Founded by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros in the early 16th century, Alcalá de Henares was the world's first planned university city. It was the original model for the Civitas Dei (City of God), the ideal urban community which Spanish missionaries brought to the Americas. It also served as a model for universities in Europe and elsewhere.

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University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares

The University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Province and Autonomous Community of Madrid, Spain. This historic precinct is renowned for its rich history, architectural beauty, and its association with the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.


The city of Alcalá de Henares has a long and illustrious history, dating back to Roman times. However, it was during the Renaissance that the city experienced its golden age. In 1499, Cardinal Cisneros founded the University of Alcalá, which became one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Europe. The university played a significant role in the dissemination of knowledge and the promotion of humanistic studies during the 16th century.

The historic precinct of Alcalá de Henares is a testament to the city's intellectual and cultural legacy. It encompasses the university, the old town, and various architectural landmarks that reflect different periods of Spanish history. The university buildings, such as the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso and the Trilingual College, showcase the architectural styles of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Current State

Today, the University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares continues to be a vibrant center of learning and culture. The University of Alcalá, which is still in operation, offers a wide range of academic programs and attracts students from all over the world. The university buildings have been meticulously preserved and restored, allowing visitors to experience the grandeur of the past.

The old town of Alcalá de Henares is a charming area with narrow streets, picturesque squares, and well-preserved buildings. The Cervantes Birthplace Museum is a major highlight of the precinct, as it is the house where Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, was born in 1547. The museum provides insights into the life and works of this literary genius, showcasing manuscripts, first editions, and personal belongings.

Visitors to the University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares can also explore the Cathedral-Magistral of Saints Justus and Pastor, a stunning Gothic church that dates back to the 15th century. Its intricate architecture and beautiful stained glass windows are a sight to behold. The Archbishop's Palace, a magnificent Renaissance building, is another notable landmark in the precinct.

The precinct is not only a cultural and educational hub but also a lively and dynamic place. It hosts numerous events throughout the year, including festivals, concerts, and exhibitions. The Cervantes Week, celebrated in October, is a particularly popular event that pays homage to the city's most famous literary figure.

In conclusion, the University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares is a UNESCO World Heritage site that showcases the city's rich history, architectural beauty, and cultural significance. It is a place where the past and present seamlessly merge, offering visitors a unique and enriching experience.