What are the best places to visit near Madrid

Day of half day trips from Madrid

Madrid is in the exact center of Spain so its location is perfect to discover the country. If you spend a few days in the capital we recommend taking at least one day trip from Madrid. You will be surprised by some unique UNESCO Heritage towns, castles, but also lesser-known villages that are just an hour away from the metropolis.

You will find a list of the best places to visit near Madrid below that we put together so you can easily organize a lovely half day or a full day trip during your stay.

1. Toledo


Toledo, surrounded by the Tagus river and located on a rocky hill is probably one of the best places to visit near Madrid. This town used to be an outstanding cultural center in medieval Europe. It is also called the city of three cultures, where once Moors, Christians and Jews lived together almost in perfect harmony. This medieval town is a must see when your are in Madrid.

Toledo is a UNESCO Heritage site.

Don´t miss: The Cathedral,  El Greco´s paintings, The old Synagogue 

How to get from Madrid to Toledo: By train (from Atocha station) it takes 30 minutes (please note that the train station in Toledo is not in the center). You can see the train timetable here.

It takes approximately 50 minutes by car.

Enjoy a day trip from Madrid to Toledo with a private tour guide and discover the best of it (We can customize a half or a full day tour to Toledo).

2. El Escorial


Would you like a mix of the beautiful countryside with some Spanish History? If so, San Lorenzo del Escorial is the place to be!

It is a Basilica, Monastery, Library and Palace all at the same time, surrounded by Madrid´s mountains. Also, almost all Spanish kings (Hapsburg & Bourbon) were buried there. You can walk down to its Pantheon and stand there surrounded by all of them. Imagine that once, one of the most powerful kings in history, Philip the II used to rule almost half of the world from there, when Spain was the biggest empire on Earth. Actually, it was also his idea to rise this incredible monument of the Spanish Renaissance time. The Monastery of El Escorial was the biggest building in Europe at the time it was built. 

El Escorial is a UNESCO Heritage site.

Don´  t miss: The El Escorial Monastery complex & El Escorial gardens

How to get from Madrid to El Escorial: Depending on the traffic it is almost a 60 minutes drive (there are several buses and trains to El Escorial throughout the day)

Enjoy a private tour with an expert tour guide and discover the best of El Escorial (normally it is a 5- hour tour from Madrid)

3. Segovia


Segovia is a lovely medieval town, where you can see the best preserved Roman Aqueduct in the World. For this very reason it is worth seeing, but the small city has much more to offer: Romanesque churches, the city walls, a medieval castle called El Alcazar and much more. Segovia´ s gastronomy is recognized worldwide and the local specialty is the roasted suckling pig (the 2 best restaurants to try it are at ‘Jose María’ and ‘Mesón de Cándido’).

If you decide to drive to Segovia, you can also visit the San Ildefonso summer palace and its gardens (20 minutes by car).

Segovia is a UNESCO Heritage site.

Don´ t miss: The Roman Aqueduct, El Alcazar, The Cathedral

How to get from Madrid to Segovia: Depending on the traffic it can take about an hour by car (there are also several buses and trains to Segovia throughout the day)

Enjoy a private tour from Madrid to Segovia with an expert tour guide and discover the best of this town. We can customize a half or a full day trip for you.

4. Sepúlveda 


Sepúlveda is a magical place. This tiny village located in an appealing location is mainly visited by Spaniards. You can wonder around the old streets and feel the atmosphere of a typical Castilian town. Situated in a natural park it offers fantastic views. According to the locals it is one of the best places to visit near Madrid and they also insist, that in Sepúlveda you can try one of the best roasted meat in the country. 

 You can taste many local pastry products as well, for example at the famous “Pastelería La Peña”.

Don´ t miss: Plaza de España, Castle and the walls, The main Church 

How to get from Madrid to Sepúlveda: 1h30 from Madrid by car.

Unfortunately there is no good public transportation to Sepúlveda.

5. Aranjuez 


Located in the south of Madrid, Aranjuez is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list because of its old town,  landscapes with the Tagus river and its wonderful Royal Palace. This palace and town were specially beloved by the Bourbon dynasty kings who embellished it with imposing fountains, gardens and parks. In fact, these kings spent in Aranjuez most of their time and they used to organize there many cultural events and concerts.

From April until the end of June and from September to October you can get from Madrid to Aranjuez by the famous Strawberry train (classic rail excursion).

