Aranjuez is an historic municipality (population 47,000) at the confluence of the Tajo and Jarama rivers. It is about 50 km south of Madrid in Spain and difficult for Anglophones to pronounce: aɾaŋˈxweθ sounds something like a'ran'with!
Nestling in the wide, flat-bottomed valley at the confluence of the Tagus (locally Tajo) and Jarama rivers, in an exquisite natural setting, the town of Aranjuez, has been declared a UNESCO Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site since 2001.
The Royal Estate and Villa was once the exclusive springtime residence of royalty and its 700 families of servants. In 1747 the town started to become the modern thriving city of today, but retaining the outstanding cultural and sporting opportunities for residents and visitors in an environment of great natural interest once reserved to courtiers and their king.
All so-called ribereños still strive to serve everyone as delightfully as they once served the nobility, and especially those who seek know the history, architecture, and the culture that created its incomparably sublime buildings, gardens, and landscapes - Aranjuez offers food for thought combined with serenity, comfort and fine cuisine.
The main passenger terminal is Madrid–Barajas Airport, to the west of the capital city, which links via a toll-road to the three concentric peripheral routes M-50 (outer) M-40 and M-30 (inner) autovías. There are also direct rail and metro services from Terminal 4.
In summer, RENFE occasionally run the Strawberry train - el tren de la fresa is a steam-train tourist service from Madrid
Madrid region Cercanias C-3 service trains link Arunjuez directly to Madrid The ride takes roughly 45 min to 55 min from Atocha, Sol or Chamartin.
Use either M-50, M-40, or M-30 peripheral major roads around Madrid which connect to A-4 (Autovia Sur/direction Cordoba) use exit at Km 37 (under arched footbridge) to M-305 (regular road direction Aranjuez - take care of tight bend left and 2 lanes converging).
This leads via La Montaña district and automotive sales zone (3 km north of city) and then directly to the royal palace (recommended: use free surface car-park on left immediately after road-width restriction or continue into monumental zone then turn right under arch by church to paid underground parking in Calle Valeras).
For the south (industrial area) of town continue on A4 to next exit (or use toll road R-4).
Aranjuez is fairly flat and accessible with many fine gardens and parks as well as those of the royal palace complex. For a swift introduction, there is the tourist chiquitren or wagon-train which optionally offers a combined ticket which includes some museum entry and riverboat services. This leaves daily, all year round, from behind the Royal Palace, through the town and around the Jardin del Principe royal gardens, and includes a recorded commentary in Spanish and English. The Jardin de la Isla is a more formal garden with some notable fountains joining the palace.
- Amble around the town as well as the royal sites - the town is compact and level - ideal for walking - but, this being an historic town with lots of interesting architecture, wheelchair users may need help entering some business premises, but assistance is usually readily available on request.
- Tourist Walks: the tourist office offers several routes which pass by numbered information boards erected by the municipality near places of interest
Aranjuez municipality has a free cycle hire service called Aranbike [dead link], but there is a registration fee, and the process is a very clumpy operation and all in Spanish.
To the north, beyond the rotunda Roseñol cobbled roundabout (near the riverside tourist restaurant 'el Rana Verde) are the royal vegetable gardens (now farmland). A roundabout and rural café ('gango) serves as a hub for 12 royal rides (now mostly restricted to pedestrian and bicycle us). As well as being level, they boast elegant, tree-lined, shade and shingle surfaces. Radiating like a clock from the Doce Calles (12 ways) roundabout/kiosk-bar, some border the river, whilst others lead to a new- park - the steep slope known as talud sur de la Montaña which has an ancient water-wheel and path-extensions all bicycle or wheelchair accessible and suitable for the fitter users.
Throughout its history as a royal estate from 1560, the steep-sided, fertile valley at the confluence of the rivers Tagus and Jarama (known as the Cuenca del Tago) has been cultivated for the amusement and diversion of the nobility as well as for the practical purpose of providing delightful fresh produce for the royal tables. The descriptions below are modern interpretations of extracts from historical documents.
In the 16th century, during the reign of Philip II a vast area in front of the royal palace was a managed garden of ponds or pools in which water-fowl such as ducks and geese were reared. In 1613 he ordered shaded, tree-lined walk-ways and rides known as Doce Calles (12 ways) to be planted with elms, ash, chestnut walnut and mulberry trees. The design is geometric and vaguely astrological in keeping with the then fashionable mystery of majesty.
