcala de Henares

imageThe town is known for being the birthplace of famous Spanish Writer, Miguel de Cervantes. In front of his home are the bronze figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Pancho, the main characters of the Cervantes’ novel, the Don Quixote de la Mancha. The prestigious Colegio Mayor de Sn Ildefonso or the University of Alcala is the reason this pueblo within the Community of Madrid is called the University Town.

Number of hours from Madrid: 50 minutes
Best Travel Option: Cercanias trains. Get your ride at Nuevos Ministerios, or other select Metro stations such as Chamartin and Atocha.

3. Colmenar Viejo

imageThis town is proud of its tiny, historic hermitage called the Ermita de Santa Ana, and the Basílica dela Asuncion de Nuestra Senora.

Distance from Madrid: 37 kms. (less than an hour)
Best Travel Option: Autobus 721 at Plaza Castilla
Cost of Fare: 7.20 euros round trip

4. Manzanares el Real

Manzanares el Real Castle is also called Castillo de los MendozaA town made famous by its two castles, the New Castle of Manzanares and the Castillo Viejo. The former is also a fortress and said to be the most preserved castle within the Communidad de Madrid. If you love to hike, the nearby Pedriza Mountain can be reached by walking in just under an hour. Continue further up the hill beside the mount and you will encounter the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Peña Sacra.

How far from Madrid: 50 kms. (less than an hour)
Enjoy going there via: Autobus 724 at Plaza Castilla
Cost of Fare: 8.40 euros Ida y Vuelta

5. Town of Chinchon

imageSome 40 minutes or so away from Madrid is the quaint and tranquil pueblo of Chinchon. Its plaza mayor is a bit peculiar because it is shaped like a bullring. The fact is that the square is used actively for the sport; because of this, Chinchon is recognized as one of Spain’s bullfight towns. Must-eat are Teta de Novicia and Pelotas de Fraile, delightful, traditional breads sold in pastelerias within the town’s plaza mayor.

How far from the capital: 45 kms. (55 minutes)
Recommended travel option: Veloz Autobus 337 at Avenida de Mediterraneo
Fare Cost: 4.20 euros one way

6. Segovia

The Roman Acqueduct at Segovia, SpainIf only for its historic Romano Acueducto and breathtaking Alcazar or fortress, I’d take the bus or train trip to Segovia in a heartbeat. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeing these wondrous Segovian landmarks. The aqueduct, for one, is the main symbol of the town. Did you know that this ancient structure still works, and is capable of transporting water throughout the city? The Alcazar, on the other hand, is compared to the castle of Disney — both are charming and enthralling. The whole town itself enjoys the fine distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By the way, don’t leave without having a taste of its savory and mouth-watering delicacy – the Cuchinillo or suckling pig.

Recommended mode of travel: RENFE train (Chamartin)
Time of travel by train: Less than 30 minutes

7. San Lorenzo El Escorial

imageI recommend this place if you are looking for a fine and quiet respite, away from the noise, and the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Be sure to check out the interior of the fabled Monastery, which once served as a royal palace of the King. Visitors will be mesmerized by the grandeur of its library, while the mighty courtyard of the Old Testament kings is something to marvel at. You must also see the Pantheon, where the remains of many royalties are kept.

How far from Madrid: 45 kilometers
Best Travel Option: Catch the autobus 661 at Moncloa, if you want to go the Galapagar route. Take 664 if you want to pass by the Valley of the Fallen gates.
Fare Price: 4.20 euros one way

8. Toledo

imageOne of the most visited towns within the Community of Madrid, not only because Toledo is very near the capital, but also because it is filled with many spectacular attractions. Its alcazar is its most recognizable landmark, a magnificent site lying in the town’s highest peak. The best view of the edifice can be had from the Tagus River. Other interesting sites to see in Toledo are the Museo de Separdi, the Toledo Cathedral, the Ancient Walls and Towers, and the Transito Synagogue.

Distance between Madrid and Toledo: 45 minutes
Recommended Bus: ALSA autobus, at Plaza Eliptica.
Price of autobus ticket: 5.39 euros single trip; 9.70 euros for ida y vuelta tickets.

9. Aranjuez

imageIt is bestowed the title, Spain’s Royal Town. The stately Palacio Real will not be missed, since its grandness conspicuously sprawls right in the midst of Aranjuez. The palace, the beauty of which rivals Madrid’s own Palacio Real, is accentuated by gardens of manicured hedges and multi-hued flowers dedicated to both the King and Queen. It is surrounded by gushing waterways — natural and man-made. The Iglesia de San Antonio, the Royal Church, is found in one part of the plaza of the same name, and one of the Aranjuez’ major attractions.

How to go: Via 423 autobus at Estacion Sur bus station, Mendez Alvaro.
Fare cost: 4.20 euros, one way

10. Cuenca

imageAnother quiet, enchanting pueblo within the Castille La Mancha region. Cuenca is a little over two hours away from Madrid, making it as one of the farthest nearby towns. Still, you’d realize the rather long trip is well-compensated after seeing the breathtaking Casas Colgadas, or Hanging Houses. Another must-see is the mesmerizing Cuenca Cathedral, looming on one end of the Plaza Mayor, opposite the arch gates.

Hours from the capital: 2 hours
Best travel option: Via autobus Avanza, at Estacion Sur
Price of bus fare: 25 euros for round-trip tickets

Pueblo de Cuenca: Amazing Madrid Day Trip (Be There in Two Hours)

imageNo doubt about it, Madrid Spain has tons of amazing places to offer that you’d be at a loss on which to visit first. In case you’re in the city for a few days and would love to see exciting towns that are a stone’s throw away from the capital, I suggest that you include Cuenca in your itinerary.

