The Madrid Convention Bureau is on a push to promote the world’s most extensive collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites located around an urban center. There are six of the protected destinations within one hour of central Madrid, and eight within 90 minutes.
“We’re now thinking of ourselves and promoting our city as Greater Madrid to promote more Madrid meetings and incentives,” said David Pérez Noack, director of Madrid Convention Bureau, during our talk with him at IMEX America in Las Vegas last week.
“We can’t talk about infrastructure anymore, everyone has infrastructure today,” he continued. “Instead, we’re promoting to U.S. planners the incredible value that we can offer when they host a meeting in our city.”
For incentive groups especially, Pérez Noack says that many U.S. meeting professionals know about the historic treasures on Madrid’s periphery, but not enough understand how well designed they are for group excursions, and the pretty shops and cafes embedded in them.
Furthermore, he says, the neighborhoods in these old cities provide a glimpse into the very heart of Spanish culture—what he calls, “the real Spain.” To learn about some of Pérez Noack’s favorite haunts inside Madrid, click here.
Four of our favorite UNESCO sites within a 1-hour drive of Madrid include:
This small colonial hilltop village known as “The Imperial City” is unbelievably picture perfect. Once the official court residence of Charles I, the city was co-inhabited by Jews, Muslims and Catholics living in harmony for centuries beginning in the 8th century—a time known as the “Gem of the World.” Be sure to visit the cathedral built between 1226-1493 and a small museum celebrating the magnificent painter El Greco, who lived in Toledo later in his life until his passing.
Ávila’s medieval center, know as the “Town of Stones and Saints,” is one of the most striking cities in the Castile province because of the amazing spectrum of architecture among both the buildings and churches. The Romanesque Walls of Avila that surround the city provide gorgeous views of the Castile steppe, and you’ll be amazed just how well they’ve been preserved. The Walls were built without any mortar at all, illustrating the craftsmanship of the early settlers. Ávila also has among the highest density of bars and cafes per capita in Spain.
The Celtic settlement of Segovia is famous throughout the world for it Roman aqueduct, built around the time of Christ, which delivered water into the city from the Fuente Fría river located 30 miles away. The city also provides a mesmerizing selection of historic buildings that now house colorful boutique shops and charming cafes.
Originally the royal residence of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, one of Spain’s largest and most dramatic estate homes was eventually converted into a monastery. Located just 28 miles northwest of Madrid, the complex is now a cultural and architectural museum providing a detailed glimpse into medieval Spanish life. We adore the little village next door where you can lose yourself for a full afternoon while getting to know the locals.