Top 5 World Heritage Sites Near Madrid

Spain’s capital is rich with cultural heritage sites.
By Lola Méndez

Many of Madrid’s historical places have received the honor of being declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. From parks to palaces, these are the top five World Heritage Sites to visit during your trip to Madrid.

1. Alcalá de Henares


Just 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Madrid is the picturesque town of Alcalá de Henares which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998. This day trip is a must for fans of the world-renowned Don Quijote de la Mancha novel as author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá. The Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes boasts a bench with figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza so you can snap a photo with some of your favorite characters.

Beyond ties to celebrated books, Alcalá is an important historic site that was bustling during the medieval period and the Renaissance. History buffs will enjoy Alcalá’s many museums including learning about the significance of the area at the Regional Archaeological Museum and going on a guided tour of the University of Alcalá. Be sure to grab Alcalá’s famous sweet snack, sugared almonds lovingly prepared by the nuns at the San Diego Convent.

2. Aranjuez


For a regal escape from the city, visit Aranjuez which is only a 45-minute train ride from Madrid on the historical Strawberry Train from the center of the capital. The royal court would spend Spring hosting balls at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. The palace is spectacular featuring many rooms inspired by various cultures from across the globe including the intricate Moorish and Oriental rooms. Explore the palace’s lush gardens that were given the honor of World Heritage Cultural Landscape by UNESCO in 2001.

3. Hayedo de Montejo

Hayedo de Montejo

If you prefer to be surrounded by nature, take a day trip to hike the Hayedo de Montejo forest at the base of Sierra de Ayllón which received the UNESCO Natural Heritage Site distinction in 2017. It’s required to enter the forest with a complimentary Environmental Educators’ guide to preserve the delicate ecosystem and it will point out beeches, oak trees, Pyrenean oak and more.

4. San Lorenzo de El Escorial

San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Visit one of the most spectacular Royal Monastery Sites in Europe, the Real Monasterio De El Escorial in the Sierra de Guadarrama. The royal summer residence is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Madrid and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Be sure to visit the monastery’s stunning library, Panteón Real royal crypt and the intricate palace gardens. As San Lorenzo de El Escorial is in the mountains, make time for a hike on one of the trails at the Luis Ceballos Arboretum.

5. Paseo del Prado & Buen Retiro,
a landscape of Arts and Sciences

Landscape of Light

In 2021, Madrid gained a new UNESCO World Heritage Site when the Paseo del Prado and Parque del Buen Retiro earned the honor. Stroll down the Paseo del Prado Avenue towards the Buen Retiro Gardens. The promenade and the park date back to the 16th century. In the 18th century, King Carlos III would occasionally open the Buen Retiro gardens to the public, making it one of the first green urban spaces. Visit the Crystal Palace, then rent a rowboat on the lake to admire the Alfonso XII monument before popping into the nearby Prado Museum.


Take a virtual stroll through Paseo del Prado & Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences.

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