Home to one of Europe´s oldest Universities – as well as a ton of storks – and with a charming city center Alcalá de Henares is totally worth a visit. Even better, that the birth town of Miguel de Cervantes is located close to Madrid and makes for a perfect daytrip opportunity – or even half day if you are in rush.
How to get there
From Madrid Atocha the train ride takes about 40 minutes and there are trains almost every ten minutes. Taking the highway A – 2 with the car it is going to take you about half an hour, but considering parking etc. it is easier travelling with the Renfe Cercanias train.
What to See
There aren´t too many sights to see in Alcalá de Henares in particular. But the city has a beautiful old University and the house where Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish writer was born, is turned into a museum today.
Apart from that you shouldn´t miss a stroll down Calle Mayor, the towns column lined main street, from Plaza de los Santos Niños to picture perfect Plaza de Cervantes.
As for museums I liked the Regional Archeology Museum a lot, as in addition to looking at the exhibits you can see the archaeologists work in the laboratory.
Where to Fill up on caffeine
I find Alcalá de Henares to have lots of cute cafés to stop for a coffee break. Two I liked in particular:
Al Cuadrado at the intersection of Calle Libreros/ Calle Beatas is a cute modern restaurant and café with a creative interior design. The offers include pastries and coffee for breakfast or an afternoon snack, such as Pizza for a proper meal.
Bamby is a cute little pastry shop right on Calle Mayor. Ideal for a sweet breakfast or around coffee or tea time. I just love how many cute little cafés and pastry shops you can find in Spain.
The perfect route through the village center
Alcalá de Henares is small and walkable. So I put together my favourite route to see as much as possible in a few hours, departing from and ending at the train station.
Walk down Paseo de la Estación/ Sebastián de la Plaza until you reach Calle Libreros and turn right there. To your right you´ll find an architecturally noticable building, where the Instituto Cervantes has its office. It is huge and also has a cathedral.
We´re not going to stay on this main road for too long though. I fact, take the next street on the left and you´ll find yourself on Plaza de San Diego in front of the old University. Now it is upon you, whether you just take a walk through the patios or want to get a guided tour of the universities interior and the chapel.
Did you take the tour? Whatever you chose to do, I walked down to Calle de los Colegios next and from there on to the beautiful Plaza de Cervantes, the main square. Right on the other end of even this square you´ll enter Calle Mayor that is lined with columns and a ton of bars on both sides.
Walking down this street halfway you´ll get the chance to visit the house, in which Miguel de Cervantes was born and in the end you´ll end up on Plaza de los Santos Niños with the cathedral to your left. You might know by now, that churches usually leave me pretty unimpressed so I skipped a long visit and walked onwards, up Calle San Juan to see the monastery and archeology museum.
Lastly I made my way up to Parque de O´Donnell, where I took a rest before heading back to the nearby train station.
Things to do for Free
- Museo casa natal de Miguel de Cervantes
- Museo Arqueológico Regional
- The University patios