La Virgen brewery - worth the trip out to Las Rozas


As you might imagine, dragging myself out of bed and going to work on a Saturday morning is not really my idea of a good time, especially when it involves getting on a bus and schlepping all the way to Las Rozas. Ok, so it’s not really THAT far (about 20 minutes on the bus from Moncloa) but since I was making the effort to get out there, why not aprovechar and visit Cervezas La Virgen brewery and tap room afterwards?

Cervezas La Virgen

I’m sure most of you have tried one of the delicious artisan beers made by La Virgen, or at least seen them around at events like MadrEat. At their brewery in Las Rozas they offer tours (on Wednesdays only), tastings and, most importantly, a tap room where you can sample all of their tasty beverages. After I was done with work on Saturday, I toddled off to meet my friends there for some lunch and a few beers in the sunshine.

A pint of the good stuff

The brewery is located on an estate called Európolis, which perhaps isn’t the most picturesque corner of Madrid, although there was a nice yard full of cherry pickers across the road, plus the shop next door was called Bebépolis (sadly just full of baby stuff, not another place to drink at).

The beers on offer

We tried the Madrid 360 beer and a tasty IPA called Esperanza (they’d run out of the Veraniega) and both were excellent.

Bar food

They also serve a variety of bar food, including burgers, hotdogs and plates to share such as potato wedges and pinchos morunos. Again, all very tasty.

The outdoor terrace

It’s a popular spot for a Saturday afternoon, so all of the long tables inside were heaving with punters eating, drinking and making merry. We managed to grab a table outside on the terrace, which was very pleasant in the sunshine and afforded us the excellent view of the aforementioned cherry pickers. The whole place really had the feel of an American brew pub about it.

La Virgen

La Virgen isn’t exactly in the most convenient of spots, so the easiest way to get there is probably by car. However, if the car isn’t an option or no one fancies being the designated driver, there are plenty of buses from Moncloa to Las Rozas, and it’s a short(ish) walk to the brewery from there. The tap room is open every day from 12:30-16:30 and from 18:30-00:00, except for Sunday afternoons and Mondays. And for those of you who just can’t get enough, they also do beer to take away!

Cerveza para llevar

Info

Where: Parque Európolis nave A, Calle Turín, 13, 28232 Las Rozas, Madrid

Phone: +34 910 804 742

Website, Facebook and Twitter

Book tour here




Catedral de Justo, a self-built cathedral in Mejorada del Campo, Madrid


Conceived and brought to life by a present-day Don Quijote and situated in La Mancha, stands a cathedral like no other. Over half a century ago, former monk and visionary, Justo Gallego Martínez, also called Don Justo, made it his life-long quest to build a cathedral in his hometown of Mejorada del Campo, just 20km from Madrid. Today, at nearly 90 years old, he is still pursuing his dream.

I’d been meaning to visit the Catedral del Justo for a long time, although it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally made it out there with my husband, James. It’s a great day-trip destination from Madrid if you have a car, as you can combine it with a visit to Alcalá de Henares afterwards.

To be honest, visiting this cathedral is a visceral experience, making it difficult to describe the feeling of seeing it first-hand. As I approached it, I was first impressed by how big it is. With outer dimensions of 20×50 square meters, it takes up a whole block and has a somewhat whimsical appearance.

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

As I entered, I noticed a huge dome hovering over me, 40 meters high and 12 meters in diameter. The columns, walls, floors and stairwells are made out of materials that were either found, recycled or donated from local tile and brick factories. Even though parts of the building reminded me of an old scrapyard, it did resemble a cathedral—just from another planet!

The next thing that caught my eye was Don Justo himself, sitting contentedly on a chair, reading a book as if everything surrounding him was completely normal. His little dog was running around and an old TV was playing the same trance-like song, over and over again.

A self-built cathedral, made out of scrap and recycled materials near Madrid

When I got home I started reading up on the history of the cathedral. It turns out that Don Justo never got a legal building permit, nor is his cathedral recognized by the Catholic Church. But for me, there was no question I was entering a spiritual place.

