Nestled along the banks of the Tajo River, just a short train ride from Madrid lies a captivating town. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it offers visitors a perfect one-day trip from Madrid. In this town, you can wander through lush gardens with fountains and sculptures, visit an opulent Royal Palace, or have a drink on a sun-kissed terrace in the summer. Have you been able to guess which Spanish city it is yet?
We’re talking about Aranjuez, a city easily reachable from Madrid, thanks to the train. Getting on a train at Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha station, you’ll be in Aranjuez in just over half an hour.
But what can you visit in Aranjuez? Why is Aranjuez a UNESCO World Heritage Site? And why is Aranjuez a good day trip from Madrid? I’m here to show you!
Why Aranjuez is a Great One-Day Trip from Madrid
A Brief History of Aranjuez
Aranjuez is in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Spain. It was founded in the 12th century by King Alfonso VIII of Castile. The city became particularly relevant during the 16th century when it was chosen as the site for the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. This strategic decision solidified Aranjuez as a residence for royalty.
Located south of Madrid, Aranjuez is on the banks of the Tagus River. This prime location granted the town both economic and geographical importance.
During the reign of the Bourbon dynasty, Aranjuez was extensively developed, with magnificent palaces, gardens, and farms being established. The construction of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, a notable architectural masterpiece, was during this period.
In terms of history, Aranjuez witnessed notable events such as the abdication of King Charles IV in favor of his son Ferdinand VII, which occurred within the walls of the Royal Palace in 1808. Additionally, Aranjuez was a frequent retreat for Spanish monarchs
Why is Aranjuez a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
UNESCO declared Aranjuez a World Heritage Site in 2001. The city’s rich history and beauty influenced UNESCO’s decision.
Aranjuez is home to several attractions that UNESCO surely kept in mind. One is the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, built in the 16th century. The palace showcases exquisite architecture and beautiful gardens, including the famous Jardín del Príncipe and the Parterre Garden. Renowned landscape architect Juan de Villanueva designed these gardens. Hence, it will come in handy to book a guided tour of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez.
Another notable site in Aranjuez is the Casa del Labrador, a picturesque hunting lodge surrounded by lush greenery. Built in the late 18th century, this building has a neoclassical style and offers a glimpse into the royal lifestyle of the past.
Moreover, the city hosts the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, a testament to the harmonious integration of nature and human intervention. This landscape includes the city center, the royal palace, and the surrounding gardens, creating a unique and cohesive environment.
Fun fact: Madrid also has a UNESCO Area, but it wasn’t until 2021 that the UNESCO committee recognized it.
How to Get to Aranjuez from Madrid
Trains are the most convenient way to travel from Madrid to Aranjuez. The journey typically takes around 40 minutes, making it an excellent one-day trip from Madrid.
You can get tickets for the AVE at the train stations in Madrid or online through the official Renfe website. Renfe is the leading Spanish railway company.
The train stations in Madrid from where you can board the AVE to Aranjuez are Atocha and Chamartin. Atocha station is located in the city center and is easily accessible via public transportation. Chamartin station, on the other hand, is in the northern part of the city.
A standard one-way ticket for the AVE from Madrid to Aranjuez costs approximately €10.
Where to Stay in Aranjuez
The overall average cost of hotels in Aranjuez is affordable compared to Madrid, making it a good option for budget-conscious travelers. Booking a hotel in Aranjuez will still allow you to visit Madrid since you’ll only be a 30-minute train ride away. So, you could see the main attractions in Madrid while still saving some money and surrounding yourself in a quieter atmosphere.
The best location in Aranjuez is the city center since it is with the majority of the city’s attractions are (see accommodation in Aranjuez City Center).
That said, staying near the train station is also convenient, especially if you have an early train to Madrid (see accommodation near Aranjuez Train Station).
You can find some luxury hotels in Aranjuez with views of the palace. Likewise, there are several B&Bs, guesthouses and tourist apartments in town.