While Madrid has enough to entertain a person for years, experiencing smaller historic Spanish towns is a wonderful way to see another side of the country. Madrid’s lucky to have so many beautiful towns within easy reach of the city. A day trip to Segovia from Madrid is one of the most popular and for good reason. In fact, Segovia was one of the places that I visited on my whirlwind Spanish archaeology road trip back in 2012. However, we only jumped out of the van to get a quick photo by the aqueduct and then hurry on our way. This time, I wanted to take my time giving Segovia the attention it deserved.
Segovia refers to the city but also to the province of Segovia in Spain’s autonomous community of Castile and León. The region is famous for its many castles, historic sites, and the Camino de Santiago. The most famous portion of the Camino spends a large portion of time winding through Castile and León’s wide open landscapes. To give you an idea of the history – Spain has the 3rd highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites worldwide (coming in behind China and Italy). Within Spain, Castile and León has the most. Segovia is one of these UNESCO sites and is known for three main sites – the Roman aqueduct, the Alcázar, and the Cathedral in Plaza Mayor. A day trip to Segovia from Madrid is the perfect way to experience Spain’s layered history in one beautiful place.
Quick side note: I’m not even a big fan of Roman stuff. While Rome, Romans, and the vestiges they left across the European landscape attract aficionados from around the world, I’m more of the medieval persuasion. I spent my last undergraduate year completing an archaeology thesis on the Visigoths. On that archaeology road trip of Spain, I got so tired of seeing Roman things – yes they were here, yes they left their mark – that every Roman wall started to look the same. I felt about the Romans how one feels about cathedrals after seeing one too many of them.
With that disclaimer, let me say that Segovia’s aqueduct absolutely blew me away as few man-made structures have before or since. The sheer magnitude of it, coupled with the knowledge that it was built in the 1st-2nd centuries CE is mind-boggling. At its highest point, it is 29 meters (95 feet – 9 stories) high.
From the Plaza del Azoguejo, you can walk up and see the length of the aqueduct as it stretches 15 km out into the countryside, from which it would bring water to the inhabitants of the city. Note the little minuscule people standing in the shadow of its quiet and stony magnificence.
While the aqueduct is certainly impressive, my personal favorite landmark in Segovia is the Alcázar. I can’t help it, I just get too excited by a good castle. Alcázars are a type of Moorish castle built in Spain during the 8th – 15th centuries. Like all Spanish words that start “al”, the word Alcázar is of Arabic origin, stemming from the Arabic word “القصر al-qasr” meaning “castle, fort, palace.” While many Alcázars were built by Muslim rulers, many were built by Christian kings and queens as well. Many Spanish cities and towns have alcázars. (Nerd alert: The Alcázar of Seville was used as the setting for Dorne in Game of Thrones!).
Segovia’s Alcázar has had many lifetimes, starting from a Roman fort on whose foundations the later Alcázar was built. The Alcázar served as a favorite palace for the Castillian kings and queens, a prison, and a military college. Today, visitors can explore most of the inside, complete with lavish throne room, royal bedroom, an armory, courtyards, and more.
After climbing to the top of the tower (an extra couple euros but worth it!), we were rewarded with stunning views of the countryside and Segovia itself.
Plaza Mayor and Cathedral
A Spanish town’s “Plaza Mayor” is the center – or historically the center – of all activity. Segovia’s Plaza Mayor is lined with terraces and locals hanging out shooting the breeze amongst the whispers of history. Isabel of Castille, aka Isabel the Catholic, arguably one of the most famous and influential of Spain’s queens, was crowned in this very Plaza Mayor. Perhaps she saw these very buildings as they placed that heavy weight on her head and changed her life forever.
We didn’t end up having time to go into the cathedral, choosing instead to spend the majority of our time exploring the Alcázar and wandering Segovia’s winding streets.
Eating in Segovia
Though Spain is known for being quite carnivorous, main cities like Madrid are actually quite veggie-friendly. Places like Segovia, whose famous dish is suckling pig (a baby pig that has only been fed on its mother’s milk), are a little more difficult for us plant-based peeps. As we meandered the town from Alcazar to Aqueduct, we kept our eyes peeled in search of veggie dishes.
We ended up passing a few places that had some veggie options and settled on Taberna del Volapie because it had a terrace. Sitting out on a terrace, sipping on a beer, and taking in our surroundings was a perfect way to have a rest while still experiencing the town. While there was a place listed on Happy Cow that had explicitly vegan options, since we were only in Segovia for a day, we preferred to sit outside rather than shut away in a dark restaurant. Spanish lunches are long and who wouldn’t want to spend that time soaking up the sun?
A day trip to Segovia from Madrid is easy and cheap. The AVE (high speed) train now goes to Segovia and takes 30 minutes from Chamartin train station in the north of Madrid. However, the train station is outside of the town, so you have to get an infrequent city bus into the center from there, losing any time you just saved by taking the train over the bus. Tickets cost between 24-50 euros round trip for the train – consult the schedules at Renfe.com.
The bus is our preferred method when taking a day trip to Segovia from Madrid, as a round trip costs only 15 euros and it leaves you right in the center of town in a little over an hour. The bus is called La Sepulvedana and leaves from Moncloa bus station (the end of line 3). Consult bus schedules here, though you can buy tickets at Moncloa station.
Alternatively and if you’re a few people (one of whom can drive manual) it might enhance your experience to rent a car for the day. Car rentals can be surprisingly cheap, though prices fluctuate if it is a holiday weekend (of which there are many, especially in the spring).
Visiting Madrid? Read our guide to visiting Madrid’s main sights for free and cheap. For food recommendations, we’ve listed our favorite places for a vegan menú del día here.
Would you like to go on a day trip to Segovia from Madrid? Are you a fan of day trips in general or do you prefer to stay overnight somewhere? Let us know what your favorite day trip has been in the comments!