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Alcalá de Henares
© Carlos Mora / 123RF
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Alcalá de Henares

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

Alcala de Henares is part of Unesco's World Heritage Programme. This is where Cervantès was born, some 17 mi from Madrid. It is also famous for its university, which was founded in 1499 by Cardinal Cisneros. In fact, it is the first town in the world to have been built as a university town. This is where many of the personalities of Spain's Golden Century came to study, such as Lope de Vaga, or Ignacio de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. The tour of the university is very interesting and you will learn lots of funny anecdotes. Students take tourists on guided tours and they always do a terrific job. Among the most impressive sights is the spectacular 16th century facade, the chapel of San Ildefonso that houses the marble sepulcher of Cisneros, the founder, and the massive amphitheatre with plaster mouldings and a mudejar-style ceiling. This is where the awards ceremony for the Cervantès Prize for literature is held every year. While you are here you must visit the house where Cervantès was born. It has been maintained in its original style. The furniture is typical of a middle-class 16th century house. The museum has one of the best collections of Don Quixote editions in several languages. You will also be able to visit the Plaza de Cervantès (square), the convent of San Bernardo, the magnificent cathedral of Saints Justo and Pastor, the archbishop's palace, the place where Queen Isabella of Castile and Christopher Columbus first met, and one of the oldest theatres in the world: the Corral de Comedias, beautifully preserved and restored.

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