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

What strikes me the most is the story behind his decision to dedicate his life to building this cathedral by himself. Born in 1925, Don Justo had a religious upbringing and aspired to be a monk. However, his dream was crushed when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis; he promised himself that if he ever recovered, he would build a cathedral from scratch and make a shrine to “Our Lady of the Pillar”. In 1961, he started building on an olive grove that belonged to his family in his hometown of Mejorada del Campo, and he hasn’t stopped since.

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

A self-built cathedral, made out of scrap and recycled materials near Madrid

He never studied architecture nor formalized any sort of building plan; instead he envisioned it in his mind and drew inspiration primarily from the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and other churches around Spain. On certain occasions, he received help from professional architects and volunteers, but overall, this cathedral is the realization of one individual’s dream. He has financed his work through renting inherited land and donations.Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

Although it will take at least another 15-20 years to complete the cathedral, Don Justo expects to be there every day, despite his nearly 90 years. Walking through the cathedral’s crypt, courtyard, mini cloisters and chapels; gazing up at the dome and examining the different recycled materials used to make the columns, staircases, and floors—it feels slightly Gaudí-esque. In fact, the town of Mejorada del Campo, which notoriously has not fully embraced Don Justo’s cathedral, eventually changed the name of the street on which it lies to “Calle Antonio Gaudí.”

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

Catedral del Justo de Mejorada del Campo by Naked Madrid

Not surprisingly, I’ve read that many people have called Don Justo crazy. Watching this present-day Don Quijote sitting on his chair, reading quietly in the cathedral he has been building with his own hands for more than half a century… while it all feels like a dream, the cathedral is real, and so is Don Justo. I highly recommend paying them a visit and enjoying the experience of witnessing such a unique vision come to life.

How to get there:

Catedral de Justo is located in Mejorada del Campo, a small town just 20km from Madrid. To get there, there are two public buses from the center: Avenida de América (line 282) and Conde Casal (line 341). However, going by car is a better option, so you can continue your day-trip to Alcalá de Heneres, Cervantes’ hometown, which is about a half hour away or less.

Address: Calle de Antonio Gaudí
Bus Line 341 from Conde Casal (link)
Bus Line 282 from Avenida de América (link)
 

Also check out our post on 10 best day-trips from Madrid!

 




Stunning Local Olive Grove Tour, in English! – Proyecto Los Aires


In 2013, biologists Guillermo and Laura – Spain’s newest generation of olive farmers – took over the family business and embarked on an innovative mission: to connect the local countryside with the city of Madrid and make farming a sustainable way of life once again.

How it all started:

Over a century ago, in a small town in the region of Toledo, Guillermo’s great grandfather planted his first grove of around 200 olive trees, and between the evenly spaced olive saplings grew rows of sun-drenched grapevines.

A hundred odd years later, only the footprints of the old vines are visible, but the olive trees have grown beautifully gnarled and twisted, with silver miniature leaves and shiny hard fruit, ready for the annual harvest of some of the tastiest organic extra virgin olive oil in Spain.

The centenarian olive trees

Guillermo and Laura’s story:

Olive farming has been in both of their families for generations, inspiring them to study biology at university, which is where they met. From early on, they drew sketches on scraps of paper illustrating grand ambitions to re-bond our booming capital with its rural backyard, enthusiastically telling anyone who will listen about the genius that is the organic farming ecosystem (it’s genius).

By mid 2014, their dream had gathered enough steam for them to quit their jobs and make Proyecto Los Aires their life, and for being in the midst of an economic depression, it’s incredible how much they’ve already achieved.

The tour:

On Saturday, we headed out to their stunning olive grove in Arcicóllar, about an hour south of Madrid. When we arrived, we met up with our fellow tour buddies and set off on our educational meander through the olive trees.

Guillermo and Laura led us around their oldest plot and explained the process of creating olive oil: from planting and harvesting to filtering and bottling. Their scientific angle on the entire practice is fascinating, but I won’t say any more – the oohs and aahs are all part of the fun!