It is one of those beautiful pueblos situated right within the Castille La Mancha region of Spain you have to visit — a quiet and charming one, I have to say. What’s true is that the town reeks in so many sites and attractions – museums, churches, monastery, winding streets and alleys, cafes — and of course, its famous ancient houses called the Casas Colgadas. The latter appear to be clinging precariously on the cliff that looks over the narrow, shallow river called Hueca. This body of water moves along an area nestled beside the collosal Cuenca Mountain range.

If only for these breathtaking casas, or the Hanging Houses in Spanish, a visit to the town is all worth it — even if for just a day. However, for anyone with a fear of heights, it might be a herculean feat to get to the site since you need to cross a bridge that spans the gorge, which is a few hundred feet below.

No need to fret, still, as you have another option, a less exciting one at that. There is a street on the side of the cliff that goes up to the location of the hanging houses and into the ancient city.

My suggestion is that you take the bridge and just avoid looking below, and you’d be perfectly fine. In the first place, you would want to cross it especially if you must take the best photos of the houses.

Did you know that much of the cliff was once lined with many of these houses on its side. Over time, however, only a few proudly exists; the remaining ones now serve as historical remnants of such once glorious past of the Cuenca town.

Here are some truly amazing Cuenca, Madrid attractions that you must see:

1. Catedral de Sta María y San Julian de Cuenca
imageThe Cuenca Cathedral, or the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace, is constructed using a strong Gothic architecture. It has features that resemble other world-famous churches such as the Soissons Cathedral and Notre Dame de Paris. Like a number of Spanish churches, visitors are prohibited to take pictures. The cathedral has been mentioned by Notradamus in one of his predictions, identifying it as the sole bastion of Salvation during the End of days. In another legend, Rodrigo de Luz mentioned the church as the place where the Holy Grail is kept and preserved. The presence of the Holy Grail will save the church from destruction during the Final Hour.

2. Plaza Mayor (Town Square)imageTourists have a number of cafe and restaurant choices at the Plaza Mayor of the town. The Cuenca Cathedral is located within the square.

3. Casas ColgadasimageThe few remaining hanging houses in Cuenca. The edifice emits a yellowish glow from the incandescent lights that are turned on as the day moves into nighttime. Known as the Casas Colgadas in Spanish, they are found in the eastern side of the old town, just overlooking the Rio Huécar. Only three are existing, unfortunately, and it is the most popular and photographed house of the group. Every night, indeed, the house becomes a spectacular sight; but for me, it is more like a haunting image from afar.

4. Hanging Houses at NightimageThe Casas Colgadas become a enthralling sight as they illiminate because of the yellow incandescent light that glow from the interior. While in the beginning, the cliff was lined with these houses, but now, only a few remain.

5. Puente de San Pablo (Steel Bridge)imageThey say the St. Paul Bridge is the best location from which to take photos of the Casas Colgadas. And indeed, it is, albeit the cold wind and dizzying heights rendered taking pictures of the Hanging houses a difficult task. I actually crossed the steel bridge twice. The first time, I crossed it to reach the ancient time, while the second was at nightfall, in order to take night pictures of the houses.

7. Parador de CuencaimageFrom the Steel bridge of Cuenca, you may also enjoy a grand view of the Parador de Cuenca. A wondrous sight during night time, the parador is recognized as a treasure of the town, the Parador is actually a convent converted into a beautiful hotel for tourists who would love to have a breathtaking look of the town, the hanging casas, and the Hoz del Huécar.

8. Iglesia de San AndresimageOne of the more popular churches in Cuenca is the San Andres church, a 16th century church designed by master architect Pedro de Alviz. Numerous renovations were done to the church because of the ravages brought about over time.

8. Cuenca Arched GatesimageThe wide arched gates is the entrance to the plaza mayor and into the town. Also known as Los Arcos, it is part of a building that serves as the City Hall or Ayuntamiento building. The square is not totally pedestrianized — you would encounter light vehicles passing by the narrow plaza mayor and thru the arch gates.

 9. Ruins of Iglesia de San Pantaleonimage

In Calle San Pedro, just after the town’s Plaza Mayor is the remnant of what is known as the Iglesia de San Pantaleon. It is said to be the oldest church in the whole town, and is known to possess an ogival arch from the 1200’s that’s supported by columns. It also has a flat-shaped apse, which suggests that it was of Templar origin. The church ruins is closely associated with Spanish Federico Muelas, a major poet of the town.

How to go:

imageYou may take a autobus trip to the town via the Avanza bus service, which is stationed at Estacion Sur de Madrid. One of the city’s largest bus stations, you  can reach it via Madrid Metro Linea 6 Circular, at Mendez Alvaro. Ida y Vuelta ticket fares are at 25.00 euros. Duration of bus travel is more or less two hours.

Map:

Colmenar Viejo: Inviting Day Trip Town from Madrid

To the unquestionable traveler, Madrid, Spain is a goldmine, it being  surrounded by towns, all unique and beautiful. And as a self-proclaimed budget traveler who lives in this city, I take advantage of such a privilege to the hilt. Always, I’m on the lookout for every town that I could possibly visit.

In this country, you can expect every place to possess qualities that would make the tourists want to visit it. In the case of the Spanish pueblo, it is interesting to visit and explore for a number of reasons. It may be that it prides itself of some glorious age-old story, of how it came to be. Or perhaps, it cradles magnificent monuments that highly qualify it as a place of interest, like for example, the Segovia and the Roman Aqueduct, or Toledo and its Alcazar.

Colmenar Viejo, Madrid: My next day trip

Ermita de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad Colmenar ViejoErmita de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad

Colmenar Viejo is the nearest town I’ve been to — it is a mere 37 kilometers from Madrid. Clearly, its nearness to the capital, beauty, and convenient of travel to reach it are qualities that help it land in my list of day trip destinations.

Like other more traditional touristy towns, I rate it as a delightful getaway where you can spend hours of the days enjoying what it can offer — sites and attractions. It must be the most affordable trip I took bus – 3.60 euros for a one-way bus fare.

