At the meeting point of the Tagus and Jarama rivers, this low-lying meadow was a cherished spring escape for Spanish kings and queens for many centuries. The stunning gardens of this UNESCO World Heritage Site blend architecture and nature. Have lunch at the star-studded Casa Jose restaurant (casajose. es), where sophisticated renderings of traditional Spanish dishes include grilled hake with almond and saffron and roast pork with orange and parsley.
This World Heritage Site is less than 20 miles from Madrid. One of the most important cities in Spanish history, Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, and Lope de Vega are just a short list of the renowned writers who have called this “city of words” home. Visit the Universidad Complutense, which dates back to 1499, and is an important stopping point on the “Path of the Spanish Language” route celebrating the Spanish language’s history.
MONASTERY OF EL ESCORIAL
This mountain town is nestled in the Sierra de Guadarrama at the foot of Mount Abantos about 30 miles from Madrid. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Monastery and Real Sitio de San Lorenzo are prime examples of Spain’s imperial glory. Walk through this scenic outpost which was once the powerful stronghold of Philip II King of Spain, ruler of one of the world’s largest empires.
This picturesque medieval city brims with warm character and wonderful restaurants less than 30 miles away. It is far enough away that it feels like an adventure, but close enough to visit in a day. Settle into a cafe off the main square lined by its distinctive changing balconies and order up orange juice for the kids and an aperitif the city’s signature anise liquor for mom and dad.