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:
One 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)
The 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.
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
A 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
Some 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
If 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
I 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
One 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.
It 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
Another 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