Category Archives: Excursions from Madrid

Hay Festival Segovia

Hay Festival SegoviaAccording to Wiki:

Since 1988, Hay-on-Wye has been the venue for a literary festival, sponsored by The Guardian newspaper, which draws a claimed 80,000 visitors over ten days at the
beginning of June to see and hear big literary names from all over the world.

However, from the 21st-24th September, 2006 the festival will decamp to Spain for the Hay Festival Segovia. They have quite a lineup organised for the event, including Bob Geldof, Martin Amis, Ian Mc Ewan, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Ian Gibson, Doris Lessing, Fernando Savater, Chris Stewart and Vikram Seth will be amogst the speakers. There will be a concert by Bob Geldof and various film screenings. If you’ve never been to the unbelievably beautiful city of Segovia, this will be a fantastic opportunity.

Purchasing Tickets
Click here to buy tickets over the Internet >

Buy tickets over the phone from 1st September: +34 902101212

(9:00 am- 9:00 pm)

Ticket Prices
  7€ per event
3€ per screening

Related Article
Segovia – Alcázar , Aqueduct, Cathedral and great food

Strawberry Train 2006

starwberrytrain_2I completely forgot to write about the Strawberry Train (Tren de a Fresa), which leaves Madrid’s Atocha Station and travels to the beautiful Royal Palace of Aranjuez. Luckily, seeing some strawberries on Ben and Marina’s site reminded me! The price includes:

  • A ‘historic’ steam train which takes around 50 minutes to get to the town of
  • Strawberries served on board by stewardesses dressed in period costume
  • Bus to the Royal Palace
  • Free entry to the Royal Palace  (with a tour guide – though probably in Spanish)

24 Euros for adults, 16 Euros for children

May: 6th, 7th, 13th, 14th, 20th, 21st, 27th and 28th
June: 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th

Departs Atocha: 10.05 | Arrives Aranjuez: 10.55
Leaves Aranjuez: 6.00 p.m. | Arrives Atocha: 6.50 p.m.

Full Details can be found on the Tren de la Fresa site.

Heavy Snow in the Mountains Around Madrid

Puerto de Cotos

I have blogged about this quite a few times this year. So, I’m sure that once more won’t make much difference. I have just taken a look at the Sierra Norte website and, as you can see above, there is heavy snow there. Taking a look at the El Mundo weather page, I saw that the forecast for the mountains for the next few days is snow and cold weather – pretty good weather for skiing I should think.
Here is an article I have blogged about skiing before on this site:

Skiing in Madrid

However, if you can’t get out to the mountains, you can always see them from the Parque del Oeste or even the Templo de Debod.

Map of “Local” Train Network in Madrid

I have had a number of people asking me for details on how to get to Madrid ski resorts and, having written an article on Recommended Excursions from Madrid recently, I thought it might be a good idea to create a link to the map for Madrid’s Cercanias trains. The Cercanias (or local) train network in Madrid is excellent – it is reasonably priced (ridiclously cheap compared to the UK!), always on time and very clean. You also have one or two trains which are "double decker"-style. The Cercanias train system goes out in all directons from the main stations in Madrid: Atocha, Chamartin and Nuevos Ministerios.

Included on the network are El Escorial, Cercedilla and Alcalá de Henares. If you’re a walker, or skier, you will need to look at the villages/towns on the C8 and C9 line.

Recommended Excursions from Madrid

These are just a few of the places that I have visited down the years and which I would definitely recommend. I would say that one or two of them (like Salamanca, Cuenca and even Avila) may warrant an overnight stay due to their distance. However, that shouldn’t be a bad thing as they have some beautiful hotels and/or paradors.

– UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home of the famous Roman aqueduct, Alcázar and Cathedral. A wonderful place to walk around, with some great restaurants and bars.
– UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home of the painter El Greco and famous for its swords and for the mix of Moor, Christian and Jews who have lived there down the ages and who have all left their mark on this fabulous city. Look out for the Cathedral, Greco’s House and the Alcázar.
– UNESCO World Heritage Site. Reputed to be the longest walled city in Europe, Avila is a city famed for being the brithplace of Saint Teresa de Jesús and is a treasure trove of churches and palaces. It is the capital of Castilla-León and is famed fr its T-bone steaks and Yema de Santa Teresa (sweet cakes).
– Declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Aranjuez is famous for its wonderful Royal Palace and for its beautiful gardens which sit next to the river Tagus (Tago). 
Cuenca – Guess what? Another UNESCO World Heritage Site and famed for its Hanging Houses (Casas Colgadas) the Enchanted City (Ciudad Encantada) on its outskirts and beautful town centre . One of the Hanging Houses actually houses the Spanish Museum of Abstract Art.
Alcalá de Henares
– This city, to the East of Madrid, is famed as being the birthplace of Cervantes who wrote Don Quijote. It also has one of the most important unviersities in Spain and a number of important buildings and churches, not to mention its historic quarter. And by the way, it’s another UNESCO World Heritage Site!
– Considered to be one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities, Salamanca is renowned for its Univeristy, which is reputed to be one of the oldest in the world. The city has a beautiful Plaza Mayor, which many consider to be equal to or better than Madrid’s.
El Escorial
– El Escorial is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site and is famed for its huge Royal Monastery. It was built by Phillip II and was designed to be the political centre of his empire. Aside from the monastery, museum, palace and library you will find the Royal Pantheon which houses the tombs of virtually every Spanish king since Phillip II’s time and numerous priceless paintings. Nearby you have the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos) where the Fascist Dictator Franco is buried – it is a rather disturbing, yet impressive monument – a church built into a mountain.

