Overview índice de guías imprimir versión imprimible castellano English


Alcala de Henares is located just 30 miles northeast of Madrid, is a mid-sized city, which history have had great significance for Spain. Proof of this is its beautifully preserved old town which is strongly influenced by its prestigious University and the religious character of the city, which preserve numerous churches and monasteries.



Basic.
Name
Alcalá de Henares
Business Hours
10:00 - 14:00 y 17:00 - 21:00
Population
205.500
Plugss
230v/50Hz plug type E,C
Density
2.332/km²
International Code
0034
Time zone
GMT+1
Prefix
9188
Money
Euro
Mobile bands
GSM 900/1800, UMTS
Police
112
Ambulance and fire department
112


General.


Located on the banks of the River Henares, Alcalá has a population of over 200.000 inhabitants and it is one of the largest cities around the Spanish capital. It is the capital of the region called Comarca or Tierra de Alcalá, wich is composed by the Campiña de Alcalá and the Alcarrea de Alcalá and wich belongs to the industrial hub of Corredor del Henares.

Alcala, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, has a very long and rich history due to it has been inhabited by the majority of cultures that once settled in the Iberian Peninsula. These fact have favoured the streets of Alcalá to host many monuments of great diversity which have served UNESCO to appoint its downtown as a World Heritage site from 1998.



A bit of history.


The first settlement in the area dates back from the Iron Age and consisted of a fort called Iplacea which was placed at the base of the Zulema mountain, where the researchers have found interesting archaeological remains. But the real origins of Alcalá dates back from the first century of the Roman Era, when the Roman Empire founded a city called Complutum located next to the River Henares. Complutum was esenciality important to the Roman Empire because of its value as a military enclave and its role as communications hub in the region. Alcalá´s values remained for the Visigoths when they drove out the Romans from the Iberian peninsula. Visigoths even installed the seat of the Bishop in the city.

After the conquest of the Iberian peninsula by Muslims from the eighth century, Alcalá became a defense city designed to prevent Christian incursions from the area around the Jarama River by means of the construction of the fortress called Al-Qul'aya, which was built along the Henares River bank and which gives its current name to the city.

From 1062, the Christians began to try to retake the city when the large army of Ferdinand I besieged the muslim town. These unsuccessful first attack found its end through a negotiated solution but in 1118 Alcalá was finally conquered to the Kingdom of Castile by Sir Bernard, archbishop of Toledo.

The Crown of Castile gave Alcalá to the Archbishop of Toledo as a war reward, turning the city into an ecclesiastical lordship which enjoyed exclusive privileges by which Alcalá began to thrive as an emerging market shopping area, and making the city to grow substantially. During the medieval period the city was home of Moors, Jews and Christians who lived peacefully in harmony and prosperity.

Alcalá de Henares, dominion of the powerful archbishops of Toledo, began to expand its lands by building a new fortification and the magnificent Archbishop's Palace, which served as residence of kings and archbishops and was the place where Cristopher Columbus held its first meeting with Isabella I of Castile in order to finance his travel across the Atlantic Ocean to find a new route to get India by these way. The Palace was also the place where Princess Catherine of Aragon and the Emperor Ferdinand of Germany were born.

In the years 1345 and 1348 Alcalá held the Castilian Parliament, where the King Alfonso XI reordered the legal status of his empire and where the anti-Jewish attitudes started to grow up in the spanish government which finally caused the expulsion of Sephardic Jews from Spain in 1492.

During the fifteenth century the town of Alcalá prospered dramatically thanks to Cardinal Cisneros, who gave new privileges to the city and stablished the new University which filled the streets of Alcala with small colleges, churches and convents.

After the Old Regime, Alcalá lose their privileges and Madrid assumed the role of the most important city of the region from 1836. The University of Alcalá was relocated in Madrid involving the complete desolation of the city, making its population to be reduced to the half and focusing Alcala´s activities on livestock and agriculture.

In the late twentieth century the city emerged from its ashes thanks to a great industrial development and the restructuring of the University in 1977. These events helped the restoration and rehabilitation of its historic buildings which received the declaration of a Historic-Artistic Spanish Heritage and finally the inclusion of the city in the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO.



Climate.


Alcalá enjoys a Mediterranean climate characteristic for its very hot and dry summers with periods of dryness and cold winters.

In summer maximum temperatures can reach 40 ° C while winters depress the mercury to lows near 10 degrees below 0. The average annual temperature is 14 ° C.

The best season to visit the city is undoubtedly the spring, when temperatures are mild enough to enjoy the full day.



Information and Tourism Office in Alcala de Henares.


The main tourist office in the city is located in the Callejon de Santa Maria, next to Plaza de Cervantes, and it is open daily between 10:00 and 14:00 and between 17:00 and 19:30.

There are two kiosks to complement the main tourist office placed in the Plaza de los Santos Niños and near the bus station. Both provide information to tourists during the holiday periods and weekends.




Getting there índice de guías imprimir versión imprimible castellano English


Rail and Buses.


Thanks to its proximity to Madrid, the town of Alcalá de Henares is not a destiny of any international means of transport except perhaps some companys of regular bus lines between Madrid and Romania because of the large community of Romanians who live in the suburbs of the city.

However Alcalá de Henares is linked with Madrid during 24 hours every days by the bus services of the line 223 operated by Continental Auto buses Company which links the station of Alcala, located in the surrondings of the historic Old Town and the Avenida de America in Madrid, where we can interconnect between urban bus services, intercity bus services and Madrid´s subway network. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes and costs 2,85 €. During peak hours there is 5 buses running on time. The rest of the day there is two or three buses per hour and at night it departs one bus per hour.

