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Alcalá de Henares travel guide.
Author: David Mora Diez.

April -2013

©Copyright: AllWorldGuides.
All Rights Reserved 2015.
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Alcalá de Henares is located just 30 miles northeast of Madrid. It is a mid-sized city which history has 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, whose streets preserve numerous churches and monasteries.

However, the magnificent Baroque buildings of the old town are not the only attractions of this city. Alcalá has achieved an irreplaceable top position in the ranking of the Madrid´s cuisine thanks to the large number of famed restaurants scattered throughout its vibrant historical city center, where we can enjoy the most traditional Spanish cuisine or also fantastic tapas in the hundreds of famous tapas bars that occupy every corner of the city.

The streets of Alcalá are also full of culture. The "Miguel de Cervante´s birthplace city" houses the second oldest university in Spain, which has provided the city´s own cultural nature over the years.



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 hab./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 at 587 meters above the sea level, Alcalá has a population of over 200.000 inhabitants which makes it one of the largest cities around the Spanish capital.

It is the capital of the region called Comarca or Tierra de Alcalá, which is composed by the areas of the Campiña de Alcalá and the Alcarrea de Alcalá and it belongs to the industrial hub of Corredor del Henares.

Alcalá de Henares has also a very long and rich history and it has been inhabited by the most part of all the cultures that ever settled in the Iberian Peninsula.

Due to this fact, its streets hide many beautiful monuments of great diversity, which made the UNESCO to include the city in the world heritage list in 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 the Muslims in 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.

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

The Crown of Castile assigned Alcalá to the Archbishop of Toledo as a war reward. It turned the city into an ecclesiastical lordship which enjoyed exclusive privileges by which Alcalá began to thrive as an emerging market shopping area. During this time the city population grew substantially.


Remnants of the fortress of Al-Qul'aya.

During the medieval period the city was home of Moors, Jews and Christians, who lived peacefully in harmony and prosperity. ç

As part of the powerful archbishops of Toledo, hte city began to expand its lands by building a new fortification along with the magnificent Archbishop's Palace, which served as residence of kings and archbishops in the city, and which was the place where Cristopher Columbus held its first meeting with Isabel I of Castile in order to finance his travel across the Atlantic Ocean to find a new route to get India surrounding the globe. The Palace was also the place where Princess Catalina of Aragon and the Emperor Fernando of Germany were born.

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


Archbishop's Palace in the late nineteenth century.

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 its 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 and making its population to be reduced more or less to its half. Alcala´s activities were then based basically on livestock and agriculture.

The Co-owners Society of Alcalá was founded during this dark period of the city. It was an organization composed of eminent citizens who contributed their money to save the heritage of the city, threatened by the crisis affecting institutions.

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.

Currently Alcalá de Henares remains as a leading industrial hub within the Province of Madrid and it is also well known as a prominent national cultural center and even international, thanks to the popular student exchange program led by its famous university.



  Weather.


Alcalá enjoys a typical continental climate characterized by the large difference between the temperatures of the winter and summer days. Like the general climate of the Iberian Peninsula, Alcalá is quite dry and sunny, which doesn’t mean that it never rains as during the spring and autumn we can always expect some showers on the city.

The city is situated about 580 meters above the sea level which emphasizes the extremity of the temperatures. During a hot summer the temperature easily reach 40°C during the days of July and August, while in winter the mercury can drop to 9°C in a sunny December day.

Summer nights are great, the average temperatures are around 18°C, which favors the proliferation of terraces at night in the streets and squares of the city, while in winter the nights can become harsh with frequent records below 0°C, especially during December, January and February, when it snows occasionally.

During spring and autumn the average temperatures reach 17ºC and drops 6 to 8 degrees at nights.

The seasons of Spring and fall are the most pleasant time to visit Alcalá but the heat of late July and August left the city almost deserted, which can be an advantage if we enjoy the peace.



 Information and Tourism Office in Alcalá 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 also 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.



 



 Bus.


Alcalá de Henares is connected with Madrid during 24 hours every days by the bus services of the line 223 operated by Continental Auto Buses Company. It links the station of Alcala, located in the surroundings of the historic Old Town with the Avenida de America station in Madrid, where we can interconnect with urban bus services, intercity bus services and the Madrid´s subway network.

The journey takes approximately 40 minutes and costs 3,25 €. During the peak hours there are up to 5 buses running per hour. The rest of the day there is two or three buses per hour and at night it departs one bus per hour.

guia de alcala Autobus


 Railway.


Alcalá has a railway station included in the C-7 and C-2 commuter train lines to Madrid which allow the travel from the city to Atocha Station in about 45 minutes. In Atocha Station we can access to the rest of the Province of Madrid train network and also to the subway system.

guia de alcala cercanías

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 3,30 €.

On Saturdays, except during the summer months, Renfe (Spanish national railways company) and the City 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.

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



 Madrid Barajas International Airport. MAD.


The Madrid Barajas International Airport is located in the Madrid district of Barajas, about 15 kilometers southeast of Alcalá de Henares. It is considered the fourth largest airport in Europe and the eleventh in the world with about 50 million of passengers per year of traffic..

Its four tracks serve nearly 70 airlines from more than 80 countries worldwide that operate regular flights between Madrid and the most part of capitals and major cities across the globe.

To manage such number of flights, the Madrid Barajas International Airport has 192 operational gates spread along its 4 terminal buildings. Car rental offices, hotels, parking and miscellaneous services are distributed around them.

The terminals are interconnected by a free bus service for passengers without boarding pass that connects the terminals T1, T2, T3 and T4, during 24 hours a day.

The bus frequency during the most part of the day is one bus each 5 minutes but it decreases from 23:00 to one bus each 20 minutes and from 1:50 to 6:30 it only passes one bus each 40 minutes.

madrid guide Check-in facilities in the new Barajas T-4.
Check-in facilities in the new Barajas T-4.

The T-4 has a satellite building attached to the main structure by an automatic underground train. It takes about 4 minutes to cover the distance between them and that works whenever flights are scheduled.

Official website of the Madrid Barajas International Airport

The airport is located between Madrid and Alcalá and is easily accessible by public transport. A new transit line connects the Corredor del Henares with the terminals 1 and 2 of the Madrid-Barajas airport. The enlargement of the line 824, which until now linked the airfield only with Torrejón de Ardoz, it also links with Alcalá de Henares nowadays.