Don´ t miss: Royal Palace, Jardín de la Isla & Príncipe, Plaza de Parejas

How to get from Madrid to Aranjuez: 45 minutes by train or bus 

(There are many of them throughout the day from the centric Sol or Atocha)

We can customize a half day trip from Madrid to Aranjuez! You can also visit a historic winery or you can combine it with a trip to Toledo.

6. The Guadarrama mountains


Madrid is surrounded by mountains in the North, and it is the highest capital in Europe. The Guadarrama mountain range and region is a National Park with plenty of  fantastic sites and places to visit especially if you are a nature lover. Hemingway’s famous ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ was set there.

Here are our favourite places at Guadarrama Natural park:

1., In Rascafría you can have a good lunch, see some typical features of its architecture, breathe fresh mountain air and admire the waterfall called Las cascadas del purgatorio (located at a 30-minute drive from Rascafría).

The best option is to go there by car (1h15) or by public bus from Plaza de Castilla (2h30).

2., At the feet of the mountains you can visit the 15th century castle in Manzanares el Real which appears in the movie “El Cid”  featuring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. A really great travel experience close to Madrid. 

You can get there by car or take bus number  724 from Plaza Castilla.

3., La Pedriza is one of the most beautiful natural sites to visit near Madrid. It is a unique and large extension of granite rock located in the south of the National Park and it is a beloved place for climbers and nature lovers. 

You can get there by car or take bus number 724 from Plaza Castilla.

Do you fancy a full day trip from Madrid to the mountains ?

from madrid

If you wish to get to the top of these mountains and enjoy amazing views of the region of Madrid, then you should travel to Cercedilla (the gate to the peaks and a lovely village accessible by train). Take a cable car to Navacerrada or Cotos. From Navacerrada you can do a trekking to the Siete Picos (Seven Peaks) and enjoy an incredible view. This trekking lasts about 5 hours.

As an alternative, from Cotos you can reach Madrid’s highest point called Peñalara (2428 meters or 7874 feet). The route is just amazing as you will see several lagoons and astonishing sites.

Both of these tracks would suppose a full day trip out of Madrid. There are many nice rural accommodations there so you can even plan an overnight stay.

7. Ávila


Founded in the 11th century, Ávila is one of the best preserved walled cities in the world. In fact, there are not many other places that are so well-maintained, and in perfect conditions. There are hundreds of interesting historic sites inside and outside the walls. As it is a bit further from Madrid than the other places listed here, only the most determined visitors usually go there, which gives the city a special and calm atmosphere.

A must-see for pilgrims because of the mystic St. Teresa de Ávila, writer of several books who reformed her own Carmelite order.

Ávila is definitely one of the most important places to see near Madrid.

It is a UNESCO heritage site.

Don´t miss: The city walls, Basilica de San Vicente, Cathedral

How to get from Madrid to Avila: 1h30 hours by train, 1h15 by bus or by car

8. Chinchón


Out of all the small villages in the region of Madrid, Chinchón is probably the most charming one. And by small, we mean really small as there are only 5000 inhabitants, so you can easily see all the whole village on foot. 

The main attraction is its fascinating 15th century Plaza, located in the heart of the town. It maintained its medieval appearance, and up to this day, it has been used for celebrations and bullfights.  Definitely a great place to visit and have lunch or a coffee.

Don´ t miss: The main square, Castle, Parroquia de la Asunción (with a painting by Goya) + Viewpoint

How to get from Madrid to Chinchón: a 50-minute drive from Madrid or hop on bus number 337 from Plaza Conde de Casal.

9. Alcalá de Henares


Alcalá de Henares is a UNESCO heritage site and it has an incredible history.

It was the place where Columbus met the Queen before his departure to America, the birthplace of the legendary Spanish writer Cervantes and it houses Spain´ s oldest working theatre. 

The Alcala University with its majestic plateresque facade is one of Europe’s first universities and definitely the first one to have a university campus. Students lived there under several laws. They would be punished for infractions such as speaking anything other than Latin, returning after 8 p.m., or bringing a woman on premises.

The town is just lovely and you could have a delicious lunch or some tapas in Calle Mayor.

Don´ t miss: The main square, the University, Cervantes house, Old city walls, climbing the tower of Santa María la Mayor

How to get from Madrid to Alcala de Henares:

30 minutes by car or by public transport: excellent transport links with Madrid (many buses and trains).

These 9 places are by far the best places to visit near Madrid, but there are more interesting sights to visit close to the capital.

Going much further is also possible thanks to the great fast rail connections which will take you to other cities such as Barcelona, Seville or Valencia in just a few hours.

If you wish, Madrid Expert  can organize a private half or a full day trip from Madrid for you and your group.