Madrid is the glitzy yet industrial Spanish capital. Cutting edge and modern, yet famed for being the royal residence of the Spanish Royal Family, it is a city with one foot in the past and traditional and the other leaping forward with modern developments and forward-thinking attitudes. There are many things to do in Madrid; it is one of the best cities to visit in Spain.
Don’t let that dissuade you from the fabulous Madrid day trips on offer, though. This major city is surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage sites and even the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. A day trip from Madrid is one of the best ways to better understand Spanish culture and harness a new admiration of the country while enjoying a Madrid city break. This guide will cover the best day trips from Madrid, inspiring you on amazing one-day trip experiences.
Best Day Trips From Madrid
We love Spain, and we’ve already compiled a Spain travel guide that you can use to plan the Spanish holiday of a lifetime. But for Madrid specifics, this guide is your bread and butter for the best day trips from Madrid. Weekend trips are great, but you don’t need a weekend trip to enjoy these top destinations near Madrid – with just one day, you could be heading to a UNESCO World Heritage Site or a stunning mountain range. Draw away from Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and enjoy one or more of these top 18 day trips from Madrid.
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Below are some of the top tours for Day Trips from Madrid. Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Spain!
Top Day Trips and Tours from Madrid:
If you look at Google Maps, Valencia might look like an ambitious day trip from Madrid. It is one of the most convenient mid-length day trips from Madrid. This is thanks to the high-speed train network that connects the two, meaning you can be in Valencia in as little as 2 hours. Easy.
Valencia is the capital of Spain’s Valencia region and, in fact, was once the Spanish capital. While it suffered heavy damage during the Spanish Civil War, it remains one of the prettiest and most historic places to visit in Spain for a city break. With a day to enjoy the city, you should see the cathedral (climb to the bell tower), grab food at the Central Market, and admire the Carmen Street Art. There’s a lot to see, so plan your itinerary before departing. Luckily, Valencia is highly walkable.
Distance from Madrid: 2 hours by train
2. Royal Palace of Aranjuez
The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is a beautiful day trip destination from the 18th century. Just an hour away from Madrid’s city center by public transportation, it is one of the easiest yet most rewarding day trips from Madrid. The Spanish Royal Family still visits this royal site, usually for state ceremonies. While it is no longer an official royal residence, visitors can tour its interior on set days. The Royal Palace is stunning and set within over 100 hectares of manicured gardens. Its beauty is well-celebrated, and you won’t be surprised to hear it holds UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Visiting the Royal Palace of Aranjuez is a fabulous thing to do. Because it is so close to the capital city, you can spend hours exploring the grounds without thinking about rushing back. Jump on a guided tour here.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour by bus
Cuenca is a stunning little city and one of the most amazing day trips from Madrid. It is famed for its ‘Hanging Houses’, aka ‘Casa Colgadas de Cuenca’. These Hanging Houses are centuries old and hang off the edge of a cliff face, suspended above a gorge. The Hanging Houses have wooden balconies and are ridiculously photogenic. For traditional architecture with a novelty twist, they are brilliant to visit. Aside from the Hanging Houses, Cuenca also has the San Pablo Bridge, the Spanish Abstract Art Museum, and the Cuenca Cathedral. It is a walkable city and the perfect sightseeing day trip from Madrid.
Madrid to Cuenca is one of the easiest and quickest train trips, taking just an hour. Catching the train is much faster, so we recommend avoiding driving to Cuenca. The old town is super compact, too, so you’ll easily explore on foot.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour by train
Avila is the capital of its province and is set scenically within medieval city walls. With 80 towers and lengthy sections of walkable walls, it is beautiful to visit and admire the old town’s medieval layout. It gets even more beautiful at night as the city walls are lit up. It is one of the best day trips from Madrid if you want somewhere with a really magical atmosphere. The drive is reasonable, taking over an hour. And you can detour through one of two regional parks.
