Travelling and visiting big famous cities is amazing and incredibly fun, but sometimes it is also nice to get out of the big city for the day, and explore other treasures these beautiful countries have to offer. So whether you are staying in Paris, Madrid or Barcelona (or all three) here are some day trips you can take to spice up your vacations. Leave in the morning, spend the day exploring, and be back in time for dinner in the big bright city. Travel with Renfe-SNCF en Coopération’s trains, and you have the recipe for the holiday of a lifetime!
View of Alcazár Fortress - Toledo, Spain
Toledo is a little Spanish town located just south of Madrid. Sometimes known as the “City of 3 cultures”, the city was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 for its cultural and monumental heritage, and the co-existence of the history of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures.
It is very easy to reach at any time from central Madrid, either by car, bus or train. The train takes only 25 minutes from the center of Madrid to reach Toledo train station, where you can then catch a bus into the historical center, or strap on your walking shoes and take a approximately 15 minute long hike to the center.
There are several organized tours in many different languages that you can sign up for in advance or join, but you can also fly solo and wander around the town of your own accord.
If you’re on a day trip in Toledo, there will be a couple of sites you will not want to miss out on. First of all, the Great Cathedral. The beautifully built, gothic Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo was built in the 13th century and offers plenty to see, for art, architecture or history for enthusiasts alike. Be sure not to visit the Alcazár Fortress, located at the highest part of Toledo. Once a Roman Palace built in the 3rd century, it has since seen much history in the hands of the Spanish, and its walls are bursting with incredible stories to tell.
Just spending the day in Toledo ? don't miss this the best dishes of cocido Madrileño here when you get back to Madrid !
VERSAILLES (PARIS, FRANCE)
Entrance of the Palace - Versailles, France
Versailles is definitely a place you cannot miss if your looking to take a day trip during your stay in Paris. Located around 25 km outside of central Paris, it will take you between an hour and an hour and a half to get to Versailles using public transportation. Go early morning and return late afternoon for the perfect day trip strolling around the beautiful surroundings.
There are countless different guided tours that can be purchased and taken, but you can also choose to wander around on your own. The Palace of Versailles, or the Château has been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites for over 30 years, and one of the most beautiful legacies left by French art. When you buy the entrance ticket to the palace, audio guides are included to guide you through the exquisite hallways and explain all of the history that happened within those walls. From Louis XIII’s hunting lodge and Louis XIV’s home to center of the French Court and Government and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which essentially gave rise to World War II, this palace has played essential parts in over 300 years of history that molded and changed the world into how we know it today. It is arguable the Palace Gardens may be even more beautiful than the palace itself. Spread over 500 hectares of land, they took over 40 years to finish designing and building, over 200,000 trees, 210,000 flowers planted annually, and 50 fountains. Be sure to not miss out on Marie Antoinette’s estate, who is said to have been the only queen to insist on imposing her own taste on Versailles.
MONTSERRAT (BARCELONA, SPAIN)
View of the peaks - Montserrat, Spain
Make your way to the city square Plaza d’Espanya of Barcelona in the early morning to start off your fabulous day in Montserrat. Grab a coffee and a bocadillo de jamón serrat (a smoked ham sandwich) for breakfast on the go and eat it on the regional train to Montserrat while marveling at the spectacular views whizzing past. The train should take more or less one hour. Once you are off the train, you have a couple of choices to climb your way to the top. The most popular is to take the famous Funicular Sant Joan, a cable car that will take you from the square in front of the monastery and up the mountain. If you are particularly adventurous and enjoy outdoor sports and exercise, you can spend the few hours hiking up the mountain, lined with beautiful trails that can make for an exquisite escape from the hectic life of the city.
What makes this mountain so unique is its shape and landscape. While it looks like a mountain range it is actually one single mountain with several peaks, which rises over 1,200 meters high, offering breathtaking views over the city of Barcelona and surrounding.
Other than the mountain itself, the most popular sight to see is the Montserrat Abbey, both for the building itself, and the background on which it is built. Other than housing famous paintings by artists such as Dali, Monet and El Greco, it is most famous for the statue of the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia.
After your long day, catch an evening train back into Barcelona and head into town for a delicious meal after all that exercise, trying some of Spain’s most treasured dishes.
GIVERNY ( PARIS, FRANCE)
View of the park - Giverny, France
Giverny is a beautiful little village located on the banks of the Seine, about 70 kilometers northwest of Paris. It can be reached by car, bus or train, and takes a little under an hour to reach from central Paris. Though you may not be familiar with the name, you will most likely recognize a picture, as it was home to famous French artist Claude Monet
, and featured in on of his most famous paintings, Water lilies. It is said that that Monet fell in love with the village back in 1883 when he saw it passing by through the train window. He quickly moved into a house there with his partner, his two sons and her six children. He spent many days working and creating the gardens and house of his dreams, and then moved on to paint the garden, river and, of course, the famous water lily paintings he is so famous for.
Other than visiting his house and gardens, there is also an Impressionist Museum that can be visited.