Colmenar de Oreja is situated in the south-eastern part of the Autonomous Region of Madrid, just 40 kilometres from the capital city. It offers culture, wine and gastronomy as well as the Ulpiano Checa Museum in memory of Madrid's distinguished 19th century painter who was born here.
Along with a few other villages, it's a part of the Villas of Madrid programme. Discover them and enjoy the promotions and discounts offered for the different attractions. What are you waiting for?
A fantastic Plaza Mayor
There will be no need for words when you reach the Plaza Mayor (main square). You'll find yourself in a beautiful Castilian square built over a system of bridges and arches that lead to the Zacatín Stream, with buildings as emblematic as the Town Hall and the Casa del Pósito (a community granary). You'll probably even recognise it as it's appeared in several films and television series.
To the back are the Zacatín gardens where you can visit the Zacatín Bridge Arch which connects the villa to the outskirts. Sit down next to the Zacatín fountain, also known as the Barranco fountain, and enjoy the pleasant terrace-filled gardens that will take you back to the 16th century.
If you feel like walking, you can visit the hermitage Ermita del Cristo del Humilladero. This building, which is 600 m from the Plaza Mayor, houses an image of the villa's patron saint. The hermitage is surrounded by magnificent gardens that invite you to take a walk and rest a bit, something you'll be grateful for at this point.
Colmenar is a monumental site in and of itself with, for example, the church of Santa María la Mayor which never goes unnoticed due to its imposing fortress-like aura. This temple was built by the Order of Santiago in the 13th century.
Do you know who Ulpiano Checa is? Go inside to contemplate the mural paintings he made and feel as though you're a VIP visitor in a private museum, surrounded by some of the best wall art from the 19th century.
Ulpiano Checa: the most well-known Colmenar native
It's time to visit a museum dedicated to this painter, one of the most famous in the 19th century, the Ulpiano Checa Museum. Although his works cover various genres, Ulpiano Checa stands out in the area of historic painting. With impressive movement, his characters seem to come alive.
Do you remember Ben-Hur? And what about Quo Vadis? Did you know the Roman paintings Ulpiano Checa painted were Hollywood's inspiration for the settings of those films?
It's the best collection dedicated to a single artist and a reference for all exhibit spaces in the region. The museum houses a large number of oil paintings, watercolours, engravings and illustrated books as well as some reference works and a lot of miscellaneous documentation about him.
And what is there to eat?
After a morning in the Middle Ages, it's time to eat. Walk along Calle Mayor in the shade of the arcades. It's time to eat and enjoy the specialty dishes offered in Colmenar which are as timeless as its monuments.
Enjoy their patatas chulas (comfit potatoes in olive oil, dressed with garlic, parsley and a little vinegar) and pozas (a type of roll on white bread, the inside of which is replaced with onion, tomatoes and brine). You can also try pisto vaquero (made with the delicious local vegetables) or desarreglo (stewed veal with white wine, garlic and tomato sauce) which, along with roasted goat, monopolise most local restaurant menus. And, yes, the names are as interesting as the dishes are delicious.
Plus, if you're one of those who believe a sweet or some cheese is the best souvenir, don't forget to visit one of the many artisan shops. You can buy their famous goat cheese, or pelotas de fraile (a fried food in the form of a ball, with grated lemon and anise aroma). But if you like strong emotions, remember to try the typical limoncillo with an alcohol content of 24º and digestive properties.
As a village with a wine-making tradition, its history is linked to the vineyards, wineries and production of white, rosé, red and sparkling wines. The hundred-year-old wine caves excavated in rock are an undeniable tourist attraction.
One other important product is olive oil.
Colmenar on stage
A lively town with many events of all kinds all year round and for all types of audiences. From organ concerts at the Church of Santa María la Mayor in the spring and autumn to plays at the Diéguez Theatre or the many temporary and permanent exhibits at Colmenarte (an art and cultural centre).
There are also gastronomy events like the Colmenar de Oreja Wine Fair one of the most important in the region. In addition to wine and winery tasting sessions and samples in the Plaza Mayor.
Colmenar de Oreja is also about having fun! For example, during the Cristo del Humilladero Festival featuring very rare running of... oxen! as well as bullfights.
And don't forget the many concerts that take place throughout the year, tasting sessions, processions, popular festivals in the countryside, pilgrimages... and the popular festival of San Roque, which is especially enjoyable for children who become the stars of it all.
Where can I spend the night?
Colmenar de Oreja has an extensive hotel offering in the town itself as well as in the nearby areas. It's even possible to spend the night at one of the hotels with medieval charm situated in the centre of the town. We suggest waking up without hurry and enjoying the views from your room window. You won't be sorry!
Is there still something left to see?
The answer to this question is always "Yes". We recommend a walk along the trail Vereda del Cristo which goes from the hermitage Ermita del Cristo to the border with the province of Toledo near several gullies until you reach the Tajo River. At the end you'll find the Gully Vantage Point with the best views of the Tajo Valley and the first few villages in Toledo. And if you like greenways, there's the Train Route, a 14 kilometre trail that runs along the railway line that once connected Colmenar de Oreja and Chinchón to the city of Madrid, now part of the Tajuña Greenway. Finally, we recommend the Tajo Route, a 16 kilometre trail that follows all of the meanders of the winding Tajo course where you can discover the riverside vegetation and take a look at the remains of the Oreja castle.
We could spend an entire day talking about the wonders of this municipality but the best thing is for you to come and discover it for yourself.
More information: Colmenar de Oreja