Because of its diversity and cultureSpain is one of the most attractive destinations in the world. Its individuality, climate, Mediterranean diet and human quality of its people, among other things, has made it a famous country to live in.
Spain is diverse, with each region being proud of its own traditions and cuisine. A land of wines and joy, of flamenco, dances and traditions. Spain surprises all who visit.
On top of its amazing and varied culture, and along with the warmth of its people, you will discover a country of contrasts, of alluring cities and incredible natural scenery. Travel to the centre of this bountiful peninsula to discover Castilian Spain. Unearth Northern Spain's magical locations that include amazing grasslands and green forests, nourished by the Atlantic.
Or its fresh and green Mediterranean coast and islands, where the sea breeze will delight you. And don't forget to visit rich Andalusia, inspired by renowned artists such as Hemingway.
Spain, an enchanting country whose inspiration is truly intoxicating.
Description of the area
Madrid is a city passionate about life. Its visitors immediately allured to the city's charms. The Spanish capital is a cosmopolitan city that blends modernity with a great cultural and artistic heritage. It is one of the financial, economic and cultural centres of the nation.
Art and culture are prominent in Madrid. The capital has 73 museums, including the Prado Museum, one of the most important art galleries in the world; the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, with 48 rooms and almost 1000 works of art offering a journey through the history of European painting from the 18th to 20th centuries; and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, dedicated to contemporary Spanish art, with works from Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, among others.
Madrid never sleeps. Another of its great attractions is its varied leisure offer, with something to please everyone. Enjoy the lively nightlife and great atmosphere of the capital's bars, pubs and nightclubs. Madrid is a living city where you can enjoy concerts, exhibitions, ballet and a select array of theatre productions. You will also be able to taste the best Spanish and international cuisine.
Local gastronomy is a characteristic of any town or city, and what better way to enjoy it than in the unrivalled setting of Aranjuez. Enjoying fine food is a delight for all of the five senses, you can see it, smell it, touch it, even listen to it and, of course, you savour it.
Garden produce has always accompanied game meat on the table. Following in the footsteps of the Royal hunters, today you can enjoy several dishes based on game birds such as pheasant, partridge and quail. Here the influences from the neighbouring districts of Toledo and La Mancha are very much appreciated.
As a complement, the traditional local wine industry has grown in recent decades, with carefully executed initiatives in keeping with the natural and cultural richness of the Real Sitio (Royal Site). The city's numerous restaurants, taverns and bars know how to maximise and reinvent the gastronomic jewels of the Royal Site, discovering professionals who are stars in their own right and have on many occasions achieved international fame.
The royal family and their court achieved international fame. The king and queen and their Baroque court would have loved the modern day dishes of this region, which has been declared a UNESCO Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site. The city is famous for its exquisite gastronomy, gaining prestige for its excellent array of riverside restaurants frequented by locals and visitors alike.
In Madrid, these are the must-see attractions:
The official residence of King Juan Carlos I, although he doesn't actually live there. Walk around its impressive halls.
Gran Vía-Plaza España
100 years of history in a single street. With its buildings, leisure opportunities and shops, you can't miss it.
Its porticoed style is admirable and its history makes it worth a visit.
, a modern, although very stylish building, is located right in front of the Royal Palace.
Calle and Puerta de Alcalá
The most famous gateway to Madrid and one of the grandest avenues of the city.
Plaza de Cibeles
The spectacular Cibeles fountain is at the centre of this square. An impressive palace stands at every corner.
Puerta del Sol
Not just the centre of Madrid but also of Spain. Admire the clock and discover all the streets leading to it
The lungs of Madrid. A place to relax and enjoy the fresh air. A park in which you can lose yourself.
The most important museum in Madrid as well as one of the most important art galleries in the world.
Reina Sofia National Art Centre
The Guernica is its most important painting, but don't miss the other works of art by renowned artists such as Picasso, Dalí or Miró.
Thyssen Bornemisza Museum
One of the world's most important private collections including every style.
From an economic and social point of view, the commercial activity of Aranjuez continues to contribute highly to the creation of wealth and employment, which has hugely significant repercussion on other sectors of activity.
