Updated: September 4, 2023Published: February 23, 2023
Madrid is a city full of impressive history and culture and where there are always thousands of different plans. But maybe you have already seen it all, or you just feel like doing something different!
Just a few kilometers from the Spanish capital, you can find some of Spain’s most beautiful and charming villages.
Get ready to discover these incredible villages, ideal for enjoying the outdoors and nature. It will be the perfect way to get to know another part of Madrid’s historical and cultural heritage.
So find a space in your agenda and get ready to discover these 11 charming villages just a few minutes away from Madrid. Believe me, you won’t regret it!
P.S.: At the end of the post, I have included a map with the location of each town mentioned in the list, and a video explaining how to rent a car in case you choose to get one. Hope it helps you!
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1. San Lorenzo de El Escorial
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is one of the favorite destinations close to Madrid for people, especially lovers of history.
It’s a natural environment and artistic heritage, as well as the second most visited municipality in Madrid after the capital.
It is located just 55km away from the city center in the northwest of the Community of Madrid, in the Guadarrama mountain. This town has many interesting places to visit, including the Royal Monastery, the Casita del Príncipe, the Historic Gardens, and the Museum of the Royal Coliseum Carlos III. This last is the oldest indoor theater museum preserved in Spain, declared of Cultural Interest in 1995.
If you don’t know what to visit, I invite you to go to its tourist office, which proposes urban routes of the XVI and XVIII centuries and a good number of natural routes to discover the mountain range of Madrid.
The historic monastery of El Escorial has been a World Heritage Site since 1984. In its walls, you will find much of the history of Spain itself. Not to forget its Royal Crypt, where the remains of most of the kings and queens of the country rest. You should go for a walk around the town to discover its corners, its atmosphere, and its rich gastronomy.
If you go to one of the restaurants in this fabulous town, don’t miss its typical snails, Madrid stew, roast lamb and roast suckling pig, and its irresistible doughnuts. There is also a Michelin-starred restaurant, chef Dani Ochoa’s Montia.
2. Patones de Arriba
In the north of the Community of Madrid, 70 kilometers away from the capital, there is an idyllic village that seems to be taken from a fairy tale: Patones de Arriba.
It has cobblestone streets and famous slate houses, and its environment framed by mid-mountain landscapes has made Patones de Arriba one of Madrid’s most visited and photographed towns.
For Madrid residents like me, Patones has become the favorite option for a weekend getaway.
Patones has one of the most representative examples of black architecture in the region, with slate stone as the main construction element. You can find this type of rock in every place, as is the main protagonist of all the buildings in the village, even those built in the last decades of the 20th century.
There is a legend in its history about a unique character that survived in the Castilian village, the so-called King of Patones. He acted as a mayor or justice of the peace, his authority was respected in the town, and the title was hereditary. He once asked to create a hermitage; today, this hermitage functions as a tourist office.
This town has become so popular that it is now a place dedicated to tourism with many rural houses, restaurants, ecological and handicraft stores, and workshops of various handicrafts, among other activities.
Pedraza is one of my favorite towns; a beautiful village declared a Monumental Site.
When you come, it seems as if you have traveled in time. It is a medieval treasure where you can lose yourself among cobbled streets, arches, balconies, and arcades.
It takes a bit longer than the other towns to get there, 130 km from the capital, but I can promise it’s worth it. You can visit many interesting things.
I recommend you visit the town in the morning and then go to try its roast suckling pig in its wood-fired ovens.
Pedraza is a medieval walled town whose restoration led to its declaration as a Historic Site in 1951.
The gate of the village is the only way to get to Pedraza. It is used as the only entrance and exit to the town; it was made in the 11th century.
In Pedraza, we find a very famous jail where the jailer lived and several adjoining rooms where the prisoners lived.
You should also visit the castle, a fortress built in the 13th century. The castle has an imposing keep and moat and is surrounded by a cliff on most of its perimeter.
Every first and second Saturday of July, the town is adorned with thousands of candles. When the sun goes down, public lights are turned off, and windows are closed, they put candles all over the town, making it a spectacular journey. There are also classical music concerts.
Come to visit Pedraza is the perfect plan if you are in Madrid and you don’t know what to do.
4. La Hiruela
In the middle of the Sierra del Rincón, 100 km from Madrid, we find La Hiruela. A natural area declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in the community’s northeast.
This is one of those destinations perfect for a day visit since it’s a small town with only 56 inhabitants and a few streets.
It holds magic not because it has excellent monuments or historical traditions but because it’s a very authentic town.
Nowadays, it preserves the few stone, adobe, and wood houses that make it up, as there haven’t been major changes since they were constructed in the 18th century.