Alcala has a railway station included in the C7 and C2 train lines to Madrid that allow travel between the city and Atocha Station in about 45 minutes. In Atocha Station we can access the rest of the province of Madrid train network and the subway system. Trains run between 5:00 and 23:50 from Madrid and between 5:10 and 23:24 from Alcalá. Its frequency is several trains per hour and the price of a ticket is 2,55 €.

On Saturdays, except during the summer months, Renfe (Spanish national raylways company) and the Council of Alcala de Henares offer the possibility of taking the Cervantes Train which departs at 11:00 from the Atocha train station and through the way to Alcala with some actors on board who offers tastings of typical food from the city.

Road access is very good because Alcalá is located on 28 junction of the National II Highway that reaches the city with three lanes from Madrid and provides access to the ring roads M-30 and M-40 wich runs around Madrid.

Madrid Barajas International Airport is located between Madrid and Alcalá and it is easily accessible by public transport. The 223 bus all stop at Canillejas, from where the bus service 101 reach Barajas in just 20 minutes for 1 €. The 223 operates 24 hours per day while the 101 runs between 6:00 and 23:45. You can also take a taxi for 30 to 35 €.




Transport índice de guías imprimir versión imprimible castellano English


Public transport.


The historic center of Alcalá is small in size and can be visited in just one or two days, so the city lack any transport systems like subway or tram network.

Everything offered by the city's public transport is a network of city buses which includes 11 routes operated by Autobuses de Alcala company, that provides access to downtown and the suburbs.

The system operates from early morning until 23:00 and the single ticket costs 1 €. The ten trips voucher costs 6,5 € and can be purchased at tobacconists. Most night bus services are available every hour.



Bicycle.


The bike is a great mean of transport to move around Alcalá because the roads are wide, the traffic is very light and there is not any hardly slope of land.

On the outskirts of the city, to the southeast, the Natural Park of Alcala de Henares has many mountain bike trails of different difficulties. The offices of the Ministry of Environment of the City Hall, located on the corner of Navarro y Ledesma Street and Vía Complutense avenue, provides free bicycles thanks to the ALCALÁ BICI program, which was designed to promote the use of this means of transport in the city.




Sightseeing índice de guías imprimir versión imprimible castellano English


Thanks to the long history of Alcalá and especially its university period, the city enjoys a splendid architectural heritage that has made Alcalá to be worthy of the award of a World Heritage Site. Among its dozens of historic buildings there is a big amount of great baroque Castilian masterpieces which gives a special character to the city of storks.



How to use this guide.




On each title there is some icons that represent activities or attractions that can be found on the surrounding area of the described monument.

Each monument or area is described detailing its most important features and historical reviews as well as current fares and schedules. The description of museums includes address, price, schedules and provides access to the official website of each institution.

This guide includes detailed plans of the areas of interest which identifies the monuments and the stations of public transport listed. The connection points between planes are marked and identified by a number and each map is accompanied by a small diagram where you can see an outline of the whole to facilitate orientation.

Monument/historical building. Nightlife area.
Theater. Museum.
Green area/park. Shopping.
Zoo. Beach.
Trecking. Hospital.
Restaurant. Tourist information.
Supermarket. Sports Area.
Concert Hall.



Visiting Alcalá.


Alcalá is a very small town and its area of interest is reduced to the old town, so it may be well visited over a day.

If you arrive by public transport to Alcala, either by train or bus, the reference location to start your visit is the Plaza de Cervantes. The square is located 400 meters west of the bus station, along the Avenida de Guadalajara and Calle Libreros, and 600 meters south of the station going down Paseo de la Estación.

From the square, you can enjoy the most important monuments of the city like the ancient University and runing from la Plaza de Cervantes to west, we will find the best leisure offer in the city across the Calle Mayor.

The main street of Alcala leads to la Plaza de los Santos Niños, where we can visit the Cathedral or the Archbishop's Palace.

To the south and north of the axis formed by the Calle Mayor, the Santiago and Santa Ursula streets run almost parallel and let its visitors to find the most part of convents in the city.

Wear comfortable shoes and some pants wich allow you to open wide the belt and get ready to enjoy the magnificent monuments and cuisine of the Complutun city, always followed by the shadow of its revered storks, wich accompany the visitors around the length and breadth of the city with its magnificent flight.



Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso


No doubt, the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso is the greatest treasure of Alcalá. The building was built between 1499 and 1553 by request of Cardinal Cisneros in order to house the offices of the newly established University. The design was performed by Pedro de Gumiel.


Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso´s wonderful front facade.

The magnificent facade of the building, loaded with iconographic elements, is designed in a mixure of plateresque, gothic and renaissance styles, is the work of Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón and it maintains a diagram splited in three sections of unequal height with superimposed orders.

The large upper gallery is composed by large windows framed between semicolumns and a monumental porch decorated with a big Cisnerian shield in the center which focuses the central axe of the facade which is considered one of the most important works of the Spanish renaissance.

The three large windows located in the central section of the horizontal plane was designed by Claudio de Arciniega who bring some classicism style to the building decorating their frames and columns with statues of Atlantis and Beefeaters.

On the right of the facade we find the church of San Ildefonso, which completes the complex with a modest belfry which bear a huge nest of storks, mistress of the skies of Alcalá.

San Ildefonso church serves as the school chapel of the University headquarters and inside its premises we can visit the tombs of the renaissance doctor Francisco Valles de Covarrubias and Elio Antonio de Nebrija, author of the first Spanish grammar.

Inside the main building of the University, the courtyard of St. Thomas of Villanova, first saint from the university classrooms, welcomes visitors with a well located in the center which is beautifully surrounded by the three floors balconies walls decorated with beautiful balustrades completed by friezes that were finished in 1662 under the management of José Sopeña.

Behind the first courtyard, we move into the tranquil courtyard of the philosophers which gives way to the last of the three courts where we can see a renaissance balustrade feature. The last one is called trilingual courtyard because it hosted trilingual students in Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages during the period when the courtyard belonged to the College of St. Jerome. It actually provides access to the Student Inn and is adjacent to the famous university auditorium, where the Kings of Spain deliver annually the prestigious Cervantes Prize.

