Are you looking to add a one-day getaway to explore Madrid’s surroundings? The guesswork can be time-consuming if you don’t know the area. As a longtime resident of Madrid, I have taken many day trips from the city, and I can’t wait to share them with you on this list.
15 Fun Day Trips to Take From Madrid
The capital is full of attractions that can keep you very busy. But if you are staying in Spain for a week or so, it’s worth adding some day trips from Madrid to your itinerary. It will help you learn more about the country and make your trip unforgettable.
Most of the sites on this list are essential pins on the UNESCO World Heritage map. Plus, I added some unexpected natural destinations in the middle of Spain. The travel times by car are calculated from the city center and don’t exceed two and a half hours. The only exception is the overnight stay at the top of the list.
Ready to discover these 15 fantastic day trips from Madrid? Vamos!
15. Hiking in the Old Kingdom of Patones de Arriba
1 hour (44 miles) | Charming Small Town | Family-Friendly Visit | Hiking
The history of this small town is quite interesting. Patones sits on a mountaintop, so isolated that it was considered a de-facto independent kingdom until the 18th century. In the past, most residents moved to newer areas nearby, leaving Patones frozen in time.
The slate of the walls and roofs gives Patones the characteristic dark tones of the pueblos negros, the black towns located throughout Madrid and the neighboring region of Guadalajara. For a nice hiking day, start from the Senda del Barranco, a family-friendly ecologic path that doesn’t require advanced hiking skills.
How to get to Patones de Arriba
14. Walk Into The Purple Fields in Brihuega
1.25 hours (60 miles) | Seasonal Trip | Totally Instagramable
Can you imagine 1,000 hectares of lavender in full bloom? That’s what you’ll find in Brihuega. The town has one of the most extensive lavender farming fields in Europe that reaches full bloom in July.
The city hosts events and festivals during this time, and the town center is equally lovely. Add it to your map if you are traveling in summer, and you will return home with tons of beautiful photos.
How to get to Brihuega
13. Hike, Bike, and Taste Chocolate in the Lozoya Valley
1.5 hours (50 miles) | Protected Natural Area | Trekking and Chocolate Tasting
A misty woodland is not what you might expect to find near Madrid. But if you are looking for an excuse to put your trekking equipment in the luggage, visiting the Sierra is a good one. The pathways in the Lozoya Valley are clearly indicated and perfect for trekking and biking. It also contains ornithology and geological diversity-protected areas.
The Finnish Woodland and the Purgatory Waterfalls are among my favorite sites in this area. Nearby, you can also visit the Monastery of Santa María de El Paular and the Natural Chocolate Factory of Rascafría.
How to get to Rascafría
12. Find the Windmills of Your Mind on the Don Quixote Route
1.5 – 2 hours (82 – 100 miles) | Historical Route | Cheese Tasting
Follow the steps of Don Quixote fighting the giants along the Castilla-La Mancha windmills route. The itinerary includes several towns, but I have two favorite stops.
Consuegra has 12 windmills lined up on a hill near the castle of La Muela. Some of them are original and open to visitors. The walk is easy, and there’s a parking area close to the last windmill, which has the best views over the hill.
Next, head to Campo de Criptana. The restaurants just beside the windmills, make for picturesque dining. I have tasted great food here, like the famous Manchego cheese, and enjoyed the sunset over the windmills. It’s the beauty of simplicity for me!
Coming to Madrid? Use Our Helpful Guide to The Best Things To Do in Madrid, Plus Our Other Recommendations for the Top Things To See in Spain!
11. Dive Into the Spanish Golden Era at Alcalá de Henares
50 minutes (25 miles) | UNESCO Site | Birthplace of Cervantes
Like every university town, Alcalá de Henares has a unique vibe. From the 15th to the 17th centuries, Spain’s golden era, the most renowned literates studied in this prestigious university, one of the oldest in Europe. Its buildings, such as the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, have extraordinary artistic value.
