Alcalá de Henares (Community of Madrid)

Alcalá de Henares

The city of Cervantes


Alcalá de Henares was the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, author of the world-famous “Don Quixote”, and you can visit the house he was born in, which is now a museum. 

But there are many more reasons to plan a getaway to this town, just over 30 kilometres from Madrid: its imposing University, with centuries of history; Calle Mayor, its main street lined with arches; its ancient theatre, the Corral de Comedias… But also its sunny squares, its generous helpings of lunchtime tapas, and the special atmosphere of its Medieval and Christmas Markets.

University and historic quarter: a walk around a World Heritage city

Our tour starts where the town’s fame started, with the University, which made Alcalá the first planned university city of the Modern Age, earning it the soubriquet of the “City of Knowledge”. As well as admiring the façade of the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, you can now venture inside and visit several courtyards and the iconic Paraninfo, a great hall with a 16th century Mudéjar coffered ceiling, where the King and Queen of Spain present the Cervantes Prize for Literature every 23 April.

Any tour of Alcalá de Henares would not be complete without a pause on its lovely Plaza de Cervantes (with a statue in honour of the writer) and a stroll along the busy Calle Mayor, said to be Spain’s longest arcaded street. When you get to number 48 you’ll see a sculpture of two life-sized figures sitting on a bench: they are none other than Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the main characters of Cervantes’ immortal work. They welcome you to the House Museum where the writer was born, which recreates the settings and customs of the 16th and 17th centuries. More than 400 years have passed since Don Quixote was written, but it’s just as relevant as ever.In the Chapel del Oidor you can see the font where Cervantes was baptised. Next to it, the 34-metre Torre de Santa María is one of the best spots to get a bird’s-eye-view of Alcalá. The other must-see viewing point is the tower of the Cathedral.

A day of theatre and tapas

It’s not every day you can see a play in one of Spain’s oldest Corrales de Comedias, a type of outdoor theatre. A visit to Alcalá is a great opportunity to see this space, which first opened in 1602, either by going to see a play or taking a guided tour.Being in Alcalá is also an advantage if you’re hungry, because the town is famous for its abundant and delicious tapas, served in most bars when you order a drink. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll also want to try the artisanal sweets and pastries made in the city’s convents. How about the famous candied almonds from Convento de San Diego?If you have a bit more time, you can also visit Laredo Palace, or the Alcalá of the Roman Empire with the ruins of Complutum and Casa Hippolytus. In the evening, in Alcalá you can dine under the vaulted ceilings of a 17th century convent church, or sleep in the Parador, another beautiful 17th century convent. It’s like travelling through time. Depending on the time of year, Alcalá also offers its Classical Theatre Festival (in summer), its Mercado Cervantino street market (in early autumn all the streets are decorated in 17th-century style and full of market stalls and fun activities) or its famous Christmas lights.

Don’t miss it

What to visit

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Practical information

How to get there - transport information

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How to get to aeroplane

  • Madrid-Barajas International Airport is just 14 kilometres from Alcalá de Henares. More information

  • From there the car journey to Alcalá de Henares takes approximately 25 minutes.

  • The 824 bus links Barajas Airport to Alcalá de Henares.

  • Another option is to travel from Barajas airport by metro to Atocha or Chamartín railway stations in Madrid and then take the local train lines C2 or C7.

How to get there by road

  • Access via the R-2 toll motorway and A-2 motorway. Take exit 23 for the historic town centre.

How to get to train

  • The Cercanías-Renfe local train lines C2 and C7 stop at Alcalá de Henares.

  • Book tickets

  • The journey from Chamartín station in Madrid takes approximately 25 minutes.

  • The tourist train, Tren Cervantes, runs from Madrid with theatrical performances and tastings of traditional local foods on board. The service is available in spring and autumn. You can take the train out and return the same day to Atocha railway station in Madrid.

How to get to bus

  • From Avenida de América station in Madrid, the 223, 227 and 229 bus routes and the N202 (night bus) all go to Alcalá.

  • The 824 bus route goes from Barajas Airport to Alcalá.

  • From Guadalajara, buses 221 and 221ª go to Alcalá.

  • Alcalá de Henares bus station is just a five-minute walk from the old town centre.

How to get around in bus

  • 12 local bus routes run from approximately 07:00 to 00:00.

  • Alcalá de Henares bus station is just a five-minute walk from the city’s historic quarter.

How to get around in other means of transport

  • Car rental.

  • Bicycle rental.

  • Taxi.

  • You can find some useful telephone numbers and links for these three means of transport here.