/ The Madrid Guide
Madrid — By Nellie Huang on April 15, 2010 at 11:59 am
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Day-trip from Madrid: UNESCO City of Aranjuez

Jardin del Partere, Aranjuez

Looking to escape the city this weekend? Those living in Madrid are in luck, as there are plenty of historical sites, charming cities and gorgeous countryside close enough to make an excellent day-trip.

Aranjuez, just 29 miles from the Spanish capital, lays claim as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape site. The city might have tons of attractions and interesting sights, but it’s the journey there that makes the trip worth it. Expect to wind through meandering valleys, thick forests and rocky terrain: a region sculpted by the hands of nature. It’s hard to imagine such glorious scenery lies just miles away from the bustling metropolis. Those seeking for a slice of nature and some tranquility will be able to find what you’re looking for here. The landscape itself paints a beautiful picture for your final destination.

Within the historical city of Aranjuez, it’s easy to wander through its time-stopping squares and its aged edifices and get lost in your thoughts. Among the numerous sites to visit, the Royal Palace, the sprawling gardens and fountains as well as the Casa del Labrador. All these are gathered around the palace grounds, within a hop and jump away from one another.

Palacio Real de Aranjuez

A massive 16th century palace built by one of the most important kings in Spanish history – King Felipe II – the Aranjuez Royal Palace has a striking exterior. With white and red painted walls, the palace is presented in a grand and somber style. Inside the palace is a different world – sophisticated stairways, expensive marble flooring, intricate stucco carvings and stunning chandeliers make up the chambers. Most visitors are especially impressed by the Queen’s guard room, figures of the two sisters and the mirror room. Take note of that many of the objects on display are original and unique pieces dating back to the 16th century.

To visit the interior of the Royal Palace at your own pace, make your way here early to avoid the crowds. For a guided tour, you just need to pay an extra 5euros for an English-speaking guide to provide insightful information and explanations behind the history and functions of the palace.

Address: Plaza de Parejas, Aranjuez 28300 (map)

Opening hours: In spring (1April – 30Sept) Tuesdays to Sundays 10am – 6.15pm; the rest of the year (1Oct – 31Mar) Tuesdays to Sundays 10am – 2.15pm. Palace is closed on public holidays.

Entrance fee: 4.50euros for adults, 2.50euros for students

Official website: Palacio Real de Aranjuez

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

The Royal Gardens

Many visitors come all the way from various parts of Spain to witness the beauty of the Royal Gardens surrounding the Palacio Real de Aranjuez. These gardens can be split into four various sections – namely el Jardin del Parterre, el Jardin de la Isla, el Jardin del principe and the Jardin de Reina Isabela II. Each of them stands out for unique characteristics like multi-hued flowers, thriving plant life, classic mythological fountains and marble bridges.

The main photo on the top of this article features the Jardin del Parterre, claimed to be the prettiest garden of the lot. On a clear summer day, lounging around in the garden can be an excellent way to while away your time. In contrast, spring gives the gardens a starkly different look. Orange autumn leaves spill onto the floor towards the end of the year, creating a romantic eden. Winter can even prettier as snow blankets the gardens in pure white.

Entrance fees: Free

Opening hours: In summer (1Junl – 30Sept) Daily 8am – 9.30pm; the rest of the year (1Oct – 31Mar) Daily 10am – 2.15pm.

Casa del Labrador

Walk all the way to the far end of the the Royal Gardens and you will find the miniature palace – Casa del Labrador. The main feature of this palace is the billiard room – an impressive installation built by King Charles IV. From the outside, the palace might not look overly striking but step inside and be transported into the royal days. Silk, crystal, bronze and other expensive materials are all used to build this tiny abode. Entry is limited and only included in guided tours.

Entrance fees: 5euros with a guide

Opening hours: In spring (1April – 30Sept) Tuesdays to Sundays 10am – 6pm; in winter (1Oct – 31Mar) Tuesdays to Sundays 8am – 7pm. Palace is closed on public holidays.

Strawberry Train

Quite an extraordinary way of making the voyage to Aranjuez, the Strawberry Train is a steam locomotive that used to run the trip back in the early 19th century. This is an exact replica of the first train made in Spain and gives visitors a unique experience back in time. For 26euros, you get to ride on the train and get a free guided tour of the Royal Palace as well as a complimentary dish of strawberries. The train departs from the Railway Museum at Metro station Delicias every Friday and Saturday morning at 10am.

Website: Railway Museum

Address: Paseo Delicias 61, Madrid 28045

Ticket fee: 26euros for adults and 18euros for children

How to get to Aranjuez: Cercanías train C-3 from Atocha train station or catch the Madrid-Aranjuez bus from Mendez Álvaro bus terminal.

All photos used with permission of marcp_dmoz via flickr.

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