How to get there: Buitrago del Lozoya is just over an hour’s drive north of Madrid on the A-1 motorway. Alternatively, you can take the 191 bus from Castellana – Hospital la Paz to Buitrago del Lozoya. The journey lasts around 1 hour, 45 minutes.
The ruined castle that looks out over the old town was built in the 15th century on the site of a former Moorish fortress. It was constructed in a Gothic-Mudéjar style in a rectangular shape and was the home of the Marquis of Santillana and his descendants. The castle is fortified by seven towers that are all, curiously, different shapes. The castle was declared a National Monument by the Spanish government in 1931 and these days, its ruins are used as the setting for some of the town’s festivals.
Buitrago del Lozoya has the best preserved and one of the only remaining Moorish city walls in the region of Madrid. The walls were built between the 9th and the 11th centuries as part of a line of fortifications across the centre of Spain built by the country’s Moorish population, aimed at stopping the advance of the Christians from the north. The stone wall, which was restored in the 15th century, is over 800 metres long and has three entrances.
The area around the Riosequillo reservoir, a short distance from the town of Buitrago del Lozoya, is a great place to get active, whether you want to rent kayaks on the water or cool off during the summer in the large swimming pool next to the reservoir. There is plenty of green space next to the pool to lay out your beach towel and have a picnic.
While this small mountain town might not seem like the most likely place to find a museum dedicated to one of Spain’s most famous painters, Buitrago del Lozoya has its very own Picasso museum. The museum holds the collection of Eugenio Arias, a local man who befriended Picasso when he became his barber while both were exiled in France. Arias’ dream was to open a museum to his friend in his hometown, and his wish was granted when the museum opened its doors in 1985. The collection is based around pieces given to Arias by Picasso as gifts and features drawings, ceramics, letters and books.
The setting of Buitrago del Lozoya, in the Sierra del Norte of the Guadarrama Mountains, is ideal for hiking. There are several routes from the town that take in the surrounding mountains, some of which are also suitable for cyclists. The Gariñas route is a family-friendly walk that starts along the river and takes walkers around the reservoir on a four-kilometre route. The Cerro de Cinco Villas route takes walkers or cyclists from the town up to the Cinco Villas hill for stunning views over the valley.
Being so close to the Riosequillo Reservoir means Buitrago del Lozoya is a great place if you fancy trying out some watersports. Companies like Nortesport offer activities such as windsurfing, paddle boarding, canoeing and sailing.
The Church of Santa María Castillo was built at the beginning of the 14th century, most probably on the remains of an earlier mosque. It was completed in 1321 but was renovated in the 15th century. Original elements include its Mudéjar-style tower and its exterior walls.
Spaniards love their belenes (nativity scenes) in the run-up to Christmas, but Buitrago del Lozoya goes one step further than the usual wooden scene and puts on a living nativity scene, complete with real animals and real people playing Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and three wise men. Visitors walk a route around the old town that includes over 40 scenes from the life of Jesus.
Sine 2001, the town has held a medieval fair on the first weekend of September every year. The fair includes a craft market with over 100 stalls selling artisanal produce, as well as dancing, theatre performances and concerts.