Aranzuez isn’t a huge, highly sought-after town, but it’s far from being hidden and obscure. It is one jewel of a Spanish pueblo, being the site of a spectacular royal palace. Still, many would consider it to be 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 and its Royal Palace
This 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
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 must 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
Palacio 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
King 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
4. Parterre Garden
The beautiful Parterre Garden is the most colorful of all that surround the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, 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
Literally, 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
One 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
A 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
9. Tagus River
Rio 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:
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.