The auditorium room is well know for its beautifully decorated ceiling considerated one of the best works in the Spanish mudejar art that combines blue, red and gold on a complex mesh of equilateral triangles linked together to form hexagons and stars in which center wears a golden jewel.

The side of the room is dominated by a balcony where the thesis was readen and competitions were held by students.

Back outside and located on the east side of the facade of the University College we can see the Colegio Menor de San Pedro y San Pablo, school built in the late seventeenth century to complete the University complex. It features a brick facade toped by a sober square tower and a beautiful renaissance style courtyard inside with features beautiful arches and Tuscan columns.

Finally, located in the back of the complex and rehabilitated for over 80 years, the Hostería del Estudiante (Students Inn), actually belongs to the Parador de Alcalá de Henares and occupies the last annex of the university reserved for the Trilingual College. Inside it recreate the interior of a classic Castilian mansion farm where we actually can taste the typical Spanish food from the Golden Age.


Hosteria del estudiante facade.

Beaterio de Clarisas de San Diego.

The University building ticket costs 4 € and you can follow the guided tours scheduled between Monday and Friday at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18: 00 and 19:00 and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 11:00, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30, 13:00, 13:30, 14:00, 14:30, 17:00, 17:30, 18:00, 18:30, 19:00 and 19:30.

Very close to the university located in the northeast corner of the San Diego Square and adjacent to the Barracks of the Prince, we find the Beaterio de Clarisas de San Diego, founded in 1515 and which current premises date back from 1670. Inside the nuns make the famous sweets of Alcalá.

Its simple facade exalted by a tiny belfry that keeps a small size statue of San Diego de Alcalá proudly carries the Cisnerian shield and serve as background of the bronze statue of Archbishop Carrillo from 1987, performed by contemporary artist Santiago de Santiago.



Cervantes square


Next to the University Square we find the Plaza de Cervantes, which is considered the neuralgic center of the city from the sixteenth century. It was restructured during the nineteenth century when gained its current appearance and changed his old name from the Market Square to Cervantes square.

The square is dominated by the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, who raised on a pedestal in the center of the square holding a feather in the air.

The bronze statue was forged in 1879 by Italian sculptor Pedro Nicoli.

In the south side of the square we can see the bandstand, a typical element of the big squares of Spanish cities of late nineteenth century, and behind it, we see the ruins of the church of Santa María la Mayor which huge central nave was destroyed by fire in 1936.


Cervantes Square.

The church of Santa María la Mayor, which currently operates as an exhibition venue, only preserved the baroque chapel of Cristo de la Luz and the gothic chapel of the oidor, which holds the reconstruction of the baptismal font in which Miguel de Cervantes was baptized in 1547.


Town Hall.

Oidor and Cristo de la Luz chapels.

In the northern vertex of the ruins of the church we can see the belfry that one day belonged to the church and that today stand on a solitary verticality in front of the building of the City Hall.

The City Hall building was born as a convent school with a simple and highly functional architecture but the passing years and the change in its role transformed its appearance to the actual one as a result of the renovation works suffered during the nineteenth century which follow an eclectic style based on the combination of architectural elements from different eras and styles.

The Cristo de la Luz and Oidor chapels forms behind its walls a tiny alley called Callejon de Santa Maria where we find the old hospice of students, the Colegio de Santa Catalina, founded by Cardinal Cisneros to accommodate physical and metaphysical studies and in which interior there is a two-stage Castilian courtyard with Tuscan columns on the ground floor and railing on the upper floor, and finally the Colegio de Teólogos de la Madre de Dios, which severe aspect does not inhibit it of the possession of certain architectural features of harmonic beauty.

Returning to the Cervantes square, near the former hospice of students, we find the brick facade of the Casino de Contribuyentes, designed the Spanish architect Martin Pastells which was built in 1893 and serve as headquarters for Condueños Society. These society was founded in 1851 by citizens of Alcalá who donated their money to save the heritage of the city that was threatened by the crisis of the Alcalá institutions.

In front of the Casino and on the other side of the Cervantes square, we can visit the Corral de Comedias de Zapateros de Alcalá, an ancient theater which has the distinction of being the Spanish oldest documented open-air auditorium.

Its origins date back from 1601 when the city of Alcalá entrusted to built an open-air auditorium for the city in the Old Market Square to the carpenter Francisco Sanchez.

Its current appearance is an amalgam of constructive elements product of his background as a showroom begining as an open-air auditorium from 1785, becoming a coliseum, a romantic drama teathre from 1830 and finally a movie theater until the early 90.

Following the closure of the cinema the municipality has rehabilitated it for its historical value as barnyard comedy in 2003.


Casino de Contribuyentes.


Libreros Street


The Libreros Street, Booksellers Street, starts from the Cervantes Square northeast point and ends at the old gate of the city walls called de los Mártires or de Guadalajara and actually called Plaza de Cuatro Caños, Four Pipes Square, and where we find the Colegio Menor de Santa Catalina Mártir, founded in 1586 by order of Catalina de Mendoza y Cisneros.


Colegios de Santa Catalina y de la Compañía de Jesús.

The building was constructed during the seventeenth century and features a main dichromate facade painted in yellow and white colors following a design with some lines of the baroque style and structured in three heights with barred windows and stone sills to reinforce the jambs and the external corners.

Currently, besides the facade, we can see the courtyard and the original chapel with baroque dome and lantern spire, which actually houses a modern café.

Just in front of the Colegio Menor de Santa Catalina Martir we find the impressive building of the Colegio Máximo de la Compañía de Jesús which housed the lecture building of the Jesuit order.

Its current facade was built between the 1660s and 1690s to support a large building consisting of three stories high with large trellised windows along the walls.

