Alcala de Henares Tourist Attractions

Facade Detail, University of Alcala de HenaresFacade Detail, University of Alcala de Henares
The old town of Alcalá de Henares, rebuilt after severe destruction during the Civil War, lies some 30km/20mi east of Madrid on the left bank of the Río Henares. It was the Roman Complutum and the Moorish al-Kal'a.
The town was the birthplace of Cervantes and the Emperor Ferdinand I. It had a famous university, founded by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros in 1498, where the first polyglot Bible in Europe was published in 1517. The university was moved to Madrid in 1836, and thereafter the town lost much of its importance. Alcalá de Henares suffered severe devastation during the Civil War.

Colegio de San Ildefonso

Of the Colegio de San Ildefonso in the Plaza de San Diego, built between 1498 and 1508 to house the University, only the Great Hall survived the Civil War.
The first courtyard of the Colegio de San Ildefonso, the Patio de Santo Tomás y Villanueva, is surrounded by a double gallery and contains a fountain decorated with swans (the heraldic emblem of Cardinal Cisneros) and a statue of the founder (1670). This courtyard leads into a museum on the history of the University (on first floor). Beyond this is the Patio de Filósofos, and this in turn goes into the Patio Trilingüe (named after the three classical languages - Greek, Hebrew and Latin). In this courtyard is the Great Hall, the Paraninfo, one of the few parts of the building which have remained unchanged since the original foundation.

Colegio de San Ildefonso Main Front

The Plateresque main front (1543) in the Plaza de San Diego is one of the finest in Spain.

Tomb of Cardinal Cisneros

Adjoining the University is the church of San Ildefonso, the finest thing in which is the early 16th century tomb of Cardinal Cisneros (by Domenico Fancelli and Bartolomé Ordóñez).


Within Alcalá de Henares are other buildings belonging to the University, notably the Colegio de Málaga, with fine brick masonry and beautiful inner courtyards.

Museo Casa de Cervantes

From the Colegio de San Ildefonso the Calle Mayor runs west to the Plaza del Palacio. On the way there, on right, is the Museo Casa de Cervantes. This is not the writer's actual birthplace but a 20th century reproduction of a 16th century house built on what is believed to be the site of the house in which he was born. The house, furnished in the style of the period, contains mementos of the author of "Don Quixote".
Address: Mayor 48, E-28801 Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Plaza del Palacio

In the Plaza del Palacio is the fortress-like Archbishop's Palace, begun in the 13th century but considerably altered in the 14th and 16th. The side fronts are Gothic, the main front Plateresque. From the massive Torreón de Tenorio the defensive walls run to the Puerta de Madrid, one of the town gates, and from there to the Puerta de Burgos.

Convento de San Bernardo

Here, adjoining the Archbishop's Palace, is the Convento de San Bernardo, founded in 1617. Notable features are the statue of St Bernard over the doorway, the oval church with its six chapels and Capilla Mayor, which has paintings by Angelo Nardi.

Sacral Buildings

The group of sacral buildings around the plaza is completed by the brick buildings of the Convento de la Madre de Dios to the east and the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri. Not far south is the Iglesia Magistral with its soaring bell tower.


Nuevo Baztan, Spain

About 15km to the southeast of Alcalá de Henares lies Nuevo Baztán, which was built between 1709 and 1713 as a manufacturing base for the ceramic and glass industries. Commissioned by Juan de Goyeneche to plans by the famous architect José Churriguero, the town has a castle, parade-ground, market-square and a parish church dedicated to San Francisco Javier. Churriguero himself designed the altarpiece in the church.

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