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Alcalá de Henares

  • Plaza de Cervantes. Alcalá de Henares © Turespaña

    Plaza de Cervantes. Alcalá de Henares © Turespaña

  • University of Alcalá de Henares © Turespaña

    University of Alcalá de Henares © Turespaña

  • El Oidor Chapel. Alcalá de Henares © Turespaña

    El Oidor Chapel. Alcalá de Henares © Turespaña

Alcalá de Henares

This town in the region of Madrid is the birthplace of the famous writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of 'Don Quixote', and the home of one of Spain's most prestigious universities. Its university and its historic quarter have been awarded the World Heritage designation by the UNESCO. This valuable monumental site, formed by churches, convents and university buildings, offers a glimpse into life in Castile during the Spanish Golden Age. Also in its historic site is the restaurant known as 'Hosteria del Estudiante', which is today part of the Parador hotel network. Walls which have seen over 400 years of history make the perfect setting in which to enjoy the best of the local gastronomy.

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The old Roman city of Complutum and the Al-kala-en-Nahr of Muslim times experienced its period of maximum splendour after the creation of the Universitas Complutensis, founded by Cardenal Cisneros in the 15th century. From this point on, the city became a cultural focus which acted as a magnet for a multitude of scholars, and led to the establishment of numerous religious convents. It is worth remembering that education at that time depended on the church.

Part of the walled enclosure of Alcalá de Henares is the area around the Archbishop's Palace. All around the perimeter are works by a range of authors in the Open-Air Sculpture Museum. Construction was begun on the palace in the 13th century, and the Torreón del Tenorio tower dates from this time. The main façade is from the 16th century, and is the work of Alonso de Covarrubias. Every November the courtyard is used to stage the traditional performance of 'Don Juan', an outstanding work of the Spanish Golden Age.

The convents of San Bernardo and Madre de Dios are also located in the area around the Archbishop's Palace. This last building is today the site of the Archaeological Museum of the Region of Madrid.

The cathedral

On the way to the cathedral of Los Santos Niños Justo y Pastor stands the Oratory of San Felipe Neri, the only male religious congregation remaining in Alcalá. The interior of its simple church is adorned with carved figures by Gregorio Fernández and Pedro de Mena, as well as famous Baroque religious images. Its library contains over 8,000 volumes, including particularly two incunabula.

The cathedral is a Gothic construction onto which was added a tower in the Herrerran style in the 17th century. Its bell tower, like numerous other towers in Alcalá, has been chosen by the storks to build their nest. Located in an open square, the façade of this church also serves as a set for the re-enactment of 'Don Juan' on All Saints' Day each year.

The colonnade in the Calle Mayor leads on to the Cervantes House-Museum. This is a typically Castilian construction featuring a central courtyard with the rooms arranged around it. Furnishings and utensils from the time offer a glimpse of life in the 17th century. There is also an interesting collection of material related with the work, such as old editions of 'Don Quixote' and numerous translations.

Other interesting sites in the city are to be found around the Plaza de Cervantes square and the old university. The square is home to the Corral de Comedias, an important courtyard theatre which used to stage works by Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca, both authors who studied in the town. The building still conserves elements from that time, but now more closely resembles the public buildings erected under the reign of Charles III in keeping with the romantic tastes of later times. The town hall, the Universes of Cervantes Information Centre, the Malaga college and the convent of Santa Úrsula are also located in the surrounding area.

The University

One of the key monuments in Alcalá de Henares is its university, known as the college of San Ildefonso. Founded by Cardinal Cisneros, the interior still contains classrooms from the original structure. The current Plateresque facade dates from the 16th century, while the interior has attractive cloisters and Renaissance and Baroque courtyards. The sober brick college of San Pedro y San Pablo is nearby.

The old student residence known as the Colegio Menor de San Jerónimo is the site of the Hostería del Estudiante, now part of the Parador hotel network. Its best-known feature is its Trilingual Courtyard, so called because classes of Latin, Greek and Hebrew were given here. Built in the 16th century in the Renaissance and Mudéjar style, it has an attractive garden, a well and a courtyard with a colonnade. The restaurant offers the chance to sample Castilian cuisine in the form of the traditional garlic soup, cocido madrileño (chickpea stew) and roast meats. And for dessert, hot chocolate with croutons.

It is also well worth visiting the former Colegio del Rey school, where the children of the king's attendants were entitled to study. This is today the site of the Cervantes Institute, dedicated to the defence and dissemination of the Castilian language. Beside it stands the church and school of the Company of Jesus, today the Law faculty, and the Church of Santa María. This is one of the many historical buildings in Alcalá which is today used by the university, as Alcalá de Henares continues to be an important university city.

The province of Madrid has a wide variety of routes for anyone wanting to explore everything it has to offer. In the capital, the quarters known as Madrid of the Austrias and the Borbones, the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofía museums, the typical neighbourhoods of Lavapies and Chamberí, and the fashion labels to be found in the Salamanca district are just a few of its attractions. Another two of the treasures to be found in the Madrid region, also with the UNESCO's World Heritage designation, are the city of Aranjuez and the monastery of El Escorial. The gardens and palaces of Aranjuez are offset by the interesting town centre, where the river, forest and the street layout comprise a fine example of a rationalist city. El Escorial, commissioned by Philip II in the Guadarrama mountains, is one of the greatest monuments in the Madrid region, and was designed by Juan de Herrera. The castle of Manzanares el Real and the Plaza Mayor square in Chinchón are some of the other attractions on offer in this area.


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«Coriolanus» by William Shakespeare © Ros Ribas. Clásicos de Alcalá.

Jun 9, 2023 to Jul 2, 2023


Salón Cervantes Theatre building - Alcalá de Henares
Classical Theatre Festival Classics in Alcalá

Cervantes Week in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid. © Grupo Ciudades Patrimonio de la Humanidad de España.

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Festivity of National Tourist Interest

Alcalá de Henares
Cervantes Week

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Festivity of National Tourist Interest

Alcalá de Henares
Don Juan in Alcalá

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Teatro Salón Cervantes - Alcalá de Henares
Alcalá de Henares Film Festival - Alcine

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