The front ends in a sharp corner where the modern parts of the building starts. These modern parts are product of the extensive remodeling that were underwent in 1992 to fulfill its current role of law faculty for the University of Alcalá de Henares and it follow the ancient route of the defensive walls of the city with a large brick wall adorned with plaques bearing the names of great Spanish lawmakers.

Then, next to the law faculty and notable for its high baroque facade, we find the Santa María la Mayor Church, inspired by the Church of San Giacomo degli Incurabili in Rome.

The works of these magnificent church began in 1567 under the management of the Jesuit Bartolome de Bustamante and continued since 1602, after a long stop for lack of funds, managemened by Francisco de Mora who commissioned his nephew Juan Gómez de Mora to design the facade that maintains a two story scheme splited into three vertical sections separated by double corinthian columns. The facade is adorned with statues of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, all statues performed by the Portuguese sculptor Manuel Pereira. Finally, located over the side doors, there is two coats of arms of Mendoza family who funded the works.


Santa María la Mayor.

Domes of Santa María la Mayor.

The upper section of the church´s facade is topped by a triangular pediment flanked by stylized pyramidal pinnacles which hiddes the main tower that crowns the building and rests over a clasical four waters roof which cover the drum that forms the structure of the unique nave in the church.

In the late seventeenth century a new chapel with a beautiful dome, called Capilla de las Sagradas Formas, was added to the church in the western part of the religious complex.

Recently opened, a large square communicated with the Libreros Street through a narrow alley that runs along the walls of Santa Maria la Mayor and the Capilla de las Sagradas Formas, and allows his visitors to see the remains of the foundations belonging to the ancient walls of the city and also the garden of the discrete Colegio de Santa María de la Regla y de los Santos Justo y Pastor which main facade continues in Libreros Street near the Colegio de San Felipe y Santiago.

The Colegio de San Felipe y Santiago, attributed to Francisco de Mora, feature an exterior facade flanked by two flashy square towers separated by a prominent central balcony adorned with the royal shield which attests to its founding in 1551 by King Felipe II. The King originally allocated these units to train children of servants and court officials.





Mayor Street


La Calle Mayor, main street of the city, starts at the end of Libreros street and its arcades, which makes La Calle Mayor to be the longest colonnaded street in Europe, runs west to the Plaza de Los Santos Niños, where it finish.

The street emerged as commercial hub of the Jewish quarter during the twelfth century and its construction consists mainly in two story buildings designed to house the shops on the ground floor and the houses on the top floors. Today there is not to much remains of the Jewry, the modern architectural uniformity of the street is due to the development plan of 1848 that only respected few of the oldest buildings. Recently, part of the Jewish heritage of the city have been rescued by opening the passageway that provides access to the Ancient Synagogue from La Calle Mayor and signaling the simple facade of another old small synagogue located in nearby Santiago Street.


Ancient Synagogue courtyard.

Antezana Hospital.

Convento de Carmelitas Descalzas.

The most prominent building on the street is the Hospital de Antezana which possess a typical Castilian facade and that dazzles to his visitors for its beautiful courtyard and for its mudejar coffered ceilings that bear the beautiful baroque dome of the temple.

The Hospitalillo (little hospital), name given by its dimensions, was founded in 1483 according to the will of Luis de Antezana who wanted to destine its premises to the attention of poor patients, a role that continues to this day.

Next to the hospital we can visit the Casa de Cervantes, birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, which currently serves as the museum of the author of Don Quixote. The two floors of the house have been restored to the original appearance that it had during the sixteenth century.

The Imagen street starts from the corner of the Casa de Cervantes and between its buildings we can find the house where Don Manuel Azaña (President of the Spanish Republic) lived and the Convento de Carmelitas Descalzas de la Concepción, a medieval palace property of the Marquis of Lanzarote. The palace was converted into a convent in 1562 and actually shows a beautiful plateresque porch designed by Alonso de Covarrubias which is decorated with grotesque and fantastic lintels and crowned by a round back tympanum that carries the image of the Virgin.



Magisterial Cathedral de los Santos Niños


The origins of this church date from the Roman Hispania when in the year 414 a chapel was built to house the relics of the martyrs Justus and Pastor, two children executed by the Romans when they maintained their Christian faith during the persecutions that Christians suffered.

After the fall of the Roman Empire and during the Visigoth reign the chapel was converted into a cathedral and then destroyed by Muslims during periods of reconquest.

The cathedral was rebuilt again in the years 1122 and 1477, when it was raised to the status of collegiate by the archbishop of Toledo.

Finally the construction was sponsored by Cardinal Cisneros, who again raise its status to the Magisterial. The current building was designed to replace the ruined cathedral and was built between 1497 and 1514 by brothers Peter Gumiel and Egas who based his construction on the design of the Cathedral of Toledo.

Its main facade, built with stone blocks in elizabethan gothic style with renaissance features is dominated by a flamboyant gothic porch on which stands a trefoil arch that protects the medallion which represents San Ildefonso.


Magisterial Cathedral belfry.

Ermita de Santa Lucía.

The most prominent feature of the church is its beautiful tower, home of the famed storks of Alcalá and important historical symbol of the city.
Mostly renaissance style, the tower was built in three phases. The lower body was made by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, the central section was made by Argüello and the belfry, ended in a stylish slate spire, was completed in 1618 by Nicolas Vergara.

The church plan is that of a Latin cross divided into three naves all supported by ribbed gothic vaults which rests on big pillars that helps to create these empty feeling that the church shows because of it was devastated by a fire during the Spanish Civil War.

Opposite the church we can see the Ermita de Santa Lucía, which current building date from the seventeenth century and replace the old hermitage founded in the thirteenth century which was sometimes used as a Council. Actually it is considered as the first site of the municipality.



Archbishop's Palace and Bernardas Square



Main courtyard of the Archbishop's Palace.

