On your way from eastern or southern Spain to Madrid, the picturesque village of Chinchón is definitely worth seeing. The village, in fact, deserves a trip to itself. If you're travelling from the capital, it is most easily reached by the N-III highway, turning off onto the C-300 local highway; a total distance of 52 kilometers.

The castle of Chinchón is a 15th century gothic fortress, but even more interesting is the irregular and picturesque Plaza Mayor, where bullfights have been staged since 1502. The village is lovely if difficult to describe. With just a few thousand inhabitants, it seems to belong to a different world than Madrid, which is less than an hour away by car. The arcaded plaza is the focal point of the village, whose steep streets lead down into it. It is surrounded by houses with tiled roofs and whitewashed façades, their wooden balconies supported by granite pillars.

The overall effect is somewhat of an outdoor theatre, subtly decorated in tones of ochre, brown and grey. Francisco Goya is said to have loved this pueblo, where he painted the Countess of Chinchón, whose image is still on the labels of the famous anise liqueurs produced here. You can visit the distillery in the village by the way. One of the countess's 17th century forebears introduced Europe to the use of quinine to fight fever, subsequently making the village well-known across the continent.

Chinchón's Parador (luxury state hotel) is a restored 17th century former Augustine convent. The village mesones (traditional restaurants) are famous and tend to be packed with Madrileños, especially at weekends. They are known for their simple, rustic food: sopa castellana (Castilian soup), cordero asado (roast lamb) and cochinillo (roast suckling pig). Of the Café de la Iberia on Plaza Mayor it is said that Goya painted the pleasant patio.

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