Alcala de Henares, located just outside of Madrid, is a city steeped in history and culture. From ancient Roman ruins to beautiful medieval architecture, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this charming Spanish city. Below are the top 10 tourist attractions to add to your itinerary when visiting Alcala de Henares.
History of Alcala de Henares
Alcala de Henares, located in the Community of Madrid, Spain, is a city with a rich and diverse history. From its pre-Roman roots to its role as a center of learning during the Renaissance, Alcala de Henares has played an important role in shaping the history of Spain.
Pre-Roman History: Archaeological findings in the area suggest that the first inhabitants of Alcala de Henares were the Carpetani, a pre-Roman people. The city was originally known as “Complutum”, and it is believed that the Carpetani established a settlement there around the 6th century BCE.
Roman Era: During the Roman period, Complutum was an important city and a hub of commerce. The Romans built a bridge over the Henares River, which linked the city to other important Roman settlements in the area. Evidence of the Roman presence can still be seen in the city today, including the remains of a theater and a section of the city’s ancient walls.
Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, Alcala de Henares continued to be an important city. It played a role in the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of Spain from the Moors. The city’s strategic location made it an ideal location for a fortress. Famous figures associated with the city during this time period include King Alfonso VIII of Castile, who granted the city its charter in the 12th century.
Renaissance and Early Modern Period: In the 15th century, Alcala de Henares became a center of learning and culture. In 1499, Cardinal Cisneros founded the University of Alcala, which became one of the most important universities in Europe during the Renaissance. Famous figures associated with the city during this time period include the humanist Francisco de Vitoria and the playwright Lope de Rueda.
Modern History: During the 19th and 20th centuries, Alcala de Henares underwent significant industrialization, which led to a period of rapid growth and modernization. However, the city’s historical heritage was also preserved, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The Spanish Civil War had a profound impact on the city, and many of its buildings were damaged or destroyed. Today, Alcala de Henares is a vibrant city that continues to attract visitors from all over the world.
Timeline of key events in the history of Alcala de Henares
- 6th century BCE: The Carpetani establish a settlement in the area
- 1st century BCE: Complutum becomes an important Roman city
- 12th century: King Alfonso VIII grants the city its charter
- 1499: Cardinal Cisneros founds the University of Alcala
- 19th and 20th centuries: The city undergoes significant industrialization
- 1998: Alcala de Henares is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
In conclusion, Alcala de Henares is a city with a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. From its pre-Roman roots to its role as a center of learning during the Renaissance, the city has played an important role in shaping the history of Spain. Today, visitors to Alcala de Henares can explore its well-preserved historical heritage and experience the vibrant culture of this unique city.
Things to do in Alcala de Henares
Cervantes Birthplace Museum: This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish author of “Don Quixote.” Visitors can see the house where he was born and learn about his life and the cultural context of his works.
Casa-Museo de Cervantes: Located in the heart of the city, this museum offers a more in-depth look at the life and works of Cervantes, with exhibits on his literary creations, as well as a library and a garden.
Plaza de Cervantes: This picturesque square is located in the city center and is named after the famous author. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy a drink or a meal.
Alcala Cathedral: This beautiful cathedral dates back to the 14th century and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. Visitors can admire the impressive stained glass windows and climb the bell tower for a panoramic view of the city.
Colegio de San Ildefonso: This historic building, now a university, was where Cervantes studied and worked. Visitors can take a tour to learn about the college’s history and see the classrooms where Cervantes studied.
Roman Theater: This ancient Roman theater, built in the 1st century AD, is the city’s most important Roman ruin. Visitors can take a tour to learn about the history of the theater and its significance to the city.
Parque de San Diego: This beautiful park is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy the outdoors. It is home to a number of sculptures and monuments, as well as a playground and a pond.
Casa-Museo de Lope de Vega: This museum is dedicated to the life and works of the famous Spanish playwright and poet, Lope de Vega. Visitors can see his house and learn about his life and the cultural context of his works.
Hospital de Antezana: This historic hospital, now a museum, was built in the 16th century and is one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in the city. Visitors can take a tour to learn about the history of the hospital and see the beautiful architecture.
Palacio de la Villa: This beautiful palace, now a town hall, was built in the 16th century and is one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in the city. Visitors can take a tour to learn about the history of the palace and see the beautiful architecture.
Best Restaurants in Alcala de Henares
Alcala de Henares, located in the Community of Madrid, Spain, is a city rich in history and culture, and its culinary scene is no exception. With a variety of traditional Spanish dishes and international flavors to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down where to dine while visiting. To help make your decision a little easier, we’ve put together a list of eight must-try restaurants in Alcala de Henares.
- “Casa Paco” is a traditional Spanish restaurant located in the city centre. They are known for their delicious paellas, which are made with fresh, local ingredients.
- “La Bodega de Alberto” is a cozy wine bar that offers a great selection of tapas and wines. Their signature dish is the “albondigas” (meatballs) in a rich tomato sauce.
- “El Rincón del Abuelo” is a family-owned restaurant that serves classic Spanish dishes. They are particularly famous for their “cochinillo asado” (roast suckling pig) and “cordero lechal” (lamb) dishes.
- “El Club Allard” is a trendy restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine. They have an extensive menu with a focus on seafood, and their terrace is a great spot for al fresco dining in the summer.
- “La Taberna del Rector” is a charming restaurant that offers traditional Castilian cuisine. They are famous for their “sopa de ajo” (garlic soup) and “cocido madrileño” (a traditional stew from Madrid).
- “La Piazzetta” is an Italian restaurant that serves authentic dishes from different regions of Italy. They are particularly known for their homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas.
- “La Bodega del Tío Raimundo” is a small, family-run restaurant that serves traditional Spanish cuisine. They are famous for their “cocido madrileño” and “callos a la madrileña” (a traditional stew from Madrid).
- “El Asador de la Villa” is a steakhouse that serves high-quality meats cooked over an open flame. They are particularly known for their “solomillo” (sirloin steak) and “entrecot” (rib-eye steak).
Whether you’re in the mood for traditional Spanish dishes or international flavors, these eight restaurants in Alcala de Henares are sure to satisfy.
10 interesting facts about Alcala de Henares Spain
- Alcala de Henares is a city located in the Community of Madrid, Spain and was founded by the Romans in the 2nd century BC.
- The city is renowned for being the birthplace of the famous Spanish author and playwright, Miguel de Cervantes.
- Alcala de Henares is home to the oldest university in the country, the University of Alcala, which was founded in 1499.
- The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been recognized for its well-preserved medieval architecture.
- The city was also a major center for the study of the humanities during the Renaissance period.
- Alcala de Henares is home to the Museum of Cervantes, which showcases the life and works of the famous author.
- The city’s main square, the Plaza Cervantes, is named after the author and features a statue of him.
- Alcala de Henares is also known for its rich culinary tradition, with dishes such as Huevos a la flamenca, and cochinillo asado.
- The city also has a vibrant nightlife, with many bars and clubs to choose from.
- Alcala de Henares is located just 28 km east of Madrid, making it a popular day trip destination for visitors to the capital.