Madrid‘s central location makes it an ideal base to stay in for families wishing to explore Spain‘s nearby cities of Avila, Segovia, and Toledo. In fact, families can explore a variety of medieval castles, religious shrines, and local culinary delicacies while staying comfortably in one place and driving less than two hours at a time. For parents wishing to explore the famous spots here are our best Madrid Day trips for all families including those with autism.
Our personal favorite is Avila, the City of Stones and Saints. Only an hour’s drive away from Madrid, a magnificent medieval wall surrounds the city. To this day, Avila is still the highest town in Spain. It is a World Heritage site, founded in the Celtic-Iberian era of the fourth century. It is today considered the best-preserved medieval walled city in the world.
The walls built in 1090 remain one of Spain’s most famous attractions today. Visitors can experience the City Walls tour where they can even see re-enactments of historical battles. For a special treat, travelers should stay after dark and walk along the ramparts when the walls become illuminated.
The Cathedral of Avila is another iconic location in this city. This church is the oldest cathedral in Spain built in the thirteenth century. It is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Avila for its mixture of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles. Visitors can enter the church to see alabaster sculptures and centuries old tapestries. Furthermore, those interested can stop by the Cathedral Museum to see a display of coins and paintings.
Convent of Saint Theresa
Avila is also the birthplace of Saint Theresa. Travelers can visit the Convent of Saint Theresa and view the room where Saint Theresa was born as well as the alter created by Gregorio Fernandez that displays Saint Theresa’s vision of the Cross.
Unique experience for kids
Visitors can rent bikes for a tour of the surrounding area or rent horses to ride outside of the town for a real Medieval experience.
Families looking for a longer day trip to take should put Segovia on their list. The city has been home to the Celts, the Romans, Islamists and Christians and is teeming with history.
Plaza del Azoguejo (Roman Aqueduct)
The city’s most iconic feature is its aqueduct located in Plaza del Azoguejo. The aqueduct is a prime example of Roman engineering in Spain and spans 818 meters with over 170 arches. Emperor Trajan’s engineers built it around the second century to carry water from the Frio River into the city, a Roman military base at the time. It was an impressive piece of architectural genius back then and continues to wow visitors to this day.
Adorned in gold and curvy spires, Segovia Cathedral is a beautiful church to visit. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Cathedral was completed in 1768 and is considered the last Spanish Gothic cathedral built.
Alcazar of Segovia
Originally built by King Alfonso VIII in the 12th century, the Alcazar of Segovia features a moat, drawbridge, and towers. Many members of the Spanish royalty have used this palace as their home, adding personal touches to the castle.Over the years, it has served as the wedding location for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella as well as a military academy.
Today, the palace is a museum featuring multiple armory rooms filled with weapons, swords, crossbows, and cannons. For antsy kids, there is a maze ready to be explored on the side of the palace.
Unique experiences for kids
Garden of La Merced
Segovia has parks and gardens throughout the city where travelers can take a break from the hustle and bustle. The Garden of La Merced is the first public garden opened in Segovia and is also considered to be the most beautiful.
Shopping and dining in Plaza Mayor
Travelers looking for something to eat after visiting the city’s sites should head to the Plaza Mayor. There are a few souvenir shops including an old fashioned toy shop.Whether it is for lunch or dinner, travelers shouldn’t leave without trying the city’s roasted suckling pig, a local delicacy.
Another fantastic city to visit for the day is Toledo known for its well-preserved medieval architecture.In 711BC, Arabs moved into Toledo which already housed Christians and Jews, and their harmonious coexistence helped the city become a culturally vibrant spot.
Medieval Gates and Bridges
The city boasts several old gates.The Old Bisagra gate, the original main entrance of the city and the Puerta de Nueva Bisagra, marked by Charles V’s coat of arms. Further up the hill, travelers can see the Puerta de Sol or Gate of the Sun a beautiful Moorish Style gate built in the fourteenth century.
Toledo also features several impressive bridges, since the Tagus River surrounds it on three sides. The Puente de Alcantara, Arabic for Bridge, located on the eastern side of Toledo as the oldest bridge in the city. The Punte de San Martin over 130 feet long with five arches of solid stone on the western side of Toledo was hailed as an engineering feat for its time back in the fourteenth century.
Cathedral of Toledo
Those wishing to learn about the city’s reputation as a religious and cultural melting pot should visit the Cathedral of Toledo. This cathedral frequently compared to Notre Dame for its beauty is also one of the biggest Gothic cathedrals in the world.Built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries it features sculptures, paintings, gold and silver altar pieces, and 750 stained glass windows.
The Jewish Quarter occupied a large area in the city back in the Middle Ages. After the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, it nearly disappeared, and the synagogues converted to Christian churches.
Today, there are two Jewish synagogues that travelers can still visit.
The Synagogue Maria la Blanca, a beautiful pristine white decorated building, and the Synagogue El Transito, built by Samuel Levi, lavishly decorated with lattice windows and hand carved ceilings.
Avid history buffs will get a kick out of walking the narrow alleys in the quarters and envisioning how neighbors in such proximity got along with the absence of basic sanitation.
Unique experiences for kids
Many stores throughout the city sell jewelry, plates, swords, boxes and various other objects that feature the famous Toledo damascening. Children will be fascinated to watch the artisans demonstrate the delicate and intricate inlay process.
No one should leave Toledo without trying the Toledo almond paste marzipan. This dessert inspired by the Moors is a marzipan cupcake with powdered sugar. For parents wishing to give their kids an extra dose of sugar, the ponche toledanas, which are shortcakes filled with quince jam and topped with almonds are perfect.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Those wishing to visit Segovia should print a map with English names online before arriving since it might be challenging to find one in the city
- Segovia ‘s narrow cobblestone roads can get crowded during the summer weekends which may be hard for travelers with autism. Also, pedestrians share the streets with cars and scooters, which can be daunting.
- Toledo features lots of stairs and steep street to navigate. This fact can be difficult for travelers with wheelchairs or sedentary kids.The ZocoTren (mini train) is a great option to explore the city without getting tired.
- Temperatures during the summer can be as high as 111 degrees Fahrenheit in all the cities. Therefore, parents should bring a mini fan and plenty of water for temperature sensitive kids.
- Parents tempted to purchase their kid an authentic sword as a souvenir should remember the weapon needs to fit in luggage and go through customs.
- Kids should wear close toe shoes since there is a lot of walking and climbing involved.