And it delights me even more that since distance is shorter, the journey involves easy and fast travel. By the time you are settled in your bus seat, you finally reached the final stop. You have reached your destination even before you know it.

It is apparent that like other small towns, time moves slowly, and you see less people going around, giving you much space to really wander the place. Needless to say, Colmenar is a geat option if you want a tranquil place of retreat, without the need to travel far from the capital.

What to see in Colmenar Viejo

1. Ayuntamiento/City Hall

Colmenar Viejo AyuntamientoEvery Spanish town is not without a city, and Colmenar Viejo is no exception. I deemed that the building exudes a modern style, with a simple facade, a spacious yard and benches in front to accomodate locals and tourists who would want to rest and while their time away.

2. El Corral de la Casa del Labrador

El Corral de la Casa del Labrador Colmenar ViejoEl Corral de la Casa del Labrador is showcased as a typical abode to be found during the 1900’s. During the pueblo’s early days, the homes were constructed using basic construction materials, like wood and adobe.

3. Centro Cultural Pablo Neruda

Centro Cultural Pablo Neruda of Colmenar ViejoA building made peculiar because of the bright yellow and jagged surfaced addition in its facade, Centro Cultural Pablo Neruda serves as the town’s training and educational center, offering young adults various courses, seminars, and workshops that define and enrich the participants’ role in the society.

4. Capilla de Santa Ana

Colmenar Viejo's Capilla de Santa AnaChapel of Saint Anne in English — also called the Capilla de Concepcion — is a small 15th-century church of Castile y Leon region of Spain. It boasts of a splendid Castilian altar piece, a work of art by Spanish sculptor De Siloé.

5. Ermita de Santa Ana

Ermita de Santa Ana Colmenar ViejoThe Hermitage of Saint Anne is one of the most photographed sites of the town. However, you need to go out of the main town center and reach the cemetery road in order to see this tiny yet charming hermitage. A creation from the 1500’s. I could only admire its simple design and structure, with its facade dominated by its wooden doors accentuated by an arch of stone wedges.

6. Basílica dela Asuncion de Nuestra Senora

Basílica dela Asuncion de Nuestra SenoraThe Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady can be found on the site of the former Parroquia de Santa Maria, the construction of which would not see its end until almost 100 years. Architects Guas, Hontanon, and de Cuellar were responsible for the design of the church. Its tall, imposing edifice stand along Calle del Cura, at number 14.

7. Plaza de Toros de Colmenar

Plaza de Toros de Colmenar ViejoPlaza de Toros is another major pueblo attraction, with the La Feria de Nuetra Senora de los Remedios recognized as one of the most important bullfighting events within the Community of Madrid, second only to the San Isidro festival. During the particular feast, the plaza fills to the brim as bullfighting afficionados from all over Spain visit the town to watch the much-awaited sporting spectacle.

How I traveled to Colmenar Viejo

imageLikeness of Colmenar-born and matador of toros Senor Agapito Garcia Gonzalez, famous for the monicker “Serranito.” The bust is found in a park/square near the Plaza del Toros

Bus: I chose to ride the bus since the autobus company that offers regular trips is stationed at Plaza de Castilla, which is just a few blocks from the apartment. Take Bus 721 — one is scheduled to travel to Colmenar Viejo every hour or so. Trips are less frequent during weekends; hence, it is advised to check journey schedules a few days before your desired date. From Colmenar, you may take bus 724 to reach another pueblo, Manzanares el Real and its fascinating castle.

Ticket fare: 3.60 euros

Go for Train Option: You can take RENFE Train from Chamartín Station, where trips to the town is available every hour. Visit the RENFE website for schedule of daily trips to the town as well as ticket fare prices.

Map

Outside Madrid: Royal Town of Aranjuez

Aranzuez isn’t a huge, highly sought-after town, but it’s far from being hidden and obscure. It is actually one jewel of a Spanish pueblo, being the site of a spectacular royal palace. Still, many would consider it as low-key compared to the more popular day trip destinations like Toledo, Segovia, or even the faraway exciting getaways like Santiago de Compostela.

There’s no bit of a doubt, however, that this town 80 kilometers away from Madrid can hold its own, boasting of some of the most alluring sites and attractions.

Aranjuez, Madrid and its Royal Palace

aranjuez palace in plaza de las parejasThis town presents a great appeal to those who are interested in royal history, and this is thru the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, an 18th century palace that once served as the residence of the King of Spain. With the collaboration of distinguished Spanish architects such as  Juan Herrera, Juan Bautista de Toledo, and Francesco Sabatini, the royal edifice was built using a  mix of Renaissance and French style in its design.

It was in 1523 when the palace was officially declared the royal property of the Spanish Monarchy.  Beloved royalties who lived and died there were Elisabeth Fernese, wife of Philip V and Elizabeth of Valois, wife of Philip II.  Likewise, the Palacio Real was the site of the signing of various important treaties.

If you haven’t been to Aranjuez, Spain, it’s high time that you do. The Palacio Real will certainly amaze you. it is easy to find since it is right in the midst, as if to assert its prime importance as the town’s top tourist attraction.

Apart from the palace, other major attractions are its sprawling plazas, the Tagus River, and the Casa del Labrador.

Where to start your Aranjuez tour

imageThe Ayuntamiento Building at Plaza de Constitucion. The statue in front is Alfonso XII

Aranjuez is less than an hour away – whether by bus or by train. It’s one of those charming towns that are near Madrid, and very easy to reach — you’ll be there even before you know it.

You might want to start your tour at the Plaza de la Constitution, where you can see the Ayuntamiento — simple yet stately in its facade. On one side of the square stands a metal board marked on which is a map specifying all the major places of interest to see. Or you can head straight to the tourism office for a tour map plus instructions and advices on how to get around the town.

