Small but happening Valladolid isn't yet on too many visitors' radar, but it should be. As the de facto capital of Spain's enormous Castilla y León region, it offers plenty to see and do, while still retaining that authentic Spanish feel that can be hard to come by in larger cities. Valladolid is a university city so it boasts a youthful vibe, but it is also steeped in history around every turn to remind you of the city's roots. And with a clear, easy-to-understand local accent, it's also one of the best places to learn Spanish in Spain.
If you're still not convinced, consider just how close this fascinating city is to Madrid. With the Spanish capital as your home base, you don't even have to go that far out of your way to experience Castilla y León's hub of history, culture, and fabulous food. If you take the high-speed train, you can leave for Valladolid in the morning and be back in Madrid by Spanish dinnertime. However, if you have the time, the city is worth an overnight visit, as this university town truly comes alive in the evenings.
How to Get from Madrid to Valladolid
- Train: 1 hour, from $30
- Bus: 2 hours, 30 minutes, from $15
- Car: 2 hours, 10 minutes, 135 miles (217 kilometers)
The best way to get between these two cities is by train. The price is more expensive than that of the bus, but it's generally much faster.
Let's consider the first option. The fastest train from Madrid to Valladolid takes just over one hour and costs between 30 and 40 euros, or about $33–$45. Operated by national rail service Renfe, these trains are labeled "Ave," "Avant," "Alvia," or "AV City."
There's also a cheaper media distancia ("MD") train service, which can takes over three hours. At 25 euros, these trains really aren't that much cheaper than their faster counterparts, and the MD trains are notorious for being late. If you're traveling on a budget, you're better off taking the bus.
Most trains from Madrid to Valladolid leave from Chamartín station. A handful also depart the Spanish capital from Príncipe Pío and Atocha stations. Always check your ticket to make sure you're going to the right place.
There are regular buses throughout the day between Valladolid and Madrid operated by Alsa, Spain's national bus company. The journey takes between two and three hours, depending on how many stops the bus makes along the way. Buses cost between 13 and 16 euros on average, making this a more economical option than the train.
Most buses from Madrid to Valladolid depart from Mendez Alvaro station, also known as Estación Sur. However, a handful of buses also leave from Moncloa station. Just like with the train, be sure to double-check your departure point before setting off.
If you have access to a vehicle, you might consider driving from Madrid to Valladolid. This option does present its unique set of pros and cons, however.
On the other hand, though, Madrid's traffic is notoriously heavy, so getting out of town could be a hassle. And once you get to Valladolid, you'll find that street parking is scarce, as is the case in many Spanish cities—especially the closer you get to the city center.
The fastest route from Madrid to Valladolid will take you along the AP-6 and A-6 highways, with travel time clocking in at just under two and a half hours. Be aware that this route does have tolls. If you'd prefer to avoid tolls, a second option involves taking the N-VI and N-601 for a journey lasting two hours and 45 minutes.
What to See in Valladolid
Valladolid is home to several splendid museums, one of Spain's most stunning cathedrals, and even a makeshift urban beach—a little strip of sand along the river known as Playa de las Moreras. And, thanks to its location right in the heart of Spain's spectacular Ribera del Duero wine region, there's plenty of great vino to go around as well. Enjoy some Valladolid specialties with your glass of wine in the city's historic Plaza Mayor, such as suckling lamb, hot garlic soup, or potato and chorizo omelets. After filling up on tapas, continue with the history tour by visiting museums inside the once-homes of Christopher Columbus or writer Miguel de Cervantes.