In 1601 the existing Texeras horticultural garden along the river Tagus was expanded so that by 1604 this area became a substantial kitchen garden for the royal estate.
On the high ground livestock were kept, and from 1599 vegetables were produced on land adjoining the Casa del Matadero, (an abattoir, probably near the present La Finca).
In 1716 a garden for Queen Maria-Louise (wife of Philip V) was created with fountains, musical machines and similar amusing diversions. At the same time the Potaxia del Jardin de la Reina produced more exotic vegetables from the new world such as bananas and pineapples using advanced horticultural techniques.
In 1747 King Fernando VI extended existing woodland with a variety of trees and introduced Iberian plane trees to line calles Rey and Rebollo (King and Oak streets). The 'new' and elegant plane (Platinus hispanica) which now grace calle sin salida. is a cultivar developed by cross fertilization from both oriental and occidental varieties of plain trees
By 1756 a wider variety of fruit and nut trees were incorporated, while Aranjuez strawberries and asparagus began to be commercialized. Hereabouts became renowned for the songs of nightingales, larks blackbirds and goldfinches.
The reign of Carlos III in late 18th century saw a considerable increase in activity with the construction of the cattle ranch (La Finca) the royal farm, winery and hermitage el Cortijo Real and Bodega de Carlos III as well as the main highways linking these sites to the palace with a road from Madrid to Colmenar (now the M305).
During more than a decade from 1772 the cultivation was extended to encircle the palace and the town, which is when El Delete (the delight) was constructed to define the southern margin of the town. Thereafter pleasure gardens and hunting forests gave way to horticulture or agriculture, notably vineyards and olive groves.
At the end of the 18th century, a telegraph office was established atop Parnaso Hill, affording the king rapid communication with every part of his kingdom.
In the 19th century commercial tree plantations were established, and in the 20th century commercial farming took over, with first sugar beet, and later sweet corn as major cash crops. The ruined sugar refinery is near the railway station, which incidentally has extensive cargo sidings intended for transporting bulk agricultural produce. The vast railway infrastructure to the west of the palace is now mostly abandoned although some areas became used as commuter car-parking during the late 20th century.
The last royal resident to use Aranjuez as a springtime residence was King Alfonso XIII who ceded to the Second Republic shortly after his visit in 1930.
Although calle sin salida means "the street with no exit", a strong bridge now extends the route to La Montaña. This was constructed in 2012 to provide convenient access to the hillside for pedestrians, cyclists, various leisure pursuits and rural maintenance activities.
Today these tree-lined walkways known as "doce calles" are highly valued, and each year a different street is selected for renovation, with old trees felled and replaced with saplings where necessary. The wide variety of wood harvested is used in the public interest notably for the conservation of historic artifacts and maintenance of the authentic assets of the Aranjuez world heritage sites.
The adjacent hillside park with its reconstructed arabic 'noria' waterwheel (which includes a small hydraulic demonstration site) was opened in 2013. Climb the hill, follow the road to the right to a café called La Cazuela del Chiquitin which terrace offers a panoramic view: far left the clock-tower of el Cortijo is visible through the trees the town is to the south and the dome of palace (buried in trees) is the extreme right, immediately below the mountains of Toledo (visible only on clear days). Continue down hill, and find the vía pecuria (sandy drover's road) then follow the tree-lined calle Ojalvo (which probably named after a noble courtier) which leads to the Real Cortijo de San Isidro
Chiquitren and boat trip
The tourist road-train Operates all year round from about 10am. with commentaries in Spanish and English but its wagons are open and unheated
This is a small town which supports independent traders rather than multiple-stores so some unusual finds. There is one major hypermarket (Le Clerc in paseo Delete) and several smaller food outlets including Eroski, Mercadona, Más and two Lidl stores, For best value and freshest local produce, try the central covered market. English is widely understood
Parking for visitors to the tourist office is a short walk from (free - open) surface car park at entry to town near Hotel Mercedes, or underground (guarded, cooler but paid - about €1 per hour) in Calle Valera - Exit Mariblanca cobbled street to right under arch, and turn left after Hotel Principe de Paz (opposite palace).
Parking in Aranjuez town centre streets is difficult and needs a paid ticket during business hours - but only if the spaces are marked with a blue line.
Double parking is common (especially for newspapers and cigarettes) but illegal. The central streets are very narrow and require drivers to be patient - best avoided - most hotels have reserved spaces.
