Continued from page 4
ABOVE: Medieval Toledo is only 50 km or 31
miles from Madrid.
Day trips from Madrid
If you're spending more than a few days in Madrid, consider one
or more excursions to nearby cities and monuments. Most are easy to reach by
train, bus, car, or organized tour.
Toledo (see photo above) is only 50 km or 31 miles from
Madrid. The city was Spain's capital for five centuries (spread over two
millennia) and is packed with Christian, Jewish, and Moorish monuments. Don't
miss the Cathedral (one of the world's largest) and the Alcázar,
a hilltop fortress that was restored after enduring a 70-day siege in the
Spanish Civil War. For more information, including transportation tips, visit
the city government's bilingual ToledoWeb and
Province of Toledo pages. (Tip: Although you can see Toledo's most popular
sites in a few hours, you'll get more out of your visit if you stay a night or
is a bit farther away (88 km, 55 miles) but is easy enough to reach by bus,
train, or car. The city is surrounded by mountains, and it's famous for its
Roman aqueduct, Gothic cathedral, medieval old town, and traditional Castilian
cuisine. (Try to come during the week, since Madrileños flock to Segovia on
weekends.) The official Segovia Turismo
site is available only in Spanish, but you'll find an English-language
Segovia section at Spain Tourism's Web site.
El Escorial, the palace and monastery built by Philip II,
is only 40 km (25 miles) from Madrid. The vast 16th Century building occupies a
dramatic site site near the mountains, and it's well worth a visit even if royal
palaces normally leave you cold. (Philip II's private apartments, and especially
his bedroom, are surprisingly austere.)
the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of
the Fallen) is a monument to victims of the Spanish Civil War. It includes a
basilica that was hewn out of the rock by prisoners of General Franco's winning
side. Some 40,000 dead soldiers (both Nationalists and Republicans) are hidden
behind the mausoleum's walls.
The royal palace and hunting lodge of
El Pardo, where
General Franco lived, is still used to entertain visiting VIPs, while the royal
summer palace of Aranjuez (inset photo) was a hunting lodge in earlier
times. The latter's riverside gardens are lovely in nice weather, and the
neighboring town of Chinchón scores
high on the "picturesque" scale.
information on El Escorial, Valle de las Caídos,
El Pardo, and Aranjuez, see the relevant sections of Spain's national heritage
- Tip: Entrance to El Escorial, Valle de las Caídos,
El Pardo, Aranjuez, and several other attractions outside Madrid is free to
holders of the Madrid
Card and Madrid Card Cultura.
Other cities: Describing
every possible excursion from Madrid is beyond the scope of this guide, but
there are plenty of locations to choose from--including such UNESCO World
Heritage Sites as Àvila, Salamanca, and Cuenca, all of which are close enough to
Madrid for an overnight visit or (if you insist) a day trip. For more excursion
ideas, browse the "Where to Go" section of Spain Tourism's
Hotels in Madrid
Toledo photo copyright © Alexandru Teodorescu.
Segovia photo copyright © Manuel Velasco.
Valle de los Caídos photo copyright © Kelvin Wakefield.
Aranjuez photo copyright © Antonio Ovejero.