Few cities are as worthy to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage City (1998) as Alcala de Henares. A quarter of a century ago, a rector, Manuel Gala, put all his efforts into restoring the Renaissance campus of his University. Today inhabitants and visitors of the city enjoy an urban treasure. It is one of the nine Spanish heritage cities that UNESCO has classified as "unique". Although Alcalá de Henares has more than 200,000 inhabitants, wandering around its historic helmet gives the feeling of being in a beautiful town that has been transported to Renaissance and much more. It is only 31 km. from Madrid.
1. Go for a walk along Calle Mayor (where Cervantes, Cardinal Cisneros and the Romans walked ...)
The main street of Alcalá de Henares is quite a spectacle. See its people, small shops architecture of the arcades, houses ... Apart from being the backbone of the Old Town of the city. It starts in the Cervantes square and at the other end the Cathedral and near the Episcopal Palace. Leaving the birthplace of Cervantes, and the Antezana Hospital on the way. All this in a little walk.
You will be excited to know that this road (today Calle Mayor) was built around the 12th century, following the route of the Roman road Caesar Augusta that passed by "Complutum”(Name that the Romans gave to the city). It was also part of the old Jewish quarter of the city, and one of its main commercial hubs. In short, stepping on more than two thousand years of history. Those who want to know more about the Roman origins of the city can visit the House of Hippolytus, a museal archaeological site, part of the Roman city of Complutum and the resources in the Regional Archaeological Museum (see map at the end).
2. Enjoy the university atmosphere of the city
Indescribable but perceptible everywhere and always present. Not only in its magnificent buildings (we will detail later) but in the atmosphere in the streets, bars and throughout the city. Along with Salamanca, Alcalá de Henares is our other "Oxford and Cambridge"Strolling through its well-restored buildings and perceiving a movement that gives a genuine life to the city. Many of the cultural activities of the city (theater, cinema, guided tours, jazz, white night ...) are supported by the life and the university environment of Alcalá (see point 7).
3. Miguel de Cervantes and his city (birthplace, corral de comedias ...)
Alcalá de Henares is the city of Miguel de Cervantes. The whole city is impregnated around his birthplace (also a Museum) or the Plaza Cervantes (where the Theater - Corral de Comedias is located). The visible signs of the city's tribute to the most distinguished author of Spanish literature are present in the atmosphere that permeates everyone. Tourists and visitors often take a nice photo on a bench in front of their house where the souls of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza sit "perennially".
The birth house is from the 16th century (Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547). It has a beautiful courtyard with Renaissance columns. Inside there are interesting period furniture and one of the best collections of different editions of Don Quixote. He Corral de Comedias de Alcalá It is one of the oldest theaters in Europe dating back to its construction in 1601. Inside you can see the different transformations that the European theater has undergone, going from being an open space in a community of neighbors to the Italian staging of "Romantic coliseum" that became popular in the 19th century. Visiting the different rooms you can see the arrangement in which the men and women of the Spain of the Golden Age stood and many other things.
4. The extraordinary buildings of the University of Alcalá. Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso
A set of major and minor colleges dating from the Renaissance that contain important vestiges of the Modern Age for which UNESCO declared them a World Heritage Site. This heritage is one of our oldest universities and the historical base of the origin of the Madrid university. It was created by Cardinal Cisneros in 1499, unfortunately in 1836 its suppression was decreed in Alcalá and it was transferred to Madrid, where it was renamed the Central University. We would have to wait until 1977 for Alcalá to recover its University and tradition as a University City. To highlight the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso in the plaza of San Diego. Its facade is impressive. It is advisable to wander through the patios until you reach the Hospedería del Student (Restaurant - Parador).
5. Religious heritage: Archbishop's Palace, Cathedral and Convents.
He Archbishop's Palace of Alcalá de Henares It is another of the jewels of the monumental crown of Alcalá. An impressive and beautiful fortress that can be seen with a wide visual perspective. Its construction began in 1209. Numerous leading figures in the history of Spain have been born, lived and died there. It is currently the seat of the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares and is part of the set declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Magistral Cathedral of Alcalá de Henares it is together with the Church of San Pedro de Louvaina (Belgium), the only one in the world that has the title of "masterly". This implies that all its canons should be, since the time of Cisneros, professors at the University of Alcalá. Its construction belongs to the late Gothic. Its tower and the Renaissance cloister stand out. Inside are the remains of its founder, Cardinal Cisneros.
In the city convents, monasteries and hermitages abound. Not to miss Monasteries like the one in Saint Bernard of exceptional baroque, oratorios such as that of Saint Philip Neri, hermitages such as the Christ of the Doctrines… Lovers of religious heritage have many more resources widely reviewed in guides and publications.
