A walk in Alcalá de Henares
While I was in Spain, I attended a conference in Alcalá de Henares and took a walk around the charming historic center, generally following the route outlined here.
You could easily visit Alcalá de Henares as a day trip from Madrid. Take the C2 or C7 regional trains, which run frequently and both stop at Atocha, and exit the train at the first Alcalá station.
Here are the sights I passed. Keep your eyes peeled for storks along the way.
1. Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego
First, stop at the convent to buy the nuns’ delicious candied almonds. You aren’t allowed to see the nuns, so you order and pay using a revolving cubby. The password is “Ave María purísima.”
2. Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso
Nearby, you can visit el Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, which is part of the University of Alcalá. The building dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Be sure to walk into the interior patios to admire the architecture.
3. Plaza de Cervantes
This park is named after the author Miguel de Cervantes, who was born in Alcalá. The former medieval market square is now lined with book sellers and features gardens, a gazebo and a statue of Cervantes. At the back of the square, you’ll see the Santa María Tower, which you can climb for views over the city, and the remains of the church where Cervantes was baptized.
4. Calle Mayor
Leaving the square, walk along Calle Mayor, which is lined with covered walkways, shops and restaurants.
5. Cervantes Birthplace Museum
Along the way, you’ll pass the Cervantes Birthplace Museum. You can take your photo on a bench with statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
6. Plaza Santos Niños
As the street ends, you’ll run into Plaza Santos Niños and its cathedral.
7. Puerta de Madrid
Next, follow Calle Cardenal Cisneros to the old city gates.
8. Archbishop’s Palace
Take Calle Cardenal Sandoval y Rojas. You’ll walk past the Archbishop’s Palace, which was built in the 13th century. Queen Isabella I of Castile interviewed Christopher Columbus here about financing his voyage. Much of the building burnt down in 1939 during the Spanish Civil War.
9. Hotel Cervantes
I turned down Calle la Imagen to end my walk back at my hotel. Hotel Cervantes is affordable and has friendly staff, cozy rooms and a nice restaurant that has good knowledge of gluten-free cooking, including avoiding cross contamination. For lunch, I enjoyed jamón ibérico, manchego and a freshly toasted loaf of gluten-free bread, followed by cod. (For another gluten-free dining option, try Restaurante Plademunt.)