MADRID - NEARBY
ALCALÁ DE HENARES
a World Heritage City, this historic university town was first
developed by the Moors and then in the 12th Century captured from
them by soldiers led by the warrior Bishops from Toledo. It is
recorded as being founded as an official seat of learning in 1499 by
Bardenal Cisneros and quickly became a rival to Salamanca the only
other university town of that time.
main university building in "Plaza de San Diego" boasts a proud
façade and the interior courtyards are also worthy of a visit. The
most famous of these is called the Patio Trilingüe in which students
of Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages were taught. The Auditorium is
also worth a visit as is many of the city’s fine churches. The house
where Cervantes was born is on "Calle de la Imagen" and it has been
reconstructed and furnished with furniture and household items from
Driving east 33 Kilometers from Madrid it is on the N-II Highway in
the direction of Zaragoza.
Trains from "Atocha" and "Charmartín" Stations leave every 10
Buses at the beginning of "Avenida de América" depart every 10
location is renowned for being a Royal Retreat with an impressive
"Palacio Real" and the surrounding magnificent gardens. Although
recorded as being inhabited since Roman times and later by the Order
of Santiago, the Palace built on the order of King Philip V has been
a residence of the Spanish Kings since the 15th Century. Plagued by
a history of fires and subsequent reconstructions it still continues
to maintain its original architectural unity. The "Jardín del
Parterre" garden is adorned with numerous sculptures, while the
"Jardín de la Isla" stands out for its classical fountains. The
"Jardín del Príncipe" is a Spanish version of a typical
English-style garden of the same period. The "Casa del Labrador" is
an unashamed imitation of the "Petit Trianon" at Versailles. This
hunting pavilion was constructed by order of King Carlos IV and is
to be found in the "Jardín del Príncipe".
The associated town of Aranjuez was only built in the 18th century
on the orders of King Fernando VI. It reflects many of the ideas of
the Enlightenment Movement that was very much in vogue at that
Driving from Madrid it is 47 Kilometers taking the N-IV highway.
Trains leave every 30 minutes from "Atocha" Station. From May to
October (with the exception of August) there is a special tourist
train on Saturdays called the "Tren de la Fresa" (Strawberry Train).
Buses leave from the "Estación Sur de Autobuses".
known as the town of "Stones and Saints", the somber small medieval
walled town of Ávila is the birthplace of Saint Teresa. She was born
in 1515 and at the age of 22 she had a vision of "an angel piercing
her heart with a burning arrow". From this moment on she became a
devotee in promoting the Carmelite Order and spreading their
influence throughout Spain. The Roman walls have eighty-eight towers
and ten gates and were rebuilt in the 11th Century by King Alfonso
VI as a defense against attacks from the Moors For the those who are
feeling energetic to “walk the walls” allow sufficient time as they
measure a total of 2.4 Kilometers. The Cathedral dates from the 14th
century and the "Convento de Santa Teresa" is where the very popular
mystic Saint is honored. There is also an interesting museum
reflecting the original history of the town at "Los Verracos".
Driving 115 Kilometers northwest of Madrid by taking the N-VI
Trains leave from "Atocha" Station.
Buses depart from "Paseo de la Florida, 11".
attractive town lying between two rivers is perched on the steep
sides of a narrow hill topped off with a castle. The town although
not lying on a major inter-city route is definitely worth placing on
a tourist list. The quaint attractive houses seem to be piled on top
of each other with the inevitable twisting and steep narrow streets
to be negotiated. The town boasts an exciting a excellent Museum
devoted to works of
20th Century modern artists.
Leave Madrid and on the A3 to Tarancón and then take the N-400 - a
journey of approximately 190 Kilometers.
correct name of this location is San Lorenzo del Escorial but due to
its fame it has become popularly known just as "El Escorial". King
Philipe II ordered the construction of this austere, grandiose and
ponderous, granite structure. Architecturally designed as a
rectangular block crowned by four towers, this mystical monastery,
church and palace are composed of a mathematical framework of
courtyards, corridors and as many rooms. It is stated that it has
over 10 miles of corridors with some 2.673 windows! Built by a very
the building there are many fables attached to the reason why it was
built and a likely one is that it is to record the battle of St.
Quentin fought in 1557. On the 10th of August the Spanish artillery
were forced in victory to destroy a church on the border of Flanders
dedicated to the venerable Saint. It is recorded that the devoted and pious King felt
sufficient regret to compensate his act and the decision to build
such a massive structure was probably based on this and many other good
reasons now lost in time.
original design was by Juan Bautista de Toledo who worked on St.
Peter's in Rome and on his death the project was taken over and
expanded by his pupil Juan de Herrera who then completed it by 1584.