The walking tour begins

Taking a closer look at the trees

After the walking tour (and tanning opportunity), we sat down at a shaded table nestled idyllically among the centenarian trees. It was time for the tasting. This involved professionally sampling several olive oils in little blue glass cups, and learning how to tell the difference between generic supermarket oil and top-quality organic oil such as theirs.

And then came the food and wine. Through local connections and friends and family, Guillermo and Laura brought together a plethora of Iberian foodie gems for us to eat. A mercado on a table came to mind, and our tour companions’ similarly delighted reactions included lots of “mmm”s and “oh my God”s and jokey squabbles over who liked the pumpkin morcilla most. We chatted, talking about Guillermo and Laura’s endeavours as well as our own, then gratefully accepted Guillermo’s offer of a top-up of wine to accompany our final wander through the trees (and take a few grove-selfies). Finally, we had the opportunity to buy some of the delicious products we tasted that day.

The tasting (and eating and drinking)

The quaintest little market stall in the world

After an eye-opening and mouth-watering experience, we said our goodbyes to the lovely Guillermo and Laura and hopped on the bus back to Madrid, desperate to get the word out to you!

The project explained:

Proyecto Los Aires aims to promote local agriculture by running educational tours & tastings on their farm and forging a direct link between urban consumers and the rural economy. Their oil (Los Aires Extra Virgin Olive Oil) can be found in gourmet shops such as Oleoteca Murúa at Mercado San Antón. Guillermo and Laura also regularly sell their oil in markets across Madrid such as Mercado de Motores, Mercado Central de Diseño, Nómada Market and Gastro Market. Next time you’re there, go and say hello!

Los Aires olive groves

How to get there:

The meeting point for the tour is the bus stop in the town of Arcicóllar (see location here). Regular buses (see timetable here) will get you there from Madrid’s Méndez Alvaro bus station in just over an hour. If you’re driving, it takes around 50 minutes from central Madrid.

Details & Contact Info:

Tours run year-round on any day of the week or weekend and must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.

Facebook & Web

The website is in English and Spanish! For more information about the tour, pricing, and to book, click here.




Let's hit the slopes! Ski and snowboard in Madrid


Yep, that’s right. Just when you thought Madrid couldn’t get any better, that it was a city purely of terrazas, tapas, cañas and sunshine, winter rolls around and you discover it has yet more to offer. What’s not to love about a place where you can soak up the sun by the pool in the summer, then ski the hell out of some mountains in the winter? After an unseasonably warm start to the season, it looks like we’re finally in for some snow, so get your gear on and let’s go!

 

Where?

There are three ski areas near the capital:

Puerto de Navacerrada

Puerto de Navacerrada is the closest ski area to Madrid, around 65km away, but it’s also the smallest. You can download the piste map here.

 

Valdesquí

Valdesquí is around 75km from Madrid, in the next valley over from Puerto de Navacerrada. Although it’s a little further away, it’s worth the extra mileage as it’s a lot bigger than its neighbour (see the piste map here). However, its proximity to the capital means it can get very busy.

 

La Pinilla 

La Pinilla is located just over the border in Castilla y León and is the furthest ski area from the capital, around 120km away. It also covers a fairly large area (piste map here) but there are usually fewer people, due to its more remote location. Most of the people I know who ski or snowboard in Madrid say this is the best area to go to.

 

How do I get there?

I’m not going to lie, the easiest way to get to all three areas is by car, particularly if you’re taking ski or snowboard equipment with you. If you haven’t got a car, you could rent one, persuade a nice friend with a car to take you or use a service like BlaBlaCar. Or steal one if you have to. Seriously though, it is possible to get there on public transport but it takes a while and the buses and trains aren’t at the most convenient times, especially at weekends. You can get the Cercanías Line C8b to Cercedilla then jump on line C9, getting off at the Puerto de Navacerrada stop or the Cotos stop for Valdesquí, but you still have to take a taxi or a shuttle bus to get to the actual ski areas. Bus 691 from Moncloa is also an option but takes about 90 minutes and only goes once an hour at weekends. La Pinilla is even harder to get to on public transport, with just a few Alsa buses going to Riaza, a nearby village. However, there is a company which runs a shuttle bus at weekends from Atocha and Plaza de Castilla. More info here.

