The towns and villages of the Sierra Norte region in Madrid
View of Patones de Arriba. Madrid.
Plaza Mayor square in Torrelaguna. Madrid.
Puente del Perdón bridge and El Paular monastery. Rascafría, Madrid.
Defensive walls in Buitrago del Lozoya. Madrid.
We invite you to discover four unique destinations, where every corner has its own special charm. These are the towns and villages of the Sierra Norte region in Madrid, with their picturesque alleyways and monumental sites, and all surrounded by a genuinely enchanting rural atmosphere.
Patones and its king
63 kilometres from Madrid we come to the charming town of Patones, which is divided into two parts: Patones de Arriba and Patones de Abajo. Here water has a very special place, as Patones is home to three of the canals that carry water to the Spanish capital. It is also an excellent destination for geology enthusiasts, as within just a few kilometres you'll find a wide variety of rocks. We recommend visiting the Aula Geológica Museum where you can learn all about the Reguerillo Cave (visits are currently restricted), which is famous for the rock paintings on its interior. Now continue on your journey towards Patones de Arriba. According to legend, its inhabitants were saved from attack by Napoleon's troops thanks to the abundant vegetation that hid them from view and allowed them to remain undiscovered. But don't worry, we'll tell you two different ways to reach this fairytale village: you can either go up by car, or take the path on foot by walking along the ecological trail that starts from the car park in Patones de Abajo. When you arrive you'll find a calm and peaceful place with attractive houses that still conserve their unique rural charm. You can visit the washhouse area where the women used to do the family washing, take photographs on its bridge, explore the old area of furnaces, stroll through its streets, pick up a souvenir in one of the crafts shops, enjoy a delicious meal in a restaurant, and wind up the day by relaxing in one of its charming rural lodges. By the way, we should also let you into a secret: Patones once had its own king.
Torrelaguna: a privileged setting
When you come to this town located less than an hour from Madrid, we recommend you go first to its square, where you'll find the convent, the church and the town hall, which used to serve as a grain store in times of scarcity. The most significant feature is the enormous church in the square, which took two years to build. If you happen to be there on a Saturday or Sunday morning you can go in and see the Renaissance tombstones on the floor at the entrance, take a look at its interesting Baroque altarpiece, and visit the chapel with the mortal remains of the famous Spanish poet Juan de Mena. Torrelaguna has appeared as a set for several films and series thanks to its distinctive historic quarter, and it was also the place of residence of various important families and personages throughout Spain's history, including San Isidro Labrador, Santa María de la Cabeza and Cardinal Cisneros, who was the driving force behind some of the most important buildings in the area. Don't leave without trying its fresh garden produce, its cheeses, its famous bread, its pastries, roasted meats or its "cojonudos", made with puff pastry and icing sugar... delicious!
Rascafría and its captivating natural surroundings
Located only 94 kilometres from Madrid, Rascafría is synonymous with tradition and rural atmosphere. This is the natural and culinary capital of the Sierra Norte region of Madrid. Its historic quarter is home to the parish church of San Andrés Apostol –containing interesting paintings and sculptures–, the Casa de Trastámara building, a natural chocolate factory... in addition to its exquisite cuisine that is famous for its game dishes and its wild mushrooms, including the variety known as boletus. The El Paular monastery is around two kilometres outside the village, and can be reached along a path running parallel to the Lozoya river. It's a good idea to do it on foot to make the most of the outstanding natural setting in the area. Once you reach the monastery, the Benedictine monks living there will show you their way of life, in addition to treasures such as the paintings by Carducho, the retable over the main altar, the El Transparente chapel and the monstrance room. Definitely a place worth visiting. And now it's time to go really deep into nature. If we continue along our path we come to the Puente del Perdón bridge, the starting point for the Lozoya valley nature route, perfect for hiking or cycle touring. If we continue along the path between the trees we come to the forest known as the Bosque de Finlandia, a secluded place that could almost be magical. Further along the path out of the town we come to the natural swimming pools of Las Presillas, and then on to the Los Robledos viewing point with views over the whole valley and the monastery, which is spectacularly outlined in the landscape. Towards the other side you'll see the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, home to the highest summit in the Madrid Region: the Peñalara peak. A breathtaking landscape!
Buitrago del Lozoya: a mediaeval town waiting to be discovered
Can you imagine being able to travel back to the Middle Ages? In Buitrago del Lozoya, 75 kilometres from Madrid, you can. In the middle of the Lozoya valley you'll find a combination of nature, art, history and culture. Its most eye-catching feature is the defensive wall enclosing the historic centre, the best conserved of its kind in the Madrid Region. You can't leave Buitrago without climbing to the top, where you'll find they're divided into two sections: the upper part and the lower part. The lower part can be accessed free, whereas the walls on the upper part have set visiting hours and offer impressive views over the landscapes in the area and the Lozoya river. You can also see a section of the old 11th-century city wall and an exhibition of weapons from the Middle Ages. And of course, if we're talking about mediaeval times, we can't omit a mention of the castle, which adjoins the wall and serves as the venue for the events that take place in the town. It was originally square, but was rebuilt in the shape of a circle by the inhabitants of Buitrago who transformed it into a bullring, although it is currently not used for that purpose. La Coracha (a defensive element) is attached to the castle at the lower part of the wall, and is a pleasant place for a walk. The itinerary continues towards the church of Santa María del Castillo, rebuilt in the 1980s. At first sight it is surprising to see Jewish and Muslim religious symbols alongside Christian ones, which is why the church is known as the "church of the three cultures". You can round off this itinerary with a visit to the Eugenio Arias Collection at the Picasso Museum. Did you know that Picasso's barber and friend was originally from Buitrago del Lozoya? This and other curious facts can be discovered in the museum containing 70 unique pieces dedicated and presented to his friend Eugenio Arias by the painter from Malaga. Posters, ceramics, lithographs and drawings, featuring predominantly bullfighting motifs. Buitrago is also known for the large number of events and activities it organises throughout the year: everything from a mediaeval fair to a crafts market, jousting tournaments, jugglers and period entertainment, through to range of temporary exhibitions, music festivals and a living nativity scene, one of the town's most distinctive features.