Tag Archives: Tagus River

Outside Madrid: Royal Town of Aranjuez

Aranzuez isn’t a huge, highly sought-after town, but it’s far from being hidden and obscure. It is actually one jewel of a Spanish pueblo, being the site of a spectacular royal palace. Still, many would consider it as low-key compared to the more popular day trip destinations like Toledo, Segovia, or even the faraway exciting getaways like Santiago de Compostela.

There’s no bit of a doubt, however, that this town 80 kilometers away from Madrid can hold its own, boasting of some of the most alluring sites and attractions.

Aranjuez, Madrid and its Royal Palace

aranjuez palace in plaza de las parejasThis town presents a great appeal to those who are interested in royal history, and this is thru the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, an 18th century palace that once served as the residence of the King of Spain. With the collaboration of distinguished Spanish architects such as  Juan Herrera, Juan Bautista de Toledo, and Francesco Sabatini, the royal edifice was built using a  mix of Renaissance and French style in its design.

It was in 1523 when the palace was officially declared the royal property of the Spanish Monarchy.  Beloved royalties who lived and died there were Elisabeth Fernese, wife of Philip V and Elizabeth of Valois, wife of Philip II.  Likewise, the Palacio Real was the site of the signing of various important treaties.

If you haven’t been to Aranjuez, Spain, it’s high time that you do. The Palacio Real will certainly amaze you. it is easy to find since it is right in the midst, as if to assert its prime importance as the town’s top tourist attraction.

Apart from the palace, other major attractions are its sprawling plazas, the Tagus River, and the Casa del Labrador.

Where to start your Aranjuez tour

imageThe Ayuntamiento Building at Plaza de Constitucion. The statue in front is Alfonso XII

Aranjuez is less than an hour away – whether by bus or by train. It’s one of those charming towns that are near Madrid, and very easy to reach — you’ll be there even before you know it.

You might want to start your tour at the Plaza de la Constitution, where you can see the Ayuntamiento — simple yet stately in its facade. On one side of the square stands a metal board marked on which is a map specifying all the major places of interest to see. Or you can head straight to the tourism office for a tour map plus instructions and advices on how to get around the town.

I spent the whole day exploring Aranjuez, and had a great time discovering all the reasons why the whole town was declared a World Heritage Cultural Landscape by the UNESCO. The Royal Palace was just impressive. You can see the grandness of the structure from the pictures that I took. I can proudly say that my shots of the palace are all postcard-worthy. Equally impressive are the gardens and plazas, the surrounding bodies of waters, and the Casas.

Aranjuez might be small, but it can very well compete with the much larger and more touristy Spanish towns. Needless to say, it must be one the first town-members of the community of Madrid that you must visit. Engaging locals, lots of eager tourists, amazing tourist attractions, what more can you ask for? Add Aranjuez to your must-see town list, do visit and explore it, and I assure you it is all worth your while.

What to see in Aranjuez, Spain

1. Royal Palace of Aranjuez

imagePalacio Real de Aranjuez in Spanish, this UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was once the King’s official residence. One of the more popular Royal Sites, it now serves as a museum and is open to the public.

2. Iglesia de San Antonio

imageKing Ferdinand VI assigned Spanish architects Gonzalez Velazquez and Santiago Bonavia to build what was intended as a royal church, and one dedicated to San Antonio de Padua – St. Anthony´s Church or Iglesia de San Antonio. This Italian-inspired church from the 1700’s sprawls in one end of the Plaza de San Antonio. Nearby is the Tourism Office.

3. Iglesia de Alpajes

imageThe Alpajes Church, also called the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, is a small church located in the old Alpajes quarter. Eventually, the said quarter was incorporated into the expanded Aranjuez town.

4. Parterre Garden

imageThe beautiful Parterre Garden is the most colorful of all that surround the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, I must say. It must be where beautiful flowers of all types and hues are found. The flowers were in blooming and exploding in all colors that the whole garden was such a fascinating sight. Parterre is in front of the West portion of the Palace.