 

When can I go?

All the ski areas are now open and will be every day until March or whenever the snow disappears, maybe April if we’re lucky. However, they’re sometimes forced to close due to strong winds or other adverse weather conditions, so make sure you check the website or ring beforehand. Whether you’re going by car or by public transport, and I can’t stress this enough, get there AS EARLY AS YOU CAN. Although the ski areas don’t open until 9am, I wouldn’t recommend leaving Madrid any later than 7am. Once the car parks are full, they stop letting people in and you’ll be going home disappointed. Some of my friends like to head up even earlier and enjoy a leisurely breakfast there, thereby avoiding queues and stress.

 

What facilities do the ski areas have?

All the ski areas have all the normal facilities you’d expect: ski and snowboard rental, restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. You might want to consider renting equipment in Madrid before you go, as the official rental places in the ski areas can have pretty long queues and some of the other non-official places, although quicker, often don’t have such good equipment. Another option would be to go up the day before, sort out equipment rental and ski passes in the afternoon and stay the night in a hotel, meaning you’re all ready to catch that first chairlift in the morning!

 

How much does it cost?

The price of ski passes, or forfaits, varies depending on the ski area and how many days you want to go for, but the usual cost is around 30-40 euros per day. Food and drink are typically expensive at the ski areas, so take your own if you want to save money.

 

Other options

Madrid SnowZone at Xanadú

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to skiing in the winter. At Madrid SnowZone in the Xanadú shopping centre you can ski and snowboard all year round if you want. It’s not quite the same as being in the great outdoors surrounded by snow-capped mountains, but it’s great for learning to ski or just practising your technique. You can get there on buses 528, 534 and 539 from Príncipe Pío. Check out their website for offers, classes and more.

 

Club Amistad

Madrid’s oldest and largest ski club organises buses to the ski areas, classes and equipment rental, amongst other things. They also organise trips to ski areas in other parts of Spain and abroad. Check out their website for details.

 

Further afield

While the ski areas in Madrid aren’t bad for a day trip, they can get extremely busy and the snow isn’t always the best. There are ski areas all over Spain, so if you have a weekend or a few days to spare, I’d recommend going to one of the following:

 

Sierra Nevada (Andalucía)

The big daddy of southern Spain, Sierra Nevada is a massive ski area just outside Granada (see piste map here). It often has sunny weather and is very popular with Spaniards, with a fantastic après-ski scene. They get a lot of snow but because of the temperature cycles it can quickly get icy. Not the best place if you’re looking for powder.

 

Formigal (Aragón)

Formigal
Formigal is the biggest ski area in Spain and generally has more reliable and better-quality snow than the south. Your forfait also includes the neighbouring resort of Panticosa, so when everything is open that’s 176km of skiable terrain (see piste map here). The nearby village of Formigal is pretty small so it can get booked up quickly. The same company also owns another great resort called Cerler, which more difficult to get to but generally has better snow and fewer people.

 

Astún (Aragón)

Astún

Powder day in Astún!

Smaller than Formigal and less crowded, if you get Astún on the right day the snow can be incredible (see piste map here). You can stay in the town of Jaca and get a bus, so it’s perhaps slightly easier for a last-minute trip than Formigal. There’s another resort right next to Astún called Candanchú which is also excellent, although the terrain is considerably more challenging.

 

Even further afield…

Of course, you don’t have to stop there! There are plenty of resorts in Catalonia (Baqueira/Beret is the most famous one) and Andorra has some fantastic areas such as Grand Valira.

 

See you on the slopes!

 




Let's visit the wine region, Ribera del Duero, from Madrid!


We all know that we owe a lot to the Romans- the feats of engineering, the inventions, the creation of basic law, the art. But in the case of Ribera del Duero, we owe them the discovery of the perfect place to grow the tempranillo grape, and the beginnings of the Ribera del Duero wine region.

