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Aranjuez Palace

A trip to Aranjuez


One day in Aranjuez

During your stay in Madrid, we suggest an excursion to the town of Aranjuez, to the south of the capital. It’s quite close and easy to get to, and you’ll love exploring the site, a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape with spectacular gardens and magnificent heritage buildings like the Royal Palace evoking 500 years of history. It’s definitely worth the trip.

In the morning

Journey: Walking / Duration: 1 day

Arrival from Madrid, and a tour of the Royal Palace: If you set off early you will have more time in Aranjuez and you can tour the Royal Palace at your own pace. The easiest option is the train. The railway station is 10 minutes’ walk from the Palace. Just follow Calle de la Estación, turn left and continue along Avenida del Palacio, a pretty tree-lined road, to the palace. You will come out onto Plaza Elíptica, with a spectacular view of the building. There is also a tourist information point just there, where you can get all the information you need.After taking a few stunning photos of the palace façade from the large parade ground, you can go inside to see why so many kings and queens of Spain chose this place for their parties and their spring residence. You can go around by yourself, or take a guided tour.

View of Aranjuez Palace

Jardín del Parterre and Jardín de la Isla. Strolling among sculptures: As you leave, head west of the Palace to the small entrance to the formal garden, the Jardín del Parterre. As soon as you go in, you’ll see a different perspective of the eastern façade of the palace, and a carefully manicured garden with mythological sculptures, including a particularly impression Hercules. Continue over the small and very charming bridge leading to the Jardín de la Isla, or island garden, surrounded by the Tagus.This green space is larger than the last one. To your right, there is a lovely waterfall known as “the castanets” for the shape of its basins. Pause next to it to enjoy the peaceful sound of the water.As you venture further into the garden, you’ll encounter many mythological statues to remind you you’re in an almost magical place. The best way to go is along the central avenue where you can read the descriptions of the sculptures, sit in the pretty little square of the “Boy with a Thorn” to listen to the murmur of the fountains and the birds singing, and then return via the terrace with views of the river.

Island Gardens in Aranjuez

Historic quarter and the Bullring. A taste of bullfighting culture Now it’s time for an easy walk to explore the old town centre. Go along Calle de San Antonio to the corner where it meets Calle Capitán Angosto Gómez Castrillón, a perfect spot for shopping. Behind you there is a magnificent view of a church, the Real Iglesia de San Antonio. As you continue along this street, you’ll see important buildings like the Isabel de Farnesio Cultural Centre, Medinaceli Palace, and the former Hospital de San Carlos. In this area, some of the façades conceal a surprise: the fascinating traditional corralas or tenements around a central courtyard.In summer, you’re likely to find some of the locals selling fruit on their doorsteps (especially on Calle Eras). If not, you can always go to the Mercado de Abastos or food market to buy local strawberries or asparagus, or to Calle Almíbar for artisanal jams. A relaxed walk brings you to the 18th century bullring, one of the few surviving from that period. Although its exterior is austere, inside it offers an entertaining guided tour of the arena, the chapel, the bullpens, the alley, the stands, the barrier and an engaging Bullfighting Museum. You can take part in a mock parade and wave a cape around.Worth knowingWe recommend booking the guided tour of the bullring and the museum in advance by phone on +34 918910427.

Aranjuez bullring

Local dishes: After showing what you can do with a cape, back in the area around the Jardín del Parterre and all along Calle de la Reina there are plenty of places to eat, from traditional grills and inns to innovative cuisine. Some of them, such as the iconic “El Rana Verde” (opposite the Royal Palace and next to the gardens) are located alongside the river Tagus. This means you can enjoy unbeatable views and delicious local specialities like huntsman-style pheasant and locally-grown vegetables.In spring and summer you’ll also find stands around here selling strawberries. In summer, you can try the experience of eating in a merendero or gango, traditional picnic places where you can buy food and drinks along Calle de La Reina (although they are best for dinner, when the river keeps them cool). If you want to cool down, at the start of Calle del Príncipe y de las Infantas there are numerous kiosks selling granizado drinks with crushed ice, as well as souvenirs.

A room in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez
Places not to be missed

What to see

In the afternoon

Journey: Walking

Exploring Jardín del Principe. Chiquitrén and tourist boat Next to the Royal Palace tourist information point is a stall selling tickets for the Chiquitrén, a sightseeing “train” offering a tour with commentary of part of the old town and the huge and stunning Jardín del Príncipe, the largest park you’ll be visiting and undoubtedly the one that will most impress you. If you’re travelling with children or you’re tired of walking, this is a fun and comfortable way to see this garden, which is about three kilometres long.On your tour of the park, you'll see fountains with figures of Narcissus or Apollo, ancient trees over 30 metres tall from different parts of the world, fairytale scenes like the Chinescos pond… And you'll almost certainly see colourful pheasants, squirrels and peacocks. No wonder that all this natural beauty inspired the famous “Concierto de Aranjuez”.There are two must-sees in the Jardín del Príncipe. One is the Museum of Royal Barges, where you can see the pleasure boats the monarchs used for trips on the Tagus. The other is the Casa del Labrador or Labourer’s Cottage, which is approached along a stunning avenue of magnolias.After this pleasant trip, your best bet is to cross the river via the Puente de Barcos (at the end of the Jardín del Parterre) to Glorieta de Fernando VI, where you can get a delicious ice cream. In the afternoon, you can also go on the city’s tourist boat. It is fully glazed, so as you cruise on the Tagus alongside the Jardín del Príncipe, you can see fascinating places like the Royal dock and the Casa del Labrador dock, and imagine the kings and queens sailing just like us. Now it’s time to return to Madrid, and as you go back to the railway station, you’ll already be treasuring the memory of this truly royal city.

Jardín del Príncipe in Aranjuez
Places not to be missed

What to see

Tips and recommendations

How to get there

  • By bus and coach: departures from Estación Sur de Autobuses de Madrid (C/ Méndez Álvaro). Approximate journey time: 50 minutes.
  • By train: local line C3 from Atocha or Chamartín stations. Approximate journey time: 50 minutes.
  • The Strawberry Train: this train with early 20th-century wooden carriages runs from the Madrid Railway Museum to Aranjuez on several weekends from April to October. On board, hostesses in period costume hand out locally grown strawberries. Includes a visit to the town.By road: 49 kilometres south of the city of Madrid, via the N-IV.

When to go on the route

These are the dates of some of the most important events in Aranjuez over the year:

  • Aranjuez Music Festival. Normally in May and June.
  • Spring concerts. Normally on Saturdays in June, in different venues, such as the church of San Antonio. 
  • Fiesta del Motín de Aranjuez (the Aranjuez Rebellion), a fiesta of official national tourist interest. First weekend of September. Over 200 people wear period costume.
  • Fiestas de San Fernando, local fiesta with music and bullfights. 30 May.

What to do

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