Snow Falls on Madrid Mountains


Last week some pretty heavy snow fell on the mountains surrounding Madrid, though I am not sure whether enough fell for the ski resorts to open. For those who don’t know you can actually go skiing in the mountains surrounding Madrid – the ski resorts are under an hour from the city centre. Last year was pretty good for Madrid’s skiers as some great snow fell.

To find out more about Skiing in Madrid’s Mountains: Navacerrada, Valdesqui, La Pinilla and Cotos, check out these sites:
Nevasport Forums
Valdesqui (Very poor website)
La Pinilla Ski Station
Xanadu (Massive Indoor Ski Centre)

Thanks to my brother-in-law Vicen for this.

Cervantes’ Birthplace Museum


This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first publication of Cervantes’ Don Quijote, one of the most famous and important books/characters in world literature. There are a number of events going on in Madrid to mark the event throughout the year but you may be interested in paying a trip to Cervantes’ Birthplace Musuem, in the city of Alcalá de Henares just outside Madrid (35 minutes by train).Here is an overview of the museum from the website:

The Cervantes Birthplace Museum is a monographic museum owned and run by the Autonomous Region of Madrid, and housed in the building where, the scholars tell us, the writer was born. It brings to life the various areas of an affluent household during the 16th and 17th centuries, recreating an environment intended to provide visitors to the rooms with a sense of the former residents as they went about their daily lives.

The museum, which has been in existence since 1954, organises workshops for children, talks, concerts and book launches.

Getting There
Atocha Train Station (See ‘Cercanias’ section on Renfe website)
Opening Times
Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm

Strawberry Train to Aranjuez 2005

Tren_fresa_1If you’re looking for something slightly out of the ordinary, you may be interested in taking a trip back in time on a steam locomotive, commonly called the ‘Strawberry Train’, to the town of Aranjuez, home of one of the famous Spanish Royal Palaces. The first train of the year departs on 31st March and will run every Saturday and Sunday from Atocha Station. The journey includes a free pass to the beautiful Royal Palace of Aranjuez and a plate of strawberries, served by stewardesses dressed in traditional dress.

Prices: 24 Euros adults; 16 for children
Departure: Atocha Station; Fri-Sat at 10.05 am

Toledo – Don Quijote, El Greco, Mosques and Synagogues

Toledo is one of the jewels of Central Spain. It belongs to the province of Toledo and is the capital of the autonomous region of Castilla la Mancha. The city, located 70 km south of Madrid, is perched on a hill with the river Tajo (Tagus) at it feet. Toledo was decreed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 much of it due to the fact that it is known as the “city of the three cultures”, because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together there for centuries. Even today you can find its rich cultural heritage in its churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues.

Here is a brief histroy from “The city of Toledo has its origins in Toletum, the name the Romans gave to this settlement on the banks of the River Tagus after its conquest in 190 BC. The city maintained its importance for centuries and, in the Visigothic era, became the capital of Hispania (6th C.). The arrival of the Arabs in the 8th century, together with the presence of Christians and Jews, made Toledo the “city of the three cultures”. This was one of the Toledo’s most splendid periods when, among other important events, the Toledo School of Translators was founded. Later, when Carlos V came to the throne in 1519, the city became an imperial capital.”

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The Strawberry Train (Tren de la Fresa)


From now until September, it will be possible to take a nostalgic journey into the past on a steam locomotive. The train is meant to depict what was the second peninsular line, inaugurated in 1851 by Isabel II. Operating out of Madrid’s Atocha station and with the Royal town of Aranjuez as the destination, passengers will be able to take a journey on this train with stewardesses dressed in period costume, who serve fresh strawberries – typical fruit from the area.

Though the Royal Palace of Aranjuez was used as a retreat in the time of the Catholic Kings and Queens, it was Phillip II who told his architects, the same ones who built designed El Escorial, to further change and expand the palace. Fernando VI and Carlos III also had a hand in the development in the palace we now see and which sits on the rivers Tajo and Jarama. The result is a beautiful palace with fabulous gardens.

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San Lorenzo de El Escorial and Valle de los Caidos

Real Monasterio de El Escorial
The town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is situated in the Guadarrama Sierra, around 60 kilometres from Madrid. The main attraction of the town is the monastery of El Escorial, built by the Spanish King Phillip II to commemorate the victory against the French in 1557 and was considered the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. The monastery was the work of Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera. Like many other parts of central Spain, like Segovia and Avila, El Escorial is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was recognised as the political centre of Phillip II’s empire and was completed in 1584, the actual interior decoration wasn’t competed until the start of the 17th Century. The size of the place was meant to characterise the size of the empire: huge and the idea was to belittle visitors – it certainly succeeds!

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Segovia – Alcázar , Aqueduct, Cathedral and great food

Alcázar de Segovia, WikipediaFor anyone visiting Madrid and looking for a worthwhile excursion, then Segovia should be be number 1 on your list. Having got married there, and had my son christened there, I have a great fondness for the place. Segovia is a wonderful mix of Roman Spain, Medieval and Renaissance Spain and Modern Spain all rolled up into one.

The city is around an hour’s journey from Madrid, and is in Spain’s Castilla Leon region. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has 3 very important sites, dotted around the city: the Roman Aqueduct, the Gothic Cathedral and the Alcázar, not to mention its multitude of churches and palaces.

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Skiing in Madrid

Yes, you did read the title correctly! You’d never think that in a city which experiences such hot summers (up to 40C+), that you’d be able to find a ski resort within an hour. Heading out to Navacerrada, north of Madrid, you will find ski stations which the king of Spain often frequents. You can get to Navacerrada by Cercanías trains. At weekends, and on public holidays, the roads and ski stations are full of Madrileños taking an opportunity to get out of the city to ski and breath fresh mountain air.

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