Even so, in addition to walking through its idyllic narrow streets, you can visit the traditional apiary, the flour mill, the charcoal kiln that produced oak charcoal until the 20th century, or the Ethnological Museum. All this takes us back to previous centuries, which reminds us of the traditional life of this charming village.
La Hiruela is one of the 50 most beautiful villages in Spain. It will invite you to get lost not only in the village itself but also in its meadow to know it thoroughly. Through its routes, you can discover unique places with incredible beauty.
If you want to go for a walk and choose the path of Las Eras and Pila de Riego, you can enjoy spectacular fruit trees and views from the viewpoints along the way.
5. Buitrago del Lozoya
Buitrago del Lozoya is a fascinating town. It is the only town in the community that preserves intact its defensive walls, which stand on the Lozoya river. Here you can practice thousands of activities!
Only 80 km away from the center of Madrid, you will find this beautiful town. It is one of the most spectacular natural areas of Madrid. You can do many sports here; hiking, biking, horseback riding, or canoeing are just some.
In this walled enclosure, declared a National Monument and an Asset of Cultural Interest, you can find the Church of Santa María del Castillo, the Clock Tower, and its famous castle (former residence of the Marquis of Santillana), forming a medieval environment.
The Santa María del Castillo church, also known as the church of the Three Cultures, is spectacular. It has this name because it contains several elements referring to Jews, Muslims, and Christians due to their coexistence for centuries in the town.
Hungry?? Buitrago restaurants serve the typical Castilian food, with soups and roasts or even one of the best Madrid stews. You have to try it!
If you are one of those contemporary art lovers, you should go to Buitrago, as you can visit a Picasso Museum. It houses 60 works donated to the municipality by Eugenio Arias, the barber and close friend of the painter from Malaga.
If you are looking for a total disconnection from the chaos of the city, I invite you to go to Brihuega.
This cozy town is located in Guadalajara, less than 100 km from Madrid. I assure you that you will be surprised by everything you have to do and see in Brihuega, known as the town of lavender.
On your visit to Brihuega, you should go to the castle of Peña Bermeja, which was built at the end of the 11th century.
The church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña is also very beautiful. It even has one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Spain. Not to mention the Royal Cloth Factory (1750), commissioned by King Ferdinand VI, which became one of the most important industrial buildings in the country until the War of Independence.
This village has numerous fountains as it is a town rich in subway water. The most beautiful fountain is the Doce Caños or Blanquina fountain.
In Brihuega, you will also find Hemingway’s viewpoint; the writer Ernest Hemingway watched from there the fighting in 1936 between the Italian troops and those of the Republic when he was a war correspondent.
If I was you, I would go in the second half of July, as it is the time when the lavender fields are in bloom in the hills a few kilometers from the city; it’s a real spectacle!
Chinchón is a unique town, and it’s the main tourist attraction of the capital.
The Plaza Mayor of Chinchón is considered one of Spain’s most beautiful and most photographed. The people of Madrid declared it the fourth wonder of the community. It was used throughout history as a stage for all kinds of shows, such as royal festivals, autos, or bullfighting arenas.
Chinchon has conquered the film industry with great directors, including Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, and Pedro Almodóvar, who once chose it as the setting for their films.
There are many things to do and see in Chinchón for which it is worth a trip to this charming town. Every corner of this municipality in the southeast of the Community of Madrid is about 60 kilometers away, worthy of admiration.
One of the most important things to visit is the Plaza Mayor, whose famous balconies began to be built in the 15th century. Another must-see in Chinchon is the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, which has a picture painted exclusively for the parish by Francisco de Goya.
You should also visit the Lope de Vega theater, the Clock Tower, and visit the Clarisa’s Sisters, famous for their confectionery.
After having a meal in one of the typical Spanish restaurants, you should go to one of the most beautiful paradors, like the Parador of San Agustin, where you can have a coffee and enjoy the building and its gardens.
8. Manzanares el Real
Manzanares el Real is one of the most attractive visits you can make in Madrid, its popularity among tourists makes it one of the liveliest towns in the mountains.
It is 50 km from La Pedriza, included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Community of Madrid.
Manzanares is well known for its beautiful and cinematographic Castillo de Los Mendoza, a 15th-century medieval fortress.
It’s very well preserved, and you can see it on every postcard of the municipality.
The fortress close to the castle is one of the best-preserved medieval fortifications in Spain. It is located in a unique place, thanks to the nearby reservoir of Santillana and the surrounding mountains, where you can see snow on the peaks in winter.
You should not miss visiting the Old Bridge on the Cañada Real Segoviana and the Nuestra Señora de las Nieves church.