Do you like full-bodied red wines, exploring ancient ruins and travelling through stunning landscapes? Then Ribera del Duero could be your next destination. To give you a head start, here are some useful tips from inside the wine industry, including where the region is, why it is famous, my favourite winery and how to get there from Madrid.

The scoop

Ribera del Duero is talked about as being one of the most prestigious wine regions in Spain. It is renowned for its full-bodied, elegant and complex red wines, which are of an extremely high quality (the region’s regulatory body only allows a certain amount of grapes to be produced per harvest- meaning that quality is in, and quantity is out).

In fact, in 2012 Ribera won a Wine Star award for being the best wine region in the entire world (which in the wine world is the equivalent to winning the Oscars).

Roman Gods and Medieval fortresses

Ribera del Duero became an official D.O. (Designation of Origin) region in 1982, but wine has been produced here for over 2,000 years. We know for sure that the Roman people of Ribera del Duero made wine, because they left behind mosaics of the Roman God of wine, Bacchus.

Bacchus was, amongst other things, the youthful, beautiful and (somewhat) androgynous God of harvest, wine and general all-round debauchery (he was actually the half mortal son of Zeus, so who can blame him). You can still see a 66 metre mosaic tile floor dedicated to him and his frivolous escapades at the Baños de Valdearados, a small pueblo right in the centre of Ribera del Duero.

The Romans produced wine in Ribera to send to their troops fighting to expand the empire

The Ancient Romans believed that wine was a ´daily necessity´ and produced wine in Ribera del Duero for everyone in society- men, women, slaves, aristocrats and peasants

In fact, Ribera del Duero gets its entire name from the Romans and their love of wine; they were also so thankful for the blessing of the river on their vineyards, that they personified the river as Durius, a River God (who, we can only assume, was working in cahoots with Bacchus).

Ribera del Duero continued to make wine long after the Romans left- all throughout the Visigoth, Muslim, Christian and medieval eras, right up until today. This means that Ribera del Duero not only has beautiful vineyard landscapes shaped by thousands of years of wine making, but also a winemaking tradition as old as the Coliseum.

If you are interested in medieval history or have a penchant for fairy-tale architecture, Ribera del Duero also has an incredible collection of Middle Age castles. On my last trip, I visited the official ´National Monument´ of the castle of Peñafiel, which is located where all good castles are- on top of a hill.

The castle of Peñafiel

The castle of Peñafiel

Geography

Ribera del Duero is a long and narrow wine region shaped to follow the path of the Duero river. Ribera del Duero is effectively an extended area of vineyard river bank, which is why the word ´Ribera´ (river bank) is used in its name.

Ribera del duero wine region map The Ribera del Duero the wine region includes parts of four regional territories– covering the south of Burgos, extending west into Valladolid and encompassing sections of Segovia in the south and Soria to the east.

There are 4 main municipalities: Peñafiel, Roa, Aranda del Duero and San Esteban de Gormaz. These are surrounded by rural areas of vineyards and wineries, churches, castles and beautiful valleys.

My favourite winery

There are almost 300 wineries spread over the river banks of Ribera del Duero, a combination of hundred-year-old traditional family wineries and modern corporate giants, but for me, the winery Pago de Carraovejas is a real diamond- a shining example of how to keep Ribera del Duero´s wine traditions alive, but not be afraid of modern innovation.

Back in the 1970´s, a curious young sommelier José María Ruíz had a dream that he would one day own his own restaurant, where he would serve Segovia´s most traditional dish, ´cochinillo´ (roast baby piglet), which would be paired with his own Ribera wine.

Years later, and just 3km outside Peñafiel, Ruíz´s impressive winery is in the perfect location in a sunny valley, protected by the hills from the North Wind and close enough to the river.

The vineyards of Pago de Carraovejas in its special valley this summer 2014, with views of Peñafiel castle in the distance

The vineyards of Pago de Carraovejas in its special valley this summer 2014, with views of Peñafiel castle in the distance

On my last trip to Ribera, I took part in the unveiling of Pago de Carraovejas´ new wine tasting technique: the peeling and tasting of the skin, pulp and seeds of the grape before tasting the wines. This is a prime example of Carraovejas´ innovative approach to wine and ability to think outside of the box, as is their research with Universities to create their own natural yeasts and bacteria specific to the land.