We suggest hitting Avila mid-afternoon so that you can wander the walls and enjoy the scenery after dark. The journey takes hardly any time when driving. You can take as long as you’d like because you aren’t limited to a public transportation schedule. For us, Avila has that magical, Disney-style atmosphere. Its city walls and ancient architecture make it so popular amongst other visitors.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Toledo is nicknamed the city of ‘three cultures’. This couldn’t be more accurate, as the ancient city was formed with Christian, Jewish, and Arab influences, and you can still see traces of each throughout the compact city center. Toledo dates back to the Middle Ages, and it is no wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considering all its history and remaining architecture. You can stop by the Jewish Quarter, close to its stunning Gothic cathedral, or visit the El Greco Museum. There are many things to do in Toledo – including visiting the beautiful Toledo Cathedral.
Just one hour away from Madrid by car or 35 minutes by train, Toledo is one of the best day trips from Madrid if you want an easy journey. It is popular because of its proximity to Madrid and fascinating blend of three cultural influences. History buffs will love this day trip destination, and we just had to add it because of all its history.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour by car or 35 minutes by train
Salamanca is easily one of the best day trips from Madrid, so what exactly earns that grand title? Well, firstly the city has tons of Celtic history. Secondly, it has been part of the intellectual movement in Spain since the 15th century. The University of Salamanca is one of Spain’s oldest universities and was founded in the 1100s. Today, it gives the city a ‘university town’ feel, with friendly and sociable vibes. The University of Salamanca attracts plenty of Spanish and international students.
As a day trip from Madrid, Salamanca is just one of those Spanish cities that welcomes you with open arms. It has a beautiful historic center with attractions like Casa de las Conchas – a beautiful 16th-century Gothic building covered in seashells that is used for exhibitions. However, it also has an easygoing café culture and also great nightlife. Its riverside location is also beautiful, and there are many attractions to enjoy mooching around. If you want one of the least daunting day trips from Madrid, Salamanca is one of the most ‘gentle’ day trips to break your teeth on.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour and 40 minutes by direct train
7. Colmenar Viejo
Colmenar Viejo is one of the most religious day trips you can take from Madrid. It is a brilliant day trip choice if you are intrigued by religious history. There’s a stunning 15th or 16th century-built basilica called the Basilica de la Asuncion de Nuestra Senora. To visit an actual Spanish hermitage, you can visit Ermita de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, which dates back to the 7th century. Colmenar Viejo is somewhere most people overlook, and it is predominantly surrounded by cattle farms – even running a traditional cattle migration festival at the start of the year. However, it offers raw and unique insight into rural Spanish culture. For those who want to dig deeper than superficial tourist attractions, it is one of the best day trips from Madrid.
Getting to Colmenar Viejo is surprisingly a breeze. It is either a half-hour’s journey on the train or a 40-minute drive. The choice is yours.
Distance from Madrid: 30 minutes by train or 40 minutes by car
8. Manzanares el Real
Manzanares de Real is a stunning little town set in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, which we also mention as a day trip destination in this guide. The town is most famous for its beautiful Manzanares El Real Castle, which dates back to the 15th century. The castle is so eye-catching and a leading motivation for people to visit. It is decked out in numerous antique furnishings and has an onsite museum.
Aside from the castle, Manzanares de Real has a huge artificial lake that fishermen use for carp and pike fishing. There are also river beaches just outside its town center, making it one of the closest ‘beach’ destinations to Madrid. Just 50 minutes away by car, it is an absolute breeze to reach.
Distance from Madrid: 50 minutes by car or 1.5 hours by public transport.
Many describe Siguenza as sleepy. Its centuries-old architecture has indeed fallen into retirement in many cases – its castle is now just a tourist attraction. However, despite its retired heritage sites and laidback atmosphere, we’d argue that Siguenza is anything but sleepy. The sheer scale of tourist attractions means you’ll have a full day of action if you choose this as one of your day trips from Madrid. You can also visit more active attractions outside the city center, like Barranco del Rio Dulce Natural Park, which has trails linking limestone rock formations and waterfalls.
Siguenza is out of the way but definitely worth a detour as a day trip destination. This is the perfect trip if you fancy beautiful architecture, refreshing waterfalls, and plenty of heritage sites.
