Here are some day trips I have taken using Madrid as a base, I hope this helps! 🙂
1. San Lorenzo del Escorial
Little less than an hour bus ride: one way about 4.5 euros
Hours spent there: about an hour
This was really cool. I honestly had higher expectations for the outside than the inside, but the inside was a lot cooler than the outside!
Everything was original and this is where the majority of Kings and Queens are burried.
It was definitely beautiful!
An hour bus if direct: round trip about 9.30 euros
Hours spent there: 3-4
Small medieval town, great views, Cathedral, Jewish quarter
I had heard a lot about Toledo and though it was charming, it was not favorite out of these 3.
It’s on a bit of a hill, so one has to climb a bit, but the small streets and old buildings are worth the exercise. There is a nice view of the city in “Real Alcazar de Toledo” in the cafeteria and it’s free to enter/no need to buy anything.
There is a huge cathedral, but it’s 10 euros to enter. I managed to find a side entrance that let’s you in part of the Cathedral for free and that satisfied my curiousity.
In the Jewish quarter, there is a monastery that is absolutely beautiful and worth the 2.8 euros to see. The monastery was built during the reign of Fernando and Isabel (Inquisition), which is why, I imagine, it is in the Jewish quarter.
An hour bus if direct: round trip about 14.20 euros
Hours spent there: 5
Castle/Palace, Cathedral, medieval town, river walk, aqueduct
Segovia was my favorite out of these 3! It was beautiful and had some major sites besides the town itself. It used to be the seat of royalty long time ago and the castle (Alcazar) still retains it’s original furniture. You can enter the palace for 5.50 euros and an euro extra for a guided tour (only in Spanish). Our guide said Disney used it for the Snow White Castle.
The Cathedral was really pretty on the outside and the inside (3 euros) had a lot to see. Not only the classic chapels of gold, but also a courtyard and some small museum type rooms.
Below the town there is a lovely river walk that offers nice views of the castle, but the castle also offers great views of the surrounding area.
The major landmark is the Roman aqueduct that spans across the city. It’s in great condition and there are many angles to get that perfect picture.
4. Alcala de Henares
Take the cercanias (local train)- from Atocha to Alcala de Henares is about 45 minutes and a round trip ticket costs about 6.80.
Hours spent there: about 4 hours
Childhood/birthplace of Miguel Cervantes (author of Don Quijote)- it is free to enter and they say that all the furniture is from that period.
Archeological museum for the two Roman ruins a bit outside city center- we did not go due to already seeing so many ruins (especially me, several weeks ago I was in Pompeii)
They have an university, and many of the sites to see here belong to it- the buildings are quite beautiful.
There are also 2 other day trips you can do:
Oldest university in Spain, Cathedral, beautiful Plaza Mayor (featured)
Small medieval town with fort walls
I can’t recommend them 100% as day trips from Madrid because I studied Spanish in Salamanca for 3 months and from here I went to Avila as well as Valladolid and some small villages around.
I do highly recommend those places to see, but I’m not sure on how long it takes from Madrid and not sure how much time Salamanca takes in a day. Avila is definitely a day trip (at least from Salamanca).
I hope this helps you with trip planning for Madrid! Madrid is a lovely city, but it’s day trips are well worth it!