The new service works with an interval of 30 minutes Monday to Friday, from 6:30 to 22:00, and with an interval of an hour on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, between 7:50 and 22: 30. The ticket price is 3.60 €.

The 223 bus stops at Canillejas, from where the bus service 101 reach Barajas in just 20 minutes for 1,5 €. The 223 operates 24 hours per day while the 101 runs between 6:00 and 23:45. You can also take a taxi for 35 to 40 €.



 



 Public transport.


The historic center of Alcalá is small in size and can be visited in just one or two days, so the city hasn´t any mass 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 from downtown to the suburbs.

The system operates from early morning until 23:00 and the single ticket costs 1,30 €. The ten trips voucher costs 8,5 € and can be purchased at tobacconists. Most night bus services are available every hour.

guia de alcala Autobus


 Bike.


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 in the city.

The city has 55 kilometers of bike lanes which were built in a hurry for any of the recent electoral campaigns, so in a lot of areas, especially where it has had to integrate with existing infrastructure, the lane is quite poor, but anyway, the system offer a great network of parking.

On the outskirts of the city, to the southeast, the Natural Park of Alcala de Henares has many mountain bike trails of different difficulties, perfect for the sportive use of bikes.

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.



 



Thanks to the longstanding history of Alcalá and especially to its legendary University, the city enjoys a superb architectural heritage. Its dozens of historic buildings includes a vast amount of great Castilian Baroque works, which give a special character to the so-called city of storks, made Alcalá to be worthy of the award of World Heritage Site.



 Visiting Alcalá.


Alcalá is not a huge city and the area of interest is reduced to the old town, so it can be easily visited over a day or two.

If we arrive by public transport to the city, either by train or by bus, the reference location to start the visit is the Plaza de Cervantes.

The square is 400 meters west of the bus station taking the Avenida de Guadalajara street and then the Libreros Street or 600 meters south of the railway station by the Paseo de la Estación.

Once in the square, we can enjoy the most emblematic monuments of the city as the nearby famous former building of the University. The Calle Mayor runs to the west plenty of nice tapas bars and restaurants where we can taste the great typical Castilian cuisine.

The Calle Mayor, the main street in the city, ends at the Plaza de los Santos Niños, where we can visit the Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace.

The Calle Santiago and Calle Santa Ursula, which run almost parallel at the north and at the south of the Calle Mayor are also full of monuments, specially the powerful convents of the seventeenth century´s Alcalá.

guia de alcala Cigueña

The description of places and monuments of this guide is classified according to the geographical location of the areas where the main monuments of the city are placed. We begin with the Old Town, which spreads over the area around the Plaza de Cervantes and the four east-west main streets of the Alcalá's historic center.

Then we will explore the most western boundaries of the historic city, which contains the most part of the ancient Christian Quarter of the city, when Alcala was inhabited by Moors, Christians and Jews.

To end the visit we will review the monuments located in Alcalá´s Eastern Enlargement of the seventeenth century. This is the most "modern" area of the historic old town of the city, which escaped to the historic areas of the medieval city.

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



 How to use this guide.


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

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, opening hours 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.
Railway station.



 The Castilian Baroque in Alcalá.


After the insturation of the Cultural Revolution in Alcalá during the fifteenth century thanks to the Cardinal Cisneros, who inaugurated the university, the city streets were gradually filled with new schools, monasteries and churches.

During the early stages of development and prosperity of the city the prevailing architectural style was the Renaissance, which best exponent in the city, without any doubt, are the grand facades and courtyards of the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso. The city and the university begun to grow exponentially since the seventeenth century, when Baroque art and architecture replaced the expensive Renaissance structures.

The emergence of this architectural style was due to the economic crisis that hung over Spain from the sixteenth century, when the end of Spanish hegemony in the world began. The new built buildings were less monumental than during the Renaissance and the materials used, such as brick, plaster or wood, were less expensive.

Thus, monasteries and schools, the largest Alcalá´s buildings that are preserved in the city, features immense and sober facades built by the mixture of mud walls and brick, and decorated with discreet decorative elements performed with stone. All very functional.

The College of San Ciriaco and Santa Paula is the most remarkable building of this kind in Alcalá. This sublime work is the masterpiece in the city of the famous architect Juan Gómez de Mora, who was able to create true works of architectural art using all these poor materials.

guia de alcala barroco

As for the temples there were essentially no changes. The walls were built by the mixture of brick and mud wall over stone plinths, while the facades acquired the utmost importance and included decorative cornices and numerous Greek Roman and twisted columns.

On the top, the hipped roofs were covered with tiles and joined to a central drum on which graceful domes made of light wooden structures were erected.

However inside they feature the completely opposite appearance of the walls that protect them. Normally there is a single plastered nave crowned by an encamonada dome, a false dome supported on a wooden frame and covered with plaster, which, given its lightness, facilitates its upport over the thinness walls.

On the most part of these plaster-covered surfaces there were profuse decorations painted in frescoes that sometimes simulated some of the architectural elements that were no longer used as windows or columns.

The main element of the nave is the main altar, built in huge wooden polychrome and gold structures on which there are profuse decorations embedded and interspersed between the niches where we find statues of saints and religious pictures.

Among the magnificent churches in Alcalá, Santa Maria, with an impressive stone facade, the Cistercian Monastery of San Bernardo and the Augustinian Convent of Our Lady of Consolation, both by Juan Gomez de Mora, are particularly remarkable.

 



 Old Town






 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.

guia de alcala Magnificent facade of Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso
Magnificent facade of Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso.

The magnificent facade of the building, loaded with iconographic elements, is designed in a mixture of Plateresque, Gothic and Renaissance styles.It 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 several windows framed with semicolumns and by a monumental porch decorated with a big Cisnerian coat of arms in the center, which focuses the central axe of this facade, considered one of the most important works of the Spanish Renaissance.

There are three large windows located in the middle section designed by Claudio de Arciniega, who bring some classicism style to the building by decorating their frames and columns with magnificent statues of Atlantis and Beefeaters.

Located to the right of the University facade we can see the Church of San Ildefonso, topped by a modest belfry which bear a huge nest of storks, the mistress of the skies of Alcalá.

The Church of San Ildefonso serves as the school chapel of the University headquarters and inside its premises we can visit the tombs of the Renaissance doctors 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 welcomes its visitors and honours to St. Thomas, the first saint who studied in the university. There is a nice well located in the center which is beautifully surrounded by the amazing three storey 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 access into the tranquil courtyard of the philosophers, which provides way to the last of the three courts, where we will find a magnificent Renaissance balustrade. 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. Today it 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 known for its beautifully decorated ceiling which is considerated one of the best works in the Spanish Mudejar art. It combines blue, red and gold colours on a complex mesh of equilateral triangles linked together to form hexagons and stars, in whose centers there are golden jewel embedded.