Pago de Carraovejas in winter, photograph taken by my colleague, wine expert Raul Buendía. It is beautiful to see the landscapes changing according to the seasons

Pago de Carraovejas in winter, photograph taken by my colleague and wine expert Raul Buendía. As the seasons change, so do the landscapes- with so many vineyards, each season brings unique stunning views

If you tour their winery, not only will you taste their fantastic red wines throughout the tour in different winemaking rooms (a refreshing take on the traditional end-of-tour wine tasting), but you will also get to enjoy 3 delicious tapas dishes (including ´cochinillo´) that have been carefully elaborated in Ruiz´s dream restaurant to pair with the wines.

One of the delicious tapas served in the barrel room on my last visit- a tuna, sautéed pepper and vegetable stack, with edible flower

One of the delicious tapas served in the barrel room on my last visit- a tuna, sautéed pepper and vegetable stack, with edible flower

If you have a food allergy, Pago de Carraovejas are up to the job. They can adapt their tasting menu to gluten free and lactose free diets if you let them know in advance- and they will even serve gluten free bread. You might also want to let them know if you don´t want to eat ´cochinillo´ (baby piglet fed only milk and slaughtered at 15-20 days old), if you are a vegetarian, vegan or have certain meat eating beliefs.

Which wineries?

To see a list of all of the wineries registered in the region, go to the official Ribera del Duero D.O. website.

If this seems too overwhelming and you aren´t sure which winery to pick, or how to organise numerous visits that fit together, you could organise a wine tour of Ribera del Duero from Madrid. You could even visit a winery that produces one of your favourite wines!

How to get there

Ribera del Duero has so many places to visit that you could leave Madrid in a number of different directions, depending on where you are headed. Here are two routes to the wine towns Peñafiel and Aranda de Duero.

By car:

I would recommend travelling to Ribera del Duero by car so that you can see Ribera´s landscapes as you travel up from Madrid. This is all part of seeing Ribera- the land, the vineyards, castles and landscapes have all been shaped by wine making. You will also have the freedom to move about the region once you are there- you could stay in a wine town and drive to rural wineries and castles during the day, returning to eat delicious local food in the town at night.

You can see which companies rent cars in Madrid by going to our previous Travelling by car in Madrid: renting cars, car sharing or carpooling article.

Route: Madrid- Peñafiel
Duration: 2 hours approx.
Tip: Combine this route with a stop at the beautiful UNESCO city of Segovia on the way

Route: Madrid- Aranda de Duero
Duration: 1 hour 45 approx.
Tip: You can find recommended Aranda de Duero scenic driving routes for once you have arrived in the area, on the official Aranda y Ribera guide website. Useful for a weekend trip.

By bus:

It is possible to travel to a few of the wine towns by coach from Madrid. This would be a good option if you would just like to visit the main wine towns.

Route: Madrid- Peñafiel
Depart from: Moncloa
Duration: 3 hours approx.
Price: 17,00 approx. single
Company: The official Peñafiel website cites travelling with La Sepulvedana

Route: Madrid- Aranda de Duero
Depart from: Avenida de America
Duration: 2 hours
Price: 12,00€ approx. single (24,00€ approx. return)
Company: Alsa 

Wine word for your trip

El sarmiento– the little young, green vine shoot




Madrid's 10 Most Beautiful Surrounding Towns


One of the best things about living in Madrid is that you can easily escape the city center to enjoy wonderful day-trips and weekend getaways. By car or public transport, you can get to Madrid’s beautiful surrounding towns where you’ll find some of the world’s oldest universities, cathedrals, monasteries and historic monuments. You can also find natural swimming pools, mountains, hiking trails and other adventure activities.

So here’s a list of the most must-see towns near Madrid, plus a few things you should know about each one. You can also click on each town below or our category link “How to get to” for a more in-depth post on each place on this list, as well as all the different ways to get there.

