day trips from madrid

10 Best (Easy!) Day Trips from Madrid: Ultimate Guide

Located in the geographical center of Spain, Madrid seems close to everything. Madrid has so much to offer travelers, but Madrid’s proximity to so many incredible nearby destinations means that choosing at least one day trip from Madrid is a must for any itinerary.

Within a few hours of Madrid, you’ll find medieval cities and fortresses, royal palaces, fantastic vineyards, the most impressive cities in Spain, and much more. There is a perfect Madrid day trip for every type of traveler and on every budget.

In this ultimate guide to the ten best day trips from Madrid, we share exactly where you should add to your itinerary. Plus, we’re covering how to get there and the best things to do once you arrive. Let’s dive in!

madrid day trip

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Day Trips from Madrid

There is a lot to choose from when it comes to deciding on a perfect day trip from Madrid. If you’re on a tight itinerary, it can even be a good idea to base yourself in Madrid and take several day trips from Madrid, rather than jumping from city to city for the duration of your time in Spain.  

Of course, with Madrid in the geographical heart of the country, you can reach so much in just one day. The options we’ve included in this article allow for an easy trip in and out to return to Madrid in one day.  

However, don’t think you can’t spend even more time in these destinations! Taking a weekend trip from Madrid can be the perfect way to explore these lovely spots even better, and enjoy them at a more relaxed pace.  

While the ease of travel varies with each destination, train travel is generally the way to go from Madrid. You’ll find frequent trains heading out of the city – including standard trains and high-speed trains – that cover most of Spain, and beyond.  

Download the handy Omio app to make travel easier – it will allow you to easily check train times and book train tickets (or tickets for buses, or flights!) on all carriers at once.  Now, let’s dive into the ultimate top ten day trips from Madrid! 

avila spain

1. Ávila

Prepare to be wowed by Ávila! This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive one, and one of the world’s only medieval cities entirely enclosed inside original walls. In addition to being easily accessible to Madrid, this charming and historic city makes for an ideal day trip from Madrid – it’s hard to get better than this!

The imposing city wall is the main attraction here, and you’ll want to spend time exploring them. The view from the top of the walls is impressive, but you’ll also want to take it all in from outside the city. Head to the Four Posts monument outside the city walls – an important site in the life of St. Theresa, this spot also has an enviable view of the walls.

Don’t miss the Catedral de Ávila, either. Ávila’s grand and towering cathedral is built into the walls, and while it certainly is an attraction you won’t want to miss, it is also the best way to access the walls.

Ávila is easily reached from Madrid by bus or train, though the train journey is easiest – trains leave hourly from Madrid’s Principe Pio train station and cost around €10.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to see multiple historic cities outside of Madrid in just one day, you’ll have several options to choose from.

Guided small-group excursions to Ávila and Segovia are pretty popular and relatively inexpensive! Small group excursions to Ávila and Salamanca are also very popular, and while a little more expensive, well worth it to see two incredible destinations in one day, with ease.

segovia spain

2. Segovia

Yet another jaw-dropping city in Spain perfect for a day trip from Madrid, Segovia oozes charm, history, and culture. It should be one of the top destinations you’re considering for a Madrid day trip. 

The star attraction in Segovia is the massive Roman aqueduct that cuts through the city’s heart. Thought to have been constructed around 115 A.D., standing in front of this gigantic architectural feat nearly 2000 years old is worth the trip to Segovia alone. 

However, the charm and beauty of the city don’t stop at the aqueduct. Next, you’ll want to head through the city’s historic Jewish Quarter and visit all of the major attractions along the main Calle Cervantes that cuts through the oldest part of the city.

You’ll see the Iglesia de San Martin church, Plaza Mayor, and Segovia’s cathedral, as well as the city’s old walls. 

Make sure to branch off and explore the side streets of the old Quarter, where you’ll find small mom-and-pop shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants.

Segovia is an easy trip from Madrid, and the AVE high-speed trains cover the distance in just around half an hour while taking a bus or driving can take double the time – or longer. You can catch one of these trains from the Charmartin train station in Madrid, and they depart hourly. 

You’ll also find inexpensive day trips from Madrid to Segovia and other nearby cities – small group excursions to Segovia and Ávila are popular, as well as excursions to Segovia and Toledo.

