Guide To The Castles Of Madrid

Madrid lies at the heart of the historical Kingdom of Castile, which under the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was became one of 17 Autonomous Regions of Spain.

To the north of Madrid lies Castilla y Leon and to the south Castilla la Mancha and sandwiched in between Madrid, albeit without a ‘Castilla’ or castle title at its core.

Before the 1978 Madrid was part of the vast province of Nuevo Castilla which encompassed the majority of the 3 central autonomous regions.

But what remains of the ancient castles that are now left in this central pocket of land that were once part of the more historically elegant and powerful Provinces of old?

Not too many unfortunately but the few that do survive are well worth a visit and several can be covered easily in a day driving through some very attractive country.

Indeed you dont even have to leave the city, as Madrid itself was founded as fortress and its ancient battlements remain.

Muralla castillo Almudena

In the 9th century the Moors built a castle el Almudena  (Citadel) in a place they called El Magerit now known as Madrid.  In 1083 King Alphonso VI (he who gave the name ‘gatos’ to Madrileños) captured the castle as part of the Catholic Kings eventual conquest over the Moors in Spain.

Over the centuries the castle fell into ruins, the current Royal Palace was built in 1739 by King Carlos III and in 1883 the Cathedral of Almudena was built over the remaining ruins, parts of which can still be seen.

Castillo de la Alameda

Take a short drive out towards the airport at Barajas for a visit to the Castillo de la Alameda, sometimes referred to as the Castillo de Barajas or Castillo de los Zapato named after the family that built it.

The castle was built from 1431 to 1476 and later occupied by the Mendoza family.  It was amplified by a Palace in 1575 but subsequently destroyed by fire in 1695.

What remains are outer ramped buttress and the ruins of the original castle.  The castle is surrounded by a fence for visitors to walk around the perimeter but access to the ruins are restricted.

Castillo de Buitrago del Lozoya

Northwards on the A1 motorway known as the Burgos autovia and within less than an hour you will come across the village of Buitrago del Lozoya.

The village lies to the east of the Sierra Guadarrama and nestles on a peninsula surrounded by the river Lozoya.   The village is one of the few in the Community to have maintained its walls, which originate back to the XI century under the Moorish occupation of Spain.

It was extended in the XV century in GothicMudéjar style.  It has a rectangular plan, with seven towers of various shapes.  The interior is in ruins, but visitors can walk around inside and along the perimeter walls.

In the grounds of the castle there is a full-scale replica of a ‘trebuchet’ a medieval type of siege engine which uses a swinging arm to throw a projectile at the enemy.

Castillo nuevo de Manzanares el Real

In the next valley of in the direction of Rascafria lies the town of Lozoya.  A well worth a break is to visit the Monasterio de Santa María de El Paular a former Carthusian monastery built in 1390 under the orders of Henry II of Castlle.

Head out of Rascafria southwards taking the M611 up into the mountains towards Miraflores de la Sierra and then follow the road to Manzanares del Real.  As you pass the reservoir on your left and turn a bend on the road you will be faced with a magnificent view of the Castle of Manzanes.

The New Castle of Manzanares el Real, also known as Castle of los Mendoza, is a palace-fortress erected in the 15th century.

Its construction began in 1475 on a Romanesque-Mudéjar hermitage and today is one of the best-preserved castles of the Community of Madrid.  It was raised on the river Manzanares, as a palace of the House of Mendoza, in the vicinity of an ancient fortress that was abandoned once the new castle was built.

The castle now houses a museum of Spanish castles and hosts a collection of tapestries.  It was declared a Monumento Histórico-Artístico in 1931.  It is owned by the Duchy of the Infantado, but its management is the responsibility of the Community of Madrid.

The castle, quadrangular, is constructed entirely of granite stone. It has four circular towers. Its vertices are decorated with balls in the Isabelline Gothic style. The main hexagonal tower is one of the highlights.  The Gothic gallery on the first floor is considered the most beautiful in Spanish military architecture.  The whole castle is surrounded by a barbican, which includes loopholes and, carved in low relief, the cross of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a title held by Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza.