I spent the whole day exploring Aranjuez, and had a great time discovering all the reasons why the whole town was declared a World Heritage Cultural Landscape by the UNESCO. The Royal Palace was just impressive. You can see the grandness of the structure from the pictures that I took. I can proudly say that my shots of the palace are all postcard-worthy. Equally impressive are the gardens and plazas, the surrounding bodies of waters, and the Casas.

Aranjuez might be small, but it can very well compete with the much larger and more touristy Spanish towns. Needless to say, it must be one the first town-members of the community of Madrid that you must visit. Engaging locals, lots of eager tourists, amazing tourist attractions, what more can you ask for? Add Aranjuez to your must-see town list, do visit and explore it, and I assure you it is all worth your while.

What to see in Aranjuez, Spain

1. Royal Palace of Aranjuez

imagePalacio Real de Aranjuez in Spanish, this UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was once the King’s official residence. One of the more popular Royal Sites, it now serves as a museum and is open to the public.

2. Iglesia de San Antonio

imageKing Ferdinand VI assigned Spanish architects Gonzalez Velazquez and Santiago Bonavia to build what was intended as a royal church, and one dedicated to San Antonio de Padua – St. Anthony´s Church or Iglesia de San Antonio. This Italian-inspired church from the 1700’s sprawls in one end of the Plaza de San Antonio. Nearby is the Tourism Office.

3. Iglesia de Alpajes

imageThe Alpajes Church, also called the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, is a small church located in the old Alpajes quarter. Eventually, the said quarter was incorporated into the expanded Aranjuez town.

4. Parterre Garden

imageThe beautiful Parterre Garden is the most colorful of all that surround the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, I must say. It must be where beautiful flowers of all types and hues are found. The flowers were in blooming and exploding in all colors that the whole garden was such a fascinating sight. Parterre is in front of the West portion of the Palace.

5. Jardin del Principe

imageLiterally, it means the Prince’s Garden. The Jardin was a pet project of Charles IV which started when he was still the Prince of Asturias. Consisting of 150 hectares of land, it must have been the largest Madrid garden that I’ve seen so far. It took 19 years to build the garden, and was finished in 1908, at the time when Charles finally became king.

6. Casa del Labrador

Casa del Labrador, Aranjuez, Community of Madrid, SpainOne of the royal family of Spain´s favorite residences in Madrid, the Casa del Labrador is a World Heritage site. Public viewing and visits are allowed although I wasn’t able to because I visited Aranjuez on a Monday, when most of the sites are closed.

7. Jardin de la Isla

imageA beautiful garden found in the northern portion of the palace, the Jardin de la Isla is so-called because it is situated in the middle of bodies of water, by the Tagus River or Rio Tajo, and a man-made river.

8. Cascada de las Castanuelas

imageLocated beside the Jardin de la Isla, the Cascades was built to regulate the course of the Tagus River and to collect water for the gardens.

9. Tagus River

imageRio Tajo in Spanish, it is one of the main  bodies of water that surround the palace. Tagus River is of utmost importance to Aranjuez’ environment as it sustains the lives of a number of animal varieties, especially the waterfowl.

How to get to Aranjuez, Spain:

imageVia Bus: Take the 423 bus, found at Estacion Sur, Madrid’s biggest bus station. The latter can be reached via Metro Madrid Linea 6, at Mendez Alvaro.

Fare is 4.20 euros, and tickets are bought on the bus itself.

Via Train: Cercania train tickets are available at the ticketing counters of Chamartin and Atocha stations. Traveling by train is more or less the same as that with bus travel – around an hour.

For specific journey schedules and ticket prices, please refer to Cercania’s website.

Map of Royal Palace of Aranjuez:

Outside Madrid: Castilian Town of Avila Spain

Town walls or murallas of AvilaLocated 100 kilometers from the capital city of Madrid is the beautiful town of Avila, Spain. A hundred kilometers might seem far, but it is actually not even if you must commute to get there. It is a mere 1 1/2 hours by train and a maximum of 2 via bus, and so you can´t blame me if I add this town to my list of convenient and affordable day trip destinations.

A part of the community of Castile Laon, Avila is a charming Castilian town, serving as the capital of the province that bears the same name. And by the way, trust me when I say it´s charming. Avila´s as charming as it can be. It immediately won my heart — a pounding one at that — the minute I stepped into the town and finally gazed at the wall gates near the Iglesia of Saint Peter. What a sight to behold! The wall, or the muralla de Avila, is such an entrancing monument, and comparable to Toledo´s Alcazar or Segovia´s Acqueducto Romano.

To be in Avila is like being transported to a 16th-century Spanish town filled with cobbled roads, medieval churches, royal houses, not to mention that the ancient walls that surround it.

When it comes to the wall, a quick inspection tells you that it is in perfect condition. It should be even after all these years, as this major Spain attraction, was built to serve as a strong enclosure to protect the town from invasion. The wall singularly puts Avila in the tourism map; it certainly is the reason why people – locals and tourists – come to visit the town in droves.

The town, whose beloved saint is St. Therese of Avila, is known for its numerous iglesias. I must have encountered one everywhere I go, which is why a number of them are featured in this article, such as the Iglesia de San Pedro, standing at the  major square of San Theresa, outside the walls; the Gothic-style Cathedral of Avila; and the Basilica de San Vicente, another highly popular church that’s located outside the muralla.

Indeed, the town of Avila has so much to offer in terms of fascinating tourist sites and attractions. Here are some of them that you will surely enjoy:

The Muralla or the Town Wall

imageFacade of the town wall, which was built to serve as protection and shield of the medieval town of Avila from the attacks of the Moors.

The Walls along El Rastro

imageWalk the pathway along that part of the wall at Parque El Rastro one late afternoon, and you´ll be mesmerized.

Basilica of San Vicente

imageNo words can describe the utter grace and solemnity of the Basilica of San Vicente. The Romanesque church, a national monument since 1882, was constructed using granite rocks. Also known as the Basilica of Saints Vicente, Sabina and Cristeta, it is one of the top church sites among tourists, and second only to the town´s Cathedral in popularity.

