Time and again, I try 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 nearby towns I can run to in a heartbeat whenever I have the urge to get away from it all. Just 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 that they are just as enthralling, and boast too of fascinating tourist sites.
The 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
Spread 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
Torre 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
Iglesia 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
The 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
Teatro 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
Tourists inspect the display window of an artisan shop as they go about the town square
The wooden gate above is one of the five entrances that open to the Plaza Mayor
Bright-red wooden fence encircles the middle of the town square
The Casa Ayuntamiento or the town hall building
One of the pillared walkways that surround the plaza mayor-bull ring
I captured a spectacular view of the pueblo as I walked back from the castle
Pelotas de Fraile are sweet, soft balls of bread resembling a doughnut, but with no filling inside
Teta de Novicia, another local delicacy, is a sugar-coated bread. So-called because it is shaped like a bosom
Anis liquor and garlic are two of Chinchon’s prized products
Ajos 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.