The castle has six floors, plus a basement: ground floor, mezzanine first, main floor, mezzanine second, upper gallery and gallery of covers. The main gate is flanked by two towers with an arch between them.

The castle is opened to the public and was one of the locations used in the 1961 movie El Cid and one of the later Three Musketeer films.

Castillo Villafranca del Castillo

WESTWARDS towards San Lorenzo de El Escorial passing the El Valle de los Caidos.  The Monastery in El Escorial, built by Philip II in the XVI century and, whilst not a ‘castle’, is well worth a visit due to its significance and splendour.

Out of El Escorial south on the M600 and then the M503 in the direction of Majadahonda.  Take the exit Villafranca del Castillo and follow the sign to the ESAC  (the European Space Astronomy Centre).

The Aulencia Castle, also dubbed Cassel of Villafranca sits at the top of a little hill overlooking the ESAC an interesting contrast between the old and the new.

It an original example of a Spanish noble mudejar castle, in the 14th century, it passed into the hands of García Fernández and in the 15th century Álvarez de Toledo, a member of the court of John II of Castille, took possession.  During the Spanish Civil War in the 20thcentury, it was used as a fortress in the Battle of Brunete.

Nowadays, only ruins remain and access by the public is not allowed.

Castillo de Villiviciosa de Odon

SOUTHWARDS and a twenty-minute drive you will reach the town of Villiviciosa de Odon

The Castle of Odón is a palace-fortress complex built in the XV century by the Counts of Chinchón. On this building, in 1496 the Marquis of Moya, Andrés Cabrera y Beatriz Fernández de Bobadilla, built the first Castle. During the Revolt of the Comuneros, the captains Diego de Heredia and Antonio de Mesa, knocked down the castle in 1521.

In 1583 don Diego Fernández de Cabrera y Bobadilla, third count of Chinchón, commissioned its reconstruction giving the castle a more asymmetric profile. Two centuries later, in 1738 King Philip V of Spain bought the county and granted the title of Count of Chinchón and ownership of the castle to his son the infante Luis,   He, in turn, commissioned Ventura Rodríguez to restore the castle and gave the locality its present name, Villaviciosa de Odón.

Castillo de la Coracera

SOUTH WESTWARDS and a 40-minute drive on the M501 will take you to the town of San Martin de Valdeiglesias.

Coracera Castle was declared Historic Heritage Site by the Comunidad de Madrid.  It was built in the mid-1400s by Don Alvaro de Luna, Constable of Castile and favourite of King John II. Today it is part private and part public property. In order to revitalize it, it was planned to transform it into a multiple use space, to hold exhibitions, lectures, chamber concerts and activities relevant to its potential use as a Museum of Wine of Madrid.

El Castillo de Batres

SOUTH EASTWARDS towards the town of Batres you will find the Castle of Batres first built in the XV century for the family of the same name.

The Batres castle is well-preserved, the restored fortress is surrounded by a moat, a river and forested land.  The famous poet Garcilaso de la Vega once grew up there. The castle is used for weddings (bodas) and conferences.

Castillo de Torrejòn de Velasco

WESTWARDS and a short drive in the direction of Parla you will come across another castle built in the XV century and sometimes referred to as the Castillo de Puñonrostro.

 The first refence to a castle on this site goes back to the XIII century and was used by several noble houses, including the House of Alba. In the 16th century the fortress was used as a prison for noble criminals. And in the 16th century, the castle was nearly destroyed during the War of Independence.

 Castillo de Villarejo de Salvanes

 WESTWARDS again towards the Autovia A3 and the final castle on this circular tour of the Community of Madrid.

There is no consensus as the origins of this castle only that it was built round about the X1 century under the influence of the Moors as a defensive post on the road between Madrid and Toledo.

This unusual looking tower is all that remains of the original fortress. The structure has 8 towers, which is abnormal considering the typical Spanish style only include 4 towers.  There is a mini gallery inside the castle and visitors can access the roof for views over the surround town and countryside.

The best way to visit Madrid´s magnificent is to hire a local guide and driver and take in the scenic route, with a stop for traditional Castilian lunch and relax for the ride back to Madrid!


Front Photo Credit: Karabo Spain

Barry Haslam-Walker FRICS

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