Distance from Madrid: 2 hours by train or 1.5 hours by car
Chinchon is a much more rural day trip from Madrid. Instead of a big city atmosphere, it is a small town set on a hilltop. Its attractions include museums like Museo Etnologico La Posada, which preserves traditional farming tools and techniques. So, if you fancy embracing Spanish countryside culture, a day trip from Madrid to Chinchon is perfect. Remember to visit the medieval square, Playa Mayor, too. The square is surrounded by traditional buildings with wooden balconies – a photogenic spot to enjoy a takeout coffee or cooling ice cream.
Chinchon is popular because it showcases a different pace of life. You just can’t get that same experience in metropolitan Madrid, so adding it to our guide was a no-brainer.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour by car or just over 1 hour by bus
11. El Alcazar
Are you ready for an adventure? Seville might not be one of the most classic day trips from Madrid, but it is definitely feasible. As an immediate disclaimer, this will involve around 6 hours of traveling. However, you’ll be sat on a direct train, where you can enjoy WiFi, bring books, and download movies ahead of time. Besides, many guided day trips have you on coaches all day, so what’s the difference? If you are up for the challenge, you should catch a 6 a.m. train to get to Seville nice and early.
Seville is the capital of Andalusia and is widely praised for being the most authentic place to experience Spanish culture. While there, you can enjoy things like El Alcazar – the Royal Alcazar of Spain – the beautiful Plaza de Espana, and dozens of museums ranging from modern art museums to niche history museums. It is easy to see why everyone loves Seville. And if you fancy a change from Madrid, it is a beautiful day trip destination.
Distance from Madrid: Just under 3 hours by train
Caceres is a longer distance from Madrid but is so aesthetic that it warrants the drive. In 3 hours, you’ll head west towards the Portuguese border and have arrived in the beautiful town of Caceres. It looks like something straight out of Game of Thrones or some medieval fantasy film, and its ancient old town has lingering Gothic and Renaissance architecture. You’ll be walking through cobbled streets and in the shadow of looming 12th-century city walls, where if you look carefully, you can spot nesting storks. The whole city is a ready-made film set, especially in the old town.
Caceres is easily one of Spain’s most historic cities. The extra journey time is worthwhile if you have multiple drivers on the rental car insurance. Set off early and leave as late as possible to maximize your day trip to Caceres.
Distance from Madrid: 3 hours drive
Zaragoza is Aragon’s capital and has over 2,000 years of history squeezed into its city center. Zaragoza is the perfect day trip for Roman history, with ruins that include forums, city walls, and an ancient theater. This is an ideal solution if you want a slice of Roman history without actually visiting Italy. We love how many Roman-related attractions you can see in such a small Zaragoza area; it feels like a fantastic way to broaden your sightseeing experience. As a side note, Zaragoza is also known to have delicious cuisine – and who doesn’t love tucking into Spanish food?
Zaragoza is just 1 and a half hour’s train ride from Madrid, much faster than the alternative driving time of over 3.5 hours. We suggest catching the train instead.
Distance from Madrid: 1.5 hours by train
14. El Escorial
El Escorial is a stunning little town. It was primarily built for its monastery and royal palace. It is one of Spain’s most famous royal sites, with some small neighborhoods of residential areas around it. El Escorial’s Casita del Principe is ideal if you want an alternative to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. It is a little quieter, a little less well-known, and is open to tourists on set days. You can admire manicured royal gardens and private antique displays of fine arts. It is one of the best day trips from Madrid for a royal day out.
Just an hour from Madrid by train or car, El Escorial is super easy to squeeze into a busy city break itinerary. It is a much-loved option for royal sightseeing for those in the know.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour by train or car
15. Ciudad Real
Beautiful Ciudad Real is a hotspot for literary history and architecture. You can wander the compact city’s streets easily on foot, admiring a 13th-century cathedral, Gothic churches, and 14th-century gates. And when you fancy more of a museum-style experience, there’s the Quixote Museum – dedicated to the novel Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes. Ciudad Real is a really varied day trip from Madrid. Still, it is especially suited to fans of Cervantes’ work, architecture, and history fans. For such a small city, it really packs a punch.
