Madrid is conveniently located in the center of Spain, making day trips in any direction easy and quick. Whether you're looking for cities in the mountains with natural appeal or historic towns older than Madrid itself, you have plenty of options located within 90 minutes or less of beautiful Madrid.
Connected to Madrid via high speed train, Toledo is just 30 minutes away and is the former capital of Spain. This medieval city is a popular destination for tourists visiting from Madrid with plenty of sights to explore for the day. Known for its historic castle, Jewish quarter and classic marzipan desserts, Toledo doesn't disappoint. Like many historic walled cities, it's built on a hill surrounded by ridges and a river beneath. Head just outside the walls and cross the famous Puente de San Martin (bridge) for an amazing view of the city perched upon the hilltop.
Segovia is also a 30-minute journey via high speed train and is most famous for its Cinderella style castle, towering Gothic cathedral and Roman aqueduct - a well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage site. The center of Segovia is compact and you can walk to nearly all the noteworthy places of interest. Don't miss the typical food of Segovia, called cochinillo, or fire-roasted suckling pig. Segovia is another town that doesn't disappoint but you will find a lot of tourists and want to consider going on a weekday, early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the crowds.
Rascafria is a lesser-known day trip from Madrid, mostly due to its lack of connection via train. This small town is located in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, just 75 minutes driving or bus journey from Madrid. Rascafria's claim to fame is the Monastery of Santa Maria del Paular, which dates back to the 14th century. The monastery was restored in 1910 and is now open to the public. Rascafria is also a good base if youre planning on skiing at either Valdesqu or Puerto de Navacerrada and want to stay overnight in a nearby hotel. Both ski areas are 30 minutes away from Rascafria by car and are also served by bus from the city center.
Cuenca was originally a medieval, Moorish fortress town but was captured by the Spanish in the 12th century. The strategic location and topology of the old town makes Cuenca visually stunning. Complete with a castle, cathedral and central plaza, Cuenca is a quintessential old Spanish town and received UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1996. The most famous area in Cuenca is the site of the hanging houses a series of buildings from the 15th century hanging cliff side over the Huecar River Gorge below.
Just 30 miles northwest of Madrid, you'll find another UNESCO World Heritage destination in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The most prominent site is the 16th century monastery and its surrounding building complex. This town receives 500,000 visitors per year, mostly by tourists making day trips from Madrid. The monastery complex is massive with 14 well decorated courtyards, 1,000 doors and more than 2,000 windows.
Which of these day trips tops your list?
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Auston grew up in Phoenix before escaping to Chicago in 2008. After 4 years working as an engineer, he sold his belongings and embarked on a round-the-world trip. After traveling non-stop for a year, he finally settled in Spain with his husband where he now calls home. When he's not traveling or writing guides about events, festivals or the best LGBT destinations, he enjoys the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid. Read Auston's blog at Two Bad Tourists, or follow him on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
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