Alcalá de Henares

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  • Sightseeing
  • History
  • Tradition and food
  • Getting there

Alcalá de Henares, one of the most important towns in the history of Spain, is just 30km from Madrid. The Complutense University was founded here in 1499, and since then it has declared Spanish a language of culture. As a result, Alcalá de Henares is now part of the "Path of the Spanish Language", a route comprising all those places in Spain that have had a special influence on the Spanish language. In 1998, it was classified as a World Heritage Site.

Colegio Mayor San Ildefonso

Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon, the architect behind the Salamanca and Segovia cathedrals, started building this hall of residence in 1537 in the Mudejar style. Its construction was finished in 1553 under the quantity surveyor, Pedro de la Cotera. It boasts an elegant plateresque façade with interesting grilles. Inside, you can still see two of the Colegio Mayor's three original cloistered yards: the Patio de Santo Tomás and the Patio Trilingüe. The building houses a real gem: the great hall or paraninfo of the University. It was here that graduation ceremonies and other important academic events took place. Now, it is home to the Miguel de Cervantes Prize gala, honouring the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language, held on 23 April every year. It also includes the Chapel of San Ildefonso, where leading figures associated with the University were buried, such as Pedro de Gumiel, Antonio de Nebrija and even Cisneros, whose Renaissance tomb in Carrara marble was designed by Domenico Fancelli, with motifs alluding to the military, the academic and the religious realms. (Today, Cisneros is buried in the Magisterial Cathedral, but the tomb is still at the Colegio Mayor.) The chapel’s stucco, with Gothic, Mudejar and Renaissance elements, and polychrome coffered ceiling, with interlaced decorative patterns, contribute to enhance its beauty.

Magisterial Cathedral

They say it was erected on the spot where the Santos Niños Justo and Pastor were buried. These holy children, whose saint’s day is celebrated on 6th August, are now the patron saints of the town, and their relics are kept in the crypt below. The cathedral is one of the only two churches in the world called ‘Magistral', meaning that all its canons are ‘magisters' or lecturers at the university.

Cervantes House Museum

In 1956, work was carried out to restore the home of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, who was born back in 1547. The aim was to make it look just like it had done in the 16th century, adding painting collections, artefacts and decorative elements from that time. To learn more about Cervantes’s life and work, there’s a Cervantes Tour in Alcalá. It takes visitors to those places in town that are somehow related to the author of Don Quixote, like the Plaza de Cervantes or the publishing house that printed La Galatea.

Regional Archaeological Museum

Located in the Madre de Dios Dominican Convent, a building constructed between the 17th and 18th centuries, this museum brings together archaeological remains found in the Autonomous Region of Madrid. 

Corral de Comedias

It is a unique building as it is the oldest documented open-air theatre in Spain and preserves different architectural elements as an indication of its long history. Nowadays, it continues to offer a full programme of theatre shows and is open for tourist visits.  

Calle Mayor 

A stroll along the Calle Mayor of this town is a must. The image of its porticos supported on pillars is one of the most typical of Alcalá and it has become one of the city’s main streets with its wide variety of shops. 

Guided Visits

There are various guided and dramatised routes that are organised to discover the city in an original way and which take visitors to Cisneros’ Alcalá, Alcalá World Heritage Site, historic Alcalá or Cervantes’ Alcalá.

 

Other Tourist Trains

A unique way of traveling to and discovering Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes. (Saturdays, from 18 May to 13 Jul and from 14 Sept to 14 Dec 2019).

A period train running between Madrid and Aranjuez recreates the Region of Madrid’s first rail line (Sat and Sun: 18 April-30 Jun and 14 Sep-26 Oct).

Go from Madrid to San Lorenzo de El Escorial on a vintage train and unveil the secrets of King Philip II’s empire.

Get on this vintage train whose steam locomotive pushes its way past stunning landscapes in southeast Madrid (Sunday Mar-May and Oct-Dec).

  • Hop onto a train or bus and leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind.

    Day Trips
  • Get around the city easily, quickly and economically with our tourist travel card which gives unlimited use of all public transport.

    Tourist Travel Pass
  • Abono Transporte Turístico Madrid
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Other must-visit places near Madrid
  • Discover the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes and the old Universidad Complutense, a World Heritage Town that is closely tied to the history of the Spanish language.

    Alcalá de Henares
  • Visit the Palace and the Gardens of the Royal Site and Town of Aranjuez, a town close to Madrid which has historically been linked to royalty.

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  • Visit one of the greatest architectural exponents of the Spanish Golden Age, a monumental complex devised by Philip II. The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Valle de los Caídos, Casita del Principe and Casita del Infante shall remain closed to the public until further notice in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

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  • Quickly reached from Madrid, Toledo shows how Jews, Muslims and Christians could live together in harmony.

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  • Discover the spectacular aqueduct and enjoy the food of this World Heritage city.

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  • Discover the amazing walls and the cathedral of this Medieval city where Jews, Christians and Muslims used to live together.

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  • The monumental city, home to a centuries-old university, is in the World Heritage Site list.

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  • This city-come-landscape famous for its “Hanging Houses” is less than one hour from Madrid by train.

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  • Next time you come to Madrid, don’t miss the chance to visit the mosque in the most important city of Al-Andalus, Córdoba.

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