Restful Respite in Cervantes’ hometown: Parador Alcalá de Henares

Even if you are not a fan of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, it’s difficult not to find the author’s birthplace town of Alcalá de Henares a charming place to visit—and rest a weary suit-of-armor –or body—for the night. Especially nice if you choose the Parador Alcalá de Henares—located just steps from the historical town center which is also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.

A vibrant and thriving university town, Alcalá de Henares is approximately 22 miles northeast of Madrid, and the Parador here is one of Spain’s more recently opened hotels; it opened in 2009. (Paradores are Spanish government-run hotels, often located in historic buildings that have been turned into exclusive lodging for travelers.)

Once a monastery, this 17th century building exterior bears little relationship to its interior—which is evident as soon as one enters to check in. A minimalist and stylishly modern black and white décor is open, sunny and bright. Staff speaks English, are welcoming, helpful and friendly.

The historic features of the building can be seen, however, when one wanders around. There is a beautiful courtyard with umbrella-covered tables and in the hallways bricked walls hint at its history.


There are 128 rooms and my room on the ground level seemed tucked into a corner of the courtyard with not much of a view. But with drapes drawn, it didn’t matter to me; it was well-lit, quiet, spotless, and sleek. It also gave the illusion of being spacious –with an unusual open floorplan that had the bathtub, sinks and shower not separated by a door but rather a wall that ran halfway across the bedroom area. The bed was super comfortable, there was AC, free wi-fi, and a hairdryer. The hotel also offers a spa.



As with all Paradores, the food served is cuisine that is related to the region. While dinner was just okay (I found the dining room rather bare and cold, and service not that friendly), breakfast was just the opposite. Served in another part of the building, “desayuno” is served in a large room with a wall of windows that look out on the courtyard. (Breakfast is not always included in your room rate, so double check when booking.)


I loved the Costrada de Alacalá and the Rosquillas de Alcalá (the town’s version of a doughnut) but besides such local sweets and pastries, there was also a full line up of fresh fruit attractively set out with juices and coffees, plus cold meats, cheeses, and breads.  I loved that on each of the breakfast tables, the centerpiece was a wire stork—befitting this town that is also famous for its population of white storks.



There are said to be some 111 pairs of storks nesting here, and on a walk around the town, you can see their huge nests atop towers, churches and other historical buildings. (This could be a great place to explain to your kids where babies really come from.)  In fact, there’s even a walking “Route of the Storks” map available from the tourist board, which is a great way to wander the beautiful cobblestone streets, combining a tour of Alcalá de Henares historical heritage with its natural one.

Rates for standard rooms start at approximately $150, depending on the season. But Paradores also offer discounts for Golden Days (+55) and Young Getaways (under 30s).

For more information check out the website. You can also compare rates at Priceline or

Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long who was hosted by the Tourist Office of Spain (Chicago).

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