Things to do
Aranjuez offers a rich and varied cultural and leisure offer. You mustn't miss a visit to the Royal Palace at Aranjuez, with its marvellous gardens and fountains, or a trip on the famous “Tren de la Fresa” (Strawberry Train), which will take you on a journey through the stunning countryside.
Moreover, Aranjuez is the perfect spot for enjoying your favourite sports and adventure activities such as canoeing, balloon rides, horse riding and even parachuting in the nearby town of Ocaña.
The city of Aranjuez also has a fabulous casino where you can unwind after your daytime walks through the city and have some fun.
If you are travelling with children, don't miss the opportunity to visit the Warner Park Madrid, located just a few kilometres away and where your children can enjoy a marvellous day surrounded by their favourite characters.
Gastronomically speaking, you will be spoilt for choice with the fresh Aranjuez produce and wonderful regional wines on offer at any of the city's restaurants.
You simply can't leave us without rewarding yourself with a visit to the marvellous U-Spa at the Barceló Aranjuez hotel, where we will make you feel like royalty before you head home.
Although the history of the current Aranjuez dates back to the Middle Ages, there have been some important historical findings dating it to Pre-historic times.
Remains from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages have all been discovered in the area, such as Celtic axes known as "lightening stones", settlements which were probably devoted to hunting, farming, agriculture and meat curing.
Apart from the archaeological remains found in the area, there is documented evidence of the existence of a township having been here since Roman times. Polibio and Tito Livio tell the story of an important battle which was won by Aníbal close to the joining of the rivers Tagus and Jarama.
In 1171, Alfonso VIII put this frontier area under the domain of the Royal Order of Santiago.
1178 saw the definite conquest of Aranjuez, which was to eventually become the residence of the Grand Masters of the Order. They spent long stretches of times resting in the Palace they built, which was later to become the site of the Royal Palace. For this reason the cross of Santiago forms part of the crest of Aranjuez, approved by the Council of Ministers on February 17, 1956.
During the times when the Tagus formed a frontier between the Christians and Muslims and after the formation of the Military Orders, King Alfonso VIII granted Oreja Castle to the Order of Santiago, in the person of its Master and founder, Rodrigo Fernandez de Fuente Encalada.
In 1272 the Mesa Maestral (similar to the round table) of Santiago was formed, incorporating the lands of Aranjuez as recreational lands for the Masters. At the end of the 15th century, master Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa ordered the construction of a Residential Palace next to the current river, on the north side of what today is the Royal Palace. It was demolished in the 18th century.
Aranjuez and the Royal Family
Aranjuez's links with the royal family started during the reign of Isabel I, who had Fernando V appointed lifelong administrator of the Maestrazgo of the Order of Santiago in 1489. Aranjuez started to be frequented by the royal family. The renovations to the Palace were begun and the Jardín de la Isla (Island Garden) commenced, known as Jardín de la Reina (The Queen's Garden).
In 1520 Gonzalo Chacón was appointed palace chamberlain, who carried out various hydraulic works and improvements to the site.
In 1523, the Dehesa de Aranjuez became Royal property by forming part of the Mesa Maestral of King Carlos I, who had received from Pope Adriano VI the Master dignity of Santiago and the administration of the Mesa Maestral in perpetuity.
Carlos I, a great hunting enthusiast, carried out several reforms and created the Royal Forest and Casa de Aranjuez as places for leisure and hunting.
Between 1534 and 1543 the surrounding orders of Otos, Oreja, Aceca and Alpajés were designated to Aranjuez, as well as the properties pertaining to the palace chamberlain, grasslands and town and noble lands.
King Felipe II played a fundamental role in the development of Aranjuez, naming Aranjuez a Real Sitio (Royal Site) in 1560. The Royal Forest grew in notoriety and lands at this time. In 1550, while he was still a prince, he began the tree plantations. In 1564 changes were implemented to the Jardín de la Isla with an extension to the flowers beds, statues and fountains. The island garden had irrigation channels laid down, numerous vegetable gardens were developed and large avenues of poplars, black elms, oranges, jasmines and vines were planted.
In 1561 it was decided upon to build a Palace more in keeping with a monarch's residence under the direction of Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera. The building of towns and villages was prohibited. The Royal Site would be exclusive to the Monarch.