    1. Alcalá de Henaresfree tapas and Cervantes’ home
    2. Aranjuezroyal gardens and palace
    3. Avila: old surrounding wall from medieval times
    4. Buitrago de Lozoyacastle and large reservoir
    5. Cercedilla: mountains great for hiking, biking, swimming (natural pool) and other adventure activities
    6. Cuencahanging houses and lamb
    7. El Escorialmonastery
    8. Rascafríanature, restaurant El Paular 
    9. SegoviaRoman aqueduct, cochinillo (suckling pig) and a nearby town called La Granja
    10. Toledo: where three cultures lived in harmony for centuries (Jewish, Christian and Muslim)

 

 

 




Cercedilla


Cercedilla town by Naked Madrid Cercedilla bars by Naked Madrid

What to see: 

When I think of Cercedilla, the first thing that pops into my head is nature. An hour from Madrid, this mountainous town is an incredible place for hiking, adventure activities and typical, not-for-show kind of food. In the summer, there’s also an amazing natural swimming pool (take a look at our post), meaning a manmade pool filled with natural running water from the mountain’s streams and rivers, so you can enjoy a refreshing dip while enjoying the  beautiful surroundings.

If you would like to go to Cercedilla but the idea of hiking scares you, there’s a train that travels around the Guadarrama mountains. The train is called Tren de la naturaleza” and runs every Thursday and Friday from the beginning of July to the end of September.  

How to get there:

  • By Train (Cercanias)

            Depart from: Chamartín train station
            Schedule:
Departure (Madrid – Cercedilla (Cercanias))
Return (Cercedilla – Madrid (Cercanias))
            Duration: approx. 1 hour
            Price: 4€ (round trip approx. 8€).

  • By bus

            Depart from: Moncloa. 684 bus
            Schedule:
Departure (Madrid – Cercedilla (Bus))
Return (Cercedilla – Madrid (Bus))
           Duration: approx.  1 hour 10  min
           Price: 5,10€ (round trip 10,20€)

Where to find it on a map:

Cercedilla Map




Rascafría


Rascafria by Naked Madrid

What to see:

There is a proverb in Spanish that goes: “quien algo quiere, algo le cuesta”. It’s the Spanish way to say “no pain, no gain.” I say this because, if you don’t have a car, Rascafría is far from the city and inconvenient. However, if you have wheels, don’t miss the opportunity to clear up your head and drive along the northern mountains of Madrid. Once you get there, you won’t regret it.

In this northern town, there are plenty of adventure activities to do. Although hiking and biking are the most popular, you can also jump into one of Madrid’s natural ponds. After that, enjoy the rest of the day in one of the pool-side terrazas or at a café in the quaint town.

How to get there:

  • By bus

            Depart from: Plaza Castilla. 194 bus
            Schedule:
Departure (Madrid – Rascafria (Bus))
Return (Rascafria – Madrid (Bus))
            Duration: approx.  2 hour
            Price: 5,10€ (round trip 10,20€)

Where to find it on a map:

Rascafria (Map)




Best Natural Swimming Pools in Madrid (my top three)


Sometimes in life, you find yourself taking sides on what really matters:  dogs or cats? living in the city or in a town? Here comes a difficult one: pizza or burger? From now on, you won’t have to struggle on the next question in Madrid: day trip to the ocean or hiking in the mountains? Cause the answer is piscina natural!!

Las piscinas naturales, or natural swimming pools/ponds, are a pleasant alternative to the more common ones in the city (take a look at our previous post, my top 4 city swimming pools in Madrid). As far as I know, this kind of pool is chemical free and uses the water that flows from a river to fill the pool. Here in Madrid, we are lucky enough to live relatively close to a few of them. Since summer has now come and it’s going to stick around for a while, go give yourself a break and enjoy life in the Sierra de Madrid”. 

Here are my top three! 

