Imagine the smell of an old book from the back corner of the library. A book where the pages feel brittle and are yellowed from years of sitting on the shelf. Now imagine that book coming alive as a city. That would be the best way that I could describe Alcalá de Henares. This small town is a 30 minute drive outside of the Madrid city center and definitely a place that you would want to check out. Here are some reasons why:
1. It is the birth place of Miguel de Cervantes. Here in the city they have his childhood home as a landmark and named the main plaza after him. The main road in the town will lead you to both places so you definitely cannot miss them.
2. Some very important things happened here. The most famous queen of Spain, Queen Isabel was born here in the Archbishop’s Palace and statues of her are found throughout the city. Also another important event took place at what is now named Casa de la Entrevista, or the Interview House. Here is where Queen Isabel was interviewing sailors to go off on adventures and find Spain’s own trade route to India to cut out the middle man. Long story short, she hired a man named Christopher Columbus and the rest is history.
3. It has a lot of really old stuff. Alcalá has one of the oldest universities in the world and is proud of it. The original institute of the Spanish language was developed here and is active as linguists continue to study, add new words and keep the original language alive. Also they have an excellent archaeological museum that show cases the history of the region and has artifacts from before the Romans. Spain in general embraces its history and accomplishments, so this city especially has kept its old buildings and traditions in tact. If you are visiting Madrid, I would definitely suggest taking a day trip out to this town to share in Spain’s rich history.