Alcalá de Henares

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  • Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
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  • History
  • Sightseeing
  • Tradition and food
  • Getting there

The Romans founded a town they called Complutum, about 2km from today’s Alcalá de Henares. It was one of the most important Roman settlements in the Iberian Peninsula, as attested by the archaeological evidence that has come down to us. The town, enjoyed 400 years of splendour under the rule of the Empire, largely thanks to the good use they made of the Henares River, the new centres of communication and the exploitation of agricultural resources. The Moors came after the Romans and built the castle of A-Qalát de Nahar in 850, from which the town earned its name.

Its central role as a defensive bastion in the Tagus River valley during the time of Christian Reconquests, led to the construction of new edifices and turned it into a fortified area. It was home to Jews, Muslims and Christians, each with their own section within the fortified town. In the 18th century, Alcalá became a feudal estate of the Archbishops of Toledo, who built the Palacio Arzobispal and gave the town its reputation as a place of great importance with a thriving economy.

In 1293, Sancho IV gave permission to Alcalá to build the ‘Estudio de Escuelas Generales', its first step to becoming a university town. Nevertheless, Alcalá enjoyed its greatest splendour under Cardinal Cisneros who founded the Complutense University in 1499. Although at first the education provided was mainly of a religious nature in which theology and ecclesiastical subjects played a predominant role, the university soon opened up to the worlds of humanities, law and literature, welcoming such famous writers and thinkers as Quevedo, San Ignacio de Loyola and Santo Tomás de Villanueva. In 1836, however, the faculties moved to Madrid. After a period of decline, the university regained importance with industrialisation and the return of university life to the town.

 

Other Tourist Trains

A unique way of traveling to and discovering Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes. From 18 September to 4 December, 2021

A period train running between Madrid and Aranjuez recreates the Region of Madrid’s first rail line. Running every week-end from September 18 to October 31, 2021

Get on this vintage train whose steam locomotive pushes its way past stunning landscapes in southeast Madrid. Due to the situation caused by COVID-19, the Arganda Train service is suspended until further notice.

Travel from Madrid to San Lorenzo de El Escorial on a vintage train and unveil the secrets of King Philip II’s empire. From 25 September

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

    Day Trips
  • Catedral de Toledo
  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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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  • Toledo

OFFICIAL PRODUCTS

An observation deck at 92 metres.

Our online store (in Spanish) sells artisan souvenirs.

Guided tours for all ages (in Spanish).