After you’ve toured the sights of Madrid, why not take a day trip to a couple of Spanish towns which have played a significant role in the country’s history.
On arriving in Madrid, I’d planned to see a few of the sights and then head to Toledo and Zaragoza over a couple of days – using Spain’s capital as a base.
But after talking to a very helpful staff member at the recommended Way Hostel in Madrid (free churros for breakfast, enough said!), I swapped Zaragoza with Segovia and I’m glad I did.
Segovia is located north west of Madrid and has one of the most impressive Roman aqueducts I’ve seen (the other one is the Pont du Gard in France’s south near Nimes). It’s extremely well preserved and is the first one I’ve seen smack bang in the middle of the town centre in Plaza Azoguejo.
The aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and according to UNESCO’s website, dates back to circa 50 B.C.
The aqueduct spans more than 800 metres, impressively made of large granite blocks laid without mortar.
The tourist office is right next to the aqueduct – you can’t miss it – and they’re very helpful in telling you where to access the city’s viewpoints, most for free or for a minimal fee.
For a small town, Segovia has a lot to offer and is a hidden gem in my opinion. I’d never heard of it before coming to Madrid.
From the aqueduct, walk up the stairs to the left and you’ll find a great viewpoint of the aqueduct as it extends through the old town – and it’s free.
Segovia is a city surrounded by medieval walls. The gate where you can climb up on the city walls isn’t very well marked, but if you find the small tourist office (follow the signs), it’s right near that. You pay a euro to enter at the tourist office and they will give you a code to enter the gate to the walls.
Segovia also has a great Gothic cathedral built in the 16th century and Alcazar (fortress/castle), both worth a look to at least to see the exterior. The Alcazar was destroyed by a fire in the 1860s, but was later rebuilt and is unique in its current look.
I didn’t give it a try because it was a bit beyond my budget, but if you’re looking to splurge on food, look for restaurants serving roast suckling pig. This is the town’s traditional dish and according to the guy at Way Hostel, is delicious.
Segovia is easily reached from Madrid by bus. Buses leave at least once hourly from the bus station adjacent to the Moncloa metro station. Tickets are €9 each way. You can also go by train but the bus is more regular and cheaper. The direct bus takes about an hour to the Segovia bus station, which is only a five minute walk to the centre of town and the aqueduct.
Toledo seems to be the go to day trip from Madrid due to its rich history. There are lots of tours offered to Toledo, but it’s also easy to make your own way there.
Toledo is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and once served as Spain’s capital before Madrid was given the honour. It has a number of influences in its buildings such as Muslim, Jewish and Christian – all of which are visible throughout the town in its historical buildings, gates and walls.
The tourist office is located in the town hall building, adjacent to the cathedral, if you want to pick up a map and find out the must do sites in the town.
The highlight of the town is the dominating Gothic St Mary cathedral, built on the former site of a mosque; and the Alcazar, which is now an army museum. There’s also the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, and the town’s two bridges are worth taking a look.
Toledo is one of those towns you can’t really get lost in and it was easy and rewarding to wander through the streets and see what I came across on the journey.
Toledo is also easily accessible from Madrid and is well served by train which takes an efficient 30 minutes. Trains leave from the main train station Puerta de Atocha every hour and cost about €20 for a return trip. The train station is accessible by metro.
You can buy tickets to Toledo prior to the day of departure. Tickets can also be bought on the day but be mindful that the trains are small and have allocated seating so tickets sell out quickly. Buses are also available but train is the fastest and more regular option.
The train station in Toledo is located a couple of kilometres from the centre of town, with part of the way up a hill. No problem if you’re young and able, but if you don’t want to walk, there are some local buses or a taxi. I walked, and yes it was steep, but it took about 20 minutes from the train station.
The bus station is only slightly closer to town, and is also located at the base of the hill leading to Toledo.
As for places to stay I only did day trips from Madrid and didn’t stay in Toledo and Segovia and there’s probably no need unless you’re a history buff and keen to spend a bit of time at each of the historical monuments.
I’ve been to Madrid on two occasions and can recommend Way Hostel and U Hostels.
Both are convenient near metro stations and have spacious rooms, great staff, and offer plenty of tours such as tapas bar crawls, Saturday night pub crawls and free breakfast.
Way Hostel has free churros and U Hostels has a choice of either churros or cereal.
If you’re looking for a quiet hostel, go to U Hostels – it has multiple levels and the location is quiet at night. If you’re looking for more of a party vibe, go to Way Hostel. It’s a bit smaller but right in the centre of the action and has a great vibe. It can get noisy outside on weekends though.