Spain’s capital, Madrid, is steeped in art, flavor, and passion. But we can often discover much more about a country when we venture a little further out. With so many incredible towns close by, Madrid is a great place to stay put while seeing more and getting a deeper understanding of Spain’s history and culture. Here are three unforgettable day trips you can take from Madrid and a mini-guide to each so you know what to expect. Also, check out our guide for Madrid here.
You can visit these three destinations by booking a tour from Madrid, renting a car, taking the bus, or taking the train from the tropical oasis train station Atocha. We recommend the latter, but we may be biased because trains are our favorite method of transportation and for these trips, it was perfect.
If you take the train, find a walking tour in Toledo and Segovia. But spend at least one night in Zaragoza. Because it’s located three hours from Madrid, you may need more time to do the city justice, and you will be unnecessarily rushed. You can also access it from Barcelona, as it’s half way between the two cities.
Madrid Day Trip to Toledo
It was known as the city of three cultures, where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities peacefully coexisted in the Middle Ages. In just 30 minutes from Madrid, you could discover the traces of this fascinating cultural combination, which is Toledo’s main attraction. Walking around the old city, you can notice how the three cultures blend together, especially in Toledo’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town. It’s a haven for a curious mind. When visiting Toledo on a day trip from Madrid, we recommend getting a guide to highlight these details that you may otherwise not notice and learn fun facts. Here is what to expect when visiting Toledo.
Many of the main attractions in Toledo are connected by the large Plaza Zocodover, so it’s the perfect place to start discovering the city. Now, it’s a colorful, busy meeting place for locals and tourists, but the Plaza used to serve as a space for bullfighting and public punishments.
Cathedral de Toledo
The main cathedral, also known as Cathedral Primada, is one of the stateliest buildings in town, with an equally impressive interior. The cathedral is included on the list of the top cathedrals in Spain, but it was actually built on a mosque. Inside, it offers displays of artwork by El Greco, Goya, and Velazquez and provides stunning views from the tower.
Synagogue del Transito
This synagogue is Spain’s most significant Jewish building, constructed in the 1350s. Like Catedral de Toledo, and many others, it was later converted into a church, but the original character is still present. The interior is still adorned by calligraphy in Arabic and Hebrew, ornate tiling, and the Sephardic Museum housed inside tells the Jewish history in Spain.
Mosque Cristo de la Luz
The ancient mosque was built in 999, but it looks like it hasn’t aged a day. It is located inside the medina where Toledo’s wealthy Muslim families used to live. Following the same fate as the other religious buildings, it was turned into a Catholic chapel.
Alcazar fortress, perched up on a hill, overlooks the entire city. Today the fortress is a Military Museum, giving visitors a look into the history of the Spanish army. Aside from the impressive building, it’s worth visiting just for the views alone. After, head over to Puente de Alcantara, the most beautiful bridge in Toledo. It’s located below the medieval castle of San Servando. Here is where you get another perspective of the castle and views over the Tajo river. Don’t miss this on your day trip to Toledo.
Madrid Day Trip to Segovia
The UNESCO-listed Segovia, flooded with culture and history, sits only an hour from Madrid. The city is small and quiet, but its attractions are giant and grandiose. From an enormous ancient aqueduct to Gothic-style Catholic Cathedral to a castle that inspired Walt Disney, Segovia doesn’t have to beg for visitors. You will quickly see why you should make a day trip to Segovia!
Aqueduct of Segovia
This structure is the most obvious reason to take a day trip to Segovia. It dates back to the 1st century and still carries water to this day. The aqueduct stretches for 15 kilometers before entering the city. You can follow it along Calle Almira and down the hill to Plaza Azuguego, where it majestically towers over the square 28.5 meters in height. Aside from its incredible size and the fact that it’s still operational, the other impressive fact is that the blocks are not cemented together but held up by gravity!
Alcazar Castle of Segovia
Touring this fairytale-like castle from the 16th century is the best way to experience how the Castilian monarchs lived. Walk around the Throne Room and the Hall of Kings and take in the atmosphere. Then climb to the top of the Juan II Tower for spectacular views during your day trip to Segovia.
Contrary to the name, Real Street actually consists of a series of pedestrian laneways snaking through the old town of Segovia from the aqueduct to the Alcazar Castle. The streets will guide you past 15th and 16th-century buildings, palaces, and churches and into the Jewish Quarter.
You can start your labyrinthine adventure on Calle de Cervantes, just off Plaza Azoguego. Eventually, you will find your way to Calle Juan Bravo, where you cannot miss the iconic Casa de Los Picos. The house of points is aptly named for the 617 pyramid-shaped spikes that cover its façade. Originally, the house was known as the casa del judio (the house of Jews) until the building owner Juan de la Hoz, changed the façade and gave people a new characteristic to nickname the house. From Calle Juan Bravo, you’ll end up in the heart of Segovia, Plaza Medina del Campo, where the buildings are not any less impressive.
The One Dish You Should Try
Segovia’s cuisine is very rich, hearty, and meat-based. Our apologies to any vegetarians reading this; the signature dish to try during your day trip to Segovia is the suckling pig. The sight of spread-eagled rosy pig roasted to perfection cannot be avoided. The dish is widely available due to its popularity for being so tender that it be cut with a plate. Literally! It was the best pork we’d ever tasted, and the presentation was impressive. We ate at Jose Maria Restaurant, but make a reservation, it’s very popular!
Day Trips from Madrid to Zaragoza
Zaragoza is Spain’s fifth-largest city, inconspicuously sitting between Madrid and Barcelona, which is why it is often overlooked. But here is what you can expect to be rewarded with if you add Zaragoza to your Spain travel itinerary.
Zaragoza is the perfect place to appreciate Mudejar art. It is native to this region and combines Islamic and Christian aspects. So naturally, due to the presence of such architectural heritage, Zaragoza was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the best place to admire Mudejar architecture is at Ajaferia Palace. The palace dates back to the 11th century and is used as a parliament building and museum today. Walking around, you will notice the changes in structure and design. These were made with the succession of the palace over the centuries.
Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
The other unmissable attraction in Zaragoza is the gorgeous Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is the largest of all Roman Catholic Churches in Spain. From the top, it also offers the best views of its impressive domes and colorful tiles and the Plaza del Pilar.
Admire Street Art
Just beyond the center of Zaragoza lays a treasure hunt of street art. Nearly 70 artworks have been accumulated since 2005 as part of the International Festival of Urban Art. You can join a walking tour or embark on a self-guided mission to find all the murals. We hope this guide helps you explore Spain deeper. We would love to hear what was your favorite day trip!