The other two fantastic spots are the Moorish-inspired Cisneros Palace and the Gothic cathedral. Alcalá also has a lovely city center to take a walk, eat al fresco, and enjoy the Plaza de Cervantes.
How to get to Alcalá de Henares
10. Meet the Royals of the Past at San Lorenzo de El Escorial
1 hour (35 miles) | UNESCO Site | Royal Palace | Italian and Flemish Art
Built during the 16th century, El Escorial was conceived as a monastery and burial place for the royal family. The Royal Site is a massive building complex that includes a church, the pantheon with the kings’ and queens’ vaults, a library, two royal palaces, enormous halls, gardens, and the Cottage of the Prince.
It is an excellent tour choice for families because it is easy to park and get around on foot. Also, the town has lots of bars and traditional grill restaurants.
Pro tip: The weather here can be very windy. Dress accordingly, especially in the cold season.
How to get to the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
9. Discover Madrid’s Finest Wines in San Martín de Valdeiglesias
1 hour (46 miles) | Wine Tasting Tour | Swim, Hike, and Wine Tasting
Not many know that Madrid produces fine wine. An excellent day trip for visiting its regional wine cellars is San Martín de Valdeiglesias, where you can enjoy tastings and vineyard tours.
Come during the summer to enjoy the open-air classical music concerts and all kinds of events. And to cool down during the hottest days, take a dip in the reservoir of San Juan; it is just 15 minutes away by car.
How to get to San Martín de Valdeiglesias
8. Experience the Religious Fervor of Holy Week in Chinchón
50 minutes (37 miles) | Spanish Easter Folklore | Local Product Tasting
This is one of the loveliest day trips from Madrid. Chinchón is small, so do not expect a packed activity day. That said, the destination is excellent for visiting wine cellars, tasting local products, and relaxing in of the loveliest squares in Castille.
Visiting the Plaza Mayor in Chichón is like jumping back in time; its atmosphere is truly unique. During Easter, the Passion of Christ is enacted live, and it’s a powerful way to experience the Spanish fervor of Holy Week, known here as Semana Santa.
How to get to Chinchón
7. Discover the Best Preserved Roman Aqueduct in Segovia
1.25 hours (56 miles) | UNESCO Sites | Roman, Moorish, and Spanish Architecture
The Roman aqueduct in Segovia, with its 167 arches, is one of the best preserved in Spain. It is a quintessential city postcard, but the city holds plenty more attractions. The Alcazár and its tower have great views over the city. Two of my favorite spots are the cathedral and the Jewish Quarter, an excellent area to taste traditional dishes.
There are enough monuments in the city center for a one-day trip. If you are up for an additional tour, the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso is just 15 minutes away by car. You can learn more about this famous area in our history of Spain article.
How to get to Segovia
Coming to Madrid? Don’t miss our recommendations for where to stay in the city, and fun things to do!
6. Feel Like a Medieval Knight on Ávila’s City Walls
1.5 hours (69 miles) | UNESCO Site | Historical With Great Gastronomy
If you fancy medieval architecture, Ávila is the perfect outing. Its strategic position led to building the magnificent city walls—the Muralla de Ávila—between the 11th and 14th centuries. These are the best-preserved medieval walls in Spain. You will feel like a real knight as you walk along them! What’s more, the walls meet accessibility requirements.
Ávila has plenty of significant buildings. The churches outside the city walls are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and deserve a visit. Ávila is one of the top places you must see in Spain here.
Pro tip: Taking pictures of the walls is a must! Leave Ávila through a countryside route and you will reach the best spot. Afterward, have a T-bone steak and patatas revolconas, with paprika and bacon. Both are Ávila’s famous dishes for a happy belly.