One of the sides of the room is dominated by a balcony where the thesis were read and competitions were held by students.

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

guia de alcala Hostería del Estudiante
Front of the Student Inn.

Finally, located at the back of the whole complex and rehabilitated since about 100 years ago, the Hostería del Estudiante (Students Inn) nowadays belongs to the Parador de Alcalá de Henares and occupies the last annex of the university reserved for the Trilingual College. Inside it recreates the interior of a classic Castilian mansion farm where we can taste the typical Spanish food from the Golden Age.

guia de alcala Beatario de Clarisas de San Diego
Beaterio de Clarisas de San Diego.

The University building ticket costs 4,5 € and there are guided tours scheduled Monday to 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 whose current premises date back from 1670. Inside, the nuns still prepares 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 coat of arms and serve as background for the bronze statue of Archbishop Carrillo, performed by contemporary artist Santiago de Santiago in 1987.



 Cervantes Square.


Located right next to the University Square, the bustling Plaza de Cervantes is the heart and the soul of the city since the sixteenth century, when the main market of the city was installed here.

During the nineteenth century the square was restructured and got its present appearance. The Market Square was then renamed Plaza de Cervantes. Today this is the place where the young people of Alcalá meet one each others to enjoy their leisure time among the popular tapas bars and shops which extends along the lovely arcaded buildings that surround it.

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

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

guia de alcala Plaza de cervantes
Plaza de Cervantes.

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 remains of the church of Santa María la Mayor, whose huge central nave was destroyed by fire in 1936.

The church of Santa María la Mayor, which is currently open as an exhibition venue, only preserves the Baroque chapel of Cristo de la Luz and the Gothic chapel of the oidor. Inside the last chapel there is a reconstruction of the baptismal font in which Miguel de Cervantes was baptized in 1547.

In the northern corner of the ruins of the church we can see the belfry that once belonged to the destroyed church and that today solitary in front of the building of the City Hall.

guia de alcala City Hall
City Hall.

The City Hall building was built as a convent-school with a simple and highly functional design but the passing of the years and the change of its numerous roles transformed its appearance to the actual eclectic style as a result of the renovation works suffered during the nineteenth century.

Back to the demolished church, the Cristo de la Luz and Oidor chapels form a tiny alley called Callejon de Santa Maria behind its walls. Here we find the old hospice of students and the Colegio de Santa Catalina, founded by Cardinal Cisneros to host the physical and metaphysical studies and in whose interior there is a two-storeys Castilian courtyard with Tuscan columns on the ground floor. Finally, in the corner of the alley we can see the Colegio de Teólogos de la Madre de Dios, whose facade´s severe aspect features certain of harmonic beauty.

Back again in the Cervantes square and next to the former hospice of students, we find the brick facade of the Casino de Contribuyentes, designed by the Spanish architect Martin Pastells. It was built in 1893 and serves as headquarters for the Co-Owners 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´s 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 is considered the oldest "theatrical courtyard" documented in Spain.

Its origins date back from 1601, when the Alcalá´s governors commissioned to the carpenter Francisco Sanchez to built an open-air auditorium for the city in the Old Market Square.

Its current appearance is an amalgam of constructive elements due to it operated as several kind of showroom during its long history. It was re-opened as an open-air auditorium in 1785, then it became a coliseum, a romantic drama theatre in 1830 and finally a movie theater until the early 90s.

Due to its historical value and after the final closure of the cinema, the City Hall has rehabilitated it in 2003 as the "theatrical courtyard" it was originally.

guia de alcala Casino de Contribuyentes
Casino de Contribuyentes.


 Escritorios Street and Santa Úrsula Street.


The Streets Santa Ursula and Escritorios, its continuation, start in the Oidor Chapel, located in the Plaza de Cervantes, and end at the Plaza de los Santos Niños, covering an historical area full of schools and convents. At the beginning of the street we see the silhouette of the College of San Ciriaco and Santa Paula, one of the most monumental buildings of the historical assets of the university of Alcalá and the masterpiece of the prolific architect Juan Gómez de Mora in Alcalá.

It features a typical Spanish Baroque facade which rests on a white stone base whose height decreases gradually as the building walls enter into the Colegios Street in order to emphasize its perspective.

guia de alcala Colegio de San Ciriaco y Santa Paula
Colegio de San Ciriaco y Santa Paula.

Both ends of the building are finished by two square base towers topped in a stylish slate spire which is crown at the Castilian way by a needle, cross, ball and weathervane. Next to the base of the towers into the two-storey facade, there are two big arched doors topped by balconies both adorned with the coat of arms of the founder's family.

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

Inside one of the courtyard we find the remarkable fountain of the lion's mouth, designed by Miguel de Arteaga. It is said that if a gentleman had been unfaithful with his couple and he put his hand into the lion's mouth he will lose his fingers.

Right in front of the college we find the ancient northern facade of the Concepcionistas Franciscan Convent of St. Ursula, a remarkable building for its robust tower and for its discrete Renaissance doorway featuring a segmental arch surrounded by pilasters and topped by a triangular tympanum decorated with reliefs.

Inside, there are two beautiful courtyards and a small Plateresque church from sixteenth century, whose nave keeps the original Mudejar style coffered ceilings and which is accessed through a beautiful garden.

Just in front of the convent, on the other side of the street, we can have a look at the restored discrete facade of the College of San Clemente Martyr, which currently shows an inappropriate pinkish color and has become a conventional retail space.

Beside the small college we find the sturdy structure of the Carmelite Convent Colleague of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, which is composed of the church, featuring two discrete Plateresque entrances, and of the convent, whose exterior walls are a clear example of the Castilian Baroque classicism.

The convent has been hardly damaged by the passing of the years, mainly due to a structural mistake during the construction, when the design was unexpectedly modified at the drop of a hat. Finally the walls instability led to the demolition of the dome of the church during the years seventies. It has now been restored and refurbished to house offices of the University.

Westward, on the opposite side of the street, we find the beautiful silhouette of the Augustinian Convent of Our Lady of Consolation, founded in 1580 to host repentant prostitutes.