(note–they’re all open now but I highly recommend calling beforehand to confirm their hours, sometimes they change without warning)


 

1. Piscinas naturales de Cercedilla (Las Dehesas)

 

Cercedilla by Marcelo Concina

Cercedilla by Marcelo Concina

Cercedilla by ABC

Cercedilla by ABC

What you need to know:

Cercedilla’s pool is my favorite because it’s the closest to the city and the easiest one to get to. Before going, you should know that there is a “small” 30-60min walk from Cercedilla’s train station to the pool. Although you can get a bus that makes it shorter, I’d recommend walking and enjoying the landscape. Also, that way you’ll really feel you deserve the swim.

Telephone: 91 852 57 40 / 91 852 22 00 (Tourism office)

Schedule: 10am to 8pm (Season 2014: They are open since June 13th!!)

How to get there:

How much is it?

  • Working days: 5,50€
  • Weekends: 6,50€
  • Others: Children and elderly 3,50€ / They also have group prices.

*Note: If it’s the first time you go there, ask somebody to tell you in which direction you have to walk.


 

2. Piscinas naturales Buitrago de Lozoya (Riosequillo)

Buitrago de Lozoya by Kripsol

Buitrago de Lozoya by Kripsol

Buitrago de Lozoya by Canalgestión

Buitrago de Lozoya by Canalgestión

What you need to know:

My perfect day trip would be visiting Buitrago de Lozoya town in the morning, follow by spending the afternoon at the pool while enjoying the view. Buitrago’s pool is a bit farther than the one in Cercedilla, and the public transportation is not as convenient. However, the town and the pool  deserve a try.

Telephone: 91 293 20 47 (Info) / 91 868 00 56 (City hall) / 91 545 10 00 (Canal de Isabel II)

Schedule: 10am to 8pm (Season 2014: They are open since June 21st!!)

  • Working days(From Thuesday to Friday): 11.30 am to 8.30pm
  • Weekends and holidays: 11am to 9pm 
  • *Note: Mondays are closed. Better to go on a weekday.

How to get there:

  • Quick link to how to get to Buitrago
  • *Note. Ask the bus driver where to get off, it’s not the last stop and you don’t want to get lost!

How much is it?

  • Working days: 2,50€
  • Weekends: 3€
  • Others: Children and elderly 1,50€

 

3. Piscinas naturales Rascafría (Las Presillas)

Rascafria by rascafria.eu

Rascafria by rascafria.eu

rascafria by javidemadrid.tumblr.com

rascafria by javidemadrid.tumblr.com

What you need to know:

Last but not least, Las Presillas pool in Rascafria is the farthest pond from Madrid and the less convenient to go by public transportation. Although the entrance is free and looks like the most natural and authentic. Plus, the bar area is great!

Telephone: 91 869 18 04 (Las Presillas) / 91 869 11 71 (Rascafria City hall)

Schedule: 9am to 9pm

How to get there:

How much is it?

  • The entrance is free!!
  • Parking is 5€ a day.



Buitrago de Lozoya


Buitrago_del_Lozoya by wikipedia

Buitrago_del_Lozoya by wikipedia

Buitrago de Lozoya by Lugaresconhistoria

Buitrago de Lozoya by Lugaresconhistoria

What to see: 

After living in Madrid for a while, you learn how to survive the summer heat (pools help a lot) and Buitrago de Lozoya has become an integral part of my method to avoiding the high temperatures. An hour and a half away from the city, you will find this beautiful city surrounded by a wall that was built during the IX and XI centuries. Here, enjoy the breeze from the Lozoya River and the views of the Somosierra mountains. Find your spot in the plaza while drinking a beer and looking up at Buitrago de Lozoya’s Castle.  

A little secret of the town will be revealed soon… so keep an eye on the blog!

How to get there:

Duration: 1 hour (80km)

  • By bus

            Depart from: Plaza Castilla
            Schedule:
Departure (Madrid – Buitrago de lozoya (Bus))
Return (Buitrago de lozoya – Madrid (Bus))
           Duration: approx.  1 hour 40 min
           Price: 5,10€ (round trip 10,20€)

Where to find it on a map:

Buitrago de Lozoya (Map)