Things to Do in Alcalá la Real

The impressive Muslim stronghold

Over a thousand meters high, the Fortress of La Mota watches over the horizon. It is one of the most spectacular in the Peninsula. On its slopes extends a beautiful city in an environment full of olive groves.

Plan your stay in Alcalá la Real

There is much to see in Alcalá la Real, although the main landmark is the Fortress of La Mota. Thus, it is a destination that requires at least a full day. The best option to extend your trip is to go to Priego de Córdoba, which is closely associated with the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. To the north, on the other hand, we can find Martos or the city of Jaén.

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Origins of Alcalá la Real

The best thing to do before moving on to what to see in Alcalá la Real is to know something of its history. It is known that the area was already populated in the Paleolithic. Later, Iberians and Romans succeeded each other in the local domain. For their part, the Arabs called it Qal’at Bani Sa’id after its inhabitants, the Said. They abbreviated the name until it became Al-Qal’a, i.e. “the fortress”. Then they began to build a fortress and defensive walls around the hill, which would include up to three walls.

Arabs and Christians

During the 9th century, the fort was the scene of the famous rebellion of the Muladies against the Umayyads of Córdoba. In 1074, Alfonso VI of Castile conquered it. However, the Muslims took it back soon after. During the reckless expedition of Alfonso I the Battler of Aragon through the south of the peninsula, around 1126, he took the Mozarabic population of Alcalá la Real northwards. Such a feat led to the construction of the current La Mota Fortress. An independent lordship was also created by the hand of Abd al-Malik ben Said. It was the century of greatest cultural relevance for the population.

During 1246, Al Hamar of Granada invited the population to join his kingdom, until it was taken by Alfonso X of Castile. In September 1265, the monarch and Al Hamar signed the Pact of Alcalá. Through it, the latter confirmed his status as a tributary. Already in 1280 the place obtained a town charter to promote its population.


The people of Granada recovered the square again until, in 1340, Alfonso XI carried out a spectacular siege. To do so, he cut down all the trees in the vicinity, avoiding surprise attacks. In addition, he used artillery against the walls. However, the Fortress of La Mota and the determination of the population made the assaults fail. Only hunger achieved surrender, on August 15th 1341. In this way it became definitively the territory of Castile.

Alcalá la Real
View of Alcalá la Real with the Fortress of La Mota at the top

Alcalá la Real as a city

In 1432 John II of Castile granted it the title of city. The capture of Granada in 1492 caused the loss of the strategic importance of the Fortress of La Mota. During the next three centuries the city overtook the walls and grew up on the plain. It was enriched by its agricultural activity and numerous buildings were constructed. The castle was progressively ruined. Finally, during the War of Independence, Napoleon’s troops modernized it. In spite of everything, they caused serious damage to some of its already battered buildings. The situation would get worse again with the Civil War.

La Mota Fortress

The tour of what to see in Alcalá la Real starts at the Fortress of La Mota. It has three distinct areas: the very long walled enclosure itself, the citadel and the fortress. The wall was laid out from the 11th century onwards, and was reformed in the 13th and 14th centuries. Three of the seven access gates remain: Las Lanzas, La Imagen and El Peso de la Harina. Through them you can access the citadel. This is a town concentrated behind the high walls of this rocky hill. At its summit is the Alcazar, flanked by the towers of La Campana, Mocha and del Homenaje. The latter is 20 metres high.

Important Churches

In the Plaza Alta is the imposing Mayor Abacial Church. This place to see in Alcalá la Real was built between the 16th and 17th centuries. At the Puerta del Perdón there is a semicircular arch between Tuscan pilasters and a pediment with a relief of the Virgin. It is divided into three Gothic naves with plateresque decorations. Its baptismal chapel stands out, with an Italianate appearance, with reliefs by Diego de Siloé and his wife. The chapel of El Deán also stands out, with a quadrangular shape and a Gothic-Isabelline façade. In 1810 the church was burned by the French.

In the medieval quarter of Las Cruces and San Marcos is the Church of San Marcos (16th century). Its last origins date back to the 20th of December 1340. Then, Alfonso XI assaulted the suburb at the foot of the fortress, adjacent to the Fortress of La Mota. There he ordered the construction of a temple dedicated to Santo Domingo de Silos. The place has a great panoramic view of the city. This austere present church shines by its Renaissance front. The image of Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza is kept inside.

In the Carrera de la Monjas the Church of La Encarnación (17th century) was built. It is a Renaissance building with a rectangular floor plan. Its perfectly carved and sober front and its cloister stand out. In the same street is the Palacio Abacial (1791), which is distinguished by its elegant stone facade in the Baroque style. Its three-part cloister with Tuscan column arches stands out.

At the confluence of Calle Real and Calle del Rosario there is another building to see in Alcalá la Real. It is the church of Santa María Mayor, better known as La Consolación (16th-18th centuries). The church has a Latin cross floor plan and a single nave with a large dome. It is worth seeing its baroque altarpieces and images, such as Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes, patron saint of the town.

Of the Rosary complex (16th-17th centuries), in Calle Real, only its main Renaissance-style front survives. Nearby is the Church of San Juan (16th-18th centuries). Inside, the chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (1587) stands out, with images related to Alcalá’s Holy Week. In front of it, the traditional festival of the burning of the witch is celebrated every year.

Santa María la Mayor Church

Buildings related to day-to-day life

The Plaza del Arcipreste de Hita features the Alcalá la Real Town Hall building (18th century). It is a resounding and symmetrical baroque palace whose vision is completed with the beautiful Casas de Enfrente (18th century). Located in the same enclave, they housed the city’s fish market.

Around 1791 the Torre del Reloj was built. Its lunar clock was installed in 1803 and stands out for its precision, being one of the great landmarks of Alcalá la Real. Nearby is the neoclassical Casa Solariega de los Fernández de Moya (1752). It has a severe appearance and a beautiful central courtyard with lowered arches. In the past, the place was the headquarters of the Convento de la Trinidad.

Following the route we reach the Church of Las Angustias (18th-19th centuries). Built with ashlar