This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link, we get a small compensation at no cost to you. See our Disclosure Policy for more info.
Most people visiting Madrid either stay in the city, or opt for more popular day trips from Madrid, like Toledo or Segovia. In fact, many don’t even consider spending one day in Cuenca, Spain because they have no idea what to do in Cuenca.
Well, that’s what we are here to explore!
This way you can find out all about taking a day trip from Madrid to Cuenca and decide for yourself if it is something you want to do while traveling in Spain.
This Day Trip Guide From Madrid to Cuenca has everything you need to know about how to spend one day in Cuenca, including transportation, what to do, and whether one day is really enough for Cuenca?
How to Get From Madrid to Cuenca
Taking a day trip from Madrid to Cuenca is very easy, and you have a few different options. You can either take the train, bus, or BlaBlaCar. Of course, you can always drive if you have a car or rent a car in Spain too. Any of these options will take you between 1-2 hours to get from Madrid to Cuenca.
Madrid to Cuenca by Train
Train is the fastest, but also the most expensive option to get to Cuenca.
Renfe operates their AVE service straight from Atocha to Cuenca. It costs about €39 each way, but prices can vary depending on the day and time of year.
The train actually goes from Madrid to Alicante, but it’s first stop is in Cuenca. This is important to point out because when you are in the train station, the departures board will say Alicante, not Cuenca, so make sure to check the specific train number.
There is also a slower regional train from Madrid to Cuenca that takes about 3 hours and stops in every little village along the way. Even if you are on a budget and don’t want to pay for the AVE, we don’t recommend taking this train as you can get to Cuenca from Madrid faster and cheaper.
To get to the city center from the train station, you will have to take either a bus L1 or a taxi (€12). The bus only leaves once an hour on the half hour, but taxis are there all the time.
Madrid to Cuenca by Bus
The bus from Madrid to Cuenca is a little slower, but also costs less than the train. It’s only about €13 each way and takes about 2 hours.
Avanza is the bus company, and you can buy your ticket directly through their website.
Madrid to Cuenca by Car
Getting from Madrid to Cuenca by car will take about 2 hours. You will primarily take A-3 to A-40 depending on where you are coming from in Madrid.
If you don’t have your own car and would like to drive, you can either rent a car in Madrid or use BlaBlaCar, which is a ride-sharing app where people rent out seats in their own cars when traveling between cities. Make sure to check ahead in advance to see if there are spots available for the dates and time you want to do your day trip from Madrid to Cuenca.
Another benefit of BlaBlaCar is that you can mix and match your modes of transportation. For example, you could use it to get to Cuenca, but then take the bus or train home to save you some money.
5 Ideas for What to Do in Cuenca
There are so many things to do in Cuenca and the surrounding area, but these are 5 ideas for what to do for just one day in Cuenca.
1. Casas Colgadas
Without a doubt the thing Cuenca is the most famous for are the casas colgadas (hanging houses).
As Cuenca is built atop a river gorge over the Húecar and Júcar rivers, many of the buildings are built right off the edges of the cliffs overlooking the rivers below. This not only made for an excellent fortification hundreds of years ago to protect the city from invaders, but today, it gives visitors some of the best views in Spain, and especially in Castilla-La Mancha!
The casas colgadas in Cuenca are quite literally hanging houses as they are built right over the gorge on the eastern side of the city with wooden balconies that hang over the edge of the cliff. It’s quite the dramatic sight!
The casas colgadas date back to the 15th century, but while there used to be more of them, there are only a few that remain today. The most famous currently houses the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español which you can visit while in Cuenca for the day.
If abstract art isn’t really your thing, there are some other great spots in which you can see the casas colgadas!
2. Catedral de Santa María la Mayor
Located right in the Plaza Mayor, is the Catedral de Santa María la Mayor—Cuenca’s main Cathedral. It’s a Gothic style cathedral that dominates the center of the town, and is actually one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in Spain!
It costs €5 to enter, without a student or senior discount. If you do choose to enter, definitely spend the extra €1.50 to see the triforio. This is essentially the walkway above the entrance to the cathedral which will give you dramatic views of the Plaza Mayor, the countryside, and inside the Cuenca Cathedral.
If you want to tour any of the other smaller churches in Cuenca, you will have to buy your tickets at the Cuenca Cathedral too.
3. Views from Ruinas de Castillo de Cuenca
If you are a sucker for views—like we are—head to the ruinas del castillo de cuenca (Cuenca Castle Ruins). Take Calle Trabuco north from the Plaza Mayor until you see an arch. That is part of the ruins of the Cuenca Castle.
During the day you can climb some stairs to the top of what remains of the castle wall. From there, you will be able to see over the top of Cuenca and the surrounding countryside.
As this only takes a few minutes, it’s definitely something you should do in Cuenca. Plus, it’s free!
4. Views from Mirardor del Barrio del Castillo
After checking out the views from the Cuenca Castle ruins, continue north through the arch and stay right at the fork in the road after the bridge. From there, head off road on the hiking trails that go along the rocks near the gorge. This is the Mirador del Barrio del Castillo and is probably the best view in Cuenca.
From here, you can hike all along the edge and take in the incredible scenery that Cuenca offers.
Take your time to stop and enjoy the view of the Parador, river gorge, casas colgadas, mountains, and simply Cuenca in all of its majestic glory. There are really few towns in Spain, and the world, that can compare!
As a bonus, if you are hungry and don’t want to leave the view, there are quite a few restaurants and bars right along the mirador del barrio del castillo that you can eat and drink at!
5. See Cuenca from the Puente San Pablo
For the last idea of what to do in Cuenca for one day, make sure to see Cuenca from the Puente de San Pablo, San Pablo Bridge.
At the time of writing this, the bridge was under construction, so you cannot cross it. The best way to see Cuenca from the Puente de San Pablo is to head down to the bottom of the river gorge along the Huécar River and then up the road heading to the Parador to see Cuenca from a different angle.
This view gives you the best view of the casas colgadas in Cuenca as you can truly see how the wooden balconies hang over the edge of the cliffs. It’s fun, and nerve-racking, to imagine being one of the first people to stand on the balconies back in the 15th century when they were first built!
From here, it will probably end your day in Cuenca, so the only thing left to do would be to head back to the train station, bus station, or drive back to Madrid.
Obviously, depending on how much time you have, you might be able to fit in some more things to do, but these are just 5 of the top things to do for one day in Cuenca, Spain.
Is One Day Enough Time in Cuenca?
While you could easily spend a weekend in Cuenca, it is definitely possible to do a day trip from Madrid there. The city is small enough that you can see everything in one day if you are willing to walk around a little bit.
If you are taking the train from Madrid to Cuenca for a day trip, one day is definitely enough to see the city because of how quick the trip is. However, if you are taking the bus or driving, 2 days might be recommended, simply because of the amount of time it takes to get there.
If you are really into hiking and want to explore the surrounding area too, you will need more than one day in Cuenca because the hikes in the area will take away from your time exploring the city.
Overall, it is a marvelous, small city with some of the most outstanding views in all of Spain! It’s 100% worth a visit, even if you’re just spending one day in Cuenca.
And while it’s a bit further away and more expensive to get to, we recommend a day trip from Madrid to Cuenca more than the more popular one to Toledo.