Perhaps one of the best advantages of Madrid is its location smack dab in the center of the Spain. This means that if you head in just about any direction, you'll come upon a worthwhile day-trip destination. Here are some of our favorite day trips.
El Escorial Monastery & The Valley of the Fallen — 29 miles (47 km) away
The UNESCO-listed Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial sits northwest of the capital and is a historical residence for Spanish royalty. Both Charles I and Isabella of Portugal are interred within the monastery, characterized by its baroque dome, and Charles V was laid to rest within the palace known as the Pantheon of Kings. A trip to the monastery is often combined with a stop at the Valley of the Fallen, a controversial monument (commissioned by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco) to honor those who died during the Spanish Civil War.
Toledo — 45 miles (73 km) away
This hilltop, river-wrapped city was previously the capital of Spain, and today you can delve into its rich history by visiting its Gothic cathedral, Jewish quarter, and the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, among many other stops. Purchase yourself a sword (for which Toledo is famous) or sample a chunk of sugary marzipan, a very local specialty.
Segovia — 53 miles (86 km) away
Segovia epitomizes Old World majesty with its almost 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct, well-preserved medieval streets, and its especially dreamy Disney-like castle. The city is equally famous for its cuisine; no visit would be complete without sampling the cochinillo, a suckling pig cooked to such perfection that the chef will often cut it in front of you with a plate instead of a knife.
Avila — 55 miles (88 km) away
Set northwest of Madrid, Avila makes its way onto most visitors’ list of favorites due to its city walls, which enclose the old quarter like a rocky lasso. Get up close and personal with the stony barrier by walking atop it, then scale its towers for unbeatable views of the walled city and surrounding countryside. Then visit sights in the old town, such as the Basilica de San Vicente, and be sure to sample local specialties like yemas de Avila (a sugary egg-based sweet).
Salamanca — 132 miles (213 km) away
Stunning sandstone Spanish Renaissance architecture makes a visit to hilltop Salamanca well worth the trip. Attractions within this university town along the Tormes River include a 15-arch Roman bridge, the monastery and church of San Estéban, two cathedrals, and the immense Plaza Mayor.