Colmenar de Oreja, Madrid: atmosphere and tradition
At 45 minutes from the capital, Colmenar de Oreja is close enough to Madrid city to make travel easy, and distant enough to survive with its traditional atmosphere still intact. Colmenar is the perfect place to give you an insight into the heart of Spain and its culture.
Main square (Plaza Mayor) at Colmenar de Oreja
There’s something mesmerizing about Colmenar that makes you feel like you are walking into an enchanted village, and the classical Castilian square (Plaza Mayor) is certainly the main reason.
Street off the Plaza Mayor
Flanked by a columned arcade, the grandeur of this ample square attracts the few tourists that come here and is the place where kids play and local events are held, bringing the community together and reflecting the laid-back atmosphere of its shops, traditional restaurants and terraces and, most of all, its people.
A sense of old Madrid spreads out with the ringing of the church bells and the unspoilt beauty of a town that is rarely overflown by tourists, keeping its essence pretty much intact.
Although simple and calm, this little place has plenty of history. As an example, in Astro Street you can find an ancient stone coat of arms, a trace of the Spanish Inquisition and its passage through Colmenar. The coat of arms shows the classic symbol of the Inquisition: a cross, a sword and an olive branch.
Water is supplied in Colmenar through a number of fountains and public wells that add up to the ancient feel of the whole town. Let yourself be carried along to find some of these fountains and get transported to a different period of time.
Public fountains in Colmenar de Oreja
Along with the town’s square, the local 15th century church makes for an interesting visit through the ancient Colmenar It is striking to find such an amazing church in such a little village. Funny fact, this church almost qualified as cathedral, but was deemed to be 2 columns short of the accolade. So close!
They have their very own cheese, wines and dishes!
We were fascinated to know that Colmenar has its own cuisine and traditional dishes. Not just one, but a number of popular dishes full of history. We tried almost all of them, but we think it is worth mentioning the “Patatas Chulas” dressed with garlic, lemon and parsley; the simplest yet most delicious way to eat roasted potatoes.
Carne al desarreglo: the local stew to be eaten with "patatas chulas"
Kids have fun when they go to the local patisseries to buy “monk’s balls” or “nun’s teats”, the traditional local pastry dessert. A little too sugary for us, but they are all made with no preservatives.
Colmenar offers high-quality olive oil and good wines. Many Madrilians even come to this village simply to visit their bodegas sculpted in bedrock and buy their cave-stored wines at very reasonable prices. Jesús Díaz Bodegas sells very decent red wines for less than 5 euros per bottle.
Most village houses have their very own caves to store wine.
Cheeses here are also excellent (particularly the sheep’s milk cheese), and their local Manchego cheese, Ciriaco, is one of the best cheeses we ever had the chance to taste. It has no Designation of Origin, but that is possibly one of the reasons why this artisan’s gourmet item remains at less than 15 euros per kilo.
Colmenar’s fiestas in honour of the Cristo del Humilladero (the village’s patron saint) are hold during the first week of May when the square holds bull-fighting activities; this may not be to the taste of everyone but there are plenty of other things to do: concerts and dance until the wee hours, cultural acts of many kind, sports, activities for children... And the fireworks are always a highlight during Colmenar’s fiestas!
Traditional dancing in mid May
Also in the middle of May the Wine Fiesta takes place in Colmenar, where you can taste some of the best wines of the region.
As for the nearby Chinchon village, it is proud of the many fiestas and events that take place among the streets, and quite right too!
Carnivals in the nearby Chinchon square
They celebrate the Easter Week with a great level of emotion, and the living representation of the Passion of Christ that takes place on Holly Saturday evening will leave you open-mouthed: this great via crucis is represented by more than 250 neighbours who walk the streets, making the city one day in Jerusalem.
In the middle of August, Chinchon holds the fiestas in honour of its patron saint and, just like in Colmenar, there are tons of things to do: religious and cultural activities, music, fireworks...
Things to do nearby
Chinchon village (10 mins away from Colmenar)
Chinchon is a small, picturesque village 10 minutes away from Colmenar. It tends to be more touristic than Colmenar but it is worth stopping by, if only to take a look at its main square, which was declared the 4th wonder of the Community of Madrid so Also, the best-known aniseed schnapps in the entire country comes from Chinchon, so why not enjoy a nice glass of anisette on a terrace by the main square at sundown?
Chinchon main square at night
Aranjuez town (just over 20 mins from Colmenar)
Aranjuez town is also a must if you have time. Only 25 minutes from Colmenar, the Royal Summer Palace and beautifully kept gardens in Aranjuez are stunning, especially in autumn where the warm colours of the fallen leaves embellish the already lovely gardens. Definitely a picture to remember!
Aranjuez was designated a World Heritage Cultural landscape by UNESCO in 2001. Photo by Martin Espartosa.
It is worth visiting Aranjuez for the simple pleasure of walking in the 300 hectares of royal gardens decorated with fountains and sculptures and filled with trees from the Americas.
Somewhere special to stay
If you liked the feel of Colmenar and its surroundings, you will love the house Rustical Travel offers in the village.
Our large villa web ref. AM15 is an impressive and traditional villa where you will enjoy of all the amenities you expect from a modern house while also feeling the same authenticity and classical atmosphere that Colmenar offers.
Our villa ref AM15 (with private pool) is an excellent place to spend for holidays in the village of Colmenar.