Image credit: Antonio Tajuelo
Madrid, the capital of Spain, a vast modern city that has retained much of its cultural magnificence. The streets are paved with architectural treats that celebrate its historic heritage and pockets of medieval buildings, atmospheric alleys, dotted with the oddest shops and bars are just waiting to be found. But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, and would like to break away from civilisation for a bit, here are a few not so far fetching options that will make your Spanish adventure complete.
Royal Palace of Aranjuez
Dreamed up by two of the greatest architects of their time, Juan Bautista and Juan de Herrera, this publicly open palace situated on the banks of the River Tagus is truly a site to behold. Its sheer scale can cause quite the shock on first sighting and you’ll need a whole day to take in everything the site has to offer.
Though a guided tour allows you insight into the building’s history and the people who shaped it, a solo amble around the grounds may be more satisfying as you discover quirkier aspects of the estate for yourself. The Casa del Labrador, a palace within the palace, and the Museo de las Faluas, home of the exquisitely ornate royal barges, are two features within the enormous gardens you won’t want to overlook.
First timers to Toledo should prepare themselves for a cultural concoction, as the fusion of Christian, Jewish and Islamic influence throughout the centuries has helped shape the provincial capital into the fascinating melting pot that exists today.
Known by many as the location in which Don Quixote was brought to life, Toledo is a big draw for day trippers, but a short walk away from the centre offers a whole other side to what could otherwise be an overwhelming, and potentially rather expensive, city. Though certain focal points should not be avoided – the inescapably magnificent Catedral Primada Santa María, for example – there are several smaller features that will undoubtedly pique your interest. An amble around the tiny, winding streets, with their inviting shop windows will satiate all with an inquisitive nature and reveal much about the evolution of the area – sword industry included!
Alcázar de Segovia
It’s probably not often that a castle can make you do a double take, but Alcazar de Segovia has a claim to fame which sets it apart as one of the most recognisable structures on the planet. Study it closely and you’ll not be surprised that it is in actual fact part responsible for the design of Disney’s iconic Cinderella castle. Perched proudly atop a rocky outcrop, this former fortress has been everything from a royal refuge to a state prison; this residence has had all sorts of intriguing residents walk through its halls.
The UNESCO World Heritage site that is the old city of Segovia is somewhat akin to a living art gallery, having been home to varying cultures throughout the years. With maze-like gardens, peculiar museums and jealousy-inducing photo opportunities (the stunning Roman aqueduct, for example) you can’t go far wrong on a detour here.
1 hr 15 mins
Hayedo de Montejo de la Sierra
If you wish to continue on with a rather enchanting tour of Spain’s fairy tale spaces (after the likes of Alcazar de Segovia), your next stop should almost certainly be this odds-defying ancient forest; a haven to escape to once you’ve had enough of the busy cities and the bustling satellite towns. Sitting within a small and unique space in the region, sheltered by the shady and humid microclimate on the edges of the Ayllon mountain range, a kaleidoscopic canopy of beech trees has flourished.
Such is the vivid beauty of this place, when the seasons and palette’s of the leaves change, that it is no wonder stories about magical creatures living in the forest exist in local lore. Securing yourself a spot on one of the guided walks will give you the opportunity to see both abundant and rare flora and fauna of the region.
1 hr 15 mins
On approach it becomes very clear how the ‘Town of Stones’ secured its heavy-duty moniker, but that doesn’t make one’s arrival into this majestic walled settlement any less arresting. As one would expect from a place with strong saintly ties, the town is full of beautiful religious artefacts and edifices, whilst a walk around the outer perimeters of the walls offers a perfect opportunity to people watch and peek into places you never knew existed.
At night, after you have descended, you can gaze up at the illuminated walls and appreciate them all over again. In addition, the town is an absolute must for those of an epicurean persuasion, on account of its plentiful supplies of succulently rich Iberian beef and the home-grown sweet treats known as Yolks of Saint Teresa.
1hr 20 mins