Weekend Trips from Madrid

Alexandra Goodin, ’25, is a Psychology major and Spanish minor studying at Nebrija University this Fall 2023.

One of the great things about studying abroad in Madrid is that so many cool countries are relatively close. It’s like traveling to different states in the US; it’s very easy to hop on a bus or a train and be in a new place in no time! My friends and I have definitely tried to take advantage of it, especially since it’s much easier than traveling to a European or African country from the US. So, without further ado, here is an overview of the weekend trips I’ve taken so far!

Trip 1: Porto, Portugal

At the end of September, I kicked off my series of weekend trips with Porto, Portugal. My friend Anna and I hopped on a plane Thursday night after our classes, and were in Porto in less than an hour. After a late dinner, we went back to our air bnb and enjoyed the BEAUTIFUL views!!

Friday included a gondola ride, LOTS of walking (16K steps that day!), exploring, and visiting what is called “The Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World.” I’ll let you be the judge of that! We watched sunset before making dinner at our air bnb.

Photo credit: Anna Bokarev
Sunset view from the bridge!

On Saturday, we were up and at it again, with some highlights including Porto’s famous train station, a beautiful park, a river cruise, and a fado show (a type of Portuguese music!).

São Bento station

On Sunday, we had to check out of our air bnb pretty early, but we took advantage of free luggage storage at the bus station so that we weren’t stuck carrying our bags all day! After that, we went to the beach for the day. It may have been the first day of October, but it was still beach weather in Porto! Our day ended back at the bus station, where we admittedly almost missed our bus (not ENTIRELY our fault…). We decided to take an overnight bus back to Madrid to save money and still be able to have the whole day on Sunday. It was… definitely an experience, and not my favorite part of the trip, but it was worth it in the end!

Trip 2: Valencia, Spain

If you read my last post, you already know that I spent a long weekend in Valencia, Spain. My friends and I were off from class on Thursday, and we don´t have classes on Fridays, so on Wednesday evening we got on a train to Valencia! After checking into our air bnb, we had a late dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant (cheap and AMAZING tacos!) and got some groceries for the weekend. Traveling tip to save money: visit a local supermarket to get some easy meals for your trip. If you have access to a kitchen like we did, it´s easy enough to buy some pasta and sauce to make a quick dinner, and if you don´t, you can at least get some muffins and yogurt for breakfast; we opted to do both!

We tried to go to bed early on Wednesday, as we had an early morning on Thursday. My friend Becca found a pretty cheap hot springs tour that included transportation and a hike… which ended up being 9 km, up a mountain…. but was definitely worth it for the views! After relaxing in the hot springs, we got back on the bus, ending the night with a simple pasta dinner.

Views from the hike (do you see the hot springs?)

Friday was a busy day, despite us all being VERY sore from our trek through the mountains. We went to Valencia´s famous Arts and Sciences museum, explored the coastal area of Valencia, and then ended the day in the old city.

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
Old city of Valencia

Since this trip was on a long weekend, we decided to take a day trip from Valencia. We chose the coastal town of Peñíscola, which is roughly two hours by train. We made it on our 8am train, but did run into a couple hiccups after that…

The train station we got into was not directly in Peñíscola, which was not at all clear when we booked it, and there was no public transportation or rideshare apps available in the area. So, I ended up calling a taxi service which was (thankfully!) willing to drive us the 25 minutes to the main part of the town. Phone calls in Spanish are one of my worst fears, but I did it and we were off! Once we made it to Peñíscola, we visited their castle, went to some shops, and spent the afternoon on the beach before traveling back.

Sunday was our last day in Valencia, and we only had until our train left at 2pm, but we still tried to make the most of it! We checked out of our air bnb, left our bags at a luggage storage place near the train station, and went to the main part of the city to walk around and do some final shopping! Overall, it was an amazing experience, even the part where I had to unexpectedly face a fear.

Last but not least…

Trip 3: Tangier and Chefchaouen, Morocco

My most recent weekend trip was to two beautiful cities in Morocco, Tangier and Chefchaouen. My friends and I went on this trip with an organization called Citylife Madrid, a company for young foreigners studying or working in Spain. We left midday on a Friday and, despite our flight being delayed, landed in Tangier that afternoon. We met up with our group and local tour guide and stopped for lunch on the way into the city center. We dropped off our luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore. First stop was the medina, which is the old part of the city filled with shops, businesses, and some residences. We also got to visit a Moroccan pharmacy and try mint tea and a number of different products, as well as a scarf shop! You can see the scarf I bought in some pictures below. We finished off the night with a group dinner.

Friday´s lunch!
Moroccan pharmacy

On Saturday we were up bright and early to have breakfast before our bus left at 8:30am. Saturday began our drive to Chefchaouen, our second city of the trip, but not before stopping to ride CAMELS!! This was such an incredible experience and probably my favorite part of the weekend. We also got to visit a cave!

Cave of Hercules

Then we were back on the bus to finish driving to Chefchaouen, nicknamed the Blue City (you´ll see why in the pictures!). We got a guided tour around the main part of the city and then took a hike to be able to see the sunset. We spent some time after our hike exploring and shopping before dinner.

On Sunday, we had the day free until 3:15, when we had to get on the bus. My friends and I spent the morning exploring, shopping, and trying some local food. Then, we were headed back to Tangier for our flight! We stopped for dinner on the way before continuing to the airport. We were all on a pretty late flight (it was supposed to leave around 10:30pm), which then also ended up getting delayed. Thankfully we only left about a half hour late, but due to the weather, we had some pretty bad turbulence and weren´t able to land at first, circling the skies for about 30 minutes. Just like with Porto, the journey back was not my favorite, but it was worth it for such a good trip.

Reflecting on my Trips

Although I LOVE Madrid and am so grateful to be here, being able to travel to different places around Europe and Africa has been an incredible added bonus to my study abroad experience. I recognize that it is a huge privilege to be able to do so, and I´m really trying to take advantage while I have this opportunity. If you´re wanting and able to travel while studying abroad, do it: when else will you have the chance?