Summer has come to an end, and that means it is back to work and cooler weather, but for those looking for an autumn adventure, why not explore Madrid? Madrid is beautiful in the fall; the sun shines on the trees illuminating their changing golden, orange and brown leaves, and the mountain climate makes for cool mornings and evenings and warm afternoons. There is much to see and do in and around Madrid. The city of Madrid is full of art, history, and culture, but just outside of the city are the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain ranges where many madrileños go when they want to escape busy city life for a weekend. Situated in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains is the historic royal palace, El Escorial. Also just outside Madrid are the two charming historic towns of Segovia and Toledo, both have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Fall in Madrid is truly spectacular! Although there are tourists all year in Madrid, fall is the time when the madrileños return from their summer holidays and the city is once again full of locals. The changing leaves can best be admired in Retiro Park and Casa de Campo, two of the city’s stunning nature areas. Fall also kicks off fútbol season in Madrid for both Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. In the fall many of the museums, such as the Prado and Reina Sofia, feature new exhibits. Many people say that fall is the best time to travel to Spain because the cooler temperatures are a welcomed relief from the hot summers, and restaurants still have their terraces open to enjoy some drinks and tapas outside! As it gets closer to Christmas time, starting in early December, the city is beautifully decorated for the holidays.
Sierra de Guadarrama Mountain Ranges
The Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains can easily be reached by bus, car, or bike from Madrid. The range runs southwest to northeast, extending into the province of Madrid to the south, and towards the provinces of Ávila and Segovia to the north. The chain as a whole measures approximately 80 km in length, with its highest peak, Peñalara, reaching 2,428 meters above sea level. The mountains are lush with pine forests and are home to a variety of wildlife. The two most visited areas of the mountains are Peñalara Natural Park and La Pedriza. In Peñalara Natural Park, Puerto de Cotos, a mountain pass at the reserve’s southern boundary connecting the Community of Madrid and the province of Segovia, is the center of tourism and point of departure for all routes crossing the reserve. La Pedriza is one of the more exceptional areas of the mountain range; it is located inside the Regional Park de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares. La Pedriza’s landscape is noted for its enormous rock formations and walls of granite displaying unusual and eye-catching configurations. Throughout its history, La Pedriza’s complex of caves was used as a hideout by exiles and by those seeking shelter during times of war. The Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains are the perfect combination of history and nature.
The full name of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, but it is commonly referred to as El Escorial. It can be found 45 kilometers northwest of Madrid in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains. El Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery and La Granjilla de la Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge about five kilometers away. The building is the most important architectural monument of the Spanish Renaissance. In El Escorial you can admire beautiful artwork and architecture, and incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
Segovia is a quaint Spanish town full of history and natural beauty! The top places to visit in Segovia are the Roman Aqueduct, the Cathedral, and the Alcázar (castle). In 1985 the old city of Segovia and its Aqueduct were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The old city contains a multitude of historic buildings both civil and religious, including a large number of buildings of Jewish origin, notably within the old Jewish Quarter. The Aqueduct is the defining historical feature of the city, it consists of about 25,000 granite blocks held together without any mortar, and spans 818 meters with more than 170 arches. The Alcázar of Segovia is the royal palace built on a stone peninsula between the rivers Eresma and Clamores, the Cinderella castle is said to be partially modeled after the Alcázar. Segovia is also famous for its cochinillo, suckling pig, which can be found in restaurants throughout the town.
Toledo is known as the “City of the Three Cultures”, having been influenced by a historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews. The old city is located on a mountaintop with a 150 degree view, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River, and contains many historical sites, including the Alcázar, the cathedral, and the Zocodover, a central market place. The metal-working industry has historically been Toledo’s economic base, with a great tradition in the manufacturing of swords and knives and a significant production of razor blades, medical devices and electrical products. Two of the city’s most famous food productions are Manchego cheese and marzipan!
All of these sights can be reached by bus from Madrid, but why not make the journey a bit more exciting and bike with us! At Bike Spain we offer guided and self-guided tours around Madrid, Segovia and Toledo.