- w:Royal Palace of Aranjuez dates from the 18th century. Some of the famous rooms are:
- The Porcelain Study
- Throne Room
- Jardin de la Isla attached formal gardens
- Plaza Eliptica oval grassed park, with three radiating walkways with shady trees leading towards the festival ground near the railway station
- One of the exterior facades of the Palace, the Gardens surrounding the Palace
- Chiquitren- tourist road-train which visits:
- Jardin de la Isla - formal gardens adjoining the palace
- Jardin del Principe - an extensive riverside park with many features, including
- Botanical Gardens
- Chinese Garden
- Real Casa del Labrador
- Museo de Falúas Reales - Royal Barge Collection
Within Aranjuez, there are many sculptures and architectural gems - because the town was created by royalty and only royal servants were permitted, the vernacular buildings tend to be of one design in the tightly packed centre, interspersed with noble palaces and grand military installations along the boulevards. Worth visiting are the newly restored railway station and Carlos III theatre, the Queen's stable, now adapted as the municipal cultural centre, the central Abastos market and (ruined) Carlos municipal (plague) hospital. Saturdays there is a substantial open air market for food and clothing in Calle Valeras, which faces the Royal Palace.
- Mariblanca - a large sandy square properly called Plaza San Antonio afte the Royal chapel at the end.
- Plaza de la Constitución
- Bull Ring The first Plaza de Toros built in Spain, contains small museum
- Palacios Principe de La Paz -the rogue royal favourite who provoked the mutiny of Aranjuez for consorting with Napoleon - near the palace (now a 4* hotel) and also in Calle Principe - now Colegeo de la Sacrada Familia - in front of which the mutiny is re-enacted)
- Heurtas y Jardines Shady tree-lined walks in what used to be the kitchen gardens and orchards
- Parque Talud Sur: A newly constructed park on the south slope of La Montaña district, near Doce Calles
- Parque Pozo de las Nieves, Aranjuez The Snow Well Park
- Feria de Aranjuez festival about first week of September includes
- a fun-fair (car park, M-305)
- sports events (Delete stadium)
- food and drink stalls (Mariblanca)
- a concert at the Royal Palace
- a traditional or Sacrificio Goyesque (in the Plaza de Toros)
- a dramatic street re-enactment of the attack and burning of Godoy's House, (now Sacrada Familia school in Avenida Principe) with fireworks and costumes inspired by Goya paintings
- A fun raft-race organized by the pirates of the Tajo
The Motin de Aranjuez took place in March 1808 because Godoy was believed to have colluded with Napoleon to invade Spain on the pretext of attacking Portugal. Subsequently the French forced both the Spanish King Carlos IV and his son to abdicate in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph, (José I). The Spanish, aided by British forces under Wellington, ejected José and reinstalled the king's son as Ferdinand VII, the last regular royal occupant at Aranjuez who ruled until his death in 1833.
Be sure always to tell someone (such as your hotel receptionist or host) what you are planning, and throughout the summer use Factor 50 sun block on exposed flesh, and be sure to take (even on short outings).
- a large bottle of water
- a sombrero or sun-hat (with a brim all around)
- a (fully charged, with credit) telephone:
- the medical emergency number is 061
- Other emergencies 112
- police national 091, municipal 092
- Doce Calles Take the Madrid road (M-305) northwards. There are twelve shady paths radiating from s a new roundabout with El Kiosco bar/restaurant. Take either Calle Sin Salida or Calle la Montaña - there is a new park constructed on the south bank Talud Sur La Montaña (actually not a mountain, but a plateau).
- To the left leads to a restored water-wheel and Hospital Tajo.
- To the right, the level route leads to El cortijo de San Isidro palace (with adjacent cafe-bar),
- To the right, uphill leads to a residential district of houses and apartment blocks, where, in calle Avila there a great view over the town and the colleges of the Guardia Civil (The Spanish armed police training center). There you will also find a local bar El Cazuela de Chiquitin which is cheap good country cooking and worth a visit, if only for the tapas!
- Ruta del Sol The other side of the M305 is also an flat, agricultural area, where there are paths leading to a disused hippodrome, the rivers Tajo (Tagus) and Jarama. There are bridges to cross the railway line
- Los Coroneles (on Google maps:Glorieta Cultural) is the middle of five level paths radiating westward from the palace (Plaza Eliptica) ehich lead to a festival ground near the railway station. Here you will find sone ruined barracks (Antigua Cuarteles) a few isolated housed near the river and some industrial buildings relating to the disused rail-freight yard. The weir of the River Tajo, which facilitates irrigation, is near the Palacio Real.
