The day trips outside Madrid are prime for pork and wine
Madrid’s central location makes it prime for day trips around Spain, a country about the size of Texas. Wine regions Ribera del Duero and Rueda, about two hours north of the city, are a no-brainer. This under-the-radar boozy destination is rife with quality winemakers with centuries of knowledge and impeccable taste; they anchor a diverse range of vineyards, wineries, and restaurants.
Highlights include modern spots like Ribera’s Bodega Neo, which shares its hipster-chic winery with a professional recording studio; Rueda-based French transplants Belondrade, whose design-forward winery’s been cranking out 100% Verdejo whites and 100% Tempranillo rosés; and Bodega Pago de Carrovejas’ cutting edge facility, complete with a top-tier restaurant and unobstructed view of the famous Peñafiel castle. For more established outlets, explore the underground caves underneath Rueda’s rustic Alvarez y Diez, Vega Sicilia’s lavish, museum-like estate and high-end reds, and Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, strangely located in the center of a wildlife preserve.
On your way up, make a pit stop in Segovia, a World Heritage City famous for its textiles, about an hour northwest of Madrid. Originally founded by the Celts, it later fell to the Romans, who built churches, an aqueduct, and other structures that remain today. It’s also home to one of the oldest Jewish quarters in history. For lunch head to Mesón de Cándido, a traditional Castilian restaurant that dates to 1786. Order the oven-roasted whole suckling pig. If you’re lucky, the owner might just come out to perform a unique ceremony that includes loud singing, chopping the animal down the middle with the edge of a plate, and, finally, smashing said plate against the wall. It’s a true sight to behold.
As Javier Menor de las Casas, a well-respected Spanish tour guide and frequent contributor to inimitable travel master/professional vacation dad Rick Steve’s life-giving eponymous podcast, once said, “Barcelona is a top model. She’s beautiful, but inaccessible. But Madrid is the hot girl next door.” Don’t fritter your precious PTO days trying to woo some unattainable diva -- everyone who’s ever seen an '80s movie knows the girl next door is the real catch.