Best day trips from Madrid

Ancient towns, natural landscapes, cultivated vineyards…places to visit near Madrid where memories will linger long after your stay in the heart of Spain.

At the geographical centre of Spain, Madrid is the perfect city to rent a holiday home and use as a base to explore what this vibrant and diverse country has to offer. Not only does its central location mean that whatever way the wind blows you’ll be sure to find something of interest, but because of the great road and rail networks flowing from the capital, it makes exploring further afield so practical too. 

Read on to discover the best day trips from Madrid that no savvy traveller would want to miss. We’ve limited the list to ensure all the trips can easily be done in a day. Whether you are travelling by car, coach or train, sit back and enjoy the ride!


Views over Toledo

Once upon a time, it was the ancient capital of Spain. Now, Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also known around the world by the masterpieces of El Greco. One of his priceless paintings entitled simply ‘The View of Toledo’ highlights one of the most impressive things about this city- its vantage point in the landscape, perched above a gorge with magnificent views over the river, Rio Tajo.  

An easy day trip from Madrid by train, taking just 30 minutes or a 50-minute car journey, you’ll find that Toledo is a million miles away from the vibe of the capital. It oozes history and as soon as you enter the ancient-walled city its heritage hangs in the air. Explore its cobbled, narrow streets, the castle, and the cathedral where artwork worthy of any world-class gallery hangs from its 13th-century walls.

For centuries, Toledo has been renowned for its steel and in particular for the best swords known to man. During the 15th and 17thcenturies, no swordsman would want to come up against an adversary wielding a Toledo sword and to this day these swords are collectors’ items and hang on display in museums around the world. Workshops allow visitors to see how this ancient craft forged, not only beautiful and durable works of art but also carved a place for Toledo on the world map of craftsmanship. Arts and crafts shops litter the quaint streets of Toledo, displaying some lovely quality merchandise, including pieces made from Toledo steel.

Wine bars and eateries abound with delicacies typical to the region and if you are looking for something even more relaxing, then the Arab baths offer a traditional Middle Eastern treat of a soak and a massage, followed by some Arab mint tea and biscuits. 

A Madrid to Toledo day trip is a must if you are staying in the city. 

El Escorial

Embedded in a stunning landscape of forests and mountains, lies El Escorial, on the edge of the enchanting town of San Lorenzo. It is described as one of the eighth wonders of the world and buildings such as these require an unhurried visit. 

A day trip from Madrid is the perfect amount of time to spend here. Conveniently accessed by bus, car or train, arrive early and stroll around the beautiful gardens before exploring the Basilica, the royal library, the royal apartments, and the pantheon; made up of two mausoleums; one for all the monarchs of Spain since Charles V, the other, for all their royal offspring, spanning 500 years. 

A feat of man’s incredible ingenuity. Its 16 courtyards hint at the scale of this complex. The library houses a vast collection of 45,000 books from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as 5000 manuscripts in Latin, Arabic and Spanish. It was within this library that many books were hidden and survived the Spanish Inquisition. But even more impressive, are the vaulted ceilings adorned with stunning frescoes which match any painted by Michelangelo. In fact, Juan Bautista de Toledo was an architect who worked in collaboration with Michelangelo on St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and was the man who designed El Escorial. Some of the world’s greatest painters at the time painted walls and ceilings within this complex.

El Escorial is one of the most popular places to visit near Madrid.


Aqueducts, Segovia

When visiting Segovia, within the town, you will find one of the most impressive Roman aqueducts left in the world. Built almost 2000 years ago, it’s nearly 800 metres long and has 165 arches. It dissects Segovia in two and stands as an impressive focal point. It is particularly beautiful at night when it is lit up and can be admired from many vantage points, including the terraces of some of the restaurants. It is also nice to remember that free tapa with every drink is still a time-honoured tradition in the local bars found in the cobbled streets of this fascinating city.

Segovia is also home to Vera Cruz, a 12-sided church! Built by the Knights Templar in the 13th century, it is a lovely walk down from the old town to see its unusual construction.

The highlight of a day trip from Madrid to Segovia is the dazzling, spell-binding castle. Perched in the perfect position, it could be part of any fairy tale and it will come as no surprise that it is said that it was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s imaginary domain. It is worth the effort to climb the 152 steps to reach the top of the castle tower, offering a bird’s eye view of the town and surrounding mountainous landscape. 

Segovia is one of the more unforgettable places to visit from Madrid.

Vineyards of Madrid

When it comes to visiting a vineyard there’s a lot to choose from around Madrid. Five rivers irrigate this region and make for incredibly productive land. Within a 45-minute bus ride, you could be sampling some of Europe’s best wines and learning about the region's historical roots in winemaking. Many places near Madrid organise a tour with a wine-sampling and tapa experience. Learn about winemaking from vine to bottle and depending on the vineyard you choose you will be shown traditional or more modern wine-making techniques. For the ideal balance between traditional and modern, book a visit to Bodegas Andrés Díaz, a family-run winery, now owned by the great-granddaughter of the original owner. The winery is situated in Navalcarnero, a lovely town and a gastronome’s delight so it’s a perfect day trip from Madrid.

