Just over 30 km from Madrid is one of the most interesting cities that we can visit in its surroundings. Alcalá de Henares is the birthplace of Cervantes and one of the most important university cities in Spain thanks to a century-old university.
Its beautiful buildings and great heritage, along with its history associated with literature and knowledge, made it a World Heritage Site and it is a city that has more and more tourists attracted by its history and architecture.
We tell you what to see in Alcalá de Henares.
What to see in Alcalá de Henares in 1 day
To make your visit to Alcalá de Henares easier, we would like to recommend the following excursions with which you will get to know the city much better:
1. Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, the University
This impressive building, with a spectacular façade, is the origin of the prestigious University of Alcalá. It was founded by Cardinal Cisneros in 1499 and functioned as the Colegio Mayor for several centuries, currently being the seat of the Rector’s Office.
Behind its beautiful façade, which must be admired in detail, we find several patios, such as the Patio de Tomás de Villanueva or the Patio de los Filósofos
The first university students in Spain walked and studied through them, some as illustrious as Quevedo, Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega, Jovellanos or San Ignacio de Loyola, which gives us an idea of the importance of this university in the culture and politics of the history of Spain.
Also, do not miss the beautiful Paraninfo or the Chapel of San Ildefonso, where the spectacular tomb of Cardinal Cisneros is located, completing a historic building that is complemented by the rest of the smaller schools that surround it.
2. Plaza de Cervantes and Calle Mayor
The historic Alcalá de Henares is distributed around the Plaza de Cervantes. This square is located next to the university complex and in it the life of the inhabitants of the city takes place.
Formerly it was the Plaza del Mercado and today we can find in it the Town Hall building, the ruins of the Church of Santa María that was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, the Statue of Miguel de Cervantes, the Kiosko de Música or the Corral de Comedias, one of the oldest in Europe since it dates from 1602 and where works are still performed.
Calle Mayor starts from Plaza de Cervantes, the street with the most atmosphere in Alcalá de Henares and where there are many bars with their terraces, shops and a very interesting place, the Casa Natal de Cervantes.
3. Birthplace of Cervantes
Located on Calle Mayor, it is a reconstruction of the house in which, according to some studies, the brilliant Miguel de Cervantes was born, the most illustrious resident of the town and one of the best places to see in Alcalá de Henares.
The house has two floors and in it we can get an idea of what the daily life of the author of Don Quixote was like, a book of which we can find different editions inside. It is a very interesting visit that will take you to the Golden Age of Spanish literature and will surprise you.
Right next to this house is the Antezana Hospital, one of the oldest in Spain. Cervantes’ father worked as a surgeon there and St. Ignatius of Loyola was recovering there after walking to Alcalá from Barcelona.
4. Cathedral of the Holy Children Justo and Pastor
It is the only cathedral in Spain that has the title of ” master “, that is, all its canons had the title of doctor of theology.
The Cathedral dates from the year 1514 and was built in Elizabethan Gothic style in the same place where there were previously other religious buildings in honor of the children Justo and Pastor who were martyred in this same place in the year 304 for not wanting to abandon Christianity.
Its exterior is very austere, highlighting its main façade and the tall tower visible from different points of the city of Complutense. Inside, practically no original works of art are preserved since they were destroyed in the Civil War. The urn where the remains of the holy children are and the stone where they were executed stand out.
Cardinal Cisneros is also buried here, although his tomb is in the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso.
5. Archbishop’s Palace
Not far from the Cathedral is the Archbishop’s Palace, current seat of the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares and whose origins date back to 1209 when a Mudejar fortress was built to become the temporary residence of the bishops of Toledo.
The current building, as we can admire it, dates from 1545 and historical events have been held there, such as the first meeting between Christopher Columbus and Isabella the Catholic in 1486 to prepare for the trip to the Indies.
In addition, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs and Queen of England, or Ferdinand of Habsburg, son of Juana la Loca and Holy Roman Emperor, were born here.
6. Laredo Palace
Another of the main places to visit in Alcalá de Henares. It is a neo-Mudejar palace built at the end of the 19th century for the private use of the family of the architect Manuel Laredo, although it currently belongs to the City Council and is the headquarters of the Cisnerian Museum and the Cisnerian Research Center.
Of the building, the red of the brick with which it is built stands out and it is surrounded by a beautiful romantic garden. In its interior we can admire 15 marvelous works of archaeological pieces that its owner acquired and we must highlight its vaults as well as the different rooms that are reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada.
In the Museo Cisneriano we can take a tour of the life of Cardinal Cisneros and admire the Complutense Polyglot Bible, the first polyglot bible published thanks to the cardinal.