ALCALA DE HENARES, SPAIN. About two weeks ago, I had a suggestion about a gastronomical journey through Alcalá de Henares. I would like to include more information on the activities and the type of the trip.
A trip to Alcalá de Henares requires some sight-seeing, some relaxing and a little bit of walking. For this reason, I would recommend visiting the place during spring or summer. While wintertime, especially in December, would allow you to see the large Christmas tree in the center of town, you will enjoy better walking along blooming trees.
If you do not have a Renfe abono, a train ride to Alcalá de Henares should cost you approximately $3.50 one way. The best stations in Madrid to catch one of the many trains that run between Alcalá and Madrid are Recoletos (about 40 minutes) or Atocha (about 35 minutes). While you might not see traditional Spanish villages or particularly breath-taking views, the train ride is pleasant and spacious. On a sunny day, as most days are in Spain, it is a fine train ride.
Closer to the side with the Cervantes statue, you will see the Universidad de Alcalá, with its beautifully-crafted buildings often topped with storks nests. I would suggest just walking through some of the buildings at the end of the Plaza Cervantes and seeing what the student life is like at the oldest university-town in Europe. Alcalá was the place where the concept of a town supporting a university or college was formed. The original university was titled Universidad de Complutense, but that has since moved to Madrid, and the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares has taken its place. While the University is comprised of various buildings that you can stroll in and out of, perhaps the most striking building is the one located in the Plaza de San Diego and called the College of San Ildefonso. Tours around this building can be scheduled by phone and will tell you about the history of the building, various tombs and religious sites of the building, along with a history of the architecture of the building.
After exploring the University, don’t forget to visit the main attraction in Alcalá, la Casa de Cervantes, a museum dedicated to Cervantes and his life in Alcalá. Built in 1956, the museum has all the information about Cervantes. El Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes is the main site in which you can learn about one of the most (arguably the most) famous Spanish writer. There are activities you can join during every single season, including ones specifically for Christmas, Carnaval, Semana Santa, etc. Tours can be formed either in groups or on the spot, so it is the tourist’s own choice.
While these are some of the main tourist sites in Alcalá, you could also consider a stroll around Plaza de Cervantes, Calle Mayor and Plaza de Santos Niños, where you will find a wide variety of shops and restaurants/tapas bars. The low buildings give Alcalá a charming feel, rife with history and teeming with student, tourist and traditional Spanish life.
Helpful links for planning your trip to Alcalá de Henares: