1. Day trips from Madrid to Toledo
Replacing the cosmo buzz of the capital with some historical charm, day trips from Madrid to Toledo are a popular option, and for good reason. This city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – yep, every street you walk here is steeped in culture. Toledo may not match the vastness of Madrid, but it can certainly equal it in terms of grandeur when it comes to history. Not only was it the city of choice for Roman emperors, but it was also the capital of the Visigothic kingdom which replaced the Romans. As if being a magnet for rulers and kings wasn’t enough, bladed weapons (or if you want to sound even cooler, Toledo steel) have been a speciality of the city since 500BC, and it was a Toledo sword that Hannibal used when waging war. Even if you’re not a history buff, anyone with a sense of fantasy is sure to get lost in the charms of this city – just take the Cathedral or the Castle of San Servando, and you can well imagine this location being home to fearless Roman warriors. Of course, if even all that fails to tickle your fancy, then Toledo will happily tantalise taste buds too with local specialities including marzipan, rich game meats, scrummy cheeses and, just to keep that regal theme going, precious saffron.
Day trips from Madrid to Toledo require an easy train ride of approximately one hour.
2. Day trips from Madrid to Segovia
Doesn’t sound very Spanish, does it? That’s because Segovia’s name has Celtic origins, and just like its unique name, this city is full of a unique culture, UNESCO agrees and has made it a world heritage site. To really get a feel for the awesome history of the place, view the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia for a fantastically preserved example of Roman ingenuity that’s still in use today! A bit of modern pop culture (sort of) can be enjoyed at the imposing Alcazar of Segovia, or the city’s castle – apparently this was the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle that is the icon of Disneyland. More palatial than plastic, the real deal has two courtyards, two towers, a very fairytale-esque keep and a spectacular location over two rivers. For those who love a good garden to match the pomp of a castle then the Alcazar Gardens are a safe bet, complete with precisely placed greenery to create spectacular patterns. Tasty treats in this city follow the high fantasy theme implied by its castle, think suckling pig, roasted lamb and indulgent pastries to follow so that you can feast like a king.
You’ll not have to worry about troublesome transport for day trips from Madrid to Segovia, the train takes just two hours direct.
3. Day trips from Madrid to Barcelona
Well, how can you not? This amazing city is the proud capital of Catalonia and a must-see for any tourist in Spain. Day trips from Madrid to Barcelona may not be your first thought when you’re thinking of local day trips from the capital, but we think it’s well worth the journey, after all, if you’re on a football flex then surely a pilgrimage to Camp Nou is in order. The city is best known for its glorious architecture, which is all a touch more colourful and artsy than you will find on your other Madrid day trips. First off, it has to be La Sagrada Familia, the stunning church that is an icon of the city. Whether you climb to the top or just marvel at its design from within its shadow, no trip to Barcelona can begin without ticking this attraction off the list. Park Güell continues the trend, with beautiful mosaiced buildings and more than a few chances for a prize holiday snap. The Gothic Quarter replaces grand structures with winding streets and old facades and plenty of trendy bars. Speaking of bars, Barcelona nightlife is hard to beat, and Barceloneta is an excellent neighbourhood for it not least because it’s right on the city’s other most alluring attraction, the beach.
Trains from Madrid to Barcelona take approximately two and a half hours if you choose the fastest direct service.
4. Day trips from Madrid to Granada
Hello mother, hello father, I’m calling home (you get it). Granada is a gem in the Spanish touristic crown and day trips from Madrid to Granada should be an absolute certainty as you plan your Madrid city break. The best things to do in Granada, like many a place on this list, involve history, although the sights of this, the Andalusian capital, are unlike anywhere else. Arabic influences and Iberian culture have made their mark on this stunning city and nowhere is this clearer than AlbayzÃn. An area of the city that counts as a castle, a town and a hilltop wonder all in one, this landmark dates back to the 1200s and has played host to many a royal ever since. Take in the stunning views both inside and outside this structure, with soaring mountains in the background and exotic architecture within. If you feel like escaping into nature for a bit, Sierra Nevada is nearby and offers hiking and swimming in the summer and skiing in the winter. If you need a refreshment break, you’ll be pleased to know you can do it in most magical style at Fuente de Aceituno, the fountain of youth, a water fountain that supplies fresh drinking water along with its legend (eternal life not guaranteed).
The train for day trips from Madrid to Granada takes four hours direct.
5. Day trips from Madrid to Cordoba
Not heard about this mystical city? Well, that’s just what day trips from Madrid to Cordoba are for! An Andalusian city, Cordoba shares the same Iberian influences as Granada. A great pick for those who love the warm, the city has some of the highest summer temperatures in the country – so you can enjoy sightseeing in the sunshine. Start your adventure at Cordoba Mosque to appreciate the melting pot of cultures that have helped to shape this city. Entering from the Puerta de las Palmas, stunning arches of red and white will greet you, and endless hallways lead to equally as impressive discoveries. The castle of Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos is the perfect stop for when the city is being blessed by good weather as the sprawling gardens are a great place to while away an hour or two. Need to refuel? Head to the Old Town and take a seat at one of the cafes lining its cobbled streets and enjoy local specialities like Salmorejo (refreshingly cold tomato soup). If you need a caffeine kick it’s possible to find one of the global coffee chain giants in the city – a testament to the time capsule feel of this historic location, it only arrived in 2018! End the day by watching the sunset over the Roman Bridge, the perfect place to take in the cityscape and the mountains beyond.
Trains from Madrid to Cordoba take two hours to arrive, for a memorable day trip from the capital.