The church of the convent was designed by Fray Lorenzo de San Nicolás in 1672 who, inspired by the Madrid´s Church of the Incarnation, designed a simple facade built with brick and adorned with stone motifs. The front face consists of three horizontal sections showing, from bottom to top, the typical three entrance gates, a niche, and a triangular pediment with central oculus which tops the facade. Behind it, there is a beautiful slender octagonal dome topped by an elegant lantern.

guia de alcala Convento de Agustinas de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación
Augustinian Convent of Our Lady of Consolation.

In front of the convent, at the other side of the street we find the Colegio de San Patricio, another historical college which strengthens the international fame of the Alcalá´s University since 1645, when it housed the classrooms for Flandeses and Irish students of theology. Its beautiful colonnaded courtyard can be seen from the Irlandeses Square, which connect Santa Úrsula street with Mayor Street via the Ancient Synagogue.

At its western end, the Santa Úrsula street concludes very close to Mayor Street, separated from the main street only by a cluster of nice arcaded houses built in the late nineteenth century.



 Trinidad Street.


Trinity Street starts in the Cervantes Square southward to immediately turn its direction parallel to the Santa Ursula Street.

guia de alcala Colegio Convento de Trinitarios Descalzos de la Santísima Trinidad
Colegio Convento de Trinitarios Descalzos de la Santísima Trinidad.

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 its transcept. At the back the convent is built around a two floor courtyard.

The complex was transformed into barracks during the eighteenth century´s Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal, and after this it belonged to the cavalry but 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 now as the Center for American Studies.

Right next 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 building 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 century and mid-eighteenth century, features a beautiful baroque facade built with brick covered with lime and polychrome sand plaster. It is dominated by a beautiful columnar porch topped by a niche where stands a statue of St. Joseph.

After the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal the building was transfered to the military, however, despite its size, it was never actually occupied. Finally, after decades of neglect, the buildings were transferred to the University of Alcalá, who restored and enlarged the convent to house the Public Library, Documentation Centre and the Municipal Archives.

The church was beautifully restored and now it serves as a concert and exhibition hall.

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 a unique church whose brick facade is enhanced by unusual semicircular buttresses.

At the top of the complex there is a tower that crowns the building. The dome rests on the pitched roof that forms the top of the structure of the nave and that seems to be hiden behind a unique steeple which elevates on the north side of the church.

Westward and 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 seventeenth century stately homes that actually houses the Seminarios Mayor y Menor Diocesanos (Diocesan seminaries).

guia de alcala Colegio convento de San José de la congregación de Clérigos Menores
Colegio convento de San José de la congregación de Clérigos Menores.

Continuing to the east we arrive to the Empecinado Street, where we can see the simple Plateresque porch of the Convento de dominicas de Santa Catalina de Siena, completed in 1676.

At the south end of this street, the Colegio convento de Mercedarios Descalzos de la Visitación de Nuestra Señora has almost lost its original features throughout the years after having served as cavalry stallions deposit. The front facade and other ornaments that it showed during its heyday as a college are missing.

In front of what it 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.



 Mayor Street.


If Cervantes Square is the heart of the city, la Calle Mayor is its main artery. The shops, bars and restaurants succeed one each other under the picturesque arcades that make this street the longest colonnaded street of Europe. Westward, la Calle Mayor ends at the Plaza de Los Santos Niños.

The street emerged as commercial hub of the Jewish quarter during the twelfth century and its construction consisted mainly in two-storey buildings designed to house the shops on the ground level and the houses on the top floors.

Today there is not to much remains of the Jewry and 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 also by the proper signposting of the simple facade of another old small synagogue located in nearby Santiago Street.

guia de alcala Corral de la Sinagoga
Ancient Synagogue.

The most prominent building on the street is the Hospital de Antezana, which possess a typical Castilian facade and that dazzles to its visitors for its beautiful courtyard and for its amazing Mudejar style coffered ceilings.

The Hospitalillo (little hospital), name given due to 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 perfectly restored to the original appearance that it had during the sixteenth century.

guia de alcala Calle Mayor Hospital de Antezana
Hospital de Antezana.

The Imagen street starts in the corner of the Casa de Cervantes and among 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 nowadays it shows a beautiful Plateresque porch by Alonso de Covarrubias decorated with grotesque and fantastic lintels and crowned by a round back tympanum decorated with the image of the Virgin.

Close to its western end, the Mayor street ends in a distinctly classical area formed by the Calle Nueva and Calle San Felipe Neri, which nice buildings were built between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Finally we reach the end in the Plaza de los Santos Niños, where we find the magnificent Magistral Cathedral of the city.



 Santiago Street.


The Santiago Street is the most modern of the four main east-west streets of the Old Town of Alcalá. It starts in the Tinte Street, a few meters north of the Plaza de Cervantes, and at the beginning there are some two and three-storey residential houses from the late eighteenth century. It run westward without much glory until it meets the facade of the church of the Convento de las Juanas, which seems to be hidden in a discreet outdoor patio overlooking the street.

This magnificent seventeenth century convent was originally built as Colegio Convento de los Agustinos Descalzos de San Nicolás de Tolentino in 1616 but it passed to private hands thanks to the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of the nineteenth century. The first private use of the convent was to host the first bullring in the city but finally in 1884, the Juanas nuns settled in the building.

The main attraction of the complex is its church featuring Latin cross plan topped by a huge beautiful dome. The dome has been recently rebuilt using the same techniques that were applied by the masons at the time of its construction.

Next, the Colegio de San Martín and Santa Emerenciana´s walls has recently been totally ruined during the last disastrous restoration carried out on the building and today it seems whatever else.

guia de alcala Cervantes Theatre
Cervantes Theatre.

Just in front, located on the corner between the Calle Santiago and Calle Cervantes, we find the elegant Teatro Salón Cervantes, whose modernist style facade adds colorful strokes to this sober area of the city center.

Finally the last section of the street runs westward till the Archbishop's Palace featuring several historic buildings which has turned into simple homes during the pass of the years.

The Colegio Menor de San Jerónimo, located in the corner of the Calle Nueva, the House of López de la Flor, which now houses the First Aid Hospital, or the House of General Beigbeder and the colleges of San Martin and Santa Emerenciana, are specially remarkable for their classical architecture.



guia de alcala Alcala map


 



 Christian Quarter




 Saints Justus and Pastor Cathedral.


The origins of this church dates back from the Roman Hispania, when in the year 414 a small chapel was built to house the relics of the martyrs Justus and Pastor, two children executed by the Romans when they kept 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 the periods of reconquest.

