Between March 2021 and March 2022 alone, approximately 5.3 million visitors made their way to Madrid—the capital of Spain, known for beautiful sites like the Prado Museum, the Retiro Park, and the iconic Plaza Mayor.
While there is plenty to keep you busy in the city itself, if you will be spending more than a few days, then taking a road trip to nearby towns and cities is a must. This is because its central location makes it close to Castilla La Mancha and Castilla y León—communities that are renowned for their gastronomy, architectural sites, and culture.
Below are just three road trips that won’t take hours, but will transport you to fantastic new worlds.
Toledo is an ancient walled city ensconced in Castilla La Mancha, boasting a unique blend of medieval Arab, Christian, and Jewish monuments. One of its most famous inhabitants was El Greco—a 16th-century painter who is famed for his dramatic, expressionistic style—one that was totally at odds with the work of the painters of his day.
Toledo has a stunning museum dedicated to the master, in the heart of the Jewish quarters. It is ideal for strolling and taking in the sites, including the Moorish Bisagra Gate and the Sol Gate (in Mudéjar style), both of which open passage to the Old Quarter and the buzzing Plaza de Zocodover.
This city is just one hour from Madrid and can be reached via the A-42 highway.
Salamanca is simply one of the prettiest cities you will see in Spain, so beautiful that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Must-see buildings include the 16th-century Casa de las Conchas—a Gothic palace that was built by a Knight of the Order of Santiago de Compostela.
Equally captivating is the Plaza Mayor, which is considered one of the most stunning in Spain. The New Cathedral, perched upon a hilltop, dates back to 1513 and its beauty is mesmerizing. There is so much to see that you might consider planning at least a two- or three-day stay here.
If you will be renting a vehicle, opt for a reliable car with fresh gas, topped-up fuels, and tires in good condition. This road trip takes place on the A-50, a safe highway with various stops. However, there are a few rural and solitary areas as well, so having a reliable vehicle will ensure your trip is hassle-free.
Royal Vibes in Aranjuez
Aranjuez is a mere 45 minutes from Madrid via the A-4 but it opens the door to one of the most beautiful royal residences: the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. The latter was favored by a succession of monarchs, including Philip V and Charles IV. It boasts 111.23 hectares of carefully manicured gardens, that grow on a fertile plain where the Jarama and Tajo rivers converge.
History and beauty abound within its interiors, with top spaces to catch including the Porcelain Room (containing intricate porcelain works of art), the Mirror Room (once the chamber of Charles II), and La Casa del Labrador (or ‘Country House’), where King Charles IV spent his springs in the company of his court.
Madrid’s centric position makes it an ideal starting point for various road trips. Three close ones you can conduct in a day are those to Toledo, Salamanca, and Aranjuez.
Since Salamanca is a couple of hours away, might as well extend your stay, enjoying traditional fare and marvelling at sites like the ancient Roman bridge or the Casa de las Conchas.