The main structure of the Palace serves principally as a tomb to the
Kings of Spain. As from Charles I of Spain all royals are buried
here with the exception of Philip V, Ferdinand VI and Alfonso XIII.
With few exceptions, their Queens and also Princes are to be found
here in the "Panteón de los Infantes".
is topped by a 92 meter dome and with paintings on the vaults by
Lucas Jordán. Along the walls there are 43 altars with typical
painted altarpieces. The church originally was full of gold
ornaments and the valuable precious stones from the Tabernacle which
were efficiently removed by Napoleon's troops during their looting
in 1808. The "Patio de los Reyes" which precedes the Basilica is a
solemn rectangular courtyard where the bareness of the walls
contrasts with the grandeur of the front façade.
- Palaces: In those occupied by the Hapsburgs, the "Sala de las
Batallas" is decorated with frescoes and is worthy of special
mention. Among the various palaces are the sumptuous rooms belonging
to the Bourbons decorated with luxurious tapestries and Pompeian
- Chapterhouses: Works by El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Titian and
Bosch, are some of the many paintings are from the 16th Century of
the Venetian School.
- Library: This library preserves more than 40.000 volumes which
date as far back as the 9th Century. It is reputed to have the
finest collection of illuminated Arabic books in the world. There is
also a collection of paintings with works among others by Titian,
Veronese, Zurbarán and Tintoretto. In the Architecture Museum a
visitor has the opportunity to view many documents appertaining to
the construction of this whole Monastery.
Allow plenty of time as there is so much to see in the El Escorial.
The Monastery is located in the town of "San Lorenzo de El Escorial"
50 Kilometers to the northwest of Madrid on the N-VI highway.
Trains leave from "Atocha", and "Charmartín" Stations.
Open daily except for Monday from 10.00 Hrs. to 13.00 Hrs. and from
15.30 Hrs. to 18.00 Hrs.
LA GRANJA DE SAN
Palace to be found at this location was initially built in the 15th
Century by King Enrique IV. Later, Felipe I who was
born a Frenchman and was the first of the Spanish Bourbon Kings,
decided in 1720 to construct an impressive palace in its place. It
seems that he quickly too exception to having to live in the sober
and massive Royal Palace of "El Escorial" an decided to escape by
creating "La Granja de San Ildefonso". This is a lovely Palace with
28 Hectares of gardens and set in comparative wilderness at the base
of the Guadarrama Mountains. Its unquestionable fame is due to the
outstanding series of fountains which are considered by many to be
more impressive than those to be found in the Versailles gardens
outside Paris, and on which they may have been modeled.
fountains are fed from a man-made lake which gathers the snow in the
winter from the nearby mountain slopes. There are twenty-six
separate fountains of monumental size with many additional smaller
water jets. They all vary in strength and in height with the tallest
being 115 feet. These fountains are only run seven times during the
year and if a visitor wishes to see them in action they have to
choose one of the following dates. January 23rd, May 30th, the eight
day after Corpus Christi, June 21st, August 10th, September 4th and
To the west of this Palace lies the Monastery of "Santa María
de El Paular. In 1390 this first monastery in the kingdom of
Castille was built by the Carthusians. Due to a law in 1836 the
building was possessed by the State and it was only in the 1950s
that the abandoned building was restored to some of its original
glory and is now a inhabited by Benedictine monks with active church
and a hotel.
Driving it is 98 Kilometers northwest of Madrid taking the N-VI
highway and only 11 Kilometers past Segovia.
Bus or Taxi from Segovia.
MANZANARES EL REAL
in the "Sierra de Guadarrama" this town is at the foot of "La
Pedriza" mountains. It acts as a popular summer residence for many
"madrileños". The restored 15th Century castle stands proud within the
town and it is worth taking a stroll through "La Pedriza" park and
along the banks of the "Manzanarez" river.
Driving it is 47 Kilometers from Madrid on the Colmenar Viejo
Buses leave from "Plaza de Castilla", "Mateo Inuria".
Roman Aqueduct dominates this ancient town and King Carlos V built
the famous Cathedral. The majestic "Alcázar" castle stands at the
spur of the town and gives the impression of being the master of the
barren plateau of Castile. The Aqueduct which is said to be the
tallest surviving one in the world is capable of supplying
sufficient water for a city of some 50.000 inhabitants. Dating
to the Moorish occupation the original "Alcázar" was burnt by a
rebellious group of army cadets in 1862. The present version is a
19th Century a romantic fancy and gives a poor impression and interpretation of
the original proud architectural
structure. In contrast the imposing Gothic-style Cathedral which was also burnt
down in the 16th Century presents an
overwhelming somber feeling and accurately reflects the period in which
it was constructed. The interior of this fine structure has an almost cheerful harmonious
atmosphere with its attractive stained glass windows.