- Vía Pecuria a drovers path is marked and leads north of La Montaña through olive groves and glorious countryside to Madrid - but there is not much shade - the entire route is about 80 km (50 miles). Start from Aranjuez center and take either the M305 Madrid (as for Doce Calles) or the M305a, along Jardines del Principe (Avenida de la Reina) over the bridge by the golf course towards:
- Cortijo de Aranjuez
- Castillo de Oreja,
- Titulcia, Vía Pecuaria de los Puentes,
- San Martín de la Vega,
- Perales del Rio,
- Getafe Metro Station (Alonso de Mendoza)
There are two casinos:
- The Casino central near Calle Infantas - in Calle Capitan (Angosto Gomez Castillon - but there is really only one capitain street in this town town!) email: email@example.com ☏
- Gran Casino. A vast complex in La Montaña (m-305 3 km north of palace)
- Golf Aranjuez. A 9-hole municipal facility
- La Montaña an 18-hole golf. A commercial venture.
- Canoeing. At Escuela de Pirigismo (opposite palace).
As well as golf and canoeing mentioned, most common sports facilities are available at low cost municipal installations, and there are various adventure activities such as outdoor airsoft or paint-ball on the so-called "Hamburger hill" adventure park (south of Aranjuez) and parapente or paragliding on La Montaña (behind schools on Avenida de la Paz de Hiroshima).
Aranjuez is the wedding capital of Spain - maybe because you are royalty for the day! There are several shops selling or hiring wedding dresses, formal wear etc. and several specialist event organizers, including:
- Gran Casino
- La Finca de Montaña
- Hotel Barcelo
Any of the several professional photographic shops in the town can suggest some great/elegant/natural backgrounds for those 'forever fotos'
Buy a home
Yes! Really it is possible - the building bubble burst, and this town is bursting with four-bedroom houses - detached, terraced or semi-detached chalets and apartments from 1 - 3 bedrooms, all soundly built to EC standards but which became toxic assets, now to be sold by Spain's bad-bank - Sociedad de Gestión de Activos Procedentes de la Reestructuración Bancaria (or 'Sareb').
Although good concrete frame construction buildings, the finish is often poor, so the original asking price (c. €400,000) is usually about half the current list price, but what the market will bear is half that. In 2012 a chalet was offered at €167,000, and similar homes could be rented for about €500 because private owners are getting desperate. Aranjuez is pleasant, safe and child-friendly sort of place in which to live. The weather is sub-tropical (rarely freezes, can be 40ºC in high summer). Magical Madrid, Spain's capital city, is 1-hour commuting distance, and the monthly train ticket is around €90.
There are some excellent restaurants for all budgets (main meal from about €10-100 per person) serving local speciality foods, notably
- The strawberries of Aranjuez are famous throughout Spain.
- small artichokes which can be eaten whole and
- asparagus, which may be mature, white and thick (blanco) or young thin green brotes/trigots.
In the noble tradition, seafood and shellfish are widely available all year round, often mixed with other dishes. (If you have allergies - ask! - as many common dishes such as beef steak or green salad are prepared or served with pork products, or else garnished with mariscos which for safety, are often deep frozen, which locally is believed to destroy any toxins).
- Paella usually rice with seafood (con mariscos) or variations with meat (mixta) Alternative (nearly) vegetarian recipes include setas/boletus (types of mushroom) or Valenciana (mixed vegetables).
- Cocido completo In winter. a rich stew pork dish, The liquid is served as a soup and the strained vegetables and meat (pork sausage, pigs ear) is served as the main course.
- Gallinejas Fried spirals of pork offal (small intestines, spleen, and pancreas) served with French Fries.
- Zarajos new-born lamb intestines wound on a stick (usually a snack or tapas
- Patatas Alliolli boiled potatoes in a creamy white garlic sauce
- Patatas Bravas Fried potatoes in an unctuous red pepper-spice sauce
- Champinones button mushrooms fried with garlic in olive oil
- Sorpresa depends on what the chef has to hand - often a mini-main-course in a pot
A daily menú is provided at most bars and restaurants at €10 - 20 weekdays and slightly more at weekends, but you may have to ask for it - since La Carta is more expensive. The menu is generally very good value for money, and includes a drink (table wine or soft refresco) and either coffee or desert (rarely both).
