Madrid’s Villas are an open secret, a soft murmur traveling through the wind among the delicate leaves of the forests in Madrid’s outskirts. Sometimes they even turn into the chirps of a bird resting on a branch in the fresh gardens of Retiro Park. There, a party of sparrows, robins and blackbirds spends the afternoon reminiscing their adventures in distant lands. Wouldn’t it be delightful to, just like them, drift with the current of that soft murmur and let the magic happen?
The Villas emerge unexpectedly in the eyes of the traveler, on the fringe of the bright capital’s horizon. To get there, we must leave behind great avenues, museums and theaters. In a spot where urban architecture begins to fade, giving way to a rural landscape which preserves the whole of its essence… That’s exactly the place we are headed to.
There are eleven towns with less than 20 000 inhabitants where quietness is just their lifestyle. These towns become more and more real as one goes along, and they all constitute special, high-quality destinations. A romantic getaway, a family trip, a culinary experience, an outdoor sports activity, cultural tourism… This and more can be done in Madrid’s Villas, a location that invites you to turn off the phone’s notifications and enjoy a peaceful evening without the concerns of everyday life.
Buitrago, Chinchón, Colmenar de Oreja, Manzanares el Real, Navalcarnero, Nuevo Baztán, Patones, Rascafría, San Martín de Valdeiglesias, Torrelaguna, Villarejo de Salvanés… These are some of the spots that, once you discover them, the heart never forgets.
Just like handkerchiefs coming out of a magician’s sleeve, Madrid’s Villas go around, colorful, enchanted. There are endless possibilities, and it’s hard to decide which one to pick first. We might as well flip a coin and see.
Less than an hour away from Madrid, Chinchón offers a place to lie down and enjoy the view of its astonishing Plaza Mayor. There is a peculiar scenery consisting of arcades, colonnades and manor houses where the Parador de Turismo, a former Augustinian convent, invites all visitors to rest. Thanks to their impressive collection of machinery, the inhabitants of Villarejo de Salvanés know a thing or two about cinema history. Another thing to be impressed with in Villarejo is the castle’s fortified tower, which offers a very cinematic glimpse of the past.
In Colmenar de la Oreja, there is also an outstanding Plaza Mayor. In that town, we can find traditional wineries where one can pay a visit to the beautiful house of the Seven Patios and its own museum, and taste Madrid’s finest wines. Likewise, wine plays an important role on the diner tables and the spectacular views of Navalcarnero, in the enchanting spot where the rivers Guadarrama and Aberche wound the earth among vineyards. The roots sink in the ground in a similar way in San Martín de Valdeiglesias, where the dams of Picadas and San Juan welcome the early summer days. Another location with gastronomical and wine culture is Nuevo Baztán, a Basque fantasy dream designed by the baroque architect known as Churriguera.
Visiting Manzanares el Real means to dive into an ancient tale of knights and castles. Its charm extends to the mountain called La Pedriza, and the natural landscape there provides an enchanted embrace: River Lozoya and the forests around it always constitute an astonishing view, whatever the season. Finishing this adventure with a visit to the monastery of El Paular and a delicacy of meat and mushrooms will be the cherry on top of the cake.
The majestic fortress of Buitrago de Lozoya rests next to the river. One can get lost in the intricate maze of fortified walls through the historical center, whose medieval essence dissipates in the air before the artworks exhibited in the Picasso Museum. Approximately half an hour away, the streets get crowded with distinguished names, such as that of the cardinal Cisneros. Regarding the legacy this historical figure left in Torrelaguna, we shall mention the church of Santa María Magdalena, the convent and the old hospital. One can always hear in the background the sound of water running through the Jarama Valley.
Step by step, the villas begin to appear in our sight, even the more secluded one: Patones. This location is divided in two areas —Patones de Arriba (Upper Patones) and Patones de Abajo (Lower Patones)— by the environmental trail called El Barranco. The villages here mingle with nature in an intimate shelter of green slate.
A sight from above might give a hint of the magic of Madrid’s Villas, but it is only at close range that one can really be enthralled by its inevitable spell —the spell of a calm lifestyle, nature, gastronomy and history, whose sweet embrace is impossible to escape.