As our remaining time in Spain quickly comes to a close, not only are we working to cross things off our ever-growing to-do list of cleaning and packing tasks, but I've also got a small but (equally?) important list of things I'd like to see and do one last time around Madrid. One of those things was a day trip to Ávila, a small town northwest of Madrid that we visited during our first fall in Spain (November 2015, actually, which sounds like forever ago now!). Three of the best day trips from Madrid are, in our opinion, Segovia, Toledo, and Ávila, and while we've been to the first two multiple times, for one reason or another, we'd never returned to Ávila.
Like so many Americans, we get excited about a good castle. Sure, there's some in the U.S., but they're pretty different than what you can find in Europe, and they just don't feel like the real deal to me. When we visited Munich, a day trip to arguably the world's most famous castle was a priority for me - after all, it's not all that tricky to reach, and we'd certainly be in good company: 1.4 million people visit a year, so we pretty much just had to follow the crowds.
We began our two-week central European trip in Munich, Germany, and after spending time in Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, we returned to Germany for a few days before flying back to Madrid. Aside from one day, which we spent celebrating our wedding anniversary (see more here!), we used the other two to take day trips out of the city.
Visiting Varaždin was never on our itinerary, in fact, I'd never even heard of it until the day before we went. We stopped at the tourist information office inside of the bus station after we arrived in Zagreb and asked for advice on easy day trips from the city, and we were given a great little softcover book full of ideas. My initial thought had been Trakošćan Castle, but after finding out that it was indeed pretty tricky to reach via public transit (I'd heard similar things online, which is why I wanted to check in person), we looked into other options like Plitvice Lakes National Park but nixed that after seeing how limited and pricey transport options were.
We visited Zagreb for two days at the end of our Christmas and New Year's trip around central Europe. Our trip began in Munich, continued on to Salzburg, Ljubljana, and then to Zagreb, and from there we spent another few days in Munich before heading back to Madrid. Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, and it was our first time in both the city and the country, so although we didn't get lots of time in either, we were excited!
We stayed in (and spent most of our time in) four different cities while we made a circle around central Europe over Christmas and New Year's, beginning and ending in Munich, Germany. From each of those cities, we took at least one day trip - from Munich we went to Neuschwanstein, from Salzburg we went to Hallstatt, from Ljubljana we went to Lake Bled, and so on.
Hallstatt was one of the places that I'd seen photos of online but never really thought we'd ever make it to. It's not a big town by any stretch of the imagination (less than 1,000 people, I think), meaning it wouldn't be a destination for us in and of itself, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's a popular day trip from Salzburg. Thus, when we decided to spend time in Salzburg over Christmas, we built in some time for checking out this tourist mecca.