Tower of Tenorio.

Alcalá, as part of the powerful dominion of the Archbishop of Toledo, needed a home for their important habitants so the Archbishop Don Ximenez de Rada ordered in 1209 the construction of the Archbishop's Palace as a mudejar fortress where a lot of important decisions for Spain was latter taken.

During the long history of this discreet palace it has served as a residence of the archbishops of Toledo from the thirteenth century to the nineteenth century, and it have been the place of birth of Catherine of Aragon and Ferdinand of Austria. It was also the place choosen for the first meeting between Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella in 1486 as well as various Castilian Parliament meetings.

The architectural style of the present palace is composed of an amalgam of styles result of an eventful history beginning in the thirteenth century with a fire and ending the same way in 1936, this last time the three quarters of the building was burned.

The surviving parts of the palace are the large councils hall nave, two of the defensive turrets of the palace and the defensive walls added to the complex after the enlargement conducted during thirteenth century by Archbishop Pedro Tenorio. Its actuall renaissance facade, designed by Alonso de Covarrubias, belonged to one of the courtyards of the building, which was installed during the sixteenth century when the most part of the Palace was rebuilt by order of Archbishop Fonseca.

At the right of Palace we find the Bernardas Square in which north corner we see the Monasterio Cisterciense de San Bernardo built in 1617 under the management of Juan Gómez de Mora with a simple baroque main facade built of brick and split horizontally in three sections.

The lower section has three doors which provide access to the main nave and two side chapels. The middle section contains a niche ending in a triangular pediment that keeps the statue of San Bernardo wearing a bronze crook and flanked by two rounded windows accompanied by the crests of Sandoval and two separate iron balconies.


Bernardas quare.

Oratorio de San Felipe Neri.

The upper section is topped by a triangular pediment decorated with the shield of Cardinal Sandoval and behind it we can see the elliptical dome that crowns the church.

Behind the dome the convent premises continue until the end of the street where we find the Puerta de San Bernardo, the last of the still standing gates of the wall.

Next to the Monasterio Cisterciense de San Bernardo and closing the square on the east side we can see the Colegio Convento de Dominicos de la Madre de Dios which now houses the regional archaeological museum and that highlights for its baroque facade and monumental cloister which nowadays serves as a resting place for the vestiges which came from the Roman city of Complutum.

A bit further forward on the south, in the tranquil Palace´s square we find the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, a baroque complex founded in 1694 by Don Martin de Bonilla y Echevarria characterized by being the only surviving male religious congregation in Alcalá.

Returning to the Archbishop's Palace, a large set of walls closes its plot of land by running between the Arco de San Bernardo, the Puerta de Madrid and the west wing of the palace.

The fortress consisted of 22 towers of which 16 survive today dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

La Puerta de Madrid was built in 1788 thanks to Cardinal Lorenzana archbishop in order to replace the old medieval gate that hindered the city's main access because of its narrowness and elbow-shaped plan.

Its neoclassical style has the appearance of a triumphal arch composed of three bodies with a central arch surrounded by the side paths that have two lower gates.


Puerta de Madrid.


Santiago Street


Starting from the Archbishop's Palace and parallel to Mayor Street, the Santiago Street runs to the east containing several historic buildings that have been transformed into simple houses converted into homes. Notable for its classical architecture we find the Colegio Menor de San Jerónimo placed in the corner with Nueva Street, the Casa de los López de la Flor, which now houses the Emergency Medical center of the city, the Casa del General Beigbeder and the schools of San Martín, Santa Emerenciana y Agustinos Descalzos de San Nicolás de Tolentino. The last one possess a beautiful dome perfectly restored from the sixteenth century.

At the corner of Santiago Street and Cervantes Street we find the elegant modernist facade of the Teatro Salón Cervantes, which adds some color to the sober building style of the downtown area.


Cervantes Theater.

San Nicolás de Tolentino.


Escritorios Street and Santa Úrsula Street


The Escritorios Street and Santa Úrsula Street start in the Plaza de los Santos Niños and end at the Capilla del Oidor located in the Cervantes Square. These ancient street through an area full of cloistered convents that start with the Convento de Agustinas de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, founded in 1580 and refuge for repentant prostitutes.

The religious complex church was designed by Fray Lorenzo de San Nicolás in 1672 who, inspired by the Church of the Incarnation in Madrid, installed a simple facade constructed of brick and stone and consisting in three horizontal sections that shows from bottom to top, the three access doors, the niche and the central oculus and the triangular pediment that crowns the facade. Behind it, a beautiful and slender octagonal base dome is toped with an elegant lantern which crowns the building.

In front of the monastery we find the Colegio de San Patricio which strengthens the international fame of the Complutum University from 1645 because it housed classrooms for Flandeses and Irish students of theology. Its beautiful colonnaded courtyard can be seen from the Irlandeses Square which connect Santa Úrsula with Mayor Street via the Ancient Synagogue.


"la Consolación".

Back in Santa Úrsula Street, next to the Colegio de San Patricio, we can see the vast edifice of the Colegio Convento de Carmelitas Calzados de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, which is composed by the church, with two discrete plateresque porchs and the Monastery which exterior walls are a clear example of Alcalá´s baroque classicism style.


Nuestra Señora del Carmen.

Convento de Santa Úrsula.

The complex is hardly punished by the passing of the years due mainly to the construction process, which has obvious signs that the structure has been substantially modified. It presents an unstable architecture that forced the demolition of the dome of the church during the seventies. The building is currently awaiting a neccesary restoration process to hold units of the University.

In front of the Colegio Convento de Carmelitas Calzados de Nuestra Señora del Carmen we can see the north facade of the Convento de Franciscanas Concepcionistas de Santa Úrsula noted for its renaissance porch of segmental arch between pilasters and topped by a triangular tympanum decorated with reliefs.

