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  • Royal Palace in Aranjuez © Turespaña

    Royal Palace in Aranjuez © Turespaña


Aranjuez's layout includes an old quarter that has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site, royal palaces, and gardens lining the banks of the Tagus river. The concepts of the Enlightenment, adapted to the urban layout of the cities, here find expression in a harmonious balance between man and nature, watercourses and garden design, forests and palace architecture. For all these reasons, the cultural landscape of Aranjuez has been awarded the World Heritage designation by the UNESCO. The Strawberry Train and the festivities to commemorate the Mutiny of Aranjuez, declared of National Tourist Interest, are just a few of the cultural events awaiting the visitor in this city in the Madrid region.

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The valley of Aranjuez, between the Tagus and Jarama rivers, has been inhabited since the distant past. Its current layout dates from the reign of Philip II (16th century), who awarded the town its title of Royal Site. Philip V (17th-18th century) and Charles III (18th century) transformed Aranjuez into a courtly centre where the palace architecture combines with forests and gardens, in keeping with the aesthetic tastes of the Enlightenment. The reticular layout of the streets in its historic quarter owes its existence to the Rationalist philosophy.

One of the treasures of this city in the province of Madrid –and the source of its splendour– is its Royal Palace. Its current structure is the culmination of a series of reconstruction and extension works which began with the project by Juan Bautista de Toledo, architect to Philip II. With the passage of the years, other craftsmen at the service of the Spanish kings took part in the project, including Juan de Herrera (responsible for the monastery of El Escorial) and Francisco Sabatini (architect to Charles III and the creator of a large number of buildings in Madrid). The rooms in its interior are home to Baroque pieces such as those on display in the rooms dedicated to clocks, porcelain or paintings (Luca Giordano, Vicente López and Esquivel...).

Aranjuez gardens

Other characteristic features of Aranjuez are its gardens. In front of the east façade of the palace is the Parterre garden, in the English style, with a series of interesting sculptures presiding a series of fountains. Another two gardens lead off this site: the garden of La Isla (the Island Garden), so-called as it lies between the courses of the Tagus and La Ría, another place which is ideal for strolling; and the Prince's Garden, which is leafier and in the French Gothic style. The Casa del Labrador house is located beside the river, amid fountains and squares. This is another palace in the style of the pavilions of Versailles (Paris), and houses some interesting paintings.

The rest of the town is also in the same style, with a street layout in the consummate Baroque style, characterised by regular buildings, tree-lined streets and broad avenues. This street plan makes it easy to visit other important monuments such as the Mariblanca fountain, the Teatro Real theatre, the Casa de Oficios y Caballeros building and the general produce market known as the Mercado de Abastos, as well as other sites such as the Osuna, Medinaceli and Godoy palaces. There are also some fine examples of religious architecture including the convent of San Pascual (by Sabatini, and containing paintings by Mengs and Tiepolo), and the churches of Alpajés (a brick building with a Baroque portico) and San Antonio (with a large dome and Ionic columns).

The Aranjuez railway station, with its particular neo-Mudejar style, is another of the city's monuments. Its railway lines take a journey into the past every year between May and September, when the Strawberry Train comes into operation, and an old steam engine pulls the carriages along the route. Another site worth visiting is the Real Cortijo de San Isidro, with several mansions and gardens.

Aranjuez was a court city for centuries, and still conserves numerous constructions dedicated to leisure acitivities. Its bullring houses the museum 'Aranjuez: a fiesta', where visitors can learn more about the world of bullfighting and the history of recreation in the city. The former Cocheras de la Reina Madre (Queen Mother's coach house) is today the Isabel de Farnesio Cultural Centre, and a venue for exhibitions, lectures and concerts.

A good time to visit the city is during the celebration of the festivities to commemorate the mutiny of Aranjuez, known as the Fiestas del Motín, declared of National Tourist Interest. The options on offer include re-enactments of the storming of the Palace of Godoy and of the mutiny itself, bull-running, bullfights, the descent of the Tagus and music performances. The Tagus river and its Kayaking School Club, the Legamarejo racecourse and other riding schools are just a few more of the leisure possibilities available in the town.


The vegetable gardens around Aranjuez provide the local gastronomy with artichokes, Brussels sprouts, broad beans, asparagus... prepared in a variety of ways. Game hunting, so traditional in these forest areas, supplies excellent pheasant, partridge and quail. Another of its specialities are its strawberries.

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 Madrid, also with the UNESCO's World Heritage designation, are the city of Alcalá de Henares and the monastery of El Escorial. Sites worth visiting in Alcalá include the famous Complutense University, the house where Miguel de Cervantes was born (author of Don Quixote) as well as numerous palaces and convents. El Escorial, commissioned by Philip II in the Guadarrama mountains, is one of the greatest monuments in the Madrid region, the work of 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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View of actors recreating the historical mutiny in Aranjuez © Turespaña

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Festivity of International Tourist Interest

Aranjuez Mutiny Fiestas

Fountain of the boy with the thorn, in the gardens of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez © Madrid

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Early Music Festival of Aranjuez

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