You must not miss visiting the lovely El Escorial, the lovely royal burial grounds. There is a huge mausoleum here inside the palace (see pic below) containing the bodies of the Kings, Queens and royal infant babies. Believe me, it is beautiful. You can combine your trip to the Valley of the Fallen with the El Escorial.
Take a side trip and drive to the lovely Valley of the Fallen - a trip worth taking! Noticed the awesome looking Cross (see pic below) located high above the hills? Well, the body of the late Spanish dictator, General Franco is buried just beneath it..
If you like sports in nature, you will find this advice as a lovely place to relax yourself. Close to the city (about 60 Kilometers, that is an hour by car) you can touch snow in Winter time.
In the picture you can see me and my work fellows, during a day trip in 2001.
This place is very particular: when the Civil War (1936-1939) finished, General Franco ordered to build a huge cave, excavated in the rocks. Actually, Franco is buried there and this place is considered as a 'tribute' to him, so people who suffered in the war because of Franco don't want to know nothing of the place, but I think that this place would be better known as a tribute to those people who died in the war, and who were prisoner there and forced to build the cave.
This is a small and lovely village where in the 50's the visit of Mister Marshall from USA gave the best known image of Spain: the circular square of the village where popular bullfights take place in Spring and Summer time.
As you can see, if you take yourself out Madrid a few kilometres, you will discovered some charming places like this: a little village in the mountains with all the houses made of blackboard stone. It's the only place in Spain where we maintain our own King during French intrusion on 1808, due to the narrow entrance to the valley, hidden in the mountains.
Day trip to Segovia. It's a two-hour train trip (trains leave from Atocha). Really worth seeing. I was amazed with the beauty of the city. Don't miss the Alcazar, the Cathedral and the Roman Aqueduct.
The Aqueduct at Segovia. Legend has it the devil built Segovia's aqueduct in one night, in an effort to win the soul of a Segovian water-seller named Juanilla. You can take a train from Madrid that takes two hours or bus which takes 1 and 1/2 hour.
Aranjuez a beautiful palace and gardens full of fountains and statues. This place seems to have it's own climate it was very warm here, if going in season do take the strawberry train an old steam train I believe, we went off season by bus and the palace was open. Lovely place.
Do go to Toledo Fantastic walled city with so much to see, very hilly if you have a problem take the noddy train up the hill to the city plaza near to the Alcazar. Take your time and wander round this lovely old city visit the huge cathederal.
Suggest you get a map from the tourist information office located on the rounderbout near the main gate entrance into the city, it's very easy to get lost here.
Walk down the hill outside the city wall for a veiw of the river and the castle.
Do take a trip out of the city to Segovia to the north west. There's a beautiful castle there and a huge roman aquaduct amazing. If you have time do take a bus short bus ride from Segovia to La Granja de San ildofonso a beautiful palace and grounds we arrived at three and it was just opening for the afternoon.
San Ildefonso de la Granja - sometimes described as the Spanish Versailles. Seems fair enough because I do not like Versailles and I was far from smitten with the house here. Moreover the fountains for which it is famous struck me as monumentally dreadful.
HOWEVER it is well worth the short bus ride - which is pleasant in itself - for the location and the trees. Black squirrels very much in evidence,
The roman viaduct is impressive and we were told that there had been no mortar used between the bricks
There is also a nice cathedral, and castle there. The design of this castle was used by Disneyland
Well worth a visit. A lovely little town of great character.
We found an extremely good restaurant near the cathedral there from 'The Rough Guide'. A three course meal very reasonable, and the 'Merluza a la Romana' was out of this world.
Certainly Toledo is a not to be missed place.
THE VALLEY of the FALLEN ( Santa Cruz del Valle los Caidos) This cross was built as a memorial to those who had died in the Civil War. This cross is enormous and underneath it is a basilica that is carved deeply into the rock. There are beautiful views of the pine forests from this monument. The day I went there, there was strange weather. It was raining and then sunny, raining and then sunny off and on. You can see this cross from quite a distance before you get there and as we first saw it, there were dark clouds with sun shining throug hall around and it just seemed kind of chilling.