Travel Off the Beaten Path
Spain is a popular tourist destination, with Madrid being one of the most visited cities in the country. For those looking to escape the city for the day, there are many popular day trips near Madrid, including places such as El Escorial, Aranjuez, or Álcala de Henares.
These destinations are loved by tourists not just from Spain, but from all over the world. However, if you’re interested in immersing yourself in Spanish culture, you might want to avoid the tourist traps. You may ask yourself, “Where do the locals go?”
Here are three hidden gems near Madrid that you might want to consider for your next trip to Spain. All of them are a quick trip from the city, so you won’t need to book another hotel or worry about bringing your luggage with you!
Just an hour and a half away from Madrid by train, Sigüenza almost appears to be frozen in time. The small town, located in the Castilla-La Mancha province, dates back centuries. In fact, its castle was raised in the 12th century and remains incredibly well preserved today. You can visit the castle and many medieval houses, churches, and fortifications, all of which are rich with Spanish history and culture. Siguënza is also home to El Museo Diocesano de Arte Antiguo, an art and archeological museum named one of the oldest in Spain.
If you get tired and need a rest, the central plaza near the cathedral is a fantastic spot to stop and enjoy tapas. There are several restaurants located around the plaza and on the side streets leading away from it. If you’re visiting between 2-4 pm, the plaza will likely be alive with locals having lunch out with friends and family.
Although Renfe trains run to Sigüenza, you might be interested in the Medieval Train, a touristic option that runs both a train and tour service. For 35€ (16€ for children), the service will bring you to the town and take you on a fully guided tour of the historical sights. The train trip itself provides medieval music to set the atmosphere and little goodies. Once you arrive, there is also a theatrical performance and free time for lunch and shopping.
Tip: Make sure to check the dates that the train is running, as COVID-19 has affected service.
Manzanares El Real
Located an hour outside of Madrid at the base of the Guadarrama Mountains sits Manzanares El Real. This charming town is set against a stunning background. On one side is the Santillana Reservoir from which the Manzanares River runs. On the other side are the Guadarrama Mountains, an integral part of both regional and national parks, and La Pedriza, part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. During your visit, you might see some of the many animals the area is home to, such as storks, eagles, and possibly even an Ibex goat.
An Archaeologist’s Dream
Manzanares El Real is a fascinating destination, not only because of its natural beauty but also because of its long and rich history. Its castle played a crucial role in the Reconquista of Spain when the Spanish retook control from the Umayyad Caliphate. You can visit the castle ruins and many other historic sites, including the New Castle of the Mendoza Family, which remains in amazing condition and has been converted into a museum.
Apart from its monuments, Manzanares El Real is also part of the many routes of the Camino de Santiago. You can walk part of the Camino from the town, which takes you alongside the mountains. Eventually, you end up at a beautiful hermitage overlooking the surrounding area.
Finally, Manzanares El Real is also home to Bronze Age archeological dig sites in La Pedriza. Nearby is also the famous dig site La Cabilda, located in Hoyo de Manzanares, which sometimes allows volunteers to participate in the excavations.
Visiting Manzanares El Real is easy. Simply take the 724 bus from Plaza Castilla for roughly 4€. The bus drops you off in the center plaza, where you can grab a drink or tapas before looking around. But be careful, there’s so much to see and enjoy, you may want to spend more than one day there!
The adorable town of Brihuega is located about an hour and a half away from the capital, making it one of the top day trips near Madrid. Famous for its lavender fields and local lavender products, you can visit the town by bus or train. That said, you’ll need a car to see the fields up close.
Once you arrive in Brihuega, it will be immediately obvious what the town is famous for. There is lavender everywhere! From shops selling lavender-based goods to house decorations, the entire town is sprinkled with purple. This gives the town a charming and picturesque vibe and provides the perfect backdrop for photos.
Lavender and History
Brihuega isn’t all about lavender, though. Like many Spanish towns, it also has both historical and cultural significance. You may want to stop by the old city walls, 13th-century church, or bullfighting ring. Don’t forget to pop into the tourism office in the center for a free map!
Of course, the crown jewel of Brihuega is its lavender fields. In the summer, the fields bloom with vibrant color and stretch as far as the eye can see. These fields are important to the bee population, but don’t worry–they’re more interested in the flowers than in you! There are convenient parking lots located near the fields for you to stop, get out, and walk around. You can roam and take pictures, but avoid taking lavender, as it’s the town’s main source of revenue.
Adventures Abound: Embark on These Day Trips Near Madrid
If you’re looking to experience something new, join the locals on vacation, or simply don’t have time to leave the Madrid area, consider embarking on these three amazing day trips near Madrid. There are so many incredible places in Spain to see, so don’t miss out!