Ciudad Real is just an hour away from Madrid by train, so getting there is a breeze. The train is much quicker than driving (which takes 2.5 hours). Stick to the faster and more environmentally friendly option; you’ll be in Ciudad Real in no time.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour by train
16. Sierra de Guadarrama
Ready for a more natural day out? Sierra de Guadarrama is your answer. This mountain range is a beautiful day from Madrid, and you can reach the foothills in just an hour. Sierra de Guadarrama is most famous for hiking opportunities, but with that comes impressive photo opportunities. The mountain range is one hour from Madrid by car, so it is easy enough to be a full-day trip. You can also spot some incredible animals, including adorable mountain goats and iconic birds like vultures and multiple types of eagles.
Regarding day trips from Madrid, Sierra de Guadarrama is the best choice for a day of immersion in nature. It is one of the only day trips from Madrid where you can spot animals like vultures and mountain goats. For that reason, it is hugely popular and deserves a place on our list.
Distance from Madrid: 1 hour drive
17. Alcalá de Henares
Alcalá de Henares is the perfect one day trip for anyone looking for noteworthy attractions related to academia and literature. The Cervantes Birthplace Museum is where the author of Don Quixote lived, and the King of Spain presents a literary prize in Alcalá de Henares every year. It is also seen as a university town despite its city status. The University of Alcalá is one of the most esteemed Spanish universities. It is in the city’s old town, set amongst a collection of 16th-century buildings.
You can reach Alcalá de Henares in just 40 minutes by train from the capital city. It is hugely popular as a day trip destination for academics and those with an interest in literature. And for us, it just offers a different view of Spain than Madrid’s more metropolis-style introduction.
Distance from Madrid: 40 minutes by train
Segovia is one for the history buffs. As a UNESCO-listed city, Segovia attracts the most attention from its Roman aqueducts. You can snap beautiful photos of the city, especially its main aqueduct, which has 160 arches. It is definitely worth visiting as one of your Madrid day trips. This city catches everyone’s eyes, us included. And between the medieval city walls, Romanesque churches, and the aqueduct, you can see why history lovers like Segovia so much.
Besides sightseeing, visitors should also check out the bizarre but beautiful Casa de los Picos. The 15th-century building is full of spikes – 617 to be precise. It is just one example of how Segovia is weird and wonderful. And if you like sightseeing, it really is heaven. Everything is super close together too, you won’t be more than a half hour’s walk between each attraction.
Distance from Madrid: 50 minutes by public transport
Day Trips From Madrid: FAQs
Day trips from Madrid are among the best things you can indulge in on your city break. Some of these destinations are ideal for an overnight stay if you have the chance, but even just a day will open your mind to new experiences. Before you head off on your day trips from Madrid, though, check out these common FAQs.
What is the best day trip to take from Madrid?
The best day trip from Madrid is either the Royal Palace or Toledo. These day trips from Madrid offer a lot of history, and Toledo has UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Is it better to visit Toledo or Segovia?
Both destinations are great, but Toledo takes the edge. There is just more to see, and while Segovia has the Roman ruins, Toledo has that unique blend of Arab, Christian, and Jewish influence.
Where can you travel to from Madrid?
You can travel to hundreds of places from Madrid. You can access brilliant day trip destinations by hopping on a high-speed train or renting a car.
Can you do a day trip from Madrid to Valencia?
Yes, a day trip from Madrid to Valencia is easy. Just hop on the train, and you’ll be there in around 2 hours – plenty of time to leave you with a full day of exploring.
One of the best things about day trips from Madrid is the public transport system; it makes day-tripping easy. You could discover the history of the Spanish Civil War or head to see the Hanging Houses, and there will likely be a high-speed train to get you there. Madrid is one of the easiest day-tripping cities, so make the most of it and maximize your city break with one or more of these trip ideas.
Looking for some more inspiration ahead of your trip to Spain? We’ve got a guide on the best Spanish dishes to try, so definitely check that out. Spanish food is notoriously delicious. Make sure you are clued up on the best dishes before heading to Madrid.