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Daytrips & excursions from Madrid: Aranjuez

The history of Aranjuez began in the 16th century under the kingdom on Philip II of Spain. The city gained importance with the monarchy of the Bourbons, and became known as The Royal Site. It is an ideal place for tourism. Aranjuez was declared a World Heritage Cultural Landscape in 2001 by the UNESCO. Just 47 Km (29 miles) from Madrid, Aranjuez is characterized as the first city in Spain connected by railroad. Today one san still recreate this trip on the Strawberry Train (Tren de la Fresa), a stream train that follows the Madrid - Aranjuez rail route. The gastronomy of the city is known for the use of its garden products.

Aranjuez, Madrid
History of Aranjuez

The first human settlement in Aranjuez dates back to prehistoric times. There are also Roman remains evident, though there is no proof to certify its importance as a city.

The development plan of Aranjuez was created in the 16th century under the reign of Philip II. The monarch designed a layout of avenues, landscaped squares and canals that converted the area into a garden. Aranjuez became a model of natural richness. In 1551 the first Botanical Garden of the world was created along with a distillery of fragrant and medicinal waters. Philip II gave the title of “Royal Site” to Aranjuez. He also handed the design of the Royal Palace to Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera (architects from San Lorenzo del Escorial).

The great height of Aranjuez arrived in the 18th century with the Bourbon monarchy. The Court was accustomed to travelling around the local and through the Royal Sites every year. Aranjuez was transformed little by little adapting to the rationalist taste of the Enlightenment (18th century). Charles III of Spain brought about many different urban reforms and constructions. The city changed into a courtesan nucleus with architecture, palaces, forests and gardens.

In the middle of the 19th century Aranjuez connects with Madrid via railroad, the first in Spain. The Marquee of Salamanca presented the “Iron Road Project” that was inaugurated by Queen Isabella II of Spain. The initial purpose was commercial, utilized for the transport of Aranjuez garden products to Madrid. At the same time, the train transported travellers.

Aranjuez tourism information

Strawberry Train that connects Madrid with Aranjuez
Aranjuez gardens, Madrid

Aranjuez Royal Palace, MadridOne of the most interesting tourist attractions in Aranjuez is the Strawberry Train (tren de la fresa), replica of the first Spanish steam train that connected Madrid with Aranjuez in 1851. The train, with a steam machine and wooden wagons, recreates the commercial trips taken in the 19th century. It leaves from the Railway Museum (Paseo Delicias 61, Metro Delicias). The Strawberry Train runs from April to October, and reservations are recommended (Tel. 902 240 202). The price is 26€ for adults and 18€ for children (4 to 12 years). The price includes:

  • Trip in a historic replica of the first Spanish train
  • The enjoyment of Aranjuez strawberries passed out by hostesses in 19th-century costume
  • Transfer from the station to the monumental area
  • Guided tour of the Royal Palace, the Parterre Garden and the Falúas Museum

Already in Aranjuez, one can visit the Royal Site, composed of the Royal Palace, the Gardens, the Casa del Labrador and the Falúas Museum.

The Royal Palace of Aranjuez, in herreriano style, was ordered to be built by Philip II toward the end of the 16th century. The work was finished under the reign on Charles III. Its façade grabs attention with its predominate white and red colors. It is also adorned with statues of the three kings that were involved with its construction. From its interior the Rococo style balcony highlights the staircase (work of Bonayma), and its Porcelain Parlor, whose walls are lined with the material. Other must-sees include the Queen’s Guard Room, Mirror Room and smoking room, replica of the Dos Hermanos de la Alambra room in Granada.

Aranjuez Royal Palace, MadridThe Royal Palace can be visited from October 1st to March 31st Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. In spring (April 1st to September 30th) the palace can be visited from 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. The palace is always closed on Mondays, on January 1st and 5th, May 1st and on December 24th, 25th and 26. The entrance fee (with guided tour) is 5€ for more information visit its website.

Another great attraction of the Royal Site includes the Aranjuez Gardens that surround the palace. They were considered the most beautiful of their time and today still leave visitors speechless. They are divided into four gardens- the Prince Garden, the Parterre Garden, the Island Garden and the Isabella II Garden. They are known for their great variety of vegetables and tree species. Numerous stone- and marble-crowned bridges with classic mythology statues mix with an impressive variety of flowers.

At the end of the Príncipe Garden are the La Casa del Labrador and the Falúas Museum. The Casa del Labrador is a beautiful little palace built by Charles IV with an excellent billiard room. The visit is limited and therefore needs to be planned ahead of time - call 918 090 360. The Falúas Museum is an original museum in which one can contemplate the original river boats that the monarchs used to navigate the Tajo River

Not far from the palace one can find the baroque temple of Alpajés, the San Pascual Convent (work of Sabatini), and the San Carlos Hospital, in front of the convent. In the city, the bicentennial Plaza de Toros (bullfight arena) also has an interesting bullfighting museum in its interior.

Gastronomy

In Aranjuez many of the products that first arrived from America and then spread across Europe were assimilated into the cooking. Its farms, watered by the Tajo River, are known for its asparagus and strawberries. The asparagus are prepared preserved, fresh or mixed with eggs. The strawberries are served in many of the region’s restaurants with wine, cream or alone.

One of the most typical dishes is the faisán (pheasant), a characteristic bird of the area’s forests. It is prepared in a variety of ways and is known to be a juicy dish.

Among the high number of restaurants in the area, a few stand out: Casa Pablo (Calle del Almíbar, 42. Tel. 918 911 451), La Rana Verde (Calle de Santiago Rusiñol s/n. Tel. 918 011 571), that offers dishes with typical Aranjuez products, and the Asador Palacio de Osuna (Príncipe, 21. Tel. 91 924 215).

Transportation

By car: Aranjuez is 47 km (29 miles) to the south of Madrid via the N-4 and takes about an hour to arrive from the capital. Visit GoogleMaps for more information on how to get to Aranjuez by car

By train: Trains heading to Aranjuez depart from Atocha Train Station. Each way costs 8€ and takes about an hour, and the operational hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Consult with RENFE 902 240 202 for more information. The Strawberry Train (Tren de la Fresa) departs from the Railway Museum (Paseo Delicias 61, Metro Delicias). The Strawberry Train forms part of the guided tour of the Royal Site and begins running in the spring. For more information and reservations it is recommended to call 902 228 822.

By bus: The buses to Aranjuez depart from the Méndez Álvaro Station (Metro Méndez Álvaro). The Continental Autobuses line (Tel. 902 330 400) runs buses every half hour from Madrid to Aranjuez from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The price is 4.25€ and lasts approximately an hour.

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