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Alcalá de Henares

Travel Guide Europe Spain Madrid Alcalá de Henares

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Introduction

Alcalá de Henares, University

Alcalá de Henares, University

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

Alcalá de Henares is a small city in the east of the community of Madrid, halfway between Madrid and Guadalajara. It was founded by the Romans, and it is famous for two things. The first, is the old University de Complutense, which was founded in 1496. The second, is that it is the birthplace of the most famous Spanish writer in history: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of the 'The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha.', or in short just Don Quixote. The birthplace of Cervantes can be visited in this charming medieval town, and in the square which is named after him, there is a statue of the man. Due to the presence of the University, but also the Cervantes language school and the British Counsil, the town is home for many exchange students, which give the city an international atmosphere.

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Sights and Activities

University

Alcalá de Henares, University courtyard

Alcalá de Henares, University courtyard

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

Set in the old city, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can find many impressive buildings, but the most important of all of them is the University of Alcalá, which was founded as the University de Complutense in 1496. The University de Complutense moved to Madrid in 1836, but in 1977 a new University was founded in Alcalá in the same buildings as were the old University used to be. Most of the buildings are a bit more modern, and lie a bit further to the east of the town, where there also is a trainstation for the university. There are guided tours of the university, if you want to see the place. Note, that the university can be closed during weddings, as there also is a chapel inside the building. If after your visit you feel that you would like to marry here, unfortunately, only graduates from the University are allowed to be married here.

Cervantes

Alcalá de Henares, Cervantes birthplace

Alcalá de Henares, Cervantes birthplace

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

Miguel Cervantes was born in Alcalá in 1547, although not a lot is known about the young Cervantas, and it's not likely that he spend a lot of time in Alcalá de Henares, he is honoured by this town, in a number of ways. The birthplace at the Calle Major is now a small museum that can be visited. There is the square that bares his name, and also has a statue of the man. Besides that, many statues of Don Quixote can be found in the city.

Calle Mayor

The Calle Mayor in Alcalá is a long street, which has arches on both sides of the road spanning the pavements. The arches are held in place by rows of columns. It can be fun to find out, which ones are the new ones, and which ones are the oldest. It is said that this is the longest street in Europe with arches on both sides of the street.

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Events and Festivals

Cervantes Prize

On the 23th of April, the anniversary of Cervantes' death, the Cervantes Prize is awarded to a writer as a lifetime achievement award. In the Spanish-speaking world this is the most prestigious award in literature. The award is presented by the King of Spain at the University of Alcalá.

Semana Cervantina

During the first two weeks of October, a huge outdoor medieval festival takes place in Alcalá. It coincides with Cervantes birthday, and also with the arrival of new students to the University. During the festivities, the historic center is turned into a medieval village, with parades, acrobats, jugglers, magicians, and artisans from all over Europe.

Oktoberfest

Yes, you are reading this for real. Alcalá has its own Oktoberfest, which takes place in September, although it is a far cry from the one held in Munich. The Oktoberfest of Alcalá takes place at the Plaza de Toros and doesn't last for the 17 days, as it does in Germany, but instead, it takes place over one weekend. The beer and the food, however, are both typically German.

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Getting There

By Plane

The nearest major airport is the airport of Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD). From there you can take the number 8 Metro Line to Nuevos Ministerios, where you can take the train to Alcalá de Henares.

By Train

Aranjuez can be reached very easily by train from Madrid. The cernanias (the commuter trains that services the suburbs of Madrid) also goes to Alcalá. It is the last stop on the C-2 line, and a stop on the C-7 that goes to Guadalajara. From Sol in the middle of Madrid, it takes around 40 minutes to arrive at the station in Alcalá. For students that need to go to the university of Alcalá, there also a trainstop called Alcalá - Universidad.

By Car

From Madrid, Alcalá can be reached by taking the A-2 motorway, this is also the motorway that you need to take if you come from Guadalajara, or even further, like Zaragoza or Barcelona.

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Getting Around

Alcalá de Henares, Plaza de Cervantes

Alcalá de Henares, Plaza de Cervantes

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

By Car

Getting around in Alcalá is not as demanding as getting around in Madrid, but finding a parking spot can be just as frustrating, at least in the city center.

By Public Transport

There are a number of busses going around the town. Here
you can find the routes of the city busses in Alcalá.

By Foot

To see the historic center of Alcalá one can best be on foot, distances are not huge. From the trainstation it only takes about 10 minutes to the Plaza de Cervantes. The Via Complutense can be used as a good reference point, as it runs from west to east through the town, parallel to the railway

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Eat

If you like to drink, and get food for free, than Alcalá is the place to be. It is common in Spain, to get tapas, when you order a drink, but in Alcalá they serve the biggest tapas in the country. Tapas here can be: Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Slices of Pizza, and many (half) bocadillas with anything ranging from Ham to Calimares.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Kris AlcalaFausto Elhuyar 9Hotel78
Rafaelhoteles Forum AlcalaBulgaria 2Hotel-
Apartahotel Alcala CentroDon Juan I, 12 Alcala de HenaresAPARTMENT-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is widely available within Spain. Most airports have wifi-zones and in most towns there are internet cafés or shops where you can use internet for a fixed price. Wi-Fi points in bars and cafeterias are available after ordering, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi connection in common areas for their guests.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international access code for Spain is +34. The emergency number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade is 112.

In cities you can find plenty of public phones, and 'locutorios'. The latter are small shops where you can use the phone and use internet. Most of them also sell prepaid cards for mobile telephones. These shops are used a lot by foreigners to call to their mother country.

The main mobile network operators in Spain are Yoigo, Vodafone, Movistar and Orange, as in most of Europe voice and data coverage is generally good in urban areas however it can be patchy in rural locations. Cheap mobile phones (less than €50) with some pre-paid minutes are sold at FNAC or any phone operator's shop (Vodafone, Movistar, Orange). Topping-up is then done by buying scratch cards from the small stores, supermarkets, vending points (often found in tobacco shops) or kiosks.

Post

If you want to post a card, you can head to the post office (Correos). The Spanish post is not yet as efficient as colleagues in other countries so receiving a card can take a bit longer than the number of days that it should take. On the website of Correos, you can find the locations of nearby post offices.
Post offices are generally open from 8:30am to 2:00pm, although times will vary according to the size of the city/town and the main post offices might be open until the early evening. Most will also open again on Saturday mornings, but in the smaller towns will close as early as 12 noon. When posting a letter, look for a yellow box and, if possible, post at the post office itself where there will also be divisions for local, national and international mail. Be prepared for long queues at the post office. This is why tobacco shops sell stamps and many will also have the facility to weigh packages. Standard letters/postcards of up to 20 grams sent within Spain are €0.34. However, non-standard letters/postcards of up to 20g are €0.39. Letters/postcards of 20 to 50 grams are €0.45. In the case of international shipping, the price is €0.64 to most countries within Europe for standard envelopes (letters/postcards) up to 20g, for a few European countries and outside Europe it is €0.78. If you want to send a package you are probably better off with a private courier company like TNT, DHL or UPS, as they offer quick and reliable services against competitive prices.

Quick Facts

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Population
203.645
Altitude
588 metres
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 40.481389
  • Longitude: -3.368056

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This is version 24. Last edited at 17:12 on Oct 3, 13 by MadGraz. 4 articles link to this page.

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