The city of Madrid, Spain’s capital, makes for a stunning vacation spot all on its own. With a population booming at over 3 million people just in the city alone, Madrid is the third largest city in the entire European Union.
Madrid’s Mediterranean climate allows for hot summers, while the altitude of the city brings in cooler winters. For those seeking art and culture, Madrid is teeming with museums, art exhibits and galleries. While there’s so much to see and do in Madrid, there is also much to experience just a short trip away.
Daytrips to the surrounding sights accessible from Madrid can help make any vacation absolutely spectacular. From World Heritage Sites to Gothic Cathedrals, the sites to be seen around Madrid are things that no traveler wants to miss out on. Make sure to plan your Spain vacation with as many day trips as you can, because there’s so much to see – and with Spain’s high-speed railway system, everything is easy to reach.
Let’s have a look at the best day trips from Madrid:
1. El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen
El Escorial is a World Heritage Site, and it’s a Renaissance monument that’s full of artwork and tombs of long past Spanish monarchs.
An easy train ride by the Cercanias train, the El Escorial is only an hour’s travel time outside of Madrid, which makes it one of the perfect places to explore during your vacation.
Just a short drive away from El Escorial is the Valley of the fallen, which is a monument that was main from the political prisoners that died there during the Spanish Civil War.
For travelers who love history and culture, these connected spots make an awe-inspiring day trip.
Hopping on the high-speed AVE train from the Puerta de Atocha station, travelers can take a quick half hour ride to Toledo.
Toledo is a charming, antique city with cobblestone streets and historic must-see tourist sites, such as the Cathedral of Saint Mary and the Castle of San Servando.
Toledo is also world-renown for its architecture, with a beautiful array of Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Jewish synagogues.
For the unbeatable experience, a trip to Toledo from Madrid is well worth the travel.
Cuenca is a fortress town that’s less than an hour away from the Atocha station in Madrid.
The most common thing that travelers want to see when they come to Cuenca are the famous Hanging Houses – buildings that are settled on top of the breathtaking gorges of the Huecar and Jucar rivers.
Along with the Hanging Houses, Cuenca is also known for its beautiful medley of religious architecture, especially the Cuenca Cathedral.
The high-speed AVE train will take travelers right into the Cuenca station in just about 50 minutes, making it a stunning day trip to plan.
From the Madrid Chamartin station, the beautiful city of Segovia is just 30 minutes away.
It’s full of beautiful architecture and castles like something out of a story book.
Segovia is another medieval city much like Toledo.
The close distance makes it a perfect place for travelers visiting in Madrid to explore during the trip.
History is embedded in every corner of this beautiful city, from the Plaza Major to the Roman Aqueduct, where visitors can see architecture and infrastructure that has been around since the first century.
For travelers who are big fans of Roman and Gothic churches and architecture, Ávila is a must-see place.
While the travel time is a little longer, the hour and a half train ride by the AVE train from the Chamartin station in Madrid is well worth it.
Ávila is an intact medieval-era walls surrounding the interior of the city, as well as a Gothic Cathedral that is truly a once in a lifetime visit.
The city is full of beautiful alley ways and hidden plazas for travelers to discover, and the distance makes it an easy place to plan for a day trip to and from your hotel in Madrid.
6. La Sierra de Guadarrama
For the outdoorsy travelers, the La Sierra de Guadarrama is a mountain range that features hiking trails and picturesque views.
The Penalara National Park is among the many places that can be found nestled in the mountain range, with mountain biking, rock climbing and skiing available for travelers who love to spend their time one on one with nature.
The La Sierra de Guadarrama makes for a perfect day trip from Madrid, though it does involve two trains.
It’s a bit of a longer trek, with one train ride that’s about an hour and a half, and another that’s 40 minutes.
But the length of the trip will seem inconsequential when faced with the natural beauty surrounding the mountains and parks.
The town of Aranjuez is a World Heritage Site, which makes it perfect for travelers from Madrid who are looking to get in touch with a variety of history.
It was once a summer palace, and the stunning, royal architecture still remains to this day.
Aranjuez is a 45-minute train ride from Madrid’s Atocha station.
