Opulence. Aranjuez has it.
Having a general aversion to regality, pomp, and fanciness, visiting the extravagance of the wealthy is not high on my list. Fortunately however, the Sam has anthropological vision and can see things that my impoverished eyes are blind to. This short day trip to Aranjuez will reward your meager effort with its bountiful riches neatly sequestered by the government for our touristic pleasures.
This palace is located in apparently what used to be an aristocracy only town. As in, only royal-ass people could live in this town. Good thing that zoning law has changed, or else I’d have never set foot here.
Aranjuez is a beautiful sight for sore city eyes to see. Not quite a trip to the remote countryside, but definitely a welcome break from the city. And if you’re like me, there’s plenty of incentive to walk at your own leisure and experience the vast spaces this architecture and layout creates.
Exploring the grounds was the extent of our palace visit. A Spanish friend later confirmed what we suspected: paying for an interior palace tour would be just, well, room after room of slightly differentiating ostentatiousness. I like the mystery of not seeing it person. I’d prefer to imagine that the interior is radically dissimilar and wholly unexpected despite the facts. It’s more fun that way, and I save the admission for a sandwich.
Yet, what is a palace without its equally excessive gardens? Just a palace, of course. For me, the real draw is the gardens, which are well maintained by humans, while nature persistently asserts its dominance with roaming animals and sprawling vegetation.
In all, there are four distinct and varying sized gardens.
One, right next to the palace, called Jardín de Paarterre has what you’d expect. Lots of manicured rose and flowered circles bordered by hedges (see featured photo).
But my second favorite of the four gardens comes right around the corner over this bridge to the literal Jardín de la Isla, or Garden Isle!
Here you can find geometric and orderly paths interlaced with fountains and very tall, wonderfully old trees. With a walk to the perimeter, one can see the more natural, slightly less human-made Spanish countryside.
Then there´s the Jardín de Isabel II but it was closed or required a fee. Either way, we were easily deterred as there was plenty of more free open garden to see, which ultimately led us to my favorite garden.
I thought that the Jardín del Principe, or the Prince´s garden, would be even more manicured and tame for a wimpy little royal brat, but I was glad to be wrong. Easily the most natural and forest-like, with winding paths highlighted by fallen violet blossoms, winding under a canopy of older, more mature trees.
Of course, no Prince´s garden can go without a gazebo.
Aranjuez is a quaint, sleepy town. A day trip to Aranjuez is very easy to get to via the commuter rail Cercanías. Also, there is one place in town with clearly marked vegetarian options – all homemade too. We stopped in for a couple of beers and a light lunch. Just make sure to clarify if you´re vegan and the husband bartender and wife cook will happily oblige.
If you´re feeling like a small trip out the city to view some beautiful natural things, but don’t want to lace up your hiking boots, Aranjuez will fit quite nicely in between. A stroll into town, a palace to gaze at, and a forest garden in which to frolic.
How to Get There
The easiest way to do a day trip to Aranjuez is simply to take the Cercanías (line C3, main city center stops include Sol and Atocha) all the way to the last stop – Aranjuez. Trains run about every 20 minutes, so you might want to check the schedules here to plan your trip. The train station is about a 10-minute walk from the edge of the historic center. Take a right out of the station and then a left down a tree-lined boulevard. Or simply follow the people walking that way.
More Day Trips from Madrid
Mejorada del Campo – Where one man has been working 55+ years constructing his own cathedral.
Segovia – Home to an impressive Roman aqueduct, a castle, a cathedral, and a beautiful historic center.