The old Cathedral was rebuilt again in the year 1122 and again in 1477, when it also acquired the status of Collegiate at the request of the archbishop of Toledo.

Finally the last reconstruction was sponsored by Cardinal Cisneros, who gave the Collegiate-Cathedral its new status of Magisterial-Cathedral. The current building was designed to replace the ruined cathedral and was built between 1497 and 1514 by Pedro Gumiel and Egas brothers, who based their 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 we can see a trefoil arch that protects the medallion which represents San Ildefonso.

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.

guia de alcala Catedral Magistral
Magisterial-Cathedral bell tower.

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.

Facing 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.



 Victoria Street.


guia de alcala Ermita de Santa Lucía
Hermitage of Santa Lucia.

This small pedestrian street is always busy. The students cross it daily, both during school hours, and in the afternoon to take some tapas or at night to have a drink.

The street is also perfect for all people living in the western neighborhoods of the city because this is the most direct street to access the Old Town from the west.

Starting from the Plaza de los Santos Niños, we first find the Hermitage of Santa Lucia and somewhat later, on the other side of the street, the College of Saints Justa and Rufina, which was built as a palace for the Mendoza family during the sixteenth century and was re-opened as a junior college in 1607.

After ceasing its function for college, the house was sold to Don Isidro Lizana in 1781, who used it as the family residence until it was abandoned on 1860.

Since then and for many years the House of Lizana suffered more than a century of neglect in addition of several failed restoration attempts which have ended with the destruction of the most part of its facade. Currently only the magnificent Plateresque porch makes the building a monument for the city.

This porch has a horizontal distribution divided in two sections. The first is occupied by a flat door framed by thick granite stones adorned with stylized granite stone Doric columns. The second section, also flanked by columns, features a small window beautifully decorated and accompanied by two large rampant lions tied with chains.

The coat of arms of the founders hangs under the window, and over it, crowning the whole, a curved pediment houses two angels carrying a very degraded crest.

In 2010 the building has been fully restored following the original distribution of the complex, built around two yards with two floors and a basement.

It currently houses the departments of Economic Development, Employment and Trade of the city.

Walking along Victoria Street westward, the road widens to make room for the nice square of the same name, where several terraces stay open late during the summer evenings.

On the north side of the square, it appears to us the main facade of the Colegio Convento de Mínimos de Santa Ana, whose walls, erected in 1614, accused severely the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal and subsequent reforms that leaded the building to serve as a military hospital and pharmacy, to finally, after receive the necessary reform, as faculty of Economics of the University of Alcalá.

Victoria street ends at Calle Postigo, where we found a picturesque manor house right opposite to the impressive brick facade of the new premises of the Faculty of Economics.

guia de alcala Casa de los Lizana
Porch of the House of Lizana.


 Madrid´s Gate and medieval walls.


guia de alcala Puerta de Madrid
Puerta de Madrid.

In the limits of the Old Town, about one hundred meters away from Victoria Street, there is a triangular square of ground where a gate in the wall was once located, which provided access to the traditional route linking Alcala with Madrid.

The structure we see today replaced the narrow medieval gate in the eighteenth century.

It was erected in 1788 at the expense of Cardinal Lorenzana, archbishop of Toledo, under the direction of architect Antonio Jordan, who projected a neoclassical structure, widely used at the time.

It presents the appearance of a triumphal arch and consists of three bodies of which the center arch is emphasized by a triangular pediment on the top.

There are lateral lower entrances with lintels topped by ornamental balls on both sides.

The gate was left alone in the nineteenth century, when it was decided to demolish the dilapidated and old fortress whose walls only complicated the passage of people and goods to the city at that time. The current remains of the wall correspond only to the Archbishop's Palace grounds.

Next to the Gate of Madrid we can see the robust figure of the south tower of the remaining walls, dating from Archbishop Pedro Tenorio (1377-1399) time, when the early palace walls were repaired and expanded. The defensive complex had 22 towers, of which 16 still remain.

As a general rule each tower has a stone base from which it rises the boxes made by overlapping masonry mud between two bands of brick, typical in Moorish architecture. On the top of the structure there are two decorative brick bands that break the monotony of the structure.

As a tribute to the reforms carried out by Archbishop Tenorio, his coat of arms was placed in two of the towers located in the current Cardenal Sandoval y Rojas Street, and a third one, located on the grounds of the palace and near the Plaza de las Bernardas, has been named with his name as Tenorio Tower.

guia de alcala Wall towers
Wall towers.


 Archbishop's Palace.


guia de alcala Archbishop's Palace
Archbishop's Palace.

Alcalá, as part of the powerful dominion of the Archbishop of Toledo, needed a home for its important rulers so the Archbishop Don Ximenez de Rada ordered in 1209 the construction of the Archbishop's Palace as a Mudejar style fortress where a lot of important decisions for Spain were 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 Aragón and Ferdinand of Austria. It was also the place choosen for the first meeting carried out 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 which began in the thirteenth century with a fire and ended the same way in 1936.

This very last time the three quarters of the building were burned.

The remaining 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 front 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.



 Bernardas Square.


To the right of the palace we find the pleasant Bernardas Square in which north corner it stands the Monasterio Cisterciense de San Bernardo. It was built in 1617 under the management of Juan Gómez de Mora with a simple Baroque main facade built of brick and horizontally divided in three sections.

The lower section has three doors which provide access to the main nave and the two side chapels. The middle section contains a niche topped by a triangular pediment that keeps the statue of San Bernardo carrying a bronze staff. The saint is flanked by two rounded windows accompanied by the coat of arms of Sandoval and two separate iron balconies.

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

The convent premises continue behind the dome until the end of the street, where we find the Puerta de San Bernardo, the last one of the still standing gates of the ancient 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.

This building is remarkable for its Baroque facade and the monumental cloister inside, which nowadays serves as a resting place for the vestiges which came from the Roman city of Complutum.

guia de alcala Monasterio Cisterciense de San Bernardo
Monasterio Cisterciense de San Bernardo.

A bit further forward on the south, in the tranquil Palace´s square we find the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, a tiny charming Baroque complex founded in 1694 by Don Martin de Bonilla y Echevarria and remarkable because it is the only surviving male religious congregation in Alcalá after the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal.



guia de alcala Alcala map


 



 Eastern Enlargement




 Libreros Street.


