If you’ve made it all the way to Spain, you undoubtedly are planning to travel around as much as possible while you’re here – and you should! One of the best things about Europe is that there are a great many places to see: whether it’s a sleepy, picturesque village or a bustling capital city. Travel and accommodation are relatively inexpensive, and in many cases you don’t even have to go far. The only question is, “Where should I go?” Here we’re going to discuss 5 great trips from Madrid that you’ll certainly want to consider.
Trips in Spain
Spain is one of the top five most visited countries in the world, so naturally you should take advantage of the fact that you’re here and visit as much of the country as you can. However, there is a lot to see, so it may be difficult when it becomes time to decide where exactly to visit. Although many madrileños may encourage you to visit the north of Spain, if you’re looking for warm weather and palm trees, this may not be the best option. Conversely, if what you want is mountains and greenery, you certainly won’t find it in Andalusia. All parts of the country have a great deal to offer, so it’s up to you what you want to visit. Nonetheless, we’d like to make a few suggestions about traveling in-country.
It doesn’t take long for one to realize that Madrid has just about everything a city should, except a beach. This is not a problem, however, as Valencia is very close: just under 3,30 hours away by car – or even closer by AVE (high-speed train) – a mere hour and forty minutes. Due to the short distance, this makes for an excellent weekend get-away. Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain, and thus, has quite a lot to visit. The historical center of the city is rather large and much of it is surrounded by a city wall, which dates back several centuries. There are many monuments and structures of interest, such as the city’s cathedral and the many gates that form part of the wall. Beyond the city center lies the biggest aquarium in the European Union – L’Oceanogàfic – which is definitely worth the visit. Because of the mild climate, Valencia can be visited practically all year round. When planning a trip, however, be aware that the city hosts a big festival called Las Fallas from around the 15th-19th of March, which you very well may choose to attend, or avoid altogether.
At roughly the same distance from Madrid as Valencia, to the south of the capital, on the banks of the Guadalquivir, lies the city of Cordoba. This magical destination makes for an excellent weekend, or perhaps even day trip, as it’s a small city and most of what you’ll want to see is close together. As is the case with many cities in Andalusia, Cordoba is a testament to Spain’s multi-cultural past and is the perfect place to see the Moorish influence on the country’s architecture, language, and society. An absolute must-see is the Mezquita-catedral de Córdoba, a historic building which has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The original building was constructed as a mosque during the reign of the Caliphate of Cordoba, and later converted into a cathedral following the Christian reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula. Other places to visit in the city include the Roman bridge, Roman temple, numerous churches, and the Museo Julio Romero de Torres. Due to the warm climate, Cordoba is perhaps best visited during the spring and fall, as the summer months tend to have temperatures exceeding 100ºF. However, May is by far the best month, as both the Fiesta de Patios de Córboda and the Feria de Córdoba are held during this time.
If you didn’t pay much attention in geography class, it may be news to you that Spain possesses a wealth of islands, both in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, all of which are most certainly worth a visit. Of these islands, however, by far the most unique is Lanzarote. Located just off the African coast, the Canary Islands boast a mild climate, which doesn’t vary much above or below 70ºF all year. Although some of the more popular islands are plagued with German and British tourists, Lanzarote has in one way or another escaped the abundance of high-rise hotels and beach apartments that have become all to common throughout Spain. Despite being a small island, there is a wealth of places to visit, ranging from the Fundación de César Manrique to Timanfaya, a nature park that encompasses the area that was covered with lava after a volcanic eruption which took place in the 18th century. The almost perfect climate of this island makes it an excellent tourist destination all year, and an especially coveted place to visit during the winter months when temperatures in Madrid are well below freezing. Visiting Lanzarote in July, however, is not recommended, as winds from the African continent can cause temperatures to rise to upwards of 100ºF. Needless to say, it will be necessary to book plane tickets well in advance, but it’s most certainly worth the trouble.
From Spain to Europe
Despite the overwhelming amount of worthwhile destinations in Spain, there are many close destinations in Europe that are worth seeing. One of these such destinations is Lisbon. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, at the mouth of the Tajo River, is Portugal’s splendid capital. Although many Spaniards consider their neighbor to the West to be somehow inferior, don’t believe the hype. It is true that Portugal is officially not as wealthy as Spain, but as the modern heir to an old-world empire, it possesses a wealth of culture worth becoming acquainted with. Some of the important places to visit are the Torre de Belém, Museo do Fado, and Bairro Alto. And if you go in the spring or summer, the beaches located outside the city are great for taking a refreshing dip. Due to its distance from Madrid, perhaps more than a weekend is necessary, but even if two or three days is all you have free, it’s still worth the trek. Lacking a high-speed train connection from Madrid (at the apparent request of the Portuguese), the best way to arrive is perhaps by car, although it is certainly possible to travel by plane or bus. If you’re worried about the language barrier, you’re in for a nice surprise: English and Spanish are both widely spoken in Portugal and the locals are more than happy to communicate in Portuñol if necessary.
A stay in Europe would only be complete with a trip to the città eterna. As the birthplace of Western civilization, Rome is a must-see for anyone spending time in Spain. Just two hours by plane from Barajas, it makes for an excellent long weekend or longer vacation. Plane tickets can be purchased for as little as eighty euros – less than half what it may cost to travel by train to Barcelona, and in less time! There is literally so much to see in the Italian republic’s capital that the locals say ‘Roma, non basta una vita‘, that is, that a life-time is not enough to see everything. When you go, however, be sure to see the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, and the catacombs. On a later trip you can perhaps try to see what you missed the first time, but you’ll only know if you are to return by doing the following: upon visiting the Trevi Fountain, facing backwards, you must throw a coin with your right hand over your left into the water. If you’re not superstitious, though, it’s just a matter of planning a return trip!
Although we’ve taken the liberty to suggest trips that we find worthwhile, there are literally hundreds of places in Spain, Europe, and even Africa that are easily accessed from the Spanish capital. You be the judge; the world is yours!