The successive monarchs continued the work of Felipe II and modelled Aranjuez to his taste. On the one hand they filled it with monuments, and on the other they prevented the normal development of the town by prohibiting settlements and constructions. In this way Aranjuez was a private monumental estate for the royal family.
It was the Bourbons who were to give Aranjuez the final boost that would convert it into a monumental royal court.
The first Bourbon to take up residence at Aranjuez was Felipe V. During his reign, and very much influenced by his refined French education, the monarch converted the town into the administration centre for Royal Sites established by the travelling court. Extensions to the Royal Palace were begun, with the old Palace being demolished in 1727. 700 families were appointed to the king's service which is why the position of Great Mayor was created.
Fernando VI took the first steps towards enriching the growing population and permitted free settling of inhabitants. With the arrival of Santiago Bonavía in 1740, and with the help of Alejandro González Velázquez, the planning of Aranjuez was carried out. In 1747 the city's urban development was started, with prior planning and the later contributions of Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva. New streets, squares and buildings were built in accordance with architectural styles such as the straight line, perspective, uniformity and monumentality. The building regulations for the area of Aranjuez were designed to preserve harmony; the height of the buildings, layout and widths of the streets, the façades... Aranjuez became a local centre with industrial and commercial activity.
Carlos IV ended the age of splendour of the Royal Site by constructing fountains, the Casa del Labrador, the Chinescos, the Casa de Marinos, Casa de Infantes, Godoy Palace and the Duchy of Medinaceli. The golden age of the Royal Site came to an end when difficulties arrived to Aranjuez caused by poor administration and the non-existent profitability of the royal properties. This led to unpopular reforms of government orders, which enabled properties to be cleaned up and high Royal Site budgets to be addressed.
In 1801 the Treaty of Aranjuez was signed, under the rule of Carlos IV. Spain became an ally of Napoleon to unite more naval forces against the English. This pact was used by the French emperor to invade Spain with his troops three years later marking the start of the War of Independence.
In 1808 the Revolt of Aranjuez took place - in Aranjuez, caused by the intrigues of Fernando VII against Carlos IV's prime minister, Manuel Godoy. Godoy suggested to Carlos IV to embark from Seville to America to save himself from the French troops occupying Spain and the discontentment gripping the country at this time. Fernando VII and his followers opposed this plan. On the night of March 17, 1808, a mob led by followers of Fernando attacked Godoy's house, but he was not to be found. On the morning of March 19, Godoy was located and transferred to the Guard Corps Quarters amid beatings. Fernando intervened, prevented his lynching and got his father to abdicate at noon on the very same day. Shortly after, Fernando had to hand over his crown to José Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon, known by the dubious name of Pepe Botella.
In September 1808 the Central Council was held in Aranjuez, the body that was in charge of leading and coordinating the actions against Napoleon.
In 1809 a provisional City Council was created, with Domingo Gaspar Pérez being appointed the first ever Mayor of Aranjuez.
On January 2, 1835 the office of Governor was removed from the Royal Site and the City Council of Aranjuez was permanently established with the appointment of José Ignacio de Ibarrola on September 9, 1836. The Royal Site stopped being directly governed by the Crown, with the Constitutional City Councils taking control of the municipal government.
In 1846 he was succeeded by Gavino Ruiz, riverside liberal. Schools for children were created, the Colegio de la Unión and the Agricultural College.
During the first half of the 14th century industrial development was scarce, with the commercial sector prevailing, above all the Supply Market. The Reales de Primavera (Royal Spring) meetings still took place, which included the San Fernando patron Festivities and the Ganado fair. The latter was recently replaced by the Motín Fairs of Aranjuez, which were declared of National Tourist Interest in 1992. During this time, what should have been the first Spanish railway line, the Madrid-Aranjuez or "Strawberry Train" was planned. Before the opening of this line in 1851, the Barcelona-Mataró line was already up and running.
In 1899 it received the Title of Town, therefore this city is known as Real Sitio y Villa de Aranjuez (Royal Site and Town of Aranjuez). In 1930 the Jornadas Reales de Primavera (Royal Spring Meetings) stopped being held here. In 2001 Aranjuez was declared a Cultural Landscape in UNESCO´s World Heritage List.