Aranjuez in the Community of Madrid is a charming town of historic and cultural interest, recognised by UNESCO, and is famous for its Royal Palace which was the spring residence of the Spanish kings.
One of Spain's royal sites, Aranjuez has been named a Cultural Landscape by UNESCO and is today, a World Heritage Site. Located at the confluence of the rivers Tagus and Jarama, Aranjuez was built in the fertile plain of the Tagus valley. A green and lush area, agriculture is still an important industry in the area and the growth of strawberries here led to the so-called Strawberry Train, the Tren de la Fresa, which was the second railway line in Spain. Constructed so as to take Aranjuez strawberries to the capital, Madrid, the Strawberry Train runs almost up to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez and still runs today as a tourist route in springtime. The palace was built during the reigns of Phillip II and Ferdinand VI, who finally finished the palace in the mid-18th century. An impressive site, the palace is famous for its facade of red brick and white colmenar stone and its exquisite gardens. However, there is also much to see inside the palace too.
You can take ad tour around the palace or explore at your own pace some of the beautifully restored rooms including the opulent Queen's Chamber, the vibrant smoking room of Francis of Assisi and, of course, the decadent Throne Room. Many paintings by Luca Giordano can also be found around the palace. You can also visit Labrador House, a mansion in the grounds that is one of the most important Neoclassical ensembles in Europe. Built in the late 18th and early 19th century, the house has some magnificent temple vaults hung with crystal chandeliers and Valencian silk hangings. Spanish royalty had several pastimes including visits to the Plaza de Toros in town, an 18th century bullfighting ring, where today you can walk around the Royal Box. The royals also enjoyed their trips along the river Tagus, and around the artificial lake known as the Sea of Ontigola, in the wonderfully ornate barges that can be found in the Royal Barges Museum in the palace gardens.
The gardens themselves are a breathtaking oasis of greenery in a relatively dry region of Spain. The gardens are made up of 4 gardens: the lush Parterre Garden bounded by the River Tagus, the private and enclosed Italian Renaissance inspired King's Garden, the extensive 150 hectare Prince's Garden and the pretty Island Garden which is surrounded by the River Tagus and only accessible from the Parterre Garden. Landscaped in the English and French style, the large Prince's Garden has some wonderful paths and pavilions, and peacocks are known to wander about here. The Sea of Ontigola was created in the 15th century and is today a nature reserve for waterfowl and butterflies. It is called a sea because the nature of the soil in the area has made the water in the lake turn salty. The river Tagus and its valley mean that Aranjuez has several oudoor sports on offer including canoeing, horseriding, cycling and nature walking trails including the Woodland Walks amongst others.
Aranjuez is great for some food shopping, especially at the local market and specialised food shops selling strawberries, asparagus, artichokes and other locally grown vegetables. There are also some vineyards around, so why not visit the Bodegas Real Cortijo, and buy some locally produced wine? There are many dishes on the menu of Aranjuez's restaurants using asparagus whether it is in soups, simply grilled and sprinked with seasalt, served with scrambled eggs, or one of the various other ways to try. Like everywhere else in Spain, tapas are served in the bars here including patatas bravas (potatoes in spicy sauce), patatas alioli (potatoes in a creamy garlic sauce), and zarajos (marinated lamb intestines on a stick). You'll also find the Madrid speciality of gallinejas, deep fried lamb's intestines with french fries served here too. The area's most famous product, its strawberries are best enjoyed as fresa con nata - strawberries and cream! There are 2 types of strawberries available - small fresas with a juicy and floral taste, and large fresones which are wonderfully soft and sweet. Enjoy meals with Spanish beers and wines from all over Spain. At the end of your meal, why not have a glass of sherry from Jerez?
Why visit Aranjuez?
- Royal Palace of Aranjuez
- Royal Barges Museum
- Gardens of the Royal Palace
- Pretty countryside and wetlands
- Country: Spain
- Region: Madrid
- Province: Madrid
- Population: 54,000
- Coordinates: 40.032264,-3.602661
Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.