If you’d rather just focus on enjoying this historic city, you can also book a walking tour around the historic center with an experienced guide. 

seville spain

3. Seville

Think the stunning city of Seville in southern Spain is too far out of reach for a day trip from Madrid? Think again! While it takes about 5 hours to drive from Madrid to Seville, the high-speed train from Madrid to Seville that departs from Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha station cuts travel time down to a little over two hours. 

Considered the most beautiful city in the stunning southern region of Andalusia, Seville is an unmissable highlight of Spain.

Home to the Real Alcázar of Seville, this royal palace is one of Spain’s most impressive examples of Mudéjar architecture that mixed Spanish and Moorish Muslim influences into a beautiful and ornate architectural style.

No matter what else you plan on doing in Seville, book your ticket to the Real Alcázar in advance online! You’ll be able to skip the (often very long!) lines and be assured you can visit – this is something you don’t want to miss!

In Seville, you can also visit highlights like the Giralda Tower and the Seville Cathedral, as well as visiting the Barrio de Triana, home to the famous Flamenco style of dance. If you’re looking for alternative things to do, take in a traditional flamenco show or experience the city from the river on a river cruise

el escorial

4. El Escorial

One of Madrid’s most popular day trips is the monastery of El Escorial, also known as the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Located just an hour outside of Madrid, the monastery was built between 1563 and 1584 by King Phillip II to honor his father, Charles V.

Today El Escorial is one of the largest religious complexes in the world, housing a monastery, church, cloisters, and a royal palace and offices.

The complex is also home to an ornate library, one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, and thousands of illuminated manuscripts and thousands of historical books.

Guided small group tours to El Escorial, are among the most popular activities in Madrid. Coordinating guides and transportation, these organized visits will save you a lot of time and allow you to see the best of the monastery and its many buildings while returning to enjoy Madrid for the rest of the day.

If you’re planning on visiting without a guide, it’s still a good idea to pre-book your ticket online in advance. You’ll be able to skip the line – which can stretch on endlessly, especially during the high season – and make sure that you can enter the palace when you want and for the time you’d like.  

toledo spain

5. Toledo

The former capital city of Spain, Toledo is one of the country’s most unique cities, with an incredible combination of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim influences, the likes of which are hard to find anywhere in Europe.

With a stunning historic center, including structures built in the Roman times, plus one of Spain’s most magnificent cathedrals, Toledo is an excellent (and easy!) day trip from Madrid.

A prominent feature of Toledo’s skyline is the Alcázar de Toledo, a former royal palace and fortress, now home to Toledo’s famous swords and armor, as the city was once well known for its blacksmiths.

The Toledo Cathedral is a must-visit, and make sure to climb the tower if the weather is nice for an unbeatable view over the city and the river below.

Toledo is just an hour outside of Madrid by train or bus, so it’s easy to reach on your own, and transportation options are abundant. Alternatively, book a small group guided excursion to Toledo – these are very inexpensive, usually costing right around $25 for the whole day, which is less than you’d spend to get there yourself. 

If you’re not interested in a small group excursion, walking tour of Toledo is a great way to see the very best of the city in a day while still being able to spend the rest of the day visiting the city at your leisure. 

If you’re planning to visit Toledo, you’ll want to make sure you pre-book your Toledo Tourist Bracelet. This pass lets you into seven significant attractions in the city for just a few dollars, so you’ll save a lot of money over individually purchasing each ticket.

zaragoza spain

6. Zaragoza

Located between Madrid and Barcelona, Zaragoza is a thriving city full of Spanish charm, home to a unique cuisine, and has plenty to see and do. Definitely a contender for one of the best day trips from Madrid, you should be careful when visiting – you may wish you had planned to stay for a few more days!

There are many landmarks in the city worth seeing on a day trip from Madrid, including the Alifajería, which has some of the most beautiful Moorish architecture you’ll find anywhere in Spain, and the museum dedicated to Francisco de Goya, one of Spain’s most famous artists. 

The city oozes history around every corner, from the Roman amphitheater to the massive Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar church, the most prominent feature of Zaragoza’s skyline. 

In addition to taking in all of Zaragoza’s sites, you’ll also want to ensure you leave plenty of time to sample its unique cuisine. While Zaragoza is the capital city of Spain’s province of the same name, it is also the capital of an autonomous region of Spain called Aragon.

Its culinary legacy is strong, making Zaragoza wine and tapas tours some of the most popular activities for visitors to the city. 