5. Jardin del Principe

imageLiterally, it means the Prince’s Garden. The Jardin was a pet project of Charles IV which started when he was still the Prince of Asturias. Consisting of 150 hectares of land, it must have been the largest Madrid garden that I’ve seen so far. It took 19 years to build the garden, and was finished in 1908, at the time when Charles finally became king.

6. Casa del Labrador

Casa del Labrador, Aranjuez, Community of Madrid, SpainOne of the royal family of Spain´s favorite residences in Madrid, the Casa del Labrador is a World Heritage site. Public viewing and visits are allowed although I wasn’t able to because I visited Aranjuez on a Monday, when most of the sites are closed.

7. Jardin de la Isla

imageA beautiful garden found in the northern portion of the palace, the Jardin de la Isla is so-called because it is situated in the middle of bodies of water, by the Tagus River or Rio Tajo, and a man-made river.

8. Cascada de las Castanuelas

imageLocated beside the Jardin de la Isla, the Cascades was built to regulate the course of the Tagus River and to collect water for the gardens.

9. Tagus River

imageRio Tajo in Spanish, it is one of the main  bodies of water that surround the palace. Tagus River is of utmost importance to Aranjuez’ environment as it sustains the lives of a number of animal varieties, especially the waterfowl.

How to get to Aranjuez, Spain:

imageVia Bus: Take the 423 bus, found at Estacion Sur, Madrid’s biggest bus station. The latter can be reached via Metro Madrid Linea 6, at Mendez Alvaro.

Fare is 4.20 euros, and tickets are bought on the bus itself.

Via Train: Cercania train tickets are available at the ticketing counters of Chamartin and Atocha stations. Traveling by train is more or less the same as that with bus travel – around an hour.

For specific journey schedules and ticket prices, please refer to Cercania’s website.

Map of Royal Palace of Aranjuez:

Outside Madrid: Toledo Spain [What to See]

imageThe majestic Alcazar (fortress) lording over the whole town of Toledo

You need not travel for hours just to escape the frenzied Madrid crowd and enjoy the quiet of the countryside. For instance, if you want to go to Toledo Spain and wish to experience what the country’s former capital has to offer, you need only less than a hour, or roughly 45 minutes to reach this magnificent hilltop town.

A popular day trip destination, Toledo is a veritable cultural melting pot of sorts if only because it was formed from the influence of three different religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Such influences molded the place into the unique and historically rich town that it is now, as seen thru its Moorish walls and towers, plazas, cathedrals, museums, bridges, and Christian Roman ruins. Consequently, its overflowing uniqueness led UNESCO to declare it as a World heritage site.

imageToledo Cathedral

Toledo is the heart and soul of Spain, being the country’s former premier city, long before Madrid became the current one. This “pueblo” within the Castille La Mancha community sets itself apart from the rest of the region because it drips in so much grandeur and history.

A major Spain attraction like Cordoba and Compostela de Santiago, what makes Toledo a preferred destination is that it requires less travel hours to reach, which means much more time to explore the place.

A marked edge of Toledo is that going there is cheaper especially if you’re from Madrid. Traveling via bus will cost you less than 10 euros if you purchase round trip tickets. Likewise, sites and attractions are near each other. You’d get to walk through the town´s cobbled streets, which can be narrow and confusing – much like a labyrinth — but exciting, nonetheless.

Visit Toledo now, see it, and in no time at all, you will fall in love with this Spanish gem. Explore the town to the fullest, and be ready to add Toledo to your list of favorite Spanish towns.

MOORISH ATTRACTIONS

1. Alcazar de Toledo

This is Toledo´s famous fortress, standing at the highest point of the town. So-called because it was controlled by the town’s ancient conquerors, the Moors. It still maintains a vast military importance to the town.

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2. Puerta de Visagra

Also called Puerta Nueva de Visagra, this imposing monument serves as the gateway to the walled city of Toledo, Castilla La Mancha.

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3. Antiguas Murallas y Torres

The ancient towers and walls that surround Toledo are clear evidences of the Moorish influence on the town.

