5 Day Trips From Madrid (By Train)
Madrid is a city is teeming with world-class art, delicious cuisine, and some of the best nightlife in Europe. The youthful energy, love of life, and Old World charm of the Spanish capital is irresistible for many. Once you give this city a few days, set off to explore the fascinating towns surrounding Madrid. These are my top picks for day trips from Madrid.
The magnificent ancient capital of Toledo is a top priority for many travellers going on day trips from Madrid. Steeped in multicultural history including Catholic, Jewish, and Moorish monuments, Toledo is also home to an incredible art showcase of El Greco, Velazquez, and others. Visitors here also relish the incredibly-preserved city, perched on a rocky mound set above a looping gorge carved by the River Tajo. Do not miss this historic, artistic, and spiritual centre of Spain.
How to get there by train: AVN trains make the 33-minute trip from Madrid’s Atocha station hourly. Toledo’s rail station is a 20-minute walk below the centre, reachable by bus.
Must-see: Although it costs around 10 euros to enter, Toledo’s Cathedral is easily one of Europe’s best. It has a vast interior and great art including the baroque Transparente and El Greco’s, The Disrobing of Christ.
Insider tips: Crowds of tourists fill Toledo during the day, especially in summer. To experience the city in more serenity, stay overnight.
Segovia’s top attraction is its stunning Roman aqueduct which cuts right through the middle of town. But the city is no one hit wonder. Its cathedral is a brilliant example of the late Gothic style and the Alcazar is an extraordinary castle with narrow towers and turrets, said to have inspired the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (find out about other amazing castles in Europe). Segovia’s dramatic setting on a rock escarpment overlooking the countryside only adds to its enticement.
How to get there by train: Infrequent regional trains leave Madrid’s Atocha station taking a slow 2 hours to Segovia station, located a 15-min walk from the center. Frequent high-speed trains make the trip from Madrid Chamartin station in an impressive 30 minutes to Segovia-Guiomar, located 4.4 miles (7 km) from town.
Must-see: It is impossible to miss the Roman aqueduct which looms over the Plaza del Azoguejo. Thought to have been built in the 1st century, it stretches 800 meters long and reaches 30 meters high.
Insider tips: Most visitors to Segovia will not know to hike down out of the Old Town to Vera Cruz, a 12-sided church built by the Knights Templar in the early 13th century.
Avila is known for its perfectly preserved 12th century city walls. Often overlooked by tourists, the 68 mile (110 km) trip west of Madrid makes a relatively easy day out of the city. A stroll around the streets inside the Old City gives a charming look at small-town Spain. Avila is also considered to have the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. That is not its only religious claim to fame: Avila is the birthplace of St Teresa, who founded a Carmelite religious order.
How to get there by train: TRN trains make the journey from Madrid’s Chamartin Station in about 1.5 hours. Regional trains leave less frequently and take 2 hours. Avila’s station is a 15-minute walk east of the walled city.
Must-see: With 88 semi-circular towers, 9 gates, and an average height of 12 meters, the impeccable city walls are literally unmissable. Built in the Romanesque style between the 11th and 14th century, it’s undoubtedly a highlight of Spain.
Insider tips: For a few euros you can walk along the top of the walls. Don’t miss the most impressive gates: Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcazar.
Cuenca is easily one of Spain’s most striking towns. Its most prominent feature consists of the many casas colgadas, or hanging houses, which are built right up to the cliff edge, overlooking the gorge cut by the Huécar and Júcar rivers. Add to that the dramatic backdrop of the mountainous countryside of one of the least populated provinces of Spain, and you have got a special place.
How to get there by train: High-speed trains leave Madrid’s Atocha Station about every hour for the 55 minute journey. You will arrive at Cuenca Fernando Zobel station, about 3 miles (5 km) from the centre.
Must-see: Even if you are a fan of abstract art, check out the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art. It is located in a 15th century “hanging house” with a fantastic view.
Insider tips: Try to visit Cuenca on a weekday to avoid crowds of madrileños visiting on the weekend. Stay overnight if you have got the time.
What once may have been beyond a day trip from Madrid, is now a 1.5 hour direct trip thanks to the Alvia high-speed rail. Considered one of the finest Renaissance cities in all of Europe, Salamanca is famed as the home to the oldest university in Spain. It is a youthful and less touristy version of Toledo. The city holds a series of monuments, two distinct cathedrals, magnificent cloisters, and a handful of engaging museums.
How to get there by train: High-speed trains leave Chamartin station about 4 times per day for Salamanca train station. It is 15 minutes northeast of the center by foot.
Must-see: Plaza Mayor is Spain’s grandest square and the heart of Salamanca. In the evenings, it becomes a meeting place for young and old and is truly a fabulous place to see living Spanish culture.
Insider tips: Lunch is the main meal of the day here, and restaurants often offer their menú del día (best food and biggest portions) anywhere from 1-3pm.
Once you check out Picasso’s masterpieces and dance until dawn at the clubs, venture out to other cities, which make excellent day trips from Madrid. Travel Spain by rail and you will discover a country soaked in history with a lifestyle that is hard not to fall in love with.