Heading to Madrid!
June 21, 2008 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm giving a talk in Aranjuez, Spain (southern part of Madrid metro area) in mid July and will be in the area for a week. Can anyone tell me about Aranjuez? How far is it from the center of Madrid and is it easy to get into the city?

I'm a designer and am always on the lookout for cool places in cities to walk and shops that might have interesting things not found in regular stores. Is there an area in the city that might have some iconoclastic places like this and fit the bill?

I don't know how much time I'll have away from the conference I'm attending (I hope I can get away enough to see the city as I haven't been there in a few decades). Given this, what should be first on my list of things to see? (My trip is being sponsored by one of the art museums in Madrid so I'm sure I'll be seeing some art.)

Also, what is the best guide book for Madrid? Rough Guide? Something else? Thanks.
posted by Taken Outtacontext to Travel & Transportation around Madrid, Spain (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Aranjuez is served by the Renfe Cercanias regional trains, which I used almost daily when I lived there and found lightning quick. See this map, it's at the end of the C-3 line which will take you directly to the central Atocha station. At Atocha you can get on the blue No. 1 Metro line and go right into the center of the city. I expect it would take you about an hour between the two forms of transportation and with transfer times to get pretty much anywhere worth going. It's a simple, pleasant trip and well worth making.

It's been too long since I lived there for me to say much about shops. But the sprawling Rastro flea market on Sundays is lots of fun and anything but a typical shopping experience.
posted by donpedro at 7:17 PM on June 21, 2008

Are you giving a talk in the CES Felipe II branch of the Universidad Complutense, by any chance? That would be totally awesome - I studied there and have very fond memories of the place. ^_^

It's been some five years since I was there for the last time, though, so my memories are a bit outdated. Aranjuez is not a particularly large town, and it's more known for its historic sites and buildings than anything else. The Royal Palace is definitely worth a visit, as are the various gardens dotted around the city and the Mercado de Abastos. It's a pleasant town, all in all, and you definitely should have a pleasant walk around the place, but it won't keep you entertained for long.

You can take the Cercanías to get to Madrid, as Donpedro says, or you can also take the intercity bus services run by Aisa and Samar, departing from Calle Infantas. They are surprisingly comfortable and Calle Infantas is pretty close to the town center, which may make it more convenient than the train station depending on where in Aranjuez you're staying. The buses will drop you at the Méndez Álvaro interchange, which also gives you pretty easy access to the underground and bus networks.

As far as cool shops are concerned, I would probably recommend the area between the Chueca, Tribunal and Gran Vía metro stations (the latter two are in Metro line 1 and easily accessible from Atocha). Fuencarral street, in particular, is well known for its shops, where you can expect to find plenty of unconventional clothing, designer items, retro-hip furniture and suchlike. The surrounding side streets hide some wonderful places, though, so don't be afraid to wander around a bit.

Have fun in Madrid! I'll report back if any other interesting places come to mind.
posted by doctorpiorno at 7:59 PM on June 21, 2008

Your soundtrack for the trip
posted by timsteil at 8:10 PM on June 21, 2008

Response by poster: doctorpiorno, I'm speaking at a program co-sponsored by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. And timsteil, that IS the soundtrack for my trip. NOW I'm really getting excited. Thx.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:07 AM on June 22, 2008

I spent a couple of days there recently. It was very easy to get into Madrid by train, although the Aranjuez train station was a decent walk from the center of town. I also traveled by cab from Madrid to Aranjuez. That was fairly expensive, and cabbies don't take credit cards. I don't think the train runs after midnight, and it was really hard for me to get a cab at 3am.

There were plenty of interesting shops around Plaza de Chueca, which is the gay neighborhood if I recall correctly. I had a good time walking around. One problem I had was that there weren't really any noticeable landmarks, and many of the streets looked very similar to me.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:40 AM on June 22, 2008

As me & my monkey says, taking a taxi from Madrid to Aranjuez will be quite brutally expensive, and even more so at nighttime rates - we're talking about a one-hour trip, after all.

However, should you want to enjoy the nightlife of Madrid and get totally smashed, there should be night buses running from Atocha to Aranjuez every hour or so during the weekends, according to this site. The timetables might be a bit outdated, though, so I'd recommend having someone call the phone number indicated in the website to confirm the departure times and platform location (Atocha is a pretty huge place).

Conveniently enough, Chueca and Tribunal are also bustling nightlife spots - the former is mostly gay clubs, so it may not be your cup of tea, but the latter is in the middle of the Malasaña area, which is one of the hubs of the alternative scene. There are plenty of tiny, cool bars in there. I would recommend starting with the Vía Láctea, which is one of the oldest pubs in the area and postively oozes retro charm .

Enjoy the trip. You'll have a blast!
posted by doctorpiorno at 4:17 PM on June 22, 2008

It is traditional to eat strawberries in Aranjuez. There are kiosks across from the palace, which is definitely worth visiting. I particularly remember the porcelain room. There are also gardens to stroll through.

I've been to the Royal Boatbuilding Museum in Aranjuez and enjoyed the tour there.

If you take Renfre (the train - cercanías) into Madrid (as suggested above), the Atocha Station (which is where you'll end up in Madrid) is very near the Prado Art Museum as well as Reina Sofia Art Museum and Thyssen Art Museums.

The problem with taking a bus into Madrid is the traffic which can come to a complete standstill. If the walk to the train station is too great, I'd take a cab in Aranjuez to the train station in Aranjuez and then take the train into Madrid. The high speed train takes about 1 hour to get into Madrid; the bus will certainly take longer.
posted by daneflute at 7:41 PM on June 24, 2008

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