Church of Saint Peter

Iglesia de San Pedro, Avila, SpainThe photo shows the side gate to the Church of Saint Peter or La Iglesia de San Pedro. Notice the intricacy in the designs of its door, stone column, and arch components. Declared a monument of cultural interest in 1914, the church is located on one end of the Plaza de Santa Teresa de Jesus.

The Cathedral of Avila

imageKnown as the Catedral del Salvador de Avila, both Romanesque and Gothic designs were applied during its construction. The cathedral holds the distinction of being the first Gothic church to be built in the country. Its apse is a part of the muralla, and is considered as the most important turret of that section of the wall.

Convento de San Jose o de los Madres

imageBuilt in the beginning of the 1500’s, Convento de San Jose served as a convent for the Carmelite nuns of the town. It was declared a historical site and national monument in 1968.

The Town Ayuntamiento

imageWhile average in height and appearance, the beauty of the Ayuntamiento of the City Hall of Avila cannot be denied especially when its facade is lit up in the evening. The historic town hall, together with other establishments, enhance the beauty of the square, Plaza Mercado Chico.

Iglesia de Santiago

imageLa Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago is a breathtaking Avilan church that displays both Roman and Gothic styles. Thanks to its octagon-sided bell tower, Iglesia de Santiago is recognizable even when viewed from the distant mirador at Parque El Rastro.  The church was declared a monument of cultural interest on the 13th of April, 1983.

Plaza de Santa Teresa de Jesus

imagePlaza de Santa Teresa is also known as El Grande, and is one of the two recognized main squares of the town, the other being the Plaza Mercado Chico, found within the walls and home to the city hall. In the photo, the statue of the Monument to St. Therese faces the Puerto de Alcazar, one of the Wall Gates.

Yemas – Los Pasteles Traditionales de Avila

imageAvila can be dubbed as the town of delicious sweets and pastries, with the yema as its traditional Spanish food delicacy. I bought a box of 6 piece at Chuchi, one of the popular pastelerias around and enjoyed some of the best-tasting sweets I must have had in a long time. Most shops sell them at 6 pieces for 2.50 euros, and 4.50 to 5 euros for a box of 12.

More Avila sites and scenes

imageWith its yemas and other delicious sweets, Avila wins the title of ¨Spain´s Pastry town”
imageFrom the mirador, or the viewing balcony of the Parque de Rastro, you will be enthralled by the breathtaking view of the Ambles valley and all else that your eyes can see as everything is illuminated by the soft glow from the setting sun.
imageStatue of St. Therese de Avila with bountiful offerings of bouquets of flowers
imageBeautifully lit and animated fountain inside the courtyard complements the walls in adding mysticism to the surroundings
imageAs the sun’s rays kiss the orange granite stones of which the wall is made of, it magically turns golden

imageWhat an exciting day trip destination Avila is! I’ve seen so much, but there is more to explore — more churches, more sections of the muralla, and more truly spectacular views from atop this town wall (if you access it). Needless to say, much can be explored and discovered in Avila. It is not surprising that people who’ve been there would love to do a second visit. I myself is planning one, definitely soon.

Want to Enjoy a tour of the Wall?

Accessible tramos or sections to the public: Casa de Carnicerias, Puerta del Alcazar, Arco del Carmen and Puente Adaja

Entrance Fee: General Price is 5 euros; Reduced Price is 3.5 euros

Free entry: Tuesdays, from 2PM to 4PM

How I traveled to Avila, Spain:

One can reach the town via Renfe (train) or by bus. I opted for the latter, as always, as I find it convenient and less “invasive” compared to the train. Albeit, bus ride do take more off your time.

1. Via Autobus:

In Madrid, take the Metro station Linea 6 and get off at Mendez Alvaro. This station is found inside the Estacion Sur, the biggest and the busiest bus station in the city. If you’re in the vicinity of Atocha, take the EMT autobus 10 and alight at the Avenida Ciudad Barcelona – Pacifico parada, near the Pacifico Metro. Ride the train at this station, and get off at the next one, which is Mendez Alvaro.

I opted for the Jimenez Dorado bus, which arrived and departed on time. A plus: They offer video and music playing gadget in front of your seat. Too bad I didn’t bring my earphone.A one-way ticket to Avila Spain is around 7.50 euro, but if you buy an ida y vuelta (round trip) ticket, you´d spend less, at 13.61 euros. Be advised that tickets are not sold on the bus, but at the Estacion Sur ticketing counter. I made the mistake of falling in line at the darsena (platform) for nearly an hour only to be refused. After acquiring tickets from the counter, I had to wait for another two hours for the next scheduled trip.

Other Bus Companies offering trips: Avanza bus Company is also found in Estacion Sur. Visit its website for prices and bus schedules.

2. Via Train:

RENFE have regular trips to Avila. Please check costs and schedules on its official website.

Map:

Outside Madrid: Fascinating Day Trip to Manzanares El Real, Spain

There is a small town situated in the northern part of the Community of Madrid known as the Manzanares el Real.

As a shoestring traveler, I am always delighted whenever I discover an amazing Spanish pueblo nearby.

In the case of Manzanares, it proved to be budget-friendly since it is near the capital. The price of a bus ticket to this day trip destination is 4.20 euros, similar to that of other nearby towns like Chincon and El Escorial, to name a few. Its proximity is definitely a boon since you don’t need to stay overnight. The short travel time means a fast bus ride home, with your hot meal and warm and cozy bed waiting for you to enjoy.

You can go to Manzanares in the morning, head to the Nuevo Castillo de Manzanares el Real, the town’s main attraction, explore other sites and attractions up until late afternoon, squeeze in some hearty lunch break at a local restaurant, and then catch the 7pm bus to Madrid. In other words, Manzanares el Real is one easy, exciting and affordable day trip — whether you’re going solo or with friends.
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How near is Manzanares el Real?

