MADRID – El Escorial, Alcala de Henares and Aranjuez share a common denominator: they are all recognized as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO and fall within the Community of Madrid.
If there is something Madrid can boast of, it is bringing together a wide array of leisure, history and culture ready to receive tourists hungry for experiences, qualities that are epitomized at these three locations recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
A mere 20 minutes from Madrid, visitors can step into Spain’s literary Golden Age at the birth place of Miguel de Cervantes. Alcala de Henares, declared a World Heritage City in 1998, promises a literary-filled day among its streets, museums and local flavors.
There are many emblematic spots there, such as Cervantes Birth House at the medieval Calle Mayor, which recreates the ambiance in which the Don Quijote writer grew up.
Visitors can see a large collection of furniture, ceramics, engravings and paintings from that era, as well as a bibliographic archive of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Also essential is a visit to the University of Alcala, discovering the Corral of Comedies theater in Plaza Cervantes – which is the oldest in Spain, according to Alcala’s tourism office – or the Regional Archaeological Museum, inaugurated in 1999.
The municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial has, as part of its offerings, a monastery with the same name, which was declared a national monument of historic interest in 1931 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
The complex, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, was built between 1563-1584 under King Felipe II.
Inside are treasures such as the rooms of the Palace of the Austrians and the Palace of the Bourbons, a library with over 6,000 manuscripts, the Courtyard of the Kings, the Pantheon of the Kings and the Friars’ Garden. Not to mention the basilica, designed by Juan de Herrera, which is one of the jewels of Spanish Renaissance architecture.
The mountain has other attractions too, such as houses and buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries designed by Juan Villanueva, the leading exponent of Neoclassical architecture in Spain and the architect behind the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
The route continues to Aranjuez, which was the last to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
It was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2001, thanks to its art and natural surroundings.
Located on the banks of the Tagus river, it was chosen by the Bourbons to set up their spring residence, which is why the Royal Palace and Gardens of Aranjuez are among the most valued monuments of the municipality.
Besides the Herrera-style construction, in which Baroque pieces such as porcelain or paintings feature, there are the palace gardens, which leave a beautiful stamp of chromatic nuances designed through canals, bridges and a wide variety of plants.