Aranjuez and Alcalá de Henares are two world heritage sites a short distance from Madrid. If you are in Madrid they can easily be visited by train.
We visited both of them in the same day by taking trains from Madrid’s Atocha Station. You can buy tickets from machines with cash or credit card and the trains are frequent, modern and fast. Return tickets to each town were 10-12 euros.
Aranjuez has a population of about 50,000. The world heritage parts are the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, its vast gardens and a number of buildings in the centre of town. Because it was Monday the palace was closed so we were reduced to following some of the marked tours around the world heritage buildings in the town center. I thought these were undistinguished and, in many cases, rather dilapidated. Most of them were associated with the palace. Some had been built as servants quarters, stables or the houses of nobles.
Alcalá de Henares
The historic center of Alcalá de Henares is about a twenty minute walk from the railway station. The newer part of the town is just like any moderately prosperous modern town. The historic part of Alcalá de Henares is much better than that of Aranjuez and well worth visiting. The buildings have been well preserved and you could easily spend a full day going around them.
Guess which author was born in Alcalá de Henares?