A city synonymous with Quijote, a world-class university and free tapas, Alcalá de Henaresis a short commuter train ride from Spain’s capital. Laurie spent two years in Alcalá, which also has UNESCO World Heritage status.
Name: Laurie Lundeen
City and Comunidad: Alcalá de Henares, Madrid
School: High School
Your living situation? I lived in two different apartments. The first flat had three bedrooms and one bathroom. The second flat had three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Of the two bathrooms, one was just for me while my other roommates shared the second bathroom.
How did you find your flat? I used Idealista for the first flat. The second I found through a co-worker.
Rent: For the first flat I paid 280 euros a month. For the second flat I paid 340, but that included my own bathroom.
What did you spend on utilities? In the first flat I did not pay water. I think I probably paid 40-60 euro a month for utilities.
You cell phone company and plan? I had a weekly prepago plan with Orange (delfín) that was about 5 euros a week for 500 mb. I am not sure if that plan still exists, though.
What do you pay for internet? I had shared internet with my roommates. Both flats also had a landline. I paid about 15 euros a month for Internet and the landline.
What did you spend on groceries? Probably about 80-100 euros a month.
Did you have any other sources of income? I worked for an academy my first year in Alcalá, and for my second year I gave private classes. My extra income was between 400-600 euros depending on the month.
Were you able to save any money? By the end of June I was able to save about 1500 euros.
Your favorite tapas bar? Alcalá is known for its tapas. Indalo is a popular place because the tapas are large and come with a drink for about 2,80. However, my favorite places were El Quinto Tapón and Sancho. El Quinto Tapón has tapas from around the world, and with a drink cost between 2,50-3,20, depending on the drink you order. I loved their arepas. Sancho is my favorite place for croquetas in Alcalá. I usually ordered una caña or Rioja and a croqueta de jamón. The people that work at Sancho are very kind, and the terrace has a lovely view of the University.
Your breakfast and coffee bars suggestions: My favorite coffee hangout was at Cafeteria Alcalá 2000 in the Centro Comercial de El Val, next to the gym. My school was across the street from this shopping center, so my co-workers and I would go there during breaks. They have the best croissants a la plancha and café con leche for 1,90. La Española and Oh La Lá (both on Calle Mayor) also have cheap café con leche and tostadas.
Nightlife in Alcalá: I didn’t go to any discos in Alcalá.
How did you get around? There is a B3 abono connecting Alcalá and Madrid. You can also use it for the buses in Alcalá. I think it is about 80 euros a month. There are also 10-viaje abonos for the buses in Alcalá, buses to/from Madrid, and the Cercanías if you don’t want to pay for a monthly abono.
What you loved about living in Alcalá? Alcalá is beautiful. When I would walk down the streets around the center of the city, I felt like I was in a special place, a place so different from the streets of Indiana, where I am from. Alcalá is smaller than Madrid, but its transportation is good and has all that you need. It has two shopping malls and several large stores (like Alcampo and Carrefour). The people living in Alcalá are also very kind, and they helped me whenever I needed help.
And your dislikes? Even though it is well-connected to Madrid, sometimes I wished it was closer to Madrid, especially at night when it seemed to take forever to get home (with metro/bus connections).
How easy was it to travel around Spain and Europe from Alcalá? Very easy. There is a bus (824) that goes to/from Alcalá and Barajas airport in Madrid. You can also take the Cercanías (commuter train) from Alcalá to Atocha (one of the main train stations in Madrid) and transfer to the Aeropuerto Cercanías to get to Barajas airport (the train from Alcalá and the train to the airport share the same platform, which is great if you have heavy luggage). The schedules for the bus and the Cercanías are online, and both forms of public transportation cost less than 4 euros each way.
Your guilty pleasure purchases: I loved eating ice cream while sitting in the Plaza Cervantes, in the center of Alcalá, enjoying the smell of the roses and the view of the buildings. Also, I enjoyed eating carrot cake and brownies from a Cosmen Y Keiles, a bakery at the end of Calle Mayor. Francesco’s (on Calle Libreros) has really good pizza.
What are the top attractions in Alcalá? La Casa de Cervantes, Universidad de Alcalá, Plaza Cervantes, Calle Mayor (many tapas bars)
Something you wish someone had told you before moving to Spain: Never live in a flat where the landlord also lives. They can change living conditions (i.e. a boyfriend moving into the flat), and there is not much you can do about it.
Some flats in Spain have very thin walls. I have found the best ear plugs are made of “espuma” and are the 3M brand (same brand that makes Post-It notes).
If you’re looking to be close to the city without the cost and noise, Alcalá is a wonderful alternative! Thanks, Laurie!
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