Inside, there are two beautiful plateresque courtyards and a sixteenth century church which nave retains the original mudejar coffered ceiling and which is accessed through a beautiful garden.

Opposite the monastery we can see the discreet restored facade of the Colegio de San Clemente Mártir which now wears a inappropriate pinkish color and has become a conventional commercial space.

Santa Úrsula Street ends in the Colegio de San Ciriaco y Santa Paula, one of the most monumental buildings of the historic university of Alcalá. The construction began in 1623 following the design of the unmistakable style of Juan Gomez de Mora.

Its facade rests on a white stone base of which height decreases gradually as the building enters into the Colegios Street in order to emphasize its perspective.

The corners of the building are finished by two square base towers topped in a stylish slate spire, and next to the base of the towers there are two big doors complete with semicircular balconies adorned with the crests of the founder's family.

The interior diagram design respond to the long history of the building that covers a broad spectrum of applications including college at the begining, barracks for the Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis Army, then artillery school, asylum, internship and finally again, university departments.


Colegio de San Ciriaco.

Inside of its courtyards we find the fountain of the lion's mouth, designed by Miguel de Arteaga. it is sayd that if a gentleman had been unfaithful and he put his hand into the lion's mouth he will lose his fingers.



Colegios Street


Colegios Street continues from Santa Úrsula Street to the ancient Aguadores Gate. Its first building, the Colegio de San Ciriaco y Santa Paula is alredy described in these guide and it is situated in front of the Oidor and Cristo de la Luz chapels. A bit further forward on the same side of the street we find the Real Colegio Convento de Agustinos Calzados de San Agustín which shows a brick facade and currently serves as the headquarters of the courts.

Next to it, and in front of the Students Inn, we can see the Colegio Convento de Santo Tomás de los Ángeles, and further forward the Colegio convento de San Basilio Magno, which was built in 1660 to accommodate the religious order of San Basilio Magno considered as the last founding of the Complutense University.

The most remarkable of the brick facade of this building is the porch of the church designed in late baroque style that has a door decorated with a circular lintel above the niche reserved for the figure of St. Basil which is surrounded by two circular windows . The church plan hex with radiating chapels crowned by a graceful dome is finished in a stylized lantern.


San Basilio Magno.

Convento del Corpus Christi.

Convento de San Cirilo.

With a brick facade of considerable size, the Colegio Convento de Santo Tomás de los Ángeles, above named, is now the site of the Parador Nacional de Alcalá de Henares, according to which has been fully restored so it is actually possible to enjoy its magnificent colonnaded cloister from seventeenth century.

Behind the Colegio de Santo Tomás we can see the discreet Colegio convento de Carmelitas Descalzos de San Cirilo, founded in 1570 and next to it, the former women's prison. On the other side of the Colegio de Santo Tomás we can find the massive building of the Cuarteles del Príncipe, and old barraks building that are next to the Ermita del Santo Cristo de los Doctrinos and the Convento de Carmelitas de Afuera o del Corpus Christi, which walls, together, forms a lovely square.





Victoria Street


If we walk the whole the Victoria Street starting from the Santos Niños Square the first interesting building that we find is the Colegio de Santas Justa y Rufina, which was built as palace for the Mendoza family during the sixteenth century and was opened as a college in 1607.

After the looting suffered by the French during the eighteenth century, the house was sold to Don Isidro Lizana in 1781 who used it as a residence until it was abandoned after 1860.

The actuall state of the Casa de los Lizana is the result of over a century of neglect coupled with the failed restoration processes that have wiped out most of its facade which currently only shows a magnificent plateresque porch that makes the building still a great monument.

This porch has a horizontal distribution divided in two sections: the first is occupied by a lintel door framed into thick granite stones decorated with stylized doric columns of granite stone while in the second section, also flanked by columns, features a small window beautifully decorated and accompanied by two large chained rampant lions. Under the window, a stone which contains the heraldic shield of the founders hangs and over it, a curved pediment contains two angels who carry a very degraded badge.


Porch of the Casa de los Lizana.

A bit further forward on the left, the Victoria street is widened for the square of the same name where we find the Colegio Convento de Mínimos de Santa Ana erected in 1614. These building seriously accused the reforms that made the building to serve as a hospital, a military pharmacy and finally as the economic faculty of the University of Alcalá receiving the necessary reform.



Trinidad Street



Santísima Trinidad.

Trinity Street start from the Cervantes Square in a southerly direction to immediately turn its way parallel to the Santa Ursula Streets.

At the begining of the street and next to the Colegio de San Ciriaco y Santa Paula we find the magnificent Colegio Convento de Trinitarios Descalzos de la Santísima Trinidad, which was founded by Juan Bautista de la Concepcion in 1601 and presents a beautiful baroque facade topped by a pediment and decorated with reliefs on the porch.

Its plan is a Latin cross and shows a magnificent dome over his cruiser, behind which stands the convent around a two floor courtyard.

The complex was transformed into a barracks during the eighteenth century and after after belonging to the cavalry finally its premises were occupied by the Military Command. The facilities have currently been incorporated into the University of Alcalá and after an effective restoration it is serving as the Center for American Studies.

Close to the Colegio Convento de Trinitarios Descalzos de la Santísima Trinidad we can see the Colegio convento de San José de la congregación de Clérigos Menores, founded in 1508 by San Francisco Caracciolo and installed in these units since 1604.

The main facade rest on a base of stone convined with some false architectural elements which helps to emphasize its perspective. Its beautiful church, built between the second half of the seventeenth and mid-eighteenth century, features a beautiful baroque facade built with brick covered with lime and polychrome sand plaster and dominated by a beautiful columnar porch ending in a niche where stands a statue of St. Joseph.