Valley Iglesias is a relatively new vineyard. It has its own restaurant which is the meeting and drop off point and easily accessible by bus or car from Madrid. The tour starts by being privately driven to the vineyard to see the vines in the ground, then taken to the winery where the grapes are processed and then on to the tasting where samples are taken from the tank, the barrel and the bottle. 

Madrid wine tours are a fascinating way to discover the roots of Spain’s love of wine and a real surprise to find that they are an easy day trip near Madrid. 


Cathedral, Salamanca

Further afield but still possible in a day. Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities to visit from Madrid by train. It is a 90-minute journey by rail or two and a half hours by road. The highlight is the Plaza Mayor which was built in the 18th century and is truly impressive. The university building is worth a visit too. Dating back to 1094 its architecture is stunning. If you are feeling energetic, climb up to the Jesuit-built bell tower of the Clerecia building near the House of Shells for spectacular views. 

The city boasts two cathedrals that sit alongside each other. There are many points of interest but a day trip to Salamanca wouldn’t be complete without a stroll over the Roman Bridge. At one end of the bridge you will find the oldest monument in the city; an Iron Age stone statue of a bull, measuring over 2 metres long and 1.57 metres tall.  

Salamanca is definitely worth the effort to see and one of the top places to visit from Madrid. 

Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares is an often overlooked day trip from Madrid, perhaps because it is so close to the city that it doesn’t quite feel like you are leaving it. The medieval old town has a lot of history and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The town is the birthplace of the author of Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes, and his memory is kept alive here with the Cervantes Birthplace Museum and the Plaza de Cervantes; the city square honouring the world-famous author. 

Easily reached by local train within half an hour, it is well worth considering as one of your short day trips from Madrid. Ambling the streets and admiring its architecture which includes the Archbishop’s Palace and various museums to while away the day. 

There’s a hip vibe in this charming town which is probably due to the presence of its impressive 16th-century university. Stay on into the evening and enjoy the warm night air and a late meal, just as the locals do. Trains run often to and from the centre, throughout the day and well into the night, making this an easy and relaxing day out from Madrid.


Casas Colgadas, Cuenca

One of Spain’s most unusual towns to visit near Madrid is Cuenca. A high-speed train can get you there in 50 minutes or it is 1 and 45 minutes by car. Cuenca’s claim to fame is its ‘hanging houses’ or ‘Casas colgadas’ from the 14th century. These houses have been built right on the tip of the cliff overlooking the Huécar gorge, giving them the appearance of hanging off the edge. If you dare, you can visit the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art in one of these hanging houses. The views from the building compete impressively with the artwork in the museum and it is well worth the visit even if you aren’t particularly interested in abstract art! A great way to see the hanging houses from a safe distance is from the San Pablo Bridge which traverses the Huécar gorge far below. 

The walled town was founded by the Moors and has steep cobbled streets and a medieval castle to explore too. The colourful Plaza Mayor is the perfect place for people-watching and to have a leisurely meal. The town lies in the region of Castilla La Mancha, the home of Manchego cheese so the plaza is an ideal spot to sample some of its varieties, along with the delicious local wine. 

Cuenca is a beautiful town to explore near Madrid, with a surprise around every corner. 


The quirky town of Chinchón lies just 47 km southeast of the capital and is one of those places that is often overlooked when considering places to visit near Madrid. Head for the pretty and unusual looking medieval square, its irregular shape created by two and three-storey houses with distinctive wooden balconies. It is something quite different to other Plazas that you will see. 

The town was invaded by Napoleon in 1808 and signs of the invasion can be seen in the remains of the 15th-century castle and the mix of architectural styles. The church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción was completely destroyed by Napoleon’s troops and rebuilt by 1828 in a beautiful mix of Gothic, Plateresque, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. It is now home to Goya’s masterpiece of La Asunción de la Virgen. 

It is an interesting town and well worth the visit, even if it’s for a short meander through the streets and a lazy afternoon having lunch in the square.

The Windmills of Don Quixote

Windmills in Consuegra, Spain

You too can chase the windmills of Don Quixote. In his insanity, the fictitious Spanish knight believed the windmills to be giant monsters and set about on a quest to do battle with them. Discover where Cervantes found his inspiration for this world classic novel of 1605 on a short day trip from Madrid that will lead you to battle with your own windmill enemy- the urge to linger and to soak up the atmosphere in the little coffee shop/ wine bar of one of the converted windmills. It might be a battle you enjoy losing! 

The gorgeous windmills are lined up along a little hill, 140 km south of Madrid in the historic town of Consuegra. At the top of Calderico Hill, you will find 360° views of the surrounding area and the perfect setting for the 12 restored windmills of La Mancha. Originally there were 13 windmills, some dating back to the 16th century. Most of the windmills are open to visitors and have small exhibitions to give you a sense of the history of this area. 

The café windmill is an ideal place to come in the late afternoon and seat yourself on one of the tables outside to await the beautiful pink sunset, famous in this region of Spain. 

The takeaway...

Just a handful of some of the day trips near Madrid that will introduce you to the delights this region has to offer. All from the comfort of your base in one of the most vibrant capitals of the world.

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