While it’s inland location has its downfalls, Madrid is located in a beautiful part of Spain that is often overlooked by travellers in favour of coastal regions such as Catalunya or Andalucia. The surrounding areas offer up plenty of options for escaping the frenetic pace of the Spanish capital. With no fewer than six UNESCO World Heritage sights within easy reach of Madrid and excellent transport links, it would be a mistake not to visit one of the nearby towns.
Just 30 minutes by train from Madrid’s Atocha Railway Station you will find medieval Toledo, one of the most important towns in Spanish and indeed European history. Five centuries ago it was the capital of the Spanish Empire and its position perched high above the Tagus River makes for an impressive sight to this day. The town will take its toll on your legs thanks to its winding streets and hilly terrain but will leave you with no shortage of photo opportunities and it makes for an excellent day-trip from Madrid.
Another popular destination is Segovia, which also boasts a great history and some impressively preserved squares and palaces. Meanwhile the Roman Aqueduct is a fabulous sight considering it is now 2000 years old. Segovia is a great place to taste traditional Castilian dishes such as Roast suckling pig or lamb and there are plenty of Mesones (typical Castilian restaurants) for you to choose from. Again, it’s only a 30 minute train ride from Madrid and well worth a visit.
In the summer months especially it is a good idea to head into the mountains because temperatures during the day in the city are stiflingly hot. Options include the Sierra de Guadarrama which is close to a pleasant nature park. This could be linked in with a visit to nearby Segovia.
A bit further out lies El Escorial, home to Spain’s largest monastery in what is a peaceful mountainous setting. For a more authentic and less touristy taste of Spanish life, take a trip to the nearby town of Chinchon. The circular plaza is still used for bullfights and the place almost leaves you with the sensation of stepping back in time to a bygone era, in contrast to the almost entirely modern feel of Madrid.
Further afield, it is even feasible to reach cities such as Barcelona and Seville in less than three hours thanks to the excellent high-speed rail links. However you would need a couple of days at least to properly experience either city.
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