Alcalá de Henares, a short trip from Madrid—only 25 minutes by train— is a city rich in history and architecture. While Madrid was still a fledgeling town or even a hunting area for royalty, Alcalá was a prestigious and important centre.
Today Alcalá is oozing in quintessential charm. There are so many places to visit in this relatively small town that it will be difficult to see them all. If you have limited time you will have to choose what you want to see.
Top things to see in Alcalá de Henares:
Visit one of Europe oldest universities
One of Alcalá 's many claims to fame is its university which is one of the oldest in Europe. It began as a study institution in 1293. In 1499 expanded to become a university. Later the Complutense university branched off to become the university of Madrid and Alcalá became the University of Alcalá de Henares.
Get up close and personal with Don Quixote at the Cervantes museum: (Cervantes museo casa natal)
The Cervantes museum is the home where Miguel de Cervantes, renowned writer of Don Quixote, grew up. You will get a peek into life in the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum has a collection of furniture and artefacts from the time period, it also explains what daily life would have been like for the Cervantes family. The museum is in the heart of the old city centre. Outside the home are the statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza waiting to have their photos taken with you.
Take a walk down historic Calle Major (main street)
This is the main street throughout the old city section. Walking down the historic Calle Major will take you past Cervante’s museum and on to the Plaza de Cervantes. You will be able to enjoy a bit of shopping, take your pick of the tapas bars, or stop for a coffee and delectable pastry in one of the cafes on route. As Alcalá is a popular stop for tourists and locals alike you can also be entertained by the age old past-time of people watching. The streets of Alcalá are usually buzzing with people and events. If you happen to go when Alcala hosts one of its many attractions throughout the year you may find yourself elbowing your way through crowds.
The city centre, Plaza de Cervantes, is always buzzing with activity.
The Plaza is in the heart of the historic centre of Alcalá . It is the pulse of the town. In the spring and summer numerous concerts and outdoor activities are held in the plaza, it is the hub during the medieval fair in October and an ice rink in the winter. Even when there is no event going on, the plaza is usually buzzing with activity. Directly off of the plaza are numerous restaurants and tapas bars as well as unique shops. The university and Cathedral are both accessed from the plaza—not to mention the tourist centre.
Take a free tour through the Archaeological Museum
If you have more time to take in the culture of Alcala I also recommend that you visit the Archaeological Museum
This museum introduces you to the first cultures that stepped foot in the community of Madrid up until present time. There is a permanent exhibition as well as temporary exhibitions. The museum is free to visit and very worth a tour.
Web: Arqueological Museum
Plaza de las Bernardas s / n
28801 Alcalá de Henares (Madrid)
Phone: 91 879 66 66
Fax: 91 882 18 777
Take in a live show at the Comedy Coral Theatre
The Coral theatre is, as its name suggests, a live theatre. It was built in 1601 and added on to a number of times throughout history. However, in 1971 it was closed, abandoned and came very close to being demolished. Thankfully, in the 1980’s the Community of Madrid took and interest in the theatre and decided to restore it. The theatre is once again open and brings in many works throughout the year. Even if you aren’t able to go to a show, it is worth your time to go in and have a look. The theatre is located in the Plaza de Cervantes and the hosts will show you around the theatre if you request a visit (or will at least let you have a peak inside as long as they aren’t in the middle of a practis session).
Looking for more ideas on what to do in Alcalá? See this article on 48 hours in Alcalá de Henares.