Alcalá de Henares: The City of Cervantes

Spring is fast approaching in Madrid as the weather is quickly heating up and the flowers are blooming! I absolutely love spring and all the photo opportunities it provides. 

Javi and I ventured off about 30 km from Madrid’s center on the Cercanias Renfe train to a city called Alcalá de Henares. Luckily, our abono cards cover metro, bus, and train trips within the community of Madrid, so we didn’t have to pay anything extra.

Alcalá de Henares is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; this is perhaps due to the fact that author, Miguel Cervantes, was born there and it is home to one of Spain’s most prestigious universities. This pedestrian-friendly city is a charming place to spend a sunny Saturday. 

Our first stop was also my favorite, the Palacio Laredo built in 1884. Some of the rooms transport you to Andalucía as the Mudejar, geometric style surrounds you from floor to ceiling. Architect Manuel José de Laredo, designed the building which is currently a museum, specialized library, and documentation center. Surprisingly, no other tourists entered the palace, so Javi and I got a private tour from a local art student!

Our other major stop was the (Cervantes) Museo Casa Natal, the birthplace of Miguel Cervantes. Cervantes is right up there with Shakespeare as one of the world’s most celebrated authors for his contribution to literature with the classic, Don Quixote. His masterpiece has been translated into numerous languages and has been adapted into a number of films, a ballet, a musical, and countless pieces of artwork. I even played a part in Cervantes’s story for one of my high school dance performances. 

Cervantes was born in 1547 in the Casa Natal and spent his childhood there. The rooms are decorated in 16th and 17th century styles, so you can imagine what it might have been like to live there. Studying Don Quixote in various Spanish classes and dancing as one of the story’s characters made the visit especially memorable for me. Outside, there is a bench/statue of Don Quixote and his trusty sidekick, Sancho Panza. Of course we had to take a picture!  

Alcalá de Henares is also home to a population of white storks. They are protected by the city and you can see them in and around their nests on buildings across the city!

We didn’t end up seeing the university (Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso) due to the timing of the tours, but it’s on the list for the next visit! We enjoyed walking through the streets and taking in the warm sunshine.

Miguel de Cervantes

Cool gutters!

Don Quixote references and art are scattered everywhere.

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