The town is approximately 50 kilometers away from Madrid, which translate to a travel time of around 55 minutes from the bus station at Plaza de Castilla to the stop at the pueblo, right in front of the tourism office. In a little under an hour, you will be transported to this beautiful town. From the bus stop, walk a few minutes until you reach the Plaza del Pueblo, a town square of average size. The Ayuntamiento building stands out, being the tallest edifice in the area.

It is apparent Manzanares is low-key compared to the much popular Spanish attractions such as Toledo and Segovia. Still, it is a tourist’s delight, especially if you love castles and fortresses (preserved and in ruins), beautiful, jagged mountains, and hiking.

Especially for the city dweller, Manzanares is a chance to reconnect with nature. Enjoy an exhilarating hiking adventure starting at the Plaza Mayor up to the spot close enough to the fascinating pedriza mountain — the Ermita de pena sacra.

New Castle of Manzanares el Real

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Also called the Castillo de los Mendoza, the castle is built way back in the 1400´s. It is recognized as the best preserved castle-fortress within the community of Madrid.

Castillo Viejo

Old castle manzanares el realThe Castillo Viejo, or the Old Castle, was built by Hurtado de Mendoza, the Admiral of Castile. Eventually, as the Mendoza clan achieved greater opulence, a larger castle was built, leading to the negligence of the old one. The original, once stately royal edifice is now in ruins.

Ermita de Peña Sacra

Pena sacra ermitaErmita de Nuestra Señora de Peña Sacra, perched on an elevated land, is one reason why you would want to walk near the Pedriza Mountain.

Iglesia de Ntra Señora de las Nieves

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Nieves
The town is blessed with a beautiful church, the Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, located along Calle de Nuria. It is near the Castillo Viejo and the Old Bridge. Its portico feature was added during the 16th Century, enhancing its Romanesque appearance with a Renaissance style.

Canada Real Segoviana Bridge

imageAlso caĺled the Puente Viejo or the Old Bridge, the Puente de la Canada Real Segoviana reeks in rich town history, being a part of the pueblo´s birth and development. Note, however, that it has taken a modern appearance, oweing to the fact that it has undergone renovations.

More Manzanares, Madrid attractions

imageAyuntamiento building in front of the Manzanares el Real town square

imageCourtyard in the interior of the Nuevo Castillo surrounded by porticoes

imagePeering through a castle window, I couldn’t help but marvel at the picturesque town

imageThe Manzanares reservoir (Embalse de Santillana) imageA breathtaking view of Mount Pedriza and the town from atop the castle
imageLush greenery with grazing bovine creatures. I chanced on this impressive scene as I walked all the way to the Ermita de Ntra Sra de Peña Sacra

imageI love long walks, and so it thrilled me to have tread seemingly endless dirt roads. Along the way were gargantuan boulders and rock formations, some of which were riddled with graffiti. As  more boulders and stones appeared along the way, I knew I nearing Pena Sacra Church.

imagePanoramic view of the the Ermita de Pena Sacra and the Pedriza Mountain

How to go to Manzanares El Real, Spain

Regular bus ride service is available from Madrid. The line that maintains a daily trip schedule to Manzanares el Real is auto bus 724.

At the Plaza de Castilla bus station, proceed to Darsena 24 where the auto buses to your destination are assigned to wait for passengers. Tickets are bought on the bus at 4.20 euros.

Castillo Nuevo Entrance ticket price: 5 euros

Map:

 

Chinchon: An Under-an-hour Travel Getaway from Madrid

Now and again, it would be nice to be far from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and all the stress and craziness that go with this big city.

And enjoy a breather of sorts, even if only for a day.

This makes living in Madrid an advantage because of the many nearby towns I can run to in a heartbeat whenever I have the urge to get away from it all. For instance, waiting to be explored are the beautiful towns of Toledo, Segovia, and San Lorenzo de El Escorial — amazing World heritage sites as declared by UNESCO.

Of course, small pueblos also abound. These are lesser-known towns within the periphery of Madrid. Found under the radar, you’d be surprised upon visiting that they are just as enthralling, and also boast of their share of fascinating tourist sites.

imageThe town of Chinchon, Community of Madrid, as viewed from the clock tower

One is Chinchon, Spain, which I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I learned it’s a mere 45 kilometers away from the capital. The town is known for its strong religious traditions, like commemorating Christian holidays thru passion plays, processions, and even concerts. What piqued my interest is its square, which doubles as a bullring, and so you know bullfighting is alive in this part of Spain. I looked forward to seeing the castle ruins and the clock tower as well.

Raring to explore the town, I decided to hit to road and go on a solo trip as a way of celebrating my birthday (this meant scrapping the usual birthday dinner at home).

And so, I was off to Chinchon.

The early morning of last Tuesday, I headed to Conde Casal Metro station, and then proceeded to Avenida de Mediterraneo where buses 337 await. Within an hour, I reached my destination. The trip didn’t tire a bit.  Instead I got invigorated, excited on what I was about to discover.

I found myself in the middle of the pueblo, which is noticeably tiny, quiet and rustic, like you’re in the countryside.

Immediately, I headed to the square and approached the much-fussed-about pasteleria located on one of its corners. I must have a taste of its famous sweet rounded pastry, which is described online as a soft bread that’s pretty much like a doughnut sans the filling. I bought two and gobbled one after the other, finishing both within minutes. Delicious and sweet little bread balls, just like what they say!

As I ate, my gaze wandered around, and saw a group of tourists roaming the Plaza Mayor. The square itself got my attention because of its appearance — “dressed up” as a bullring. I wondered if this is a permanent thing or it just looked that way because of a forthcoming bullfight event.

Later on, I ventured outside the square. Next stop is the clock tower, which could be reached by walking up a steep road of some one hundred meters. The tower is on an elevated land high enough to afford anyone a magnificent view of the town below, including the faraway castle ruins.

