Picture of san_ildefonso Alcala de Henares is a small town just outside the realm of metropolitan Madrid on the northeast side. It is best known as one of the oldest (possibly the oldest) planned university towns in Europe. The Universidad Complutense was founded in 1486. The name comes from an ancient Roman town in the area, Complutum. Many of the original college buildings remain although very few are still part of the university. Some are residences or museums now, and a few can still be toured.

Picture of carousel The central square in Alcala is rather a festive place. Strings of lights run above the buildings and across the park. There are several outdoor restaurants and bars, and even this carousel which Melanie is on because she had an excess of energy derived from too much ice cream. Speaking of which, the 'artisan gelato' store directly across from the carousel is fantastic.

Picture of cervantes Another claim to fame of the town in that it is the birthplace of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. That's a statue of Don Quixote in the previous picture in the middle of the square. This is, at least according to the signs, the house that Cervantes was born and raised in.

Picture of convent This is the convent of San Ildefonso and the architecture is typical of Alcala's university-era buildings, particularly the cupola/steeple structure. In 1836, the university was transfered to Madrid and supposedly the town began to decay steadily until the university was returned in 1977. You'd never know now though as we found it to be a very pleasant place to stroll around in, and it seems like it would be a good place to spend an evening if you wanted to be near Madrid but not in it. We had other plans for that evening though, so overnight in Alcala will have to wait for another trip.

Picture of park


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