ALCALÁ DE HENARES
Declared a World Heritage City. An old city only a short distance from Madrid, the sear of the famous University founded in 1499 by Cardenal Cisneros. The university building, at Plaza de San Diego, boasts a splendid Plateresque façade. The interior courtyards are also worth visiting, especially the most famous one called the Patio Trilingüe, where classes of Hebrew, Greek and Latin were taught. Interesting cloisters, gardens and the Auditorium may also be admired. Within the town, churches and convents attract our attention, such as the Church of Magistral-Cathedral, started in the 21th century, the Archbishop's Palace, the convent of Las Bernardas, the church of The Jesuits and the Oratorio of San Felipe Neri. On the calle de la Imagen, the house where Cervantes was born, which has been reconstructed and refurbished with furniture and household items of the era, can be visited. 33Km. from Madrid on the N-II highway in the direction of Zaragoza. Trains from Atocha and Charmartín Stations leave every 10 minutes. Buses at the beginning of Avenida de América depart every 10 minutes.
Tourist information: Callejón de Santa María.
Telephone: 91 889 26 94
Poised on a fertile plain bothed by the Tagus River, this royal retreat boasts beautifuljewels such as the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and the magnificent gardens which surround it. It was a residence of Kings since the 15th century. In the 17th Century the Bourbon kings built the palace and its gardens. Although plagued by fires and subsequent reconstructions, the Royal Palace continues to maintain authentic architectural unity. The Jardín del Parterre garden is adorned with numerous sculptures, the Jardín de la Isla stands out for its fountains and the Jardín del Príncipe is an English-style garden. The Casa del Labrador is a neoclassical hunting pavilion constructed by order of King Carlos IV and located in the Jardín del Príncipe.
The town of Aranjuez was built starting in the 18th. King Fernando VI ordered the structures to be erected according to a design of streets and dwellings that responded to ideas of the Enlightenment movement. Various aoutbuildings of the palaces and other monuments of interest can also be admired.
How to go: 47 Kilometers from Madrid on the N-IV highway. Trains leave every 30 minutes from Atocha Station. Buses leave from the Estación Sur de Autobuses. From May to October (with the exception of August) there is a special tourist train on Saturdays called the Tren de la Fresa (Strawberry Train).
Telephone: 91 891 04 27
MANZANARES EL REAL
A picturesque town in the Sierra de Guadarrama at the foot of La Pedriza mountain, summer residence for many madrileños. Its 15th century castle is a jewel of civil architecture. It is worthwhile taking a stroll through La Pedriza park and along the banks of the Manzanarez river.
How to go: 47 Kilometers from Madrid on the Colmenar Viejo highway. Buses from Plaza de Castilla, Mateo Inuria.
Felipe II ordered construction of these startling austere, grandiose, granite structures. The monastery, church and palace melt in a framework of courtyards, corridors and rooms farming a rectangular block crowned by four towers with pointed spires on each one of the corners, offsetting the horizontal lines. Also noteworthly is the Basilica, topped by a 92 meter dome and paintings on the vaults by Lucas Jordán. Along the walls there are 43 altars with painted altarpieces and the main chapel of the nave concentrates the greatest decorative treasure of the church. The Patio de los Reyes, which precedes the basilica, is a solemn rectangular courtyard where the bareness of the walls contrasts with the truly royal grandeur of the front façade.
- Palaces: In those occupied by the Hapsburgs, the Sala de las Batallas decorated with frescoes is worthly of special mention. Outstanding among the palaces are the sumptuous rooms belonging to the Bourbons, decorated with luxurious tapestries and Pompeyan ceilings.
- Chapterhouses: Works by El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Titian and Bosch, along with paintings from the 16th century Venetian School, can be admired.
- Biblioteca: The library preserves more than 40.000 volumes from as far back as the 9th century. It also has a museum of paintings with works by Titian, Veronese, Zurbarán and Tintoretto among others and an Architecture Museum which contains documents pertaining to the construction of the monastery.
Outside the complex a special visit is warranted by the Casita del Príncipe, a small palace erected by Carlos II, and the Casita del Infante, built for Prince Gabriel, brother of Carlos IV. Both are designs of Juan de Villanueva.
How to go: The Monastery is located in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 50 km. northwest of Madrid on the N-VI highway. Trains leave from Atocha, and Charmartín Stations.
Telephone: 91 890 15 54
Magnificently preserved medieval walls surround this somber city, birthplace of St. Teresa. The cathedral dates from the 14th century.
How to go : 115 kilometers northwest of Madrid on the N-VI highway. Trains leave from Atocha Station. Buses depart from Paseo de la Florida, 11.
Telephone: 91 920 35 71 26
Its impressive Roman aqueduct, the majestic Alcazar castle, the Cathedral and numerous churches are attractions not to be missed. La Granja de San Ildefonso, a lovely palace and gardens with monumental fountains some 11 km. from Segovia is another interesting spot. 87 kilometers northwest of Madrid on the N-VI highway. Trains leave from Atocha Station. Buses depart from Paseo de la Florida, 11.
Telephone: 91 921 46 03 34
Fascinating monumental city, center of the Visigoth reign, Imperial capital, and residence of Moors, Jews and Christians. El Greco's adopted town has some of his masterpieces.
How to go: 70 km. southwest of Madrid on the N-401 highway. Trains leave from Atocha Station. Buses depart the Estación del Sur.
Telephone: 91 925 22 08 43