Like other Spanish towns, the streets are narrow and winding, and are hardly level, but run uphill and down. Still, I have to say that strolling around this town, from one site to another, was generally fun and relaxing.

One thing you’ll love about Chinchon is that most sites of interest are conveniently near one another and not spread out; well, except of course for the Old Castle. I had an easy time hopping from one place to the next.

I almost skipped the tourism office deeming I didn’t need an area map; but I did go anyway, because I wanted to ask if walking to the castle is doable. The people at the info counter assured me I’d reach the site within 10 minutes. They even gave instructions on which streets to take in order to get there the fastest. Some enthusiastic Chinchonites, indeed.

My final word about the town? Make it your next day trip destination. Tiny and unhurried it may be, but it packs with places of great allure. The town folks are friendly and helpful, especially those manning the square’s pastelerias, the alimentacion, and the tourism office.

Here are some of the Chinchon, Madrid attractions that you mustn’t miss.

The Counts’ Castle

imageSpread in a land found on the highest point of the town is the Counts’ Castle, or Castillo de los Condes. Also called the Chinchon’s Castle, it was the residence of the royals at the time when Cabreja was allowed to own a land in the area. Now in ruins, it is still under the ownership of the counts.

The Clock Tower

imageTorre del Reloj in Spanish, it was the only structure left standing and unscathed after the 15th-century Our Lady of Grace Church was destroyed during the War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia).

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

imageIglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunsion, with its bright-hued and solemn facade, is a sight to behold as you walk up the steep, winding calle known as Las Columnas de Los Franceses. Inside is the Blessed Virgin painting by Goya, Spain’s illustrious painter who lived in the town for some time. Nearby is the Clock Tower.

Hermitage of San Roque

imageThe Ermita de San Roque is dedicated to the town patron, the feast of which is on the 16th of August. You will encounter this monastery upon entering the square thru Calle de los Huertos.

Teatro Lope de Vega

imageTeatro Lope de Vega stands on the land where Palace of the Counts once stood. De Vega was a great Spanish artist, writer, and Chinchon admirer.

More Beautiful Chinchon Scenes

imageTourists inspect the display window of an artisan shop as they go about the town square

imageThe wooden gate above is one of the five entrances that open to the Plaza Mayor

imageBright-red wooden fence encircles the middle of the town square

imageThe Casa Ayuntamiento or the town hall building

imageOne of the pillared walkways that surround the plaza mayor-bull ring

imageI captured a spectacular view of the pueblo as I walked back from the castle
imagePelotas de Fraile are sweet, soft balls of bread resembling a doughnut, but with no filling inside

imageTeta de Novicia, another local delicacy, is a sugar-coated bread. So-called because it is shaped like a bosom
image Anis liquor and garlic are two of Chinchon’s prized products

ajos, chinchon, madrid, spainAjos de Chinchon hang on the wall of a lottery shop. Touching it is supposed to bring bettors good luck.

How to reach the castle

The Castillo de los Condes, lying on a low hill next to the town, might appear distant and unreachable when viewed from the Clock Tower, but it’s actually an easy walk from the Plaza Mayor. This 16th century Renaissance castle still stands mightily. It’s a pity, however, that some portions are already crumbling.

No one is allowed inside — they say nothing is found in the interior. Still, I couldn’t help but admire the impressive facade and the bridge of this otherwise haunting fortress.

From the square, you walk the length of Calle del Convento (which starts at the Plaza del Convento), until you turn right to Calle del Castillo. Walk time: Around 10 to 15 minutes

How I traveled to Chinchon, Madrid:

I highly recommend traveling to (and from) Chinchon by bus because it is convenient and easy on the pocket as well.

1. Take the Metro Linea 6 and get off at Conde de Casal Station.

2. From the station, proceed to Ave de Mediterraneo, where found are the “paradas” of green buses en route to various locations.

3. Look for the La Veloz-owned buses, and take number 337 — it will bring you to the town in less than an hour.

A bus is scheduled to go to the town every 30 minutes to an hour (during weekends) with trips starting at 7am. Tickets sell at 4.20 euros.

Map

Go on a Day Trip Adventure to Segovia Spain [And Explore Its Alcazar and Roman Aqueduct]

Do you feel you’ve seen enough of Madrid, Spain and wish you could visit places outside the city? Raring to go to other beautiful Spanish regions but wary about the long hours of travel that your chosen destination demands? Fret not as there are many towns near the capital that you can go to, such as Toledo, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and Alcala de Henares. In other words, there are tons of amazing day trip options from Madrid.

Day trip means you travel to your destination, explore it to the fullest, and return to Madrid — all within a day.

Still another destination, and a highly recommended one at that, is Segovia, Spain.

imageThe spot I climbed at the aqueduct wasn”t even the highest point one can possibly reach, yet I was already afforded spectacular views of the town

Found south of the capital, lying atop an elevated land a mere 30 minutes away by train from Madrid is Segovia, small compared to other towns, but unique nonetheless.

Its tiny size is compensated by the many fascinating attractions. A quaint town overflowing in valuable history and enthralling beauty, it isn’t surprising that Segovia is a World Heritage site (as declared by the UNESCO).

What makes Segovia an ideal tour destination?

imageFor one thing, the Roman Aqueduct alone is enough to make your journey worthwhile. There’s also the Alcazar, that Castilian edifice with a fairy tale-book like facade. Enthralling is how one would describe the sprawling Cathedral of Segovia. You’d be in awe gazing upon the church from the town’s Plaza Mayor. And before going back to Madrid, remember to dine at a Segovia restaurant that offers conchinillo (which wouldn’t be a problem since most establishments include this dish in their menu).

I love traveling alone. But I need to go to exceptional destinations to keep me, as a traveler by his lonesome, excited and filled with energy all throughout. I assure you Segovia is one of them.

