Ultimate Guide: Madrid (Tres)

Mar 21, 2013 by

Time for another instalment of my Ultimate Guide series on Madrid (read: Why I Love Madrid)…

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Visiting Madrid allows you the great fortune of taking some exceptional day trips to nearby cities. Its proximity to places like Segovia and Toledo (the day trips that I’ve done) make Madrid a great city to visit if you only have a short amount of time in Spain and you also want to see something outside Madrid, getting a different flavour of the country.

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Let’s start with Toledo

During my first visit to Spain on a school trip when I was in grade 12 (and subsequently, when I fell in love with Madrid), we took a day trip to Toledo, about an hour south of Madrid. It is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site and was probably my first introduction to the winding, labyrinthine and magical streets and alleys of Europe. I had a constrained experience on this trip because I was confined to the bus and schedule of the school trip, but I still managed to love Toledo, which tells me just how great this place is.

What I remember doing in Toledo is taking photos from a beautiful vantage point and then visiting a sword factory. From what I recall, Toledo may be best known for its handmade swords, and let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want a badass handmade sword from Spain? All joking aside, I really enjoyed the sword factory, and for those of you who want more out of a day trip, fear not. There are beautiful churches and cathedrals, ancient gates and bridges, art galore, tasty snacks and winding alleys to explore and enjoy.

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Next… Segovia

When I lived in Madrid in 2011, there was a German girl in my class living with her Spanish boyfriend in Segovia. Before even knowing this, I was talking about how I wanted to visit Segovia, how I was planning on going that weekend for the day on Saturday. That’s when she invited me up to stay with them that weekend, and this presented me with a whole weekend of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I was able to hop in their car on Friday after class, eat sandwiches that her boyfriend had bought us, stay in a local home in Segovia and eat with local people in a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a bull fight on the TV in the background.

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My experience in Segovia was this: my friend’s boyfriend dropped us off in the old town. We met an overly friendly elderly gentleman who wanted to buy us tea and chat, and he proceeded to “read our energies” which was actually kind of creepy because what he said was so accurate. We then walked around the old town for the afternoon and made our way to the Alcázar de Segovia, an exquisite castle which I was told inspired the Disney Sleeping Beauty castle, but I don’t know if that’s true. Wikipedia indicates that it was actually the Cinderella castle…

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I was more than happy to wander around Segovia with very few planned activities. Segovia (or more specifically, its old town and aqueduct) is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s picturesque and pretty. I took close to 400 photos on my first day there. You can easily spend your day there doing just this, wandering and snapping pictures. Take a peek in the majestic cathedrals, stop for tapas and a beer, and visit the castle and aqueduct, and you have yourself a cozy little day in Segovia. We also went up the tower in the castle which has an additional (but small, 2 euro) fee, and this presented us with a higher and more dramatic vantage point of the city.

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While in Segovia, we also managed to hang out with some of my friend’s and her boyfriend’s Spanish friends. We went to a few bars and had beers and tapas and practiced speaking each other’s languages. Before I returned to Madrid the next day, my friend’s boyfriend also kindly treated us to a Spanish delicacy, suckling pig, which is exactly what it sounds like, but much more on that in a later post.

There are several other day trips that you could take from Madrid, none of which I have experienced, but my Lonely Planet book lists the following cities as notable day trips: Ávila, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Valle de Los Caídos, Aranjuez, Chinchón, Alcalá de Henares, Sierra de Guadarrama, and Sierra Pobre. I can’t vouch for these places, but perhaps you can? Have you been to any of these cities outside Madrid?

Note: all photos in this post are from Segovia; my photos from Toledo are in a photo album in Winnipeg. This was before the age of digital cameras. At least for me. And this is probably a good thing, considering the hundreds of photos I took in Segovia. It was hard enough choosing these ones for this post!

Have you ever been to Toledo or Segovia? What did you think?

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4 Comments

  1. Now there’s a place that would be difficult to leave!
    Hey, like the way you eat 🙂

  2. This is a great overview! And I love how smiley and present you are in all your photos!

    • Colleen

      Thanks Mary. That’s so kind of you to say…
      Lots more to come!

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