If you're visiting Madrid, Spain and want to escape the commotion of the big capital city and check out some more authentically Spanish pueblos, or towns, there are two fabulous day trips less than an hour away from Madrid. Both make for incredibly charming getaways, and both are easily accessible by several modes of transportation.
The Old Town of Segovia and its aqueduct are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Spain's Castile and León region. This ancient town is known for its rich architectural legacy, with its medieval walls, Romanesque churches, Gothic cathedral, and its iconic ancient Roman aqueduct.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic city of Toledo is situated on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, just about an hour south of Madrid and home to literary protagonist Don Quijote.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about taking a day trip out of Madrid to visit Segovia and/or Toledo.
Things to do in Segovia
1. Segovia Cathedral
One of Segovia's main tourist attractions is its Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral, located in the town's main square, known as Plaza Mayor.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and San Frutos (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y San Frutos) is the cathedral's full name, built between 1525-1577 and decorated with beautiful glass-stained windows from the 14th century, baroque organs from the 18th century, and featuring 18 chapels with significant paintings and sculptures throughout.
Since 2014, visitors are welcomed to climb the cathedral's 354-foot tower on a guided tour to glean stunning views of the city.
The cathedral is open for daily visits November through March from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and April through October from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Entrance to the cathedral costs 3€.
2. Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
Known simply as La Granja, Segovia's stunning royal palace is an early 18th-century edifice located in the hills of the quaint town of San Ildefonso on the outskirts of Segovia.
The palace became the summer residence of the Kings of Spain from the 1720s, during the reign of Philip V. La Granja's gardens cover more than 1,500 acres and are an exemplary depiction of the 18th-century French formal garden style in Spain, a style based primarily on symmetry and the idea of imposing order in nature.
From Segovia, buses leave for La Granja every 45 minutes and take around 20 minutes. The palace's winter hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and its summer hours are 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Entrance into the palace costs 9€, and the building is closed on Mondays.
3. Alcazár of Segovia
Originally built as a fortress, the Alcázar of Segovia has since served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy. This medieval Moorish castle stands tall on a rocky bluff near the Guadarrama mountains and is currently used as a museum and military archives building.
In popular culture, the Alcázar of Segovia even made an appearance in the 1967 musical film Camelot, where it served as the French home of Sir Lancelot du Lac, Joyous Gard.
For 8€, visitors can enjoy a complete visit to the castle, the artillery museum, and the Tower of Juan II, which features spectacular panoramic views of Segovia.
4. Aqueduct of Segovia
Segovia's most renowned attraction is without a doubt its aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world.
The Aqueduct of Segovia is the city's foremost symbol, and even appears on Segovia's coat of arms. It serves as an entrance into Segovia's Old Town and is the first thing visitors will see when arriving at this quaint Spanish village.
The aqueduct is stunning both during the day and possibly even more so at night; travelers can walk up the stairs on either side of the aqueduct for elevated and amplified city views.
Getting to Segovia from Madrid
Madrid's AVE High-Speed Train departs from Chamartín Station at least once per hour on a daily basis, takes about 30 minutes, and costs around 12€. The train will arrive at Sevogia Guiomar Station. This is going to be your fastest way of reaching Segovia from Madrid.
Another more economical option that's gaining popularity across Europe is BlaBlaCar, a trusted ride-sharing website that offers cheap carpooling options, connecting drivers and passengers that are willing to travel together between cities. Trips from Madrid to Segovia can cost as little as 5€.
Things to do in Toledo
1. Alcázar of Toledo
Located on the highest part of the city, the Alcázar of Toledo is a centuries-old stone fortification that was once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century, while later being restored under Charles I and his son Philip II of Spain in the 1540s.
Centuries later, the Alcázar was completely restored and rebuilt beginning in 1941 after the Seige of the Alcázar during the Spanish Civil War. It was completed in 1961.
Today, visitors can tour the castle daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Entrance to the Alcázar costs 5€ and is free on Sundays. An entrance ticket allows access to the Alcázar's museum, gardens, cafeteria, gift shop, and library.
2. Toledo Cathedral
Serving as the seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toledo, Toledo Cathedral (the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo) is a Roman Catholic church and is one of three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain. USA Today has even called it the "archetype of Spanish Gothic cathedrals."
Famous Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco played a major role in the transformation of the cathedral into a significant fine arts repository, being commissioned by the cathedral's dean to paint several altarpieces and other artworks.
Today, tourists can visit the cathedral and gaze upon its enormous gold-grilled gates, awe-inspiring altar, elaborate frescoes, and detailed sculptures and crucifixes.
3. Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca
Toledo's Jewish Quarter is where many Jews lived during the Middle Ages, and the area is home to the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca. Erected in 1180, it is widely considered the oldest synagogue still standing in Europe.
When entering the, visitors will notice the distinct arcaded hypostyle hall, very similar to that of the famous Mezquita of Cordoba.
Open daily, the synagogue can be toured during summer months from 10:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., and in winter months from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Entrance into the synagogue costs 2,80€.
Getting to Toledo from Madrid
The fastest travel time between Madrid and Toledo is 33 minutes on the previously mentioned AVE High-Speed Train and costs around 13€.
Trains leave daily from Madrid's Atocha Station for Toledo approximately every 2 hours and 30 minutes, with the first train leaving at 6:50 a.m.