What to see in Segovia Spain

1. The Roman Aqueduct

The aqueduct is one of the most important structures in this town and perhaps the whole of Spain. Composed of perhaps thousands upon thousands of granite blocks, it is the most important symbol of the town. The today, the Romano Acueducto is determined to be well-preserved and still capable of transporting water from the Rio Frio river to the city.

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2. The Aqueduct, from Fernandez Ladreda Avenue

From the bus stop, I walked thru the Avenida Ladreda, a main Segovian street filled with touristy restaurants and cafes. Iglesia de San Millan is right along  the avenue. Ultimately it brought me to the magnificent site of the Roman Aqueduct.

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3. Catedral de Santa Maria

The Santa Madrid Cathedral is the last Gothic-inspired church to be built in Spain. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is such a magnificent site from afar.
Catedral de Santa Maria, Segovia, Spain

4. Plaza Mayor

The square may be small in size but is the town’s designated area for important local activities and events. One of the most frequented spots by tourists, the square boasts of old-town, rustic restaurants and souvenir shops.

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5. Teatro Juan Bravo

One of the attractions at the Plaza Mayor of Segovia, the town’s principal theater was built in honor of Juan Bravo, a  beloved local hero.
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6. Puerta de San Andres

On my way to the Alcazar Castle, I passed through this gate that dates back to the early 12th century — Puerta de San Andres. Its vicinity offers great views of Las Murallas (City Walls) surrounding the important sites of the town. The ancient gate itself leads to the Jewish Quarters.

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7. Centro Didactico de la Juderia

The Didactic Center of the Jewish Quarter located at Calle de la Juderia Nueva, is a reminder of the once active Jewish community in the city. Once thriving area for the Jews was at Plaza de la Merced. Another popular Jewish street is the Juderia Viejo.
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8. La Casa de los Picos

La Casa de los Picos is a 15th century mansion by Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and considered by many  as unique because of its granite-built facade that features more than 600 pointy peaks. It boasts of a classic Renaissance courtyard within its interior. Once, an opulent residence, it now houses an art school and acts as a venue for regular exhibits.
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9. Puerta de la Claustra

Puerta de la Claustra is a 2-arch entrance, the only existing one leading to quarter of the cloister. Note the depiction of the Pieta on top of  the arch. The other similar entrances were taken down to give way to wedding of Philip II at the Alcazar de Segovia.

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10. Iglesia de San Andres

Iglesia de San Andres, a charming Roman Catholic Church, is located at the Plaza de la Merced, which you will pass by on your way to the more popular Santa Maria Cathedral.

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11. La Iglesia de San Martin

A Roman-styled early 12th-century church, La Iglesia de San Martin continues to attract tourists everyday mainly because of its strategic location, between the Segovian Aqueduct and the Sta Maria Cathedral. Standing near this small church of Moor origin is a local hero, Juan Bravo.

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12. Monumento a Juan Bravo

The striking monument at the Plaza de San Martin, beside the Iglesia de San Martin, is dedicated toJuan Bravo. Bravo is a Castilian nobleman who played an important role in the war within the autonomous Castille region.
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13. Las Murallas

The town’s Murallas is the thick wall that surrounds the perimeter of the elevated land that cradles the town. The tallest structure in the photo is the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Asuncion y de San Frutos. Facing the Murallas and the town itself (not shown in photo) is an low-lying expanse of land where the Jewish cemetery is situated.image

14. Alcazar

The flag of Spain flies high atop the 12th century-built Alcazar or fortress. A former official residence of the Castilian kings of earlier times, the Alcazar is said to be the inspiration for the design and creation of Disney’s own castle. It has Romanesque and Gothic styles in its facade while the interior evokes a strong Moorish design.
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Time for Some Segovian Food

Going to Segovia give you the chance to taste its famous cochinillo. While Madrid has its share of asador restaurantes, nothing beats Segovia as far as the roasted suckling pig is concerned. It is a gastronomic haven where most restaurants are known to serve only the tastiest cochinillos asados.

Restaurante Meson Don Jimeno

I chanced upon this tiny yet quite cozy meson restaurant on my way to the Alcazar. I must have found the perfect spot to have lunch (and to taste suckling pig), since they boast of heavenly succulent cochinillo. But, what’s more important, they serve portions.

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Judiones de la Granja

Judiones is a bean-based dish with added chorizo slices. What I love about it is its thick consistency and rich flavor. De la Granja means from the Granja, which is a town near Segovia. I’m not sure if the beans ingredient is from the Granja, or if the dish itself originated from the place. What I’m sure is that judiones is delicious!

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Cochinillo Asado!

The sight of that golden-brown color of the roasted piglet’s skin makes one’s mouth water. You know that the dish was roasted just right by its perfectly crisp skin and tender yet moist meat underneath
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Natillas

I was stuffed yet I couldn’t allow a morsel of this homemade Natillas (custard) to be left uneaten. A Spanish dessert of milk and egg, the popular Segovian postre is perfect to cap off a deliciously filling lunch.
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How to go to Segovia Spain

imageThis is the Guiomar Train station, where your Renfe train from Madrid stops and your tour of Segovia begins. From here, auto bus no. 11 will take you to the city proper (and near the aqueduct). Fare is 2 euros.

By Train

You can buy Renfe train tickets online at their website. Or you can buy them at Chamartin station, which you can reach via auto bus no 5, among others.  While train rides are expensive, they’re the fastest and most efficient way of traveling around. I left Chamartin at 12PM and arrived at Segovia Guiomar station at 12.25PM.

By bus

Perhaps, you’re not pressed for time, and more importantly, wanted to save a few bucks in travel fare, I suggest that you take the bus instead. You will be able to enjoy nice scenery and views during your travel to your destination. Tickets can be had at La Sepulvedana office at Moncloa Station. Price for  ida y vuelta is around 17 euros.

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