6. Don Quixote's cuisine and Castilian gastronomy in Alcalá. The Student Hospice.
You can get to it through the University or through its exterior access in front of the Parador (which has another dining room). It is recommended to enter through the facade of the Colegio de San Ildelfonso, cross the courtyards and university premises until reaching it (school days). There taste some alkaline crumbs and the typical Castilian roasts (suckling lamb, suckling pig ...). By the way the Parador de Alcalá de Henares (former Convent of Santo Tomás) bordering is of modern construction and very attractive. With an excellent architecture that has made restoration and modern comforts compatible with a very interesting creative base (see Parador Alcalá de Henares Wikipedia). Interesting how something so interesting for the city has been built from the remains of a burned down prison and other heritage and historical resources. If you can't afford to eat at the Hospedería del Student, there are many other alternatives. For example the Route of the Tapas based on the traditional dishes of Alcalá.
7. Participate in some of these 11 activities related to the traditions, cultural and artistic life of the city
Practically every month you can follow something interesting in Alcalá de Henares. Throughout the year there are hundreds of traditions and celebrations linked to a very rich cultural and artistic life.
- Theater in Alcalá. Five theaters, with a permanent program and a large number of plays.
- Medieval market. Every October 9, the date of the birth of Cervantes, is the setting in which the Medieval Market takes place, according to what they say is the largest in Spain and the entire European continent.
- Night On White. more than 200 activities in a single day (a Saturday in June) with the participation of the entire city.
- Fairs and Festival of Alcalá de Henares (last week of August). Comparsa de Gigantes y Cabezudos, one of the largest in Spain, with more than 30 units, and one of the few Gargantua (Tragaldabas) that exist in Spain.
- “Cervantes Train”Sightseeing tours enlivened by actors, dressed in period costumes inspired by the Golden Age that take place during the spring and fall.
- Performing Arts Festival "Classics in Alcalá", during the months of June and July.
- Universijazz Alcala, in July.
- Alcalá Cathedral International Organ Festival, is celebrated during September and October.
- Don Juan in Alcalá. The representation of the Tenorio in the most beautiful areas of the historic center is, since 1984, a tradition that every All Saints' Eve brings together thousands of locals and visitors. Declared a Festival of Regional Tourist Interest in 2002.
- Alcalá Film Festival "Alcine" (November), short film competition started in 1970, showing the new films of independent cinema
- Anniversary of the Declaration of World Heritage City (December 2 of each year) this declaration is celebrated that in 1998 made Alcalá a world heritage site.
8. Las Cigüeñas and the patrimonial and natural landscape (+ a botanical park of 350 hectares)
Storks are part of the city's heritage. They form a magical symbiosis between nature and monumentality. According to the City Council, some 111 pairs of white storks nest in the most beautiful buildings in Alcalá de Henares. It is easy to see them in the sky almost all year round. they are almost part in their own right of the historical and natural heritage. The churches and towers of Alcalá are embellished with their storks. Natural resources have a relevant presence in Alcalá, also led by the University. He Royal Botanical Garden Juan Carlos I. It is an ambitious botanical garden project under development, which currently has an area of 44 hectares active, with an extension of 350 hectares at its culmination.
9. Select visit interesting Museums
Alcalá is a city in which there is always something interesting to discover. We could tasting achieve more than 100 cool things. Relevant museums, a monastery, hermitage, or manor house. To cite an example this would be your extraordinarymuseum offer.
- Cervantes Birthplace Museum (already mentioned) is a reconstruction of the building where the writer Miguel de Cervantes was born.
- Regional Archaeological Museum of the Community of Madrid. (Former Dominican convent, court ...) and court. Since 1999 very close to the Archbishop's Palace. See more Archaeological Museum of Alcalá de Henares.
- Open Air Sculpture MuseumFrancisco Baron. Two kilometers of route with sculptures in the middle of the street around the walls and the Puerta de Madrid and on the Via Complutense. The longest of its kind in Europe. Works by important artists such as Amadeo Gabino or José Lamiel. See more details about Francisco Barón Open Air Sculpture Museum.
- Cistercian Museum. Located in the Monastery of San Bernardo (worth a visit) in the Plaza de las Bernardas contains important works that were saved from the fire of the Archbishop's Palace. Extraordinary treasures.
- Cisneriano Museum. He Laredo Palace It is the headquarters of the Cisneriano Museum, a neo-Gothic-Mudejar building from 1884, located on the Paseo de la Estación. Due to its architectural originality and ornamental richness, it is a monument declared in the register of Assets of Cultural Interest of the Spanish heritage.
- Diocesan Museum of the Cathedral-MagistralThe tomb of Archbishop Carrillo, the Treasury (objects of religious goldsmithing, paintings, sumptuary art and liturgical vestments) and a monographic section dedicated to Santos Niños Justo and Pastor stand out.
- And there would be many more: Museum of the Church of San Juan de la Penitencia. San Felipe Neri Museum of Sacred Art. José Caballero Museum of Contemporary Art. Madrid Wine or Ampelographic Museum ...
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