- Pan Tomaca: toast with tomato, garlic and herbs (Tostada con tomate is toasted bread topped with chopped tomato).
- Sandwich Vegital despite its name this salad sandwich often has egg, cheese or chicken (Jose Carrillo serves a jumbo version for two).
- Sandwich Mixta: toasted ham and cheese, usually with a fried egg on top (Jose Carrillo- again, order one for two people).
- Caréme, near Palace
- Gran Casino La Montaña
- Ruta Del Sol, right turn then about 50 m off M305 from Madrid between Doce Calles/La Montaña and Aranjues Town Center). Sheltered car parking.
- Jose Carrillo, Calle Capitan - town center, near Avinida Las Infantes.
Bars in Aranjuez generally offer a wide selection of internationally known refreshments in generous measure and at prices below the European average price.
In Aranjuez - with alcohol - it is common to be offered a free bar snack or tapas - typically a saucer of olives, a small slice of tortilla or croquettes - sometimes shellfish (Mariscos) -the selection is usually displayed in a glass cabinet on the bar and chosen by the waiter unless you indicate a preference.
Madrid is a denominated wine production area and some establishments offer local red and white table wines. High quality red wines are generally from Rioja or Ribera Duero region, and white from either Reuda or Rias Baxas - all of those regions are in northern Spain.
The main supplier is Mahou of Madrid (part of the national Mahou San Miguel group). They provide a wide range of larger type beer, often served in a deep-frozen glass (copa) or half-litre Jarra. Other national and imported beers and ales tend to be more expensive, but price varies according to the locale.
As well as bottled sherry Jerez many bars in Aranjuez have a barrel or tap (similar to, and alongside the regular beer-tap) - look out for these!
Most bars have a very wide and international selection of distilled drinks, and the waiters (camereros) enjoy producing fancy cocktails and amusing tapas.
Water from the tap (grifo is widely drunk in Spain, particularly by children, and is generally available on request - usually chilled or with ice. Ask for Agua and mineral water is usually served - with ice and lemon. The usual range of American and European sweet drinks (Coca-cola, Fanta, etc.) are served with lots of ice, and so are usually reasonably priced (often slightly cheaper than in Madrid capital, and much cheaper than in tourist areas).
Aranjuez caters for almost every type of visitor and most budgets from backpacker to business traveller:
Special needs, sports & educational vacations
- Camping, caravanning, and canoeing - use the international camping site (see link below) , Aranjuez off M-305 (overnight stays in car-parks and public spaces is not permitted)
- Casino. Use Hotel Barcelo.
- Hotel Barcelo. Plaza UNESCO La Montaña (see above).
- NH Principe de la Paz, Calle San Antonio, Nr. 22, ☏ . This hotel, which is in the old part of the town centre facing the south side of the Royal Palace, occupies an emblematic building dating from the 18th and 19th century, which had been destined to be the residential palace of King Carlos IV's favourite, Sir Manuel Godoy.
- Hotel Jardin de Aranjuez, Avenida Principe, Nr 26.
- Hotel El Cocheron 1919, Calle Montesinos, Nr 22.
- Hotel Doña Francisca, Calle Capitán Angosto Gómez Castrillon, 147.
- Hotel Mercedes, Carretera 305 Madrid, 15. Park immediately at entry - walk to town.
- Hotel Egido Don Manuel, Avenida Principe, Nr. 71.
- Hostal Real, Avenida Infantas Nr 6.
- [dead link] Hostal Santa Marta, Aranjuez Avenida Infantas Nr 19.
- Hostal Castilla, Calle San Antonio Nr 76.
- The International Camping site (turn right off Madrid road (M-305). From town centre, about 1 km has bungalows, caravans and tents for short holiday lets - there is a shop and restaurant on-site
Aranjues Municipal Tourist Information Office have very pleasant staff who speak English, and, as well as orientation, guide books and events calendars. They will also help visitors to the office by telephoning, especially to smaller local establishments whose staff may have difficulty speaking English.
The office is alongside the huge Mariblanca sandy square, in Casa de las Infantas to the left of San Antonio church. and open daily, all year round from about 10:00. ☏, fax ☏ , e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
|Routes through Aranjuez|
|Madrid ← Getafe ←||N S||→ Córdoba/Jaén|