Manzanares el Real is also a popular destination for those who love outdoor sports. Its pure nature is beautiful for hiking, cycling, and climbing.
Something very curious is that Manzanares del Real is home to some of the main climbing schools in the country.
Aranjuez is a spectacular place you should visit if you visit Madrid. The place’s great beauty led UNESCO to recognize it in 2001 as a World Heritage Cultural Landscape. It is the third most visited municipality in the region.
This beautiful town is only 50 km away from the capital. Any time of the year is an excellent time to visit it, although it is true that spring and autumn are the best time to experience its greatest magic and charm.
Aranjuez is located in a privileged place around the Tajo and Jarama rivers, and it was the municipality where Philip II chose to spend the spring months, a custom that his successors would continue. They changed the city completely to their liking with the help of architects such as Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva.
From that time, we can see today numerous monuments and spaces such as the incredible Royal Palace, the House of Trades and Gentlemen, the House of the Infantes, and beautiful gardens such as La Isla, the King’s, the Prince’s, or Isabel II.
The old town of Aranjuez has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site because it is a unique example of Baroque urban planning. It has Large houses with patios, domes, palaces, convents, balconies, squares, and spacious streets.
The Strawberry Train is a historical train that has operated since 1984, with a beautiful route from the Railway museum in Madrid to Aranjuez. It recreates the one that made the first railway route in the Community of Madrid. It is called this, as this town is famous for its exquisite strawberries.
This small village, located in the Sierra de Guadarrama, is the favorite place for skiers from Madrid, as it has the only ski resort in the community. What is even better, it is only 50 km from Madrid!
In winter, with the snow, it looks like something out of a Christmas story, full of cozy houses of stone and wood.
If you go at any other time of the year, you will love this town no matter what season you go.
Navacerrada has multiple routes and excursions in the surroundings. Here you will find a lot of heritage, dozens of restaurants, and a thousand possibilities for hiking.
This charming little town has some places you cannot miss:
The Plaza de Los Angeles: where the town hall is located.
Paseo de los Españoles: shaded and very pleasant, it highlights the contrast between modern villas and traditional buildings.
Church of the Nativity of Our Lady: it was created in the 18th century. The bell tower stands out outside, and a fresco was painted by Eduardo de Vicente in the main chapel.
Town Hall Square: inside the town hall, you will find the beautiful fountain of the Angels, one of the best-known in the city.
The Ermita de San Antonio: this is one of the favorite places for hikers. It has spectacular views of the town and its surroundings.
The Embalse of Navacerrada
For many, Rascafría is an obligatory stop in the Sierra de Guadarrama, located 100 km from the capital.
Getting lost in the village is already a wonder, not only its streets but also its magnificent inhabitants.
There are incredible places in Rascafria, including the nearby Monastery of Santa Maria de El Paular, which is a great tourist reference. It was built in 1390, and it was the first Carthusian monastery in Castilian lands. Today, it has great activity thanks to the Benedictine monks who live there.
In Rascafría, you can also admire the beautiful landscapes surrounding it, with the Lozoya river around the village. There are various routes that will help you discover, among other things, the forest of Finland, the waterfalls of Purgatory, the Bridge of Forgiveness, or its natural pools, some of Spain’s best natural pools.
You can’t leave without stopping for lunch in “La Antigua Tahona.” This restaurant is run by an Italian chef who fell in love with the Lozoya Valley. He combines Italian food, such as original homemade pizzas and pasta, with rich stews from the valley and excellent meat, mushroom, and vegetable dishes.
If you are going to be in Madrid for several days and do not want to stay making plans for the city, I recommend visiting one or more towns on this list.
The good thing is that many of these towns can be reached by public transport, but if you come with more people, you can rent a car, which will not be very expensive. Here’s how:
Which town are you most looking forward to visiting? If you’ve been in any of them, we would love you to share your experience with us, as it can be really helpful for those who haven’t been!
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.
Thank you for the inspiring list of places to visit that are outside of the typical tourist spots. We always love visiting the places that locals enjoy. It gives us the opportunity to interact with the true heart of a country/community. We'll be in Spain in mid-October, and we hope to be able to fit some of your suggestions into our trip.
Hi Manny! We are very happy you enjoyed the article, and we hope you can fit our recommendations into your trip.
Mid-October is a perfect time to visit Madrid and its surroundings; let us know how your trip goes! We will love t hear from you!
September 3, 2023
You mentioned that La Antigua Tahona, in Rascafría is a place worth stopping to eat at; however, I could not locate this restaurant on Google Maps. Roberto Capone has a Facebook post, but no working link to his establishment. His last post is 2018. Has the business closed? If not, do you have an address?