Pack your bags, because we're going to Castilla y León, a large region of inland Spain which includes eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. It's an attractive prospect, especially if we mention you can get there quickly and comfortably on the high-speed train (AVE). In fact, Madrid has high-speed rail connections to six provincial capitals in Castilla y León:
This must be one of the most charming cities in Spain. A stroll around its historic centre is a delight, and the sights, such as the Cathedral and the Alcázar, are well worth seeing. But of course, the jewel in the crown is the Roman Aqueduct, a World Heritage site. It's quite amazing. Just 25 minutes from Madrid on the AVE.
The city where the Catholic Monarchs were secretly married is now a lovely place to explore on foot. For example, you can see the Museum Houses of Columbus and Cervantes, the National Sculpture Museum, the Cathedral or the Church of San Pablo, one of the prettiest Gothic buildings in the region. Just 55 minutes from Madrid on the AVE.
In the city of Palencia you can visit the Casa del Cordón mansion housing the Palencia Museum, or take in the views from the hill of Cerro del Otero. And beyond the town, we recommend a side trip to villages like Frómista or Carrión de los Condes, on the famous Way of St James (the route is a World Heritage Site). You could even start the Way from there! You can get to Palencia from Madrid in less than 90 minutes on the AVE.
A trip to León and a round of tapas in the district called Barrio Húmedo, or a visit to its Gothic Cathedral and the Collegiate Church of San Isidoro, is sure to be enjoyable. While you're there, strike out for Las Médulas (about 150 kilometres from the city of León), the only landscape of its kind in the world, where the Roman Empire once hollowed out the mountains in what is thought to be the world’s largest open-cast gold mine. . It's another of the World Heritage sites in Castilla y León. León is about two hours from Madrid on the AVE.
Salamanca is the city of the two Cathedrals, with its fabulous Plaza Mayor, its University with a frog hidden on the façade, the “golden city” for the warm glow of its buildings at sunset. And just over 100 kilometres from there is Siega Verde (in Villar de la Yegua), a World Heritage archaeological site with some of the most important open-air Paleolithic art in all of Europe. It's just over 90 minutes from Madrid thanks to high-speed rail.
Once you're in Zamora, get your camera ready, because this is one of the European cities with the most Romanesque churches in the middle of town. And there are other villages nearby, like Toro (less than 40 kilometres from the city of Zamora), known for its wines and its beautiful Collegiate Church of Santa María. Zamora is 90 minutes from Madrid thanks to high-speed trains.
As well as the cities linked to Madrid by the AVE, we have other fascinating places to show you in Castilla y León, such as the area around Soria with spectacular landscapes like the Cañón del Río Lobos Natural Park, and other World Heritage sites: the historic city of Ávila and its extramural churches, Burgos Cathedral, and the archaeological remains of Sierra de Atapuerca.
When you get to each destination, check the local Tourist Office for information on guided tours or interesting excursions.