What are the best places to visit near Madrid

Day of half day trips from Madrid

Madrid is exactly in the center of Spain so this location is perfect to discover the country. If you spend some days in the capital we recommend to take at least one day trip from Madrid. You will be surprised how only an hour away from the metropolis you find unique UNESCO Heritage towns, castles, but also lesser-known pueblos.

Here we tried to put together the best places to visit near Madrid 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 30 minutes (note that the train station is not in the center). You can see the train timetable here.

By car  55 minutes

Enjoy a private tour with an expert guide and discover the best of Toledo (We can customize a half or a full day tour to Toledo)

2. El Escorial


Would you like to mix beautiful countryside with Spanish History? If yes, San Lorenzo del Escorial is your place!

It is a Basilica, Monastery, Library and Palace at the same time, surrounded by Madrid´s mountains. Also, almost all Spanish kings (Hapsburg & Bourbon) are buried here. 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 ruled almost half of the world from here, 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 about 45 minutes driving (there are several buses and trains to El Escorial throughout the day)

Enjoy a private tour with an expert 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. Only because of this it is worth to see, but the small city has much to offer: Romanesque churches, the city wall, a medieval castle called El Alcazar and much more. Segovia´s gastronomy is worldwide famous and the local specialty is the roasted suckling pig. If you are in Segovia by car, you can also visit the San Ildefonso summer palace and gardens.

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 is about 1 hour driving (there are also several buses and trains to Segovia throughout the day)

Enjoy a private tour with an expert guide and discover the best of Segovia.We can customize a half or a full day trip.

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 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: 1 hour and a half from Madrid

There are local buses throughout the day

5. Aranjuez 


Aranjuez,  located south from Madrid is included at the UNESCO World Heritage list because of its old town,  landscape with the Tagus river and 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 have 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)

We can customize a half day for you in Aranjuez! You can visit there a historic winery as well or you can combine it with the trip to Toledo.

6. The Guadarrama mountains


Madrid is surrounded by mountains on 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 is set here.

In Rascafría  you can have a good lunch, see typical architecture, breath fresh mountain air and admire a waterfall (30 minutes driving from Rascafría) called Las cascadas del purgatorio.

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.

La Pedriza is one of the most beautiful natural places to visit near Madrid. It is a large extension of granite rock located to the south of the National Park and it is a beloved place of climbers. 

Maybe you would like to do 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 Madrid region then you should travel until Cercedilla (the gate to the peaks and a lovely village reachable by train) and take a cable car to Navacerrada or Cotos. From Navacerrada you can do a trekking to Siete Picos (Seven Peaks) and enjoy an incredible view. This trekking is for about 5 hours.

On the other hand, from Cotos you can reach Madrid´s highest point Peñalara (2428 meters or 7874 feet). The route is just amazing as you see several “lagunas” and astonishing sites. Both of these trackings would suppose a full day trip for Madrid. There are many nice rural accommodations there so you can even plan an overnight.

Don´t miss: Navacerrada, Manzanares el Real, La Pedriza

How to get from Madrid to Guadarrama mountains: The Guadarrama mountain range is located about 50 minutes north from Madrid. The best way is to get there by car, but there are also public buses, for instance to Manzanares el Real or train to Cercedilla.

7. Ávila


Avila, founded in the 11th century is one of the best preserved walled cities in the world, actually there are not many other places where it is conserved completely and in a perfect condition. There are hundreds of interesting historic sites inside and outside them. As it is a bit further from Madrid then the other places we´ve listed, only the most determined visitors get there. It gives the city a special and calm air.

For pilgrims it is a must-see because of the mystic St. Teresa de Avila, writer of several books who reformed her own Carmelite order.

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

It is a UNESCO heritage site.

Don´t miss: The city wall, Basílica de San Vicente, Cathedral

How to get from Madrid to Avila: By train 1 hour 30 minutes, By bus or car 1 hour 15 minutes

8. Chinchón


From all the small villages in Madrid region, probably Chinchón is the most charming one. And small in this case means really small as it has only 5000 inhabitants, so you can easily see all of it by feet. 

The main attraction is its 15th century fascinating Plaza, located in the center of the town. It maintained its medieval look, and even today it is 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 + Viewpoint

How to get from Madrid to Chinchón: 50 minutes driving from Madrid or by bus number 337.

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, it is the birthplace of the legendary Spanish writer Cervantes and it houses Spain´s oldest working theater. 

The Alcala University with its majestic plateresque facade is one of Europe first universities and it was definitely the first one to be a university town. 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 can have a delicious lunch or tapas on its Calle Mayor.

Don´t miss: The main square, the University, Cervantes house, Old city walls, walk up to the tower of Santa María el Mayor

How to get from Madrid to Alcala de Henares: By car 30 minutes, by public transport it is very well connected with Madrid (many many buses and trains)

These 9 places are probably the best places to visit near Madrid, but there are more interesting sights to visit close to the capital. You can go much further as well! Thanks to the great fast rail connection you can easily reach cities, like Barcelona, Seville or Valencia in a few hours ride.

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