How to get to Ávila
5. Stroll Like a Royal in Aranjuez’s Gardens
50 minutes (31 miles) | UNESCO Site | Cultural & Natural Spots | Great For Families
Aranjuez is among the most leisurely day trips from Madrid. It is very close to the capital and accessible by a 40-minute direct train ride. The city started to grow in the 18th century, when the Bourbons’ traveling court started doing extended stays here. The city’s past as a royal residence left its mark in its extraordinary architecture.
For the best tour experience, visit the Royal Palace and the Casa del Labrador. Furthermore, don’t skip the gardens along the river Tajo. They are stunning.
How to get to Aranjuez
4. Look for the Hidden Signs in Salamanca
2.25 hours (133 miles) | UNESCO Site | Amazing Architecture | University Nightlife Vibe
Salamanca can be a day trip, but I suggest spending the night if you have the opportunity. The city has many attractions that deserve a prolonged stay. Also, it is breathtaking at night.
The most exciting spots are within the city center, but some peculiar things are not on the map. An astronaut and a dragon eating ice cream are among the decorations carved on the cathedral’s door. Those fun details were added during the most recent renovations to the cathedral. Look for the rabbit also. Touching it brings luck, and many visitors believe this, which is why it has grown so dark. Yet another quirky addition is a frog hidden within the university’s facade.
Want to be even more amazed? Head to the Zara clothing shop in Plaza del Liceo. The building was originally a convent from the 18th century, and its interiors were retained. Stunning!
How to get to Salamanca
3. Explore a Medieval Fortess in Cuenca
2 hours (105 miles) | UNESCO Site | Medieval City | Breathtaking Landscape
Cuenca is a living image of medieval fortresses of the past. It’s magically placed atop a steep spur, providing views of all the gorges around it. In addition to the Cathedral, don’t miss the three Hanging Houses. They are the last standing of their kind.
Take the walkway that runs behind the San Pablo bridge from this point. It leads into the canyon at the river’s mouth. The route has a beautiful view of the convent and a jail from Inquisition times. Along this path, you will see hocinos, old rural houses used by farmers.
Pro tip: The San Pablo Bridge is the best spot in Cuenca for photos. The views from it are stunning.
How to get to Cuenca
2. Embrace the Architectural Melting Pot in Toledo’s Old Town
1.25 hours (47 miles) | UNESCO Site | Great Historical Value | Moorish Architecture
Toledo is one of my favorite day trips from Madrid. Romans, Visigoths, and Moors ruled this city in the past, and each left an extraordinary impact on its eclectic architecture. Of the many historically significant monuments in Toledo, Alcázar is a must-see. It overlooks the city from the top of the old town and has excellent panoramic views. Then visit the Gothic cathedral and the El Greco Museum. Also drop by Santa Maria la Blanca, the oldest standing synagogue in Europe.
I also recommend a visit to one of the many steel forges. Toledo’s steel was prized among Toledo’s past rulers; today, reproductions of swords and armor are created here for major Hollywood productions.
How to get to Toledo old town
1. Explore, Swim, and Eat in Beautiful Valencia
3.75 hours (224 miles) | UNESCO Site | Sea Activities | Great Art Scene, Gastronomy & Nightlife
How about a trip to the sea? Yes, this will take longer than a day trip, but an overnight trip to Valencia will make this an unforgettable trip. The city’s must-see attraction is the futuristic architecture of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The vast complex, designed by Valencia’s own Santiago Calatrava, is a set of six buildings, one of which is the biggest oceanographic in Europe.
Valencia’s historic center is home to top attractions including a fish market and the Gothic Valencia Cathedral and its Miguelete bell tower. Visit the Barrio del Carmen for a laid-back afternoon stroll. If you are an art lover, the Museum of Fine Arts is the second-largest art gallery in Spain.
After all this touring, relax at the beach. Cabanyal, Malvarrosa, and Patacona are all close by and accessible by bus. Wilder beaches like El Saler, Devesa, and Garrofera require a car or bike to get there.
Pro tip: Valencia has the best nightlife and is also the birthplace of paella. Make time for both.
How to get to Valencia