You can easily reach Zaragoza from Madrid via high-speed AVE train in just over one hour, though the journey takes almost three hours by car or standard train. Trains are frequent, often leaving every hour, making this the most convenient way to reach this stunning Spanish city. 

valladolid spain

7. Valladolid

Despite being the capital of Spain’s Castilla y Leon region and a beautiful city with history, culture, and great food, Valladolid is often overlooked by foreign travelers. Use this to your advantage and head to this charming city as a great Madrid day trip! 

Valladolid has a charming center, home to beautiful old churches like the famous Iglesia de San Pedro and the Catedral de Valladolid. You’ll find plenty of pedestrian streets and shouldn’t need public transportation to explore the center quickly. 

As a university town, there is always something going on here: art shows or festivals, movie screenings, musical performances, and more.

Plaza Mayor often is home to events, or check out the local cultural calendar to get an idea of what to look forward to when visiting.  

The city is also at the heart of one of Spain’s fantastic wine regions, so if you’re a wine lover, this might be a great destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. Plan to visit a nearby vineyard – or several – for a tasting and to learn more about Spain’s winemaking. 

Valladolid is easily accessible from Madrid by bus or train, though taking the high-speed train will save you some travel time – the trip usually takes a little more than two hours, but less than one hour at high speed.

salamanca spain

8. Salamanca

The historic city of Salamanca is another fabulous option for travelers looking for the best day trips from Madrid. Wandering the old city center, exploring and tasting your way through the Salamanca Central Market, and seeing the best of Salamanca is the perfect way to spend an engaging day in the city.

Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salamanca is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe.

Can’t picture traveling to visit a university? Founded in the 1200s, the university is home to an incredible mix of architectural styles, and you’ll marvel at the beauty of the university buildings and churches that are a part of the area.

Budget about two and a half hours to reach Salamanca, either by bus, car, or train. However, a daily high-speed train departs Madrid for Salamanca every morning around 8:30 AM, cutting traveling time down to an hour and a half.

If you’re interested in booking a small group excursion to Salamanca, you’ll find popular day trips that include visits to both Salamanca and Ávila, a great chance to see two historic cities in one go. Alternatively, a private guided excursion from Madrid to Salamanca will let you enjoy the full day in this fabulous city. 

If you’d prefer to save money and travel to Salamanca on your own, walking tour with a guide is a great way to learn the history and secrets of this incredible city. 

cuenca spain

9. Cuenca

The unique hilltop town of Cuenca, with its world-famous hanging houses, looks like it belongs among the famous hill towns of Tuscany rather than the hilly area surrounding Madrid.

Built atop the remains of a Muslim town and fortress dating back to the 700s, Cuenca is home to countless historic Christian churches, as well as a seminary, convent, and the Bishop’s Palace. Even if you’re not interested in visiting religious sites, this historic town on a hill has winding, centuries-old cobblestone streets, lovely buildings, delicious food, and much more to offer visitors. 

The Plaza Mayor and the Catedral de Cuenca are some of the star attractions within the historic center of the city – the cathedral’s unique facade is unforgettable, and its interior is well worth a visit as well.

For a better look at the city’s position on the hill, head to the Puente de San Pablo pedestrian bridge across the valley. While the original bridge collapsed in the early 1900s, the newer bridge is just as lovely for the incredible view of the hilltop city you’ll see from it. 

Consider using part of the day in Cuenca to learn about how this region of Spain is famous for its olive oil, and join in the olive oil-making process in a unique olive oil “tour.” 

You’ll get to see firsthand how olive oil is made and taste fresh olive oil. This inexpensive class and taste test is an unexpected treat!

High-speed trains between Madrid and Cuenca will get you here in just over an hour, so the city is easily added as a half-day excursion or a full day if you’d like to take your time exploring and taking in the beauty and history of this unique hilltop town. 

aranjuez spain

10. Aranjuez

Located less than 40 minutes outside of Madrid and easily accessible by car, bus, or train, the Royal Palace of Aranjuez is well worth a day trip from Madrid, or even just a half-day excursion outside the city. 

The Royal Palace, built and rebuilt over centuries by Spanish royalty, is impressive. The palace’s interiors are stunning and well-preserved, and it is great fun to imagine the splendor of the kings and queens who once spent their springs and summers here.

The gardens are immense and include details like artificial lakes, countless fountains, pavilions, statues, and much more. 

You can book a private tour to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez from Madrid, or take the train from Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha train station – there are ten or more trains daily, so you should have no problem finding one to suit your schedule. 

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.