Two Day-Tour Ideas from Madrid: Toledo and Zaragoza
After leaving Sevilla at the beginning of our summer euro trip, our first big stop on our way home was Madrid. On our way to the capital and when leaving it afterwards, we did two short stops that struck me as perfect day-tour trips or even weekend city breaks from Madrid.
One Day in Toledo
First town we visited was Toledo, which, if you search it online, mostly appears paired as a day trip with Segovia, another famous Spanish city nearby Madrid. In our case, we didn’t have enough time to check Segovia as well during the same day, but I’m not sure I would have crammed it all anyway in one single trip (unless really in a hurry).
Toledo is about an hour away by car from Madrid (you can get there by bus or train as well, I read there is a high-speed train as well which covers the distance in about 30 mins) and, once there, you can leave the car in a parking in exchange for a small fee (instead of wasting time searching a free parking spot).
We parked around Paseo del Miradero, an area uphill with lovely views over the Tagus River and the surroundings (although South from the town there is Mirador del Valle, which allegedly offers the best views of Toledo – we were a bit time pressed so we skipped it).
We arrived in the afternoon, right before the sun started to set and fill the old medieval town walls with warm and soft toned light. Remember it was summer, so bonus points that the hotness of the day was starting to fade a bit, therefore walking up and down the steep stone-paved streets was not bad at all.
Entering Toledo by taking the stairs nearby Puerta del Sol, I was impressed with the medieval beauty of the old town, so well kept and cared after. It was also very different from the Southern Spanish towns I got used to, although it did have some oriental influences in its architecture. The bright white houses from Andalucía were replaced with taller stone buildings, that were making the streets seem narrower and darker than they really were.
Here and there, hidden views of beautiful architecture unraveled themselves after a corner or framed by two buildings at the end of a street that was on a much different level than the standing point of view.
In my opinion, Toledo is one of these cities that are great for getting lost around its street maze and discovering it step by step at your own pace, without being rushed. (Later edit: found out it reminds me a lot of lovely Siena from Italy).
Take your time here, it’s worth it!
One Day in Zaragoza
What is it that makes Spanish towns so charming? I hold Zaragoza very dear in my memory, as it was the last city we enjoyed a good bunch of delicious tapas before leaving Spain. It’s unbelievable how much I miss the tapas way of eating and living, spending hours with a variety of small plates in front of you and surrounded by loud-talking friends. And always refreshing myself with a large icy glass of tinto de verano (aka summer wine – red wine with flavoured soda water).
Zaragoza is located North-East from Madrid, around 300 km away, so you either leave very early in the morning or consider spending the night there. You can also take a high speed train that will get you from Madrid to Zaragoza in a bit over 1 hour and a half – problem solved!
Again, as I mentioned before, we like to experience a new city (especially those that are walkable and pedestrian friendly) by getting lost around their streets, which is what we did in Zaragoza as well. We spent a few hours here, again catching the sunset casting its warm highlights over the buildings.
My favourite place in Zaragoza was Plaza del Pilar (Our Lady of The Pillar Square), with its two cathedrals and various other important edifices. As rich as the architecture is, what stuck with me the most was the liveliness of the place at that time, when lots of people from all ages were gathering around and children were playing nearby (and in) the water fountains.
I’d say spending some time around this square just relaxing, watching the people pass by and admiring the architecture would be first on my list of things to do in Zaragoza.
Then you can take a walk around the nearby streets and enjoy some tapas in a bar. If you’re a history aficionado, why not take a peek inside the cathedrals as well?