Back in the heart of the city, the Calle Libreros starts from the Plaza de Cervantes northeastward to end at the old gate of Martyrs, today known as the Plaza de Cuatro Caños since 1949, when the fountain Cuatro Caños was moved from the Plaza de San Diego here.

Here we find the Colegio Menor de Santa Catalina Martir, whose main facade gets attention for its bright white and yellow colors. Its design follows the traces of the Baroque style and is structured in three heights with barred windows and stone blocks which reinforce jambs and outside corners.

guia de alcala Colegio de Sante Catalina y de la compañia de Jesus
Colegios de Santa Catalina y de la Compañía de Jesús.

Nowadays, besides the main facade, we can also visit the courtyard and the original chapel with Baroque dome and lantern spire, which has today been transformed into a charming coffee shop.

The huge structure of the Colegio Máximo de la Compañía de Jesús stands just in front of the college. It housed the classrooms for the powerful Jesuit order in the city. Its current facade was built between 1660 and 1690 to support a large three stories high building featuring notable large barred windows.

The facade terminates in a pronounced chamfer, where the new building has been added during the extensive remodeling of 1992 to fulfill its current role as law school at the University of Alcalá de Henares. The new premises walls follow the old route of the ancient defensive wall of the city by a large brick wall adorned with commemorative plaques with the name of important Spanish legislators.

Next, toward the Plaza de Cervantes, and well known for its huge Baroque facade, the Santa Maria church design is inspired by the Church of San Giacomo degli Incurabili in Rome.

The construction of the church began in 1567 under the management of the Jesuit Bartolome Bustamante and continued since 1602, after a long stop due to budget troubles, supervised by Francisco de Mora who commissioned his nephew Juan Gomez de Mora to design the facade. It is two floors high, divided into three vertical sections separated by double Corinthian columns.

The facade is adorned with the statues of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, work of the Portuguese sculptor Manuel Pereira and also with the coats of arms of the Mendoza, who financed the works, located over the side doors.

The upper section is topped by a triangular pediment flanked by stylized pyramidal pinnacles which hides the tower that crowns the building behind. The tower rests on the hip roof covering the drum that forms the structure of its single nave.

At the end of the seventeenth century the Chapel of Sacred Forms was added to the church. This building is specially remarkable for its beautiful dome located in the western part of the religious complex.

A large square has been recently opened which communicates with the Calle Libreros through a narrow alley that runs along the walls of Santa Maria and of the Chapel of Sacred Forms. Here we can see the remains of the foundations belonging to the ancient walls of the city and the garden of yhe discrete Colegio de Santa María de la Regla y de los Santos Justo y Pastor, whose main facade continues westwards along the Calle Libreros next to the Colegio de San Felipe y Santiago.

guia de alcala Capilla de las Sagradas Formas
Domes of Santa María.

The last one mentioned, whose design is attributed to Francisco de Mora, features an exterior facade flanked by two square towers in the center of which there is a prominent central balcony adorned with the royal coat of arms that attests its founding in 1551 by the Emperor Felipe II. The Emperor originally commissioned this school to the formation of children of the royal servants and the Court officials.



 The University Hospital of San Lucas y San Nicolás.


At the end of the Calle del Tinte, where during the sixteenth century the north city limits were located, we find the imposing neoclassical facade of the former Hospital Universitario de San Lucas y San Nicolas.

guia de alcala Hospital universitario de San Lucas y San Nicolás
Hospital universitario de San Lucas y San Nicolás.

Its present appearance is due to the last remodeling carried out by order of the Marquis de Morante, who bought the property in the mid-nineteenth century after its confiscation, but the original structure dates from 1513, when Cardinal Cisneros ordered the construction of a hospital for students to help sick and poor people.

The original building had a small church facing the square, headed by a simple masonry facade framed between two pillars on which a beautiful frieze and cornice were hoisted.

All that decorative elements are surely the same that the Marquis de Morante ordered to reuse for the new main entrance of his neoclassical palace.

Behind the building there is a small garden that seems lost in the vast esplanade that covers a new underground parking.

The works for the parking construction allowed the city council to "uncover" two ancient alleys that links with the Calle Libreros and also to show some of the remains of the old city walls previously hidden behind the walls of the palace´s garden.

On the opposite side of the Via Complutense, the main artery of the city, we can take a little break in the peaceful garden of the Quinta de Cervantes, a small eighteenth century palace that now houses the headquarters of the Department of Environment of the city.



 Laredo Palace.


Completed in 1884, the 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.

Mixing Gothic, Renaissance and Modernist styles on a Neomudéjar base, the palace was built by arranging variable volumes that include temples, minarets, towers, battlements, terraces, balconies and windows.

This opulent palace follows the peculiar design of the architect, painter and designer Manuel José de Laredo, who was also mayor of the city.

Inside, there are some antiquities bilt in that includes several very diverse originals such as the vaults and columns from Santorcaz Castle, the coffered ceilings and domes of the Palace of the Counts of Tendilla of Guadalajara, some garden columns from the Jesuit Prison of Monte Loranca or the tiles from the Arab Palace of Pedro I the Cruel.

Among its rooms we can visit the Hall of Kings, whose walls are decorated with the figures of various kings of Castile and whose vault represents the sky as conceived in the fourteenth century, surrounded by a circle which indicates the 365 days of the year, months and zodiacal signs.

The rest of the rooms are decorated in different styles completing the circuit with the Arab room, mirror room or the coffered ceiling room.

guia de alcala Palacio Laredo
Palacio Laredo.

Currently the Palacio Laredo serves as headquarters for the General Foundation of the University of Alcalá and Cervantes Studies Center.



 San Isidro hermitage.


guia de alcala Ermita de San Isidro
Ermita de San Isidro.

Very near to the Laredo Palace, a mere 120 meters to the east, we find the peaceful park of San Isidro, where the hermitage of San Isidro is erected since 1650.

Inside the most remarkable feature is the fantastic altarpiece performed by Manuel José de Laredo, the designer of extravagant palace from which we come.

The trompe l'oeil figure by Laredo replaces the original Baroque altarpiece, which was sadly destroyed by the French troops during the sack of the city.

Apart of this historical curiosity, the shrine is well known for its status as a representative work of Madrid Baroque building.

It features a Greek cross plan and is built on brick and mud drawers with gypsum plaster inside.



guia de alcala Alcala map




 Parador Nacional.


Very close to the Plaza de Cervantes, about 150 meters east along the Calle Colegios, we will see the Colegio Convento de Dominicos de Santo Tomás de Aquino, located in front of the Inn of Students. It was founded by the Dean Don Carlos de Mendoza to provide the leading University of Alcalá with a school of Dominican monks.

The history of this building of high architectural value is very similar to the most part of the colleges and convents of the city: confiscation, transfer to the military and finally civilian use. In this case the last use of the college has been as a prison until it was closed due to the construction of the modern prison in Alcalá-Meco.

After the closure of the prison the building fell into disuse for a prolonged period of time. The complex was composed of the church, the cloister and the garden, where some linear buildings were added in the late nineteenth century, when the College of St. Thomas was a military barracks. This significant amount of infrastructure and the historical value of the building made the college the right place for the opening of a new National Inn in the city, recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The new building is simply brilliant. It integrates all the historical elements, carefully preserved, with new modern design structures erected with wood, steel and glass, in a delightful contrast complex.

The most innovative element was the architectural solution found to respect the external appearance of the complex. The building structures which houses the rooms could not exceed the height of the exterior walls of the orchard and gardens so a new garden was rose to the level of the limit of the walls, and the rooms were built on two floors down, opening landscaped wells in a cross shape that let pass the natural light.

The ancient cloister skipped all the transformations done when the building was used as a prison and once restored, it is now the heart of the hotel, especially during summer, when we can enjoy the breakfast in a charming terrace located between its columns.

guia de alcala Jardín tallado del Parador
The new risen garden of the Parador.

The Hotel prices are quite high, but if we want to take a look at the magnificent restoration, we can always drink something in the cafeteria.

At the Parador´s back we find the discreet Colegio convento de Carmelitas Descalzos de San Cirilo, founded in 1570, and the ruins of the former women's prison, while in front of the main facade, the huge building of Lepanto Barracks is still currently waiting for a new use.



 Aguadores.


At the eastern end of the Calle Colegios, the limits of the historic city of Alcalá are reached in the Aguadores Square, where today there is fountain dedicated to those people who sold and distributed water among the population of the cities before installing the current water systems.

guia de alcala Plaza de Doctrinos
Plaza de Doctrinos.

Facing the statue of the water-sellers, the immense walls of the orchards and gardens of the Convento de Carmelitas Descalzas del Corpus Christi continues down the street westward till the pleasant Doctrinos Square, which overlooks the entrance portico to the church of the convent. It consist of a semicircular arch flanked by pilasters and crowned by a simple frieze triglifo.

Next to the convent, the tiny Hermitage of Santo Cristo de los Doctrinos gracefully closes the square on its west side.

In this pacefull area of the Old Town there also are the more distant colleges in the city: the Colegio convento de Trinitarios Calzados de la Santísima Trinidad, currently used as a nursing home and in front of its sober facade, the Colegio convento de San Basilio Magno, built in 1660 to accommodate the religious order. This one was the last university foundation built in the city.

The main structure of the brick facade of the building is the late Baroque style church, which shows an ornate porch with a circular lintel which precedes the niche reserved for the figure of St. Basil, surrounded by two rounded windows. The plan of the church is hexagonal with radial chapels and is crowned by a large dome finished in a graceful lantern.



guia de alcala Alcala map




 



 Saints Justus and Pastor Cathedral Museum.


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

Opened after the restoration of the cloister of the church, the Museum of the Saints Justus and Pastor Cathedral is distributed among the Chapterhouse foyer, where we can see the reconstructed tomb of Archbishop Carrillo, and the Chapter itself, which houses the church treasure consisting 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. On Saturday and Sunday it is open between 10:00 and 14:00 and between 17:00 and 20:00.
Price per adult: Free.
Official website of the museum

The Hippolytus house was the Youth College of the ancient city of Complutum during the Roman times. This fact causes that the current archaeological site is especially attractive because all the documented structures in the building are related to the field of leisure.

The conversion of the ruins in a museum make the Hippolytus House 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 its ranches, mosaics and paintings from an height standpoint.



 San Bernardo Monastery and 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 the visit to the great spaces of the surrounding galleries around the main nave, which together forms seven separated rooms where we can enjoy the rich art legacy that the monastery has been holding for centuries.

The visit includes the visit of some spaces reserved for the enclosed convent 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 a great permanent archaeological exhibition to its visitors.

The museum transport you into 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 remarkable for its mosaics. The collection is supplemented with materials from the middle ages, modern and industrial eras.



 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

In the center of the Calle Mayor, the typical Castilian house of two floors located in the place where Miguel de Cervantes was born has been restored to its original appearance of a typical sixteenth century house. Now it houses the museum which exhibits some 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 among other things.



 Cisnerian Museum - Laredo Palace.


Address: Paseo de la Estación, 10.
Hours:Guided tours are held on Mondays to Fridays each half an hour from 11:00 to 19:00 and on Saturdays, Sundays and bankholidays from 11:00 to 19:00.
Price per adult: 2,5 €.
Official website of the museum

This opulent palace follows the peculiar design of the architect, painter and designer Manuel José de Laredo, who was also mayor of the city.

Inside, there are some antiquities bilt in that includes several very diverse originals such as the vaults and columns from Santorcaz Castle, the coffered ceilings and domes of the Palace of the Counts of Tendilla of Guadalajara, some garden columns from the Jesuit Prison of Monte Loranca or the tiles from the Arab Palace of Pedro I the Cruel.

We can also visit the Hall of Kings, which walls are decored with some figures of various kings of Castile and some other rooms decorated in various styles as the Arab room, the mirror room or the coffered ceiling room among others.



 



Alcalá de Henares is a very lively and bustling town and thanks to its position as a university city and its relatively large size, its streets are filled of nightlife and attractions.

There are many restaurants where we can enjoy the typical Castilian dishes plus a huge number of outdoor terraces and tapas bars in the Old Town.

Tapas bars have brought fame to the city as possessing the best tapas deal of the Community of Madrid and one of the best in the Spanish territory. The snack bars are a great place to start the night, as they close late, around midnight. You can have a beer or some wine there while you prepare your stomach to enjoy stronger drinks in the popular bars and pubs located around the city center.

The area around the Calle Mayor and the Calle Libreros is where the highest number of restaurants and tapas bars are concentrated in the city as well as a large number of bars and pubs where we can enjoy the city nightlife until closing time around 3:00 AM. Alcalá´s night offers a mix of student and international atmosphere thanks to its numerous university students.

The Old Town still retains some of the bars on the former area known as "the zone", located around the streets of the Calle Cárcel Vieja and the Calle Santa Catalina, where a few years ago there was a tremendous amount of bars that have been slowly displaced due to the restoration and renovation of the area.

guia de alcala vida nocturna
Nightlife in the Calle Mayor.

The most part of the number of that bars remaining still open in "the zone" are located in the vicinity of the old municipal slaughterhouse, in the Ronda de Pescadería street.

Today, the main nightlife area of the city has moved to the new nightlife district located in the new neighborhood of La Garena, which now concentrates a great selection of bars, pubs and clubs around the small skyscraper presiding the entertainment area.

To get the La Garena we can take the bus public transport line 11 in Via Complutense, but bear in mind that it only works between 7:00 and 24:00 during weekends.

At the opposite end of town, about two kilometers from the Plaza de Cervantes, the district of El Val becomes a nice nightlife zone at night, although during day it has no further interest that the access to the path of the river Henares.

There are several bars and clubs that are open until 6:00 in the Centro Comercial el Val Mall while in the nearby area of the Esgarabita, there are some big discos opened until the wee hours of the morning.

Finally, north of the N-II road and next to the city hospital, the University campus is the favorite place for the students to concentrate for parties and botellones. They use to meet in the old hangars of the former city airfield or around the small shopping area of the university during the spring and summer months.





La Corrala
 Pub |  Calle Damas 9, Alcalá de Henares.

  
 
  
   

La Corrala, located in Damas Street number 9 of Alcalá de Henares, was until recently a junkyard. Now, renovated and tastefully decorated, it has become a unique local of reference during the Alcala´s evenings and nights.

Its selected wine brands and Gin & Tonic cocktails are very remarkable, as well as the great variety of products like beer, coffees, beef burgers, natural milkshakes, toast, tapas, chocolate flavors, tea ... etc..


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 Information:
    La Corrala Facebook   |   911827242


 



Alcalá offers an important number of renowned restaurants where we can enjoy the traditional Spanish cuisine recipes. Spanish cuisine is famous for its abundant stews as the garlic soup and the Castilian soup, vegetable dishes like the spanish ratatouille and especially the tasty roasts that popularized it all around the world.

The countryside, the mountains and rivers surrounding the city have always been good suppliers of various products that adorn very well each typical dish whose classic protagonist is the meat, whether coming from hunting as wild boar, deer, partridge and hare or from farms as kid or lamb, accompanied with mushrooms and vegetables.

All this variety of delicious dishes have as their best place the prestigious Student Inn, property belonging to the Parador de Alcalá de Henares, which occupies the last annex of the old university reserved for Trilingual School. The premises were rehabilitated nearly 100 years ago by recreating a classic Spanish mansion farm. It works to fully customize a cuisine rooted in the literary traditions of the Spanish arts Golden Age, and more specifically in the works of Cervantes, the prodigal son city.

The Student Inn was designed to recover the recipes in the literary works of Miguel de Cervantes and his contemporaries: Duelos y quebrantos (fried eggs with potatoes and chorizo), albaladejo de trucha (trout), cabrito a la aldea (kid), sweet and salty crumbs, Gazpacho Manchego, or the mythical poderida pot, similar to Castilian stew but substituting cooked chickpeas for red beans.

guia de alcala Duelos y quebrantos
Duelos y quebrantos.

The more traditional inns and restaurants in the city also offer several dishes of this typical Spanish cuisine, but we can also find an important number of establishments of modern international cuisine scattered around the Old Town covering all price ranges and menus types.

Probably the best and more complete gastronomic offer of the city is offered in establishments belonging to the mesons route group, although it is well known that Alcala is famous in the region for its entrenched culture of tapas, those little dishes that are “provided” for free to the customers in taverns and bars to satisfy the Spanish ancestral tradition of snacking in-between meals.

Of the hundred thousand theories of the origins of the tapas, it is remarkable, or at least nice, that one which says that being the king Alfonso XIII in Cadiz, he stopped at a tavern to drink a wine sherry. At that time few sand was dragged by the wind from the beach and the waiter came to cover the glass with a slice of ham. When the King went for a sip, surprised asked: "What is this?" And the bartender said, "Forgive my boldness Majesty but I have put a cover (tapa) on the wine to keep the sand out of the cup".

There are dozens of tapas bars distributed around the Old Town. Its free food rations are famous in Madrid for their generous quantity and variety, being very common to eat “Tapeando” when visiting the city.

guia de alcala Deliciosas rosquillas de Alcalá
Delicious Alcalá´s doughnuts.

Throughout the year, Alcalá becomes the protagonist in Madrid´s gastronomic panorama several times thanks to the gastronomic events held in the city organized by the most prominent catering establishments in collaboration with the Department of Tourism of the city: The February Food Week, the popular Tapas Trail or the Cervantinas Gastronomic week, the latest one held during the bankholidays commemorating the birth of Miguel de Cervantes around October 9.

Furthermore, the city is also famous for its pastries, inheritance of monastic tradition of the town. There are a significant assortment of traditional bakeries and pastry shops among Alcalá´s streets which thrives on thanks to the popularity of its sweets amongst locals as well as tourists.

The most typical Alcalá´s sweets are the costrada, cooked with meringue, cream and pastry, the meringue cake or the delicious Alcalá´s doughnuts, which features a syrupy sugar orange cover.

We cannot forget the great coated almonds, traditionally prepared by the Clarisas de San Diego nuns.



 



The streets of Alcalá are full of 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.

Refounded in 1977, the University of Alcalá replaces the old and preeminent Complutense University, established in the city since 1499 by Cardinal Cisneros. There are dozens of research centers, libraries and archives throughout the whole city. Some of the historical centers of the university also serve as exhibition centers for some temporary exhibitions, such as the church of Colegio convento de San José de la congregación de Clérigos Menores, or the courtyards of the College of the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso.

guia de alcala Don Quijote y Sancho Panza

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 Alcalá 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, which includes in its programs the Classic Festival in Alcalá, when classic plays as Fuenteovejuna, La Estrella de Sevilla or Dream of a summer night are played.

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 Alcalá.
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. All this spaces are decorated with medieval props and filled with hundreds of participants, who offer their products to the several thousand visitors who come in every edition.

guia de alcala Medieval Market

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 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. Next to the Spanish verbena and the rides, the fairgrounds hosts regional houses where you can enjoy the typical gastronomy of each region during the festivities.

Finally, in November, the Quevedo Graphic Humor Awards are delivered in the city and on the 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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