When one thinks of Madrid, it is common for images of the hustle and bustle of the capital to come to mind. What few remember is that this region is an excellent place to organize a day trip. Some of the most beautiful towns in the Community of Madrid are among the 29 municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants. Beyond the must-see cities of Aranjuez, San Lorenzo del Escorial and Alcalá de Henares, Madrid’s geography is full of small jewels worth losing yourself in for a few hours. These are eight of our favorites.
44 kilometres from the capital we find this village with a beautiful medieval Plaza Mayor (Main Square) and just over 5,000 residents. Its green balconies and irregular shape make this square an ideal place to have a snack after a walk, as well as enjoy the heart of the town during festivities. You can see different buildings with popular architecture along its streets on your way to the Clock Tower or the Parish of the Assumption. The Castle of the Counts is also an essential visit if you are going to spend the day in the town.
This town in the Sierra Norte is one of the most beautiful towns in Madrid for many reasons. The surrounding area is a real treat for nature lovers, who can swim or climb in La Pedriza or plan a hiking route in the largest protected natural area in the community: the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park. But if you prefer to immerse yourself in the history of Manzanares el Real, you should not miss the Mendoza palace-fortress, the best preserved castle in the region. This 15th century building, home to the Marquis of Santillana, houses the museum of Spanish castles and has a large collection of tapestries, as well as a Renaissance orchard and garden. From the top of the castle you can enjoy beautiful views of the Santillana Reservoir and then enter the town’s Plaza Mayor (Main Square), where we recommend you visit the Church of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves and the Cañada Real Bridge.
The wall is one of the first things we see when we approach Buitrago del Lozoya, a town with a long history where Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together. This alone is worth a visit to this old town: it is the only wall that has been preserved in its entirety in the Community of Madrid. Once in the village, we advise you to start your visit in the Plaza de la Bellota in order to wander in the medieval streets of Buitrago. There you will discover monuments such as the Alcazar, the Church of Santa Maria del Castillo or the Clock Tower. If you feel like it, you can learn about the story behind all the corners of the city on a dramatised tour. And if you are an art lover, you must stop at the Picasso Museum, where more than 60 works by the artist from Málaga, donated by Eugenio Arias, barber and friend of the artist, are on display.
Barely 50 inhabitants live in this valuable town of Madrid. It contains a magnificent Biosphere Reserve where you can discover hiking trails with magnificent views. When you have finished, explore the medieval streets of the town, where the Ethnological Museum and the Baroque Church of St. Michael the Archangel stand out. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most beautiful villages in Madrid to escape for a few hours.
It is no coincidence that this village of around 4,700 inhabitants is a National Historic and Artistic Monument. The Convent of the Carmelites, the Arteaga Palace, the Old Hospital of the Holy Trinity, the Hermitage of Our Lady of Solitude, the Town Hall and the remains of the wall… Walking through Torrelaguna is pure history. The star of the ensemble? The Parish Church of La Magdalena, a Gothic temple with a Churrigueresque main altarpiece whose works were promoted by Cardinal Cisneros himself.
If there is one thing that distinguishes the small municipality of Nuevo Baztán, it is its character. Located 50 kilometres from Madrid, the village was born in the 18th century with a purely industrial purpose. The Navarrese Juan de Goyeneche founded a glass factory at that time, named after its valley of origin, which employed many workers. For this reason, the visitor will find the buildings of the town curious, inspired by Baroque models different from those of the traditional medieval villages of the region. The palace and the church, based on a design by José de Churriguera, form a special combination that is well worth a visit.
Among cobbled streets and slate houses stands Patones de Arriba, a small town with a lot of charm that even had its own monarch until the 18th century. Patones is an ideal destination to disconnect for a day to enjoy nature (it’s a must to visit the Cave of Reguerillo) and contemplate the many examples of black architecture that characterize the small municipality of the Sierra. There’s a reason why some consider it one of the most beautiful towns in Madrid.
We finish our review in the Lozoya Valley, where Rascafría, one of the most beautiful villages in Madrid, is located. If you visit this municipality you cannot miss the Carthusian Monastery of Santa María del Paular, located on the outskirts of this town. You will marvel at its beautiful buildings, such as its neo-Mudejar Town Hall or the Parish Church of San Andrés Apóstol. The area is also ideal for active tourism plans in the exceptional surroundings of the Peñalara Natural Park and the Tree Garden of Giner de los Ríos.