Taking a Day Trip from Madrid to Alcalá de Henares

Last Updated on September 15, 2023

After hearing so much about Don Quixote (the famous Spanish book) written by Miguel de Cervantes, I decided to take a day trip to the author’s hometown: Alcalá de Henares.

Plaza Cervantes
Plaza Cervantes

Alcalá de Henares is home to one of Spain’s most elite universities.

Alcala de Henares

The UNESCO-protected city of Alcalá de Henares is an ideal day trip from the city of Madrid. Located 31 kilometers (20 miles) north-east of Madrid, you can easily get there from the capital of Spain.

Walking around Alcalá de Henares

From Madrid’s Atocha station, the train ride is just under 40 minutes.

Touring Alcalá de Henares

This city is an ideal place to walk with beautiful streets and squares, plenty of cute spots to sit for a coffee or drink, or to find a shop for something sweet.

Menu in Alcalá de Henares
Drink menu from Alcalá de Henares

Example of a local menu

While you stroll around, you can enjoy these lovely animated crossing signals that are found all throughout Spain. (Here’s a video of them, I thought they were so adorable.)

With more than 2,000 years of history, Alcalá de Henares is a destination for those who love Spanish history and culture.

Art from Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares was the first city built intentionally as the headquarters of a university. It was founded by Cardinal Cisneros in 1499 during the middle of the Renaissance and it later served as a model city for other educational institutions in Europe and America.

Palace Laredo
Palacio Laredo

(Awkward photo of me- sorry, it’s all I got.)

While it is most famously recognized as the hometown of the famous Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, it was also home to many other great writers of the Spanish Golden Age such as Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina, and San Juan de la Cruz.

There is also a school of philosophy for Jesuits.

Manufacturers in the city include makers of chemicals, cotton goods, perfumes, pottery, electrical, and domestic appliances.

The city of Alcalá de Henares is home to over 215,000 people.

Modern day Alcalá de Henares

It combines the best of a medieval city and a modern city.

Art from Alcalá de Henares
Art from Alcalá de Henares
Art from Alcalá de Henares

Here are some of the best places to visit:

  • Corral de Comedias (Considered the oldest theater in Europe: 1601)
  • The Cervantes Birthplace Museum
  • Casa de Hippolytus
  • The Open Air Sculpture Museum
  • The Archiepiscopal Palace

The website Culture Trip has a detailed outline of some other things to do there!

Of course, you also can’t go wrong with choosing to enjoy a simple day outdoors with delicious Spanish foods like these chipirones.

Chipirones from Alcalá de Henares

For timing your visit, you may want to visit during these special occasions:

  • April 23rd: The King of Spain presents the Cervantes Prize for literature
  • October: World-renowned Cervantes Medieval Festival
Model of Alcalá de Henares

Are you considering visiting Alcalá de Henares? If you’ve gone before, let us know what you thought of the city!


  1. I have not heard of Alcalá de Henares, but what an underrated place in Spain! The Palacio Laredo interior just about blew my mind– the intricacies of the tiles are so colorful and ornate that they’re absolutely dizzying! Looks like a great place to visit for its long and rich history. 🙂

    1. Absolutely, it is an underrated place! Many people have no idea it exists and in such close proximity to Madrid. (I couldn’t believe how incredibly ornate those tiles were either!! The entire building was remarkable.) It was a really fun city to visit that I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for interesting day trip destinations out of Madrid’s city center!

    1. Thanks a lot! I’ve been considering sharing more video content across my blog so I’ve been dropping more clips into some of my recent blog posts to see how they perform and what everyone thinks of them. I’m really glad you’ve liked the ones I’ve shared so far. Alcalá de Henares was so pretty and full of history.

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