Madrid is – by itself – a destination where you can spend an eternity and still have things left to do.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the other amazing cities that are close to the Spanish capital. They might be smaller, but equally worthy – and that makes them perfect for one-day trips.
And thanks to various great transportation methods, it isn’t hard to get there. Here are 5 fantastic cities close to Madrid that should be on everybody’s must-visit lists.
Toledo is located about 75 kilometers south of Madrid, near the Tagus River. You can get there by bus or car, and the bus rides are usually quite cheap.
The city of Toledo is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is considered one of the absolute best destinations in Spain if you are into culture. In one day, you can see all the main attractions, but to get a full grasp of Toledo, it can also be a great idea to stay for a couple of days. That’s something we recommend if you have the time for it – but even if you don’t, a one day trip will still do just fine!
The culture of Toledo has been influenced by Christians, Jews and Moors alike. It was an important city already in Roman times, which is easily displayed in the architecture. There are several great landmarks to see in Toledo.
Segovia is located on the northern plains of Castille. It’s close to Madrid, and therefore ideal for a one day trip. You can see the main attractions in 5-6 hours. However, the city is so appealing to tourists that some choose to stay for as long as a week. Generally speaking, you’ll find more Spanish tourists than international tourists here.
While not being as big as Toledo, it is certainly equally interesting. Segovia is famous for its historic buildings, primarily the cathedral and the castle. It also has the famous Roman aqueduct. Overall it is a beautiful city – something that is immediately obvious when you look at pictures of Segovia. Bus tickets are super cheap between Madrid and Segovia (down to 8-10 euros for a roundtrip), but you can also take the high-speed AVE train or simply book a guided tour where they drive you.
If you’re going to Segovia for several days, be sure to book a nice hotel.
A lot of travelers combine a trip to Segovia with one to Ávila. It’s another nice and historic city very close to Madrid. You will find several buses going there, and you can very easily join a tour.
Ávila is famous for its architecture. It has a lot of Romanesque and Gothic churches. Imposing, thousand-year-old walls are surrounding the city. Ávila has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. It was the favorite city of film director Orson Welles. He stated that wished to live in Ávila, although he wasn’t quite sure why. That impression is shared with a lot of people – Ávila is a strange city, incredibly appealing, but it’s difficult to explain exactly why.
You can go to Ávila as a day trip, but we also highly recommend that you stay there for a night or two. It’s worth it since the mood of the city is very interesting.
The student city Salamanca is a bit farther away than Toledo and Segovia. But it can still be reached for a one day trip, although also worthy of a longer vacation.
Salamanca particularly attracts international students and is one of the most famous cities in Spain when it comes to education. It is also the capital of the Castilla y Léon region.
It is the largest of the three cities mentioned here, and it gets a fair amount of tourists each year, though less than Madrid itself.
The old part of Salamanca is also on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and for good reason: It is considered to be beautiful, interesting and unique all at the same time.
Another historic and beautiful city. Aranjuez is mostly known for its palace, its gardens and its nice streets with plenty of cafes and restaurants.
It’s probably the cheapest day trip you can make from Madrid, and also one of the fastest. You can take the suburb train from Atocha and arrive there in about 50 minutes. It costs less than 5 euros each way. Most travelers spend 4-5 hours in Aranjuez before returning back to Madrid. However, it’s also possible to stay there for a day or two if you really like it.
Read our full guide to Aranjuez right here!
Another nice city to visit is Cuenca. Not a large city by any means, but certainly one of the most interesting smaller cities in Spain. It is home to several historic attractions and has a very stunning cathedral. Surprisingly, it has one of Spain’s best art museums, and the streets and surroundings are unlike anywhere else on the Iberian peninsula (or the rest of Europe for that matter).
We have a more detailed guide to the sights in Cuenca right here.
Getting there is easy and fast. You have to take the AVE high-speed train that goes to Valencia. Cuenca is the first stop, so get out here and start enjoying your day. It takes around an hour, and while tickets are more expensive than to Toledo or Segovia, it is absolutely worth it.
There are plenty of options if you are in Madrid and want to do a day trip (or if you are simply headed for your next place to stay). We highly recommend all of them, but particularly Toledo, Segovia and Ávila.
Have you visited any of these cities?
Or are you considering some additional day trips from Madrid?
Let us know in the comments!