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4. Puente de San Martin y Rio Tajo

One of the popular town attractions is the San Martin Bridge with its 5 arches, spanning over the historic Tagus River (Tajo Rio). San Martin was a Roman bridge, but was rebuilt by the Moors in 1212.

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5. Iglesia de El Salvador

I’ll include the Church of El Salvador under the Moorish group since it was originally built as a mosque, at the time when the Muslims dominated the town.

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JEWISH INFLUENCE

1. Museo de Separdi

The Sephardic Museum boasts of a rich display of the history of the Jewish people in Toledo through its valuable Judaic artifacts. Where located: Calle Samuel Levi.

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2. The Menorrah Tiles

The white Menorrah or the Jewish candle holder over a blue-background tile. Many of these tiles are embedded in the streets of Toledo, indicating a once thriving Jewish presence.

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3. Transito Synagogue

The synagogue of the Transito is unique because while it is a bonafide Jewish place of worship, the edifice evokes a Moorish design. It is built by Samuel Ha-Levi (full name: Samuel Ben Meir Ha Levi Abulafia), a Jewish advisor to the 14th century King of Castile, Pedro I.

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4. Sta Maria la Blanca

Santa Maria la Blanca, now a small Christian church and museo, was built as a synagogue, functioning as one until the latter part of the 14th century. Ownership was eventually transferred to the Catholic Church. Christian worship and cultural events are said to be held at the site.

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ROMAN CATHOLIC LEGACY

1. Catedral de Santa Maria de Toledo

A popular Roman Catholic church patterned after the Bourges Cathedral of France, it is known by many names such as the Toledo Cathedral and Cathedral of Spain. It is considered one of the finest structures that utilized Gothic architecture. Entrance ticket price: 8 euros

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2. Iglesia de San Ildefonso

The church of San Ildefonso is dedicated to the town’s patron saint, St Ildefonsus. Run by the Jesuits, the church is primarily baroque in design. It is simple and charming church that’s popular among tourists who wander within the Calle de Mejico area.

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3. Convento de San Antonio, Dulces Artisanos

The Convent of San Antonio de Padua can be found in Santo Tome, one of the Town´s central streets. It sells pastries and sweets like yemas at affordable prices, to the delight of tourists and locals alike.

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OTHER TOLEDO SPAIN ATTRACTIONS

1. Plaza Zocodover

The town´s main square, a tourist attraction, is bustling like most other main squares in Spain. People rush about in the plaza throughout the day, mainly because of the surrounding restaurants, souvenir shops, and the fancy, red-colored tourist train that brings riders to the spot where panoramic photos of the town from afar can be taken.

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2. Museo de Santa Cruz

Its location is where an ancient hospital used to stand. Now, the Santa Cruz Museum features everything that represents the magnificent era of the country — the Spanish Renaissance. It presents works of Luis Trista and El Greco, among many other renowned artists. Direccion: Miguel de Cervantes

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3. Museo del Greco

Located along Paseo del Transito, the museum is dedicated to Domenikos Theotokopoulos — or simply El Greco. As his name implies, he was from Greece but settled in Toledo Spain where he led a prolific life as an artist and architect. Here, he produced most of his beautiful painting-masterpieces.

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4. Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Another popular town Square, where the Ayuntamiento, the body in charge of the town government, and the Cathedral de Sta Maria are found.

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5. Hostal San Tome

Hotels in Toledo Spain abound, and so finding a nice accommodation is easy to be had if you want to stay in town overnight or for a few days. Hostal San Tome belongs to the list of fine Toledo hotels — for one thing, its location is right in the middle of the action. Booking a room here is the perfect thing to do. Here is its website.

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How to reach Toledo:

Bus: An ALSA bus is bound for Toledo every 20 to 30 minutes. Go to the ALSA station at Plaza Eliptica and buy tickets for 5.39 euros apiece. You pay less, 9.70 euros, if you purchase ida y vuelta tickets. Duration of travel: approximately 45 minutes.

Train: Take the Renfe AVE service at Atocha station, the price is around 25 euros (round trip). The train option is much faster; time of travel via Renfe is approximately 30 minutes.

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