Among the many other attractive locations to be visited in Segovia is
the Palacio Episcopal with its museum, Spain's largest monastery El
Parral, and the 16th Century Convento de los Carmelitas at which
Santa Teresa was Prior and founded the Order. Across the river from the main town is the Church of the "Vera Cruz"
which has survived from 1208 and was built for the Knights of the
Templars. The Museo de Segovia contains amongst many items examples
of 15,000 year-old Stone Age drawings and tow large Celtic stone
Bulls which acted as protectors to their stock.
Driving it is 87 kilometers northwest of Madrid taking the N-VI
Trains leave from "Atocha" Station.
Buses depart from "Paseo de la Florida, 11".
town of Toledo is among the most famous places in Spain to visit. It
has thirty-one major sights and many other aspects of fascinating
interest reflecting its role in the history of Spain. This once upon
time seat of the Spanish Court had tremendous wealth and was
inhabited by Christians, Moors and Jews. However, due to the ever
increasing power of the Church and its Bishops, the Royals decided
to move their Court to the much inferior and then dirty town of
"Madjrît" - now well known as the City of Madrid.
the time of the Romans discovering the location it was the inhabited
by a local tribe known as the "Carpetanni". After taking possession
the Romans promptly renamed it as "Toletum". Few ancient ruins
remain to show the presence of the Romans and it is assumed that
their structures were later destroyed when occupied by the
Visigoths. The town has many curious fables and one of the best
known relates that a tower built by Hercules that originally stood
on the town's edge. This tower was barred from entering over
centuries but King Roderick of the Visigoths decided one day to
force his entry. After fighting off a very evil warrior he found in
a casket in the top of the tower a scroll that when he unrolled it
he visually saw the future destruction of his army by unknown
invaders. Shocked and frightened the King fled and as he did so a
large eagle flying overhead dropped a burning brand on top of the
tower burning it to the ground. In the year 716 the King was slain
and the town was captured by the invading Moors! It is recorded that
in the course of their occupation of the town the Moors tuned it
into a great centre of learning with some 200.000 inhabitants. In
1085 the town was taken by the forces of King Alfonso VI and happily
for its inhabitants the Castile Christians continued with the
previous order of intellectual pursuits. This situation changed
dramatically under the rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
with the introduction of the "Inquisition" and then the intellectual
members of the Jews and Moors were the first to be put to the stake.
The "Hospital de Santa Cruz" contains half of all the paintings that
survive from the master painter El Greco and his own house can be
found attached to the "Palacio de Samuel Levi" who was the treasurer
of "King Pedro the Cruel". The small unassuming Church of "Santo
Tomé" houses the outstanding work "The Burial of Count Orgaz", and
one of El Greco's finest works. The Cathedral holds many attractions
and particularly that of the "Mozárae Chapel" which is said to be
the only surviving example of Visigoth Christianity left in Europe.
It is still the daily practice to celebrate a Visigoth Mass in this
Chapel every day and whilst this ceremony is being practiced it this
is the only time that the Chapel can be visited. The "Alcázar" built
by King Carlos I of Spain on the ruins of an ancient fortress, was
extensively damaged during the Spanish Civil War and has since been
carefully restored. This restored building is considered a national
political shrine to the Nationalists for the courage and
determination of a group of their soldiers who successfully defended
their possession for two months against a superior force until they
were relieved by their own forces.
The famous painter El Greco's adopted Toledo as his town and many of
his masterpieces can be found hanging in its many churches and in
his home which is now a Museum.
Driving it is 70 Kilometers southwest of Madrid taking the N-401
Trains leave from "Atocha" Station.
Buses depart the "Estación del Sur".
VALLE DE LOS CAÍDOS
monument at Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos is the much discussed memorial to those people who
died on both sides during the Spanish Civil War. It was constructed
under the orders of General Franco the leader of the winning
Nationalist side and the dictator of Spain until his death in 1975.
This monumental memorial is considered to be at the same time a
symbolic tribute to the memory of General Franco. Building started
in 1950 and the main work force was drawn from his political enemies
that were still to be found in his many prisons. A 245 meter tunnel
has been blasted into the mountainside which is sheer granite and
then above a 150 meter stone cross has been erected. This cross is
claimed to be the largest one of its kind in the world. At its base
is an interior cave-type church and is in keeping with the grandeur
of the monument. Under a plain slab in front of the altar lies
General Franco and opposite the tomb of José Antonio Primo de
It is some 13 Kilometers to the north of El Escorial.