Madrid is charming in many senses, but there´s one detail that makes it unique: there are nine UNESCO World Heritage locations situated just two hours away from the city. Alcalá de Henares, Toledo, Cuenca, Segovia, Ávila, Salamanca, Córdoba, the Monastery and Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape are the ideal complement to a visit to the city.
El Escorial was the political centre of Philip II's empire. In this location, he established his palace, his library, his pantheon, his parents' pantheon (Charles I and Isabel of Portugal) and the pantheon of his relatives and successors. He also constructed a large basilica and founded a monastery. The architectural ensemble (which was completed in 1562) is located some 50 kilometres from the capital, in the Guadarrama Mountain Range, and was declared World Heritage in 1984.
Located to the south of the Region of Madrid, the city of Aranjuez is a splendid fusion of architecture and nature where the Royal Palace and the historical gardens, such as the Garden of the Prince or the Garden of the Island, are combined with tree-lined avenues, orchards and thickets. UNESCO inscribed this location in the World Heritage List in 2001.
Alcalá de Henares was Miguel de Cervantes' birth place -travellers can visit his Museum House in the city- and it boasts a university that was constructed over 500 years ago. However, this city in the Region of Madrid, World Heritage since 1998, also displays other important monuments like the Catedral Magistral (Magisterial Cathedral), the Colegio Mayor (Halls of Residence) or the Chapel of San Ildefonso, where Cardinal Cisneros' remains lie.
The Imperial City of Toledo, listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1986, is located just 60 kilometres from the city of Madrid. There are still historical traces of the three cultures that coexisted within its walls -Arabic, Jewish and Christian-, such as the Catedral Primada (Primate Cathedral), the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz (Mosque of the Christ of Light), the Sinagoga del Tránsito (Synagogue of the Transit), the Álcazar (Fortress) and the Corpus Christi celebration, one of the most important and popular processions in Spain,
The construction of Ávila's Walls began in the late 11th century and nowadays the history and heritage of this old Castilian city cannot be understood without these fortifications, which have a perimeter of over two and a half kilometres, are twelve metres tall and boast over 88 towers. The Puerta del Alcázar (Gate of the Fortress) and the Puerta de San Vicente (Gate of Saint Vincent), the two locations that granted entrance to and exit from the fortress, as well as the gothic cathedral, are three essential jewels that should not be missed during a visit to this city that was included in the World Heritage List in 1985.
Located in Cuenca's strategic mountain range, the city of Cuenca (listed as World Heritage in 1996) is known all over the world for its Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses), which are suspended overlooking river Huécar. The cathedral, the steep paved streets, the National Tourism Parador (the former Dominican convent of Saint Paul, which can be accessed from the Hanging Houses after crossing a spectacular bridge made of iron and wood), the Abstract Art Museum and the beauty of this natural site are other attractions that justify the visit
Declared World Heritage in 1985, Segovia is known all over the world for its stunning Roman aqueduct. Tourists can also contemplate other historical monuments in this city located in the region of Castilla y León, such as the gothic cathedral, the Alcázar (Fortress), the Tower of Saint Esteban, the El Parral Monastery, the Sinagoga del Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi Synagogue), and a vast number of small Romanesque style temples
The Plaza Mayor (Main Square) is Salamanca's neuralgic centre. From here, visitors can discover the university atmosphere that floods the pedestrian streets. The city boasts other attractions apart from the University -created in 1218, thus one of the oldest in Europe-, for instance, two cathedrals, the Clerecía (Clergy building), the popular Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) and the Roman bridge. Consequently, Salamanca was listed as World Heritage in 1988.
Bathed by river Guadalquivir, Córdoba was one of the first Spanish cities to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List (1984). Thanks to the high-speed train (AVE), visitors can travel from Madrid to Córdoba in one and a half hour. The city preserves magnificent examples of its Arabic past, like the Mosque or the city of Medina Azahara.