Earth : Europe : Iberia : Spain : Aranjuez
The main passenger terminal is Madrid–Barajas Airport, to the west of the capital city, which links via a toll-road to the thee concentric peripheral routes M-50 (outer) M-40 and M-30 (inner) autovías. There are also direct rail and metro services from Terminal 4.
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 (3Km 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).
In summer, RENFE occasionally run the [[W|Strawberry train] - la tren de la fresa is a steam-train tourist service from Madrid
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.
Aranjuez has 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.
To the north, beyond the rotunda Roseñol cobbled roundabout (near the riverside tourist resturant 'el Rana Verde) are the royal vegetable gardens (now farmland). These are served by protected royal rides (now 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.
To the north, beyond the rotunda Roseñol cobbled roundabout (near the riverside tourist resturant '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, initially 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 now 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 Isadro
Chiquitren and Boat Trip
Operates all year round from about 10am. with commentaries in Spanish and English but is 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 Lidle stores, For best value and freshest local produce, try the central covered market. English is widely understood
There are two casinos -
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:
Any of the several professional photographic shops in the town can suggest some great/elegant/natural backgrounds for those 'forever fotos'
There are some excellent restaurants for all budgets (main meal from about 10€ - 100€ per person) serving local speciality foods, notably
In the noble tradition, seafood and shellfish are widely available all year round, often mixed with other dishes
A daily Menú is provided at most bars and restaurants at around 10 - 20 euros 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).
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 are 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 buisness traveller:
special needs, school parties, sports & educational vacations