Day Trips from Madrid

I often get emails from my readers seeking help to plan their Spanish itinerary. Everyone wants to run to the south of Spain and hardly anyone wants to stay in Madrid. Well, if you have the same thought, think again! Madrid and its surroundings have so much to offer that you can spend about a week exploring various sites around Madrid. While I am yet in the discovery phase, here are five-day trips that I would recommend from Madrid:


Home to one of the oldest universities in mainland Europe, the university town of Salamanca has some glorious architecture that is over a 1000 years old. Intricately decorated walls, wooden benches, and crafted ceilings adorn the Salamanca University.

The city continues to support a very high student population has a great vibe. Salamanca, possibly in one of my favorite ‘European Old Towns’.

I coupled my trip to Salamanca with a short stop at Avila. Avila is an old fort town, which has one of the best-maintained fortifications in Spain, but there isn’t much to see besides that. Hence, I would not recommend a trip only to Avila, but is makes a good mid-way breakpoint on your way back from Salamanca.


In times when the world is busy fighting over religious sentiments, Toledo stands strong on a hill, having witnessed a glorious past – a time when theJews, Muslims and Christians co-inhabited the city. Toledo was the capital of Spain before Madrid and makes a wonderful getaway from Madrid. The cobblestone streets, old houses, and alleys make it a pleasure to be lost in Toledo. The cathedral in the town is possibly one of the most impressive cathedrals in all of Europe and deserves at least a couple of hours. If you are in Madrid, Toledo is a must visit town!


This town was very important to the Romans and still remnants of the great Roman architecture. You cannot miss the stunning aqueduct that passes through the city. This aqueduct supplied water to the entire town of Segovia in the past, including water for fountains, washing the city and obviously, for domestic consumption. Segovia was the first town (outside Madrid) that I visited as that is where IE University is situated. We had our welcome speech in a hall where the Queen granted Cristopher Colombus permission to ‘go explore the world’… exploratory journey too started from here!


I visited Cuenca in spring when the almond trees were in full bloom. I pottered around this town and visited a Michelin star restaurant to have a delightful meal. The hills of Cuenca have a unique geological shape, courtesy of the weathering process that give them the otherworldly charm. On the almost vertical sides of these hills, are the ‘hanging houses’ that Cuenca is famous for. One of them is a museum and I could actually go inside to have a snapshot of what it would have been like to stay in the ‘hanging’ wooden structure. While history and culture is an inseparable part of Cuenca, what took my heart away was the karst waterfall system and the calm walkways around it…ideal for a picnic!

El Escorial:

The ‘royal’ site of El Escorial is located about 50 kilometers from Madrid. It takes about an hour to get here by car. The site is so close to Madrid, yet so tranquil and scenic. This wonderfully symmetrical architectural monument was home to the Spanish monastery and also served as the royal palace and is about 500 years old. The site also has the Pantheon – marble sepulchers containing the remains of the kings and queens regnant, which make is even more important for the Spanish royalty. However, my favorite part was the library, with its leather-bound books and painted ceiling…it made me want to become a bookworm! And, El Escorial has some lovely little coffee shops that serve delightful cake and coffee!

So, there you have it…enough and more to do around Madrid. I am yet to explore the hikes and spots of natural beauty. Spring is here and its time to pack a picnic basket and head out!

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