The Royal City of Aranjuez is located in the south of Madrid, less than 50km (30 miles) away from Madrid (destinos) and from Toledo.
Aranjuez represents the coming together of diverse cultural influences to create a cultural landscape that had a formative influence on further developments in this field. The complex designed cultural landscape of Aranjuez, derived from a variety of sources, mark a seminal stage in the development of landscape design.
For this reason, Aranjuez’s cultural landscape was added to UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 2001.
The town, which has existed since Roman times, was the headquarters of the Knights of Santiago (1387 – 1409). The city has been related to Spanish kings since the days of Catholic Kings “King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella”who used to spend their summer time in this idyllic site. But the catalyst for the development of the city was Philip II (16th century) who awarded this city the title of Royal City. It was he who commissioned the layout of the city with its boulevards, its areas of beautiful parks and its huge gardens. Aranjuez reached its height in the 18th century with the Bourbon Monarchy. It was then that Aranjuez became the seat of a royal summer residence and hunting lodge and since then very important figures of Spanish history have enjoyed long walks through its wonderful gardens. Moreover, the old quarter of the city has been declared a Historical-Artistic Site.
Halfway through the 19th century, Madrid’s first and Spain’s third railway line was inaugurated between Madrid and Aranjuez. Nowadays, there is the Tren de la Fresa (The Strawberry Train), a replica of this train pulled by an old steam engine. This is a throwback to the time when Spanish royalty would escape the summer heat and head for their summer residence. It departs from Madrid to Aranjuez every Saturday and Sunday and it is one of Aranjuez’s major tourist attractions. What’s more, the Aranjuez train station, with its neomudjar style, is another of the city’s must-see monuments.
Another must for visitors is the festival held in September to commemorate the Revolt of Aranjuez, also declared to be of National Tourist Interest. During the festival, the revolt known as El motin de Aranjuez is re-enacted. The revolt took place in 1808 and played a pivotal role in Spanish political history: the revolt was against the Bourbon King Charles IV and his repressive Prime Minister, Manuel Godoy. Also the last weekend in May, when the strawberry harvest reaches its pinnacle, Aranjuez holds another festival with parades, concerts, and bullfights in the Plaza de Toros.
PALACIO REAL DE ARANJUEZ
The Royal Palace – Palacio Real de Aranjuez – was begun in 1560 at the behest of King Philip II. The original architect was Juan Bautista de Toledo (principal designer of the monumental Escorial) but the work was continued by Juan de Herrera, who was first appointed assistant to Juan Bautista de Toledo at the El Escorial monastery and later was appointed head architect. It was he who gave the palace the classical austerity of his style. It was not completed until 1778 after being destroyed twice by fire.
Its characterised by the predominance of white and red colours and it is adorned by statues of the three kings who played a part in its construction: Philip II, Philip V and Ferdinand VI. Later, King Charles III would add a large parade ground.
The weather and location of Aranjuez between the Tagus and Jarama rivers make the land rich and fertile, a contrast to the arid surrounding area. Thanks to this micro-climate and its fertile fields, Aranjuez’s gastronomy stands out with its use of asparagus, artichokes and broad beans in local cuisine. Aranjuez is also renowned in Spain for growing sweet and juicy strawberries.