However, travelers who are looking for a more unique journey are welcome to take the Strawberry Train, which is a train that is made from restored wood carriages reminiscent of the 20th century.
Like the name of the train suggests, travelers are free to sample strawberries that have been grown in Aranjuez.
8. Alcalá de Henares
Along the river Henares, about a 40-minute train ride east of Madrid, sits the beautiful city of Alcalá de Henares, full of beautiful, historic architecture, heritage and culture.
One of the world’s oldest universities, the Universidad and Complutense, is a popular attraction for travelers visiting the Alcalá de Henares.
For travelers seeking a mix of religious cultural architecture, the Alcalá de Henares is home to many Jewish and Christian quarters, as well as the Roman basilica and Gothic Cathedral.
A charming town, Chinchón is just a short 45-minute ride away from Madrid by bus.
Travelers from Madrid will be pleased to find a quaint, charming town with medieval style houses and beautiful, artisan shops that travelers will find some of the most unique pieces to take home.
The famous Plaza Mayor is also a wonderful visit, known for its strange shape surrounded by the balconied houses.
Chinchón is also home to events that travelers will want to be in town to experience, such as liquor festivals and an annual garlic festival each year in autumn.
16th Century windmills dot the landscape of Consuegra, which also happens to be the setting from one of the most famous scenes in Don Quixote.
Fan’s of Cervantes’ novel will have so much to see and experience in Consuegra.
Those who haven’t read Don Quixote will still have so much to see, such as the Castle of Consuegra and the town hall that looks like it could be taken from the renaissance.
Though this is a longer trip, the length of the time is worth it, and travelers will still be able to get do and from Madrid and Consuegra by bus in about two and a half hours.
11. New Castle of Manzanares el Real
Located at the bottom of the Guadarrama mountains sits the New Castle of Manzanares el real.
This 15th Century fortress is large and opposing, with beautifully preserved architecture.
The castle itself is built with six floors, and was once used in a scene in the movie El Cid, and was also a presidential palace for the Mendoza family.
Inside, there is a museum that details Spanish castles.
Travelers will be able to reach the New Castle of Manzanares el Real in about 40 minutes by train.
The high-speed rail system will bring travelers right to Salamanca in an hour and a half.
This stunning city is one of the most beautiful and stunning cities in terms of Renaissance architecture.
Monuments and cathedrals await travelers who are seeking the architecture, while the Plaza Mayor waits for a night-time of excitement, fun, culture and mingling between travelers and locals alike.
While Salamanca’s travel time is a little on the long side, it’s still a perfect distance for those who are looking to explore Spain within a day’s trip of Madrid.
13. The Ribera del Duero Wine Region
Wine-lovers will want to visit the Ribera del Duero Wine Region of Spain.
While it’s a bit of a further trek, it’s still a possible day trip to and from Madrid if you’re planning an all-day excursion.
There are plenty of wineries to explore, and travelers will get a taste of some of the most expensive wine in all of Spain.
The Ribera del Duero is full of large wineries and family-owned and run bodegas that are a must-see on any travel list.
Because the region is so massive, travelers are often recommended to limit themselves to just explore one part of the Ribera del Duero – but of course, it’ll leave you wanting to come back for more!
Travelers who have the time and money to visit Barcelona in a day trip should definitely make plans to do so.
Spain’s high-speed rail system makes visiting Barcelona as a day trip from Madrid entirely feasible.
Though you’ll need to take two trains to and from, being able to do so is still a stunning accomplishment.
Barcelona is a busy, beautiful city full of history, heritage and architecture.
There are also so many restaurants to choose from, along with museums and art galleries.
Those traveling to Barcelona from Madrid for a day trip will want to make sure they get there early enough to see and do everything that Barcelona has to offer.
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, and another city that can be easily accessed by the high-speed rail system.
Travelers looking to visit the surrounding areas of Spain from Madrid will definitely want to have Valencia on their day trip plans.
Because Madrid is centrally located in Spain, Valencia makes a perfect beach trip.
The entire trip from Madrid to Valencia can be done in under two hours.
While there are no monuments or exquisite cathedrals that make Valencia a heritage site, the trip for Valencia is still worth it for travelers who want to find good food, good shopping, and enjoy a trip to the beach.