Alcala de Henares is located in the heart of Spain, roughly 20 miles east of Madrid. Alcala de Henares tourism does rely heavily on Madrid’s infrastructure, and is a popular neighbor that attracts millions of annual visitors, yet the Spanish city does have numerous attributes drawing visitors in on its own. History is a prevalent aspect of Alcala de Henares and offers insight into early Roman settlement in Spain. Alcala, as it’s called for short, is the only town in the region illustrating Roman roots with origins directly tied to the Romans. Alcala was reconstituted by the ancient Moors who erected Alcala la Vieja, a hilltop castle looking over the area.
Alcala was conquered by the Christians after Moorish rule, during which it enjoyed distinct Moorish and Jewish quarters. It was subsequently surrendered to the Bishop of Toledo, Spain. Christopher Columbus also plays a part in Alcala de Henares history. He once toured the area in search of support for his epic journey. During the Renaissance period, the Universidad Complutense—founded in 1496—became an important educational center. The university was relocated to Madrid in the early part of the nineteenth century and a new university was constituted in 1977 and called Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. Above all, Alcala is most famous as the birthplace of Katharine of Aragon who was once Queen of England as wife to King Henry VIII.
Today there are many things to do in Alcala and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site is a good indication that Alcala de Henares tourism thrives. Walking tours are one of the top things to do in Alcala and are the best way to explore the historic city core. Narrow, winding streets built of cobbled stone wander through the oldest city areas.
The various periods in which much of Alcala’s architecture originates from create a breathtaking backdrop in many parts of the city. Another attribute that keeps Alcala de Henares tourism steady is the influx of white storks. These are especially prevalent during the spring months when the city-protected storks are creating their lairs.
Exploring the cultural diversity here is another of the pleasant things to do in Alcala. An eighth of the population are immigrants, and the high Romanian population comprises the largest Romanian settlement in Spain. Special cultural events and festivals are highlighted throughout the year. Popular things to do in Alcala include sampling the interesting variety of food offered by a colorful selection of international and regional foods.
Visiting nearby Nuevo Baztan reveals a small town filled with lively market squares, parade grounds, and a landmark castle. Plaza de Palacio is another high point in Alcala de Henares tourism. It is home to the thirteenth-century palace of the Archbishop, where Katharine of Aragon was born. The San Bernardo Convent offers art-centric things to do in Alcala including exploring a large collection of art, sculptures, statues, and several historic Christian sites.
Budget travelers have better luck finding cheap hotels in Madrid than in Alcala, and likely a larger array of amenities too. There is a good choice of mid-range Alcala de Henares hotels yet the choices in luxury hotels and paradors are slim. Madrid visitors taking day trips to enjoy the best of Alcala de Henares tourism might explore the university and other local attractions such as the Tomb of Cardinal Cisneros and the adjacent Sacral buildings housing a tower, an observation deck, and numerous monuments. Anyone choosing to stay at Madrid hotels can reach Alcala de Henares by a 30-minute train ride from Madrid.