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Alcalá de Henares, the City of Cervantes

Do you love the Man of the Mancha? Are you heading to Spain? You will want to visit the birthplace of Cervantes, a world heritage site and all around beautiful city.

Meandering around the Spain’s beautiful city of Alcalá de Henares, which is in the middle of the Castilian plain not far from Madrid, it was hot and humid. The impressive stone buildings were gleaming in the sun, thankfully casting long shadows for us to walk saving us from being sun burnt and getting heat exhaustion.

After walking through the university district and gawking at the many storks on all the roofs, we found ourselves in the Plaza de Cervantes, very green and shady primarily due to the abundance of orange trees. People were everywhere, some hurriedly going to work and others lazily pushing their strollers or chatting with their friends. They seemed content, happy to be living in such an elevated city.

A statue of Cervantes in Alcala de Henares.

There are plenty of things to see in regards to their famous resident, starting right on the Plaza with a statue of Cervantes in the center with all four sides depicting scenes from Don Quixote. On the southeastern corner across from the plaza is one of a few different museums dedicated to Cervantes.

A plaque commemorating the birthplace of Cervantes.

The entry was free (for Americans anyway), and the exhibits were copies of his works, and how his ideas were incorporated into later works. One of the most interesting was a newspaper from WWII where Don Quixote is fighting the Axis. It also has many copies of his first book, La Galatea, which was originally published in 1585 as well as much of his poetry and Don Quixote.

The audience chamber of the university, Alcala de Henares.

However, one of our favorite stops on the Cervantes jaunt was to the house where he was born. Cervantes’ father was a poor businessman and found himself in and out of jail due primarily to his accumulation of debts. Unfortunately Cervantes followed very closely in his footsteps in this regard.

The birthplace of Cervantes is now a museum.

The house is a gorgeous little Spanish house with two stories and a small courtyard enclosing the well. Many of the rooms are set up to be dioramas of how life was lived during the 16th century, but on the top floor there is another exhibit of his many works. (Again this was free to citizens of the U.S. I’m not sure if it is free to everyone.)

An ornate door and frame; the University of Alcala de Henares.
A beautiful door and mantel on the university grounds.
Marble colunnade in the university of Alcala de Henares.
A stunning courtyard of the university.

Visiting Alcalá de Henares made we want to reread Don Quixote, but the Cervantes’ sights were not the only things to do in the city. The famous university is more than impressive, and walking through the maze of streets, like the Calle Mayor, makes it one of the favorites of our Spanish roadtrip.

Have you been to city of Cervantes? What did you think?

Jim and Corinne in Alcala de Henares.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.