To the east of the Colegio convento de San José de la congregación de Clérigos Menores we finally find the Monasterio de las Franciscanas de Santa Clara which boasts of a unique church which brick facade enhanced for its unusual semicircular buttresses and the beautiful steeple that soars on the north face of the complex.


San José de la congregación de Clérigos Menores.

Once the Monasterio de Santa Clara is left behind , Trinidad Street is renamed as Cárcel Vieja Street (Old Jail) in honor of the Archbishop's small jail which is placed opposite to the typical Castilian Street of Santa Maria la Rica where we can see the stately homes of seventeenth century that actually houses the Seminarios Mayor y Menor Diocesanos.

Continuing to the east, we find the Empecinado Street where we can see the Convento de dominicas de Santa Catalina de Siena, completed in 1676 which presents a simple plateresque porch, and the Colegio convento de Mercedarios Descalzos de la Visitación de Nuestra Señora which has lost its original features throughout the years after having served as cavalry stallions deposit and that is missing the cover and other ornaments that it showed during its heyday as a college.

In front of what was the facade of the church we find the monument that pays tribute to the guerrilla leader Juan Martin el Empecinado, performed by Pedro Nicoli, who is also author of the statue of Cervantes that stands in the square of the same name.



Laredo Palace



Laredo Palace.

Completed in 1884, Laredo Palace is perhaps the most singular monument of the city because its architecture is not subject to any particular style but it includes many elements of all architectural variants.

Gothic, renaissance and modern architectural styles cover the neomudejar base of the building which was built through variables volumes including temples, minarets, towers, battlements, terraces, balconies, verandas and windows.

The building follows the particular design that the architect, painter and designer Manuel José de Laredo (who was also mayor of the city), mapped out to the palace which includes among its many archeological items from many different original as the vaults and columns Santorcaz Castle, coffered ceilings and domes from the Palace of the Counts of Tendilla in Guadalajara, the columns from the garden of the Jesuit Prison of Loranca or the tiles from the Monte Arabe Palace of Pedro I the Cruel.

Laredo Palace now serves as headquarters of the General Foundation of the University of Alcalá and Cervantin Studies Center.

Near the laredo Palace we can visit: on the west the Ermita de San Isidro which was built in 1650 and on the east we find the Hospital de San Nicolás built in 1540 with an elegant two-story facade and the Quinta de Cervantes, a small mansion that currently houses the headquarters of the council for environment








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Catedral-Magistral de Los Santos Niños Justo y Pastor Museum

Address: Calle del Empecinado 4.
Hours: Open Monday to Saturday between 10:00 and 13:00 and between 18:00 and 20:00 while on Sundays closes at 19:45.
Price per adult: 1€, tour 2,5 €.
Official website of the museum

The Cathedral Museum of Los Santos Niños Justo y Pastor is distributed among the chapterhouse and the foyer and inside we can observe the reconstructed tomb of Archbishop Carrillo and the chapterhouse which houses the treasure of gold objects, paintings, religious art and liturgical vestments.



Hippolytus House

Address: Avda de Madrid s/n.
Hours: Open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 14:00 while Saturday and Sunday is open between 10:00 and 14:00 and between 17:00 and 20:00.
Price per adult: Free.
Official website of the museum

During Roman times, the house of Hippolytus served as Youth College for the former city of Complutum. This causes the current archaeological site is especially attractive because all the structures documented in the building are related to the field of leisure.

The conversion of the ruins in a museum make the Hippolytus House in a wonderful place to understand the life in the village during Roman times and thanks to the installed gateways over the archaeological remains it is possible to enjoy their ranches, mosaics and paintings from a height standpoint.



San Bernardo Monastery Museum

Address: Plaza de las Bernardas, s/n.
Hours: Guided tours are held on Saturdays, Sundays and bankholidays at 12:30, 13:30, 17:45, 18:30, 19:15 and 20:00.
Price per adult: 2,5 €.

This museum allows to visit the magnificent interiors of the monastery and church of San Bernardo and offers a perfect synthesis of the Castilian baroque ideal.

The monastery museum offers available spaces in the galleries surrounding the temple which forms seven rooms in which ones you can enjoy the rich art legacy that the monastery has been holding for centuries.

The visit includes spaces reserved for closure as the kitchen or the austere cells where the nuns lived.



Regional Archaeological Museum

Address: Plaza de las Bernardas, s/n.
Hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday between 11:00 and 19:00 on Sundays and holidays closing at 15:00.
Price per adult: Free.
Virtual tour of the museum

The Regional Archaeological Museum of Madrid, located in the Colegio Convento de Dominicos de la Madre de Dios premises, offers visitors a permanent archaeological exhibition which follows a chronological journey which displays fossils and palaeontological objects from paleolithic, neolithic, bronze and iron ages as well as a large collection of Roman era items noted for its mosaics. The collection is supplemented with materials from the middle ages, modern and industrial eras.



Casa Natal de Cervantes Museum

Address: Calle Mayor, 48.
Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00.
Price per adult: Free.
Official website of the museum

The typical Castilian house of two plants located in the place where Miguel de Cervantes was born has been restored to its original appearance of a typical sixteenth century house and now houses the museum which exhibits editions of Don Quixote in various languages, a second edition of the first part of Don Quixote published in Lisbon in 1605 and other ancient copies of the author as las novelas ejemplares, La Galatea or Persiles.



Cisneriana Museum - Laredo Palace

Address: Paseo de la Estación, 10.
Hours:Guided tours are held on Mondays to Fridays at 11:00, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30, 13:00, 13:30, 16:30, 17:00, 17:30, 18:00, 18 : 30 and 19:00 and on Saturdays, Sundays and bankholidays at 11:00, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30, 13:00, 13:30, 16:30, 17:00, 17:30, 18:00, 18:30 and 19:00.
Price per adult: 2,5 €.
Official website of the museum

This unique building follows the particular design that the architect, painter and designer Manuel José de Laredo (who was also mayor of the city), mapped out to the palace which includes among its many archeological items from many different original as the vaults and columns Santorcaz Castle, coffered ceilings and domes from the Palace of the Counts of Tendilla in Guadalajara, the columns from the garden of the Jesuit Prison of Loranca or the tiles from the Monte Arabe Palace of Pedro I the Cruel.

Inside we can visit the Hall of Kings, which walls are decored with some figures of various kings of Castile and which dome represents the sky as it was conceived in the fourteenth century, surrounded by a circle that represents the 365 days of the year, months and the zodiacal signs.

The other rooms are decorated in various styles by completing the circuit with the Arab room, the mirror room or the coffered ceiling room.




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Alcalá de Henares is a very lively and bustling city and between its streets we can enjoy a place filled of nightlife and attractions.

There are many restaurants in downtown where you can enjoy typical Castilian dishes there is also an immense amount of outdoor terraces and tapas bars. The tapas bars have brought fame to the city of Alcalá as the possessor of the best tapas offer of the Province of Madrid and one of the best in the Spanish territory.

The area around the Mayor Street offer a greatest number of restaurants and tapas bars and a large number of bars and pubs to enjoy the Alcalá´s nightlife which can be considered as a mixure of students and international ambient. Closing time is around 3:00 AM and it is forbidden to drink alcohol for anyone under 18 years old.

The old town still retains some of the bars that occupied "la zona", located around the Cárcel Vieja streets and Santa Catalina Street, where a few years ago there was a tremendous amount of bars that have been little slightly displaced after the restoration of the area to the new nightlife areas located in the new neighborhood of La Garena, where now you can find a great choice of bars, pubs and clubs around the tiny skyscrapers which is built on the center of this entertainment area.

To get La Garena by public transport you can take bus line 11 on the Via Complutense, but you must keep in mind that the bus service only works between 7:00 and 24:00 during the weekends.

After the closing time, there are still open some big size bars on the shopping center located in the Val which closes about 6:00 AM and some clubs located in the industrial area of the Esgarabita where the greatest part of the youth of the town goes until dawn.




Gastronomy índice de guías imprimir versión imprimible castellano English


Alcalá possess a large number of renowned restaurants where you can enjoy the traditional Castilian cuisine which abounds in dishes for spoon like the garlic soup and the typical Castilian soup , vegetable dishes like ratatouille and especially the delicious roast meat and the popularized typical cocido, chickpea cooked with meat and vegetable.

Probably the better quality gastronomy in the city of Alcalá is offered by the establishments of the route known as mesons route, although it is well known that Alcala is famous for its culture of tapas.

Around the old town there are dozens of tapas bars in which the consumers receives a free food ration for each drink. Alcalá´s tapas are generous and varied and it is common to eat tapas while you are visiting the city, so it is not neccesary to have the lunch or even the dinner.

Moreover Alcalá is also famous for its pastries, a legacy of the monastic tradition of the town, and offers an important range of traditional cake and pastries shops that thrive thanks to the spectacular reception of the Alcala sweets among locals and tourists.

Alcala most typical sweets are the costrada, cooked with meringue, cream and puff pastry, the meringue cake, the sugared almonds, which preparation is traditionally carried out by the Poor Clares of San Diego de Alcala and the delicious donuts, characteristics by its cover honeyed orange sugar.


Delicious Alcalá´s donuts.



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The streets of Alcala teems culture, the "birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes " is the holder of the second oldest university in Spain which has facilitated the gestation of an own cultural character over the years.

Every 23th of April since 1974, the University becames the majestic place to deliver the prestigious Miguel de Cervantes International Awards which represent the most important literary award in the spanish language and which is delivered in the magnificent auditorium of the University of Alcala by the King Spain and the Minister of Culture.

Around this event the Book Fair is celebrated with a lot of stalls where new and used books are sold in the Los Santos Niños Square and Cervantes Square.

The Cervantes Theater and the Corral de Comedias de Zapateros de Alcalá are the central scenarios of the most part of the plays in the city and includes in its programs the Classic Festival in Alcala, which includes classic plays as Fuenteovejuna, La Estrella de Sevilla or Dream of a summer night.

The Film Festival of Alcalá de Henares, considered the most important of Spain in short movies, takes place during the month of November based on the Cervantes Theater.


Classic Festival in Alcala.

Film Festival of Alcalá de Henares.

The most important theatrical play in Alcala is carried out the first weekend of November when the city becames the stage for the immortal play of Jose Zorrilla's called Don Juan Tenorio. These play is annually played in the old town most beautiful places performed by major actors of proven class.

The city has many annual events including the famous Medieval Market which is celebrated around October 9th, date of birth of Cervantes, and which is famous for being the largest market with these features in Europe.

The Medieval Market is developed around the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, Cervantes Square, Mayor Street and the Archbishop's Palace, which spaces are decorated with medieval props and filled with hundreds of participants, who offer their products to several thousand visitors who come in every edition.

Other important events are the traditional Semana Santa de Alcalá de Henares, which has been declared Regional Tourist Interest Festival, the Vintage Car Rally Madrid-Alcalá which concludes at the Cervantes Square and takes place during the month of June and finally, the Jornadas Gastronómicas Cervantinas, a nice festival where tastings of typical food from the city during are offered during the Cervantes week.

At the end of August, over Saint Bartolome day, the city celebrates the feasts of Alcalá which fills the streets of the city for 9 days of engaging activities proposed by the council and the cultural associations of the city. During the festivities, next to the Spanish verbena and the rides, the fairgrounds hosts regional houses where you can enjoy the typical gastronomy of each region.

Finally, in November the Quevedo Graphic Humor Awards are delivered in the city and on 2nd of December, Alcalá commemorate the title of "World Heritage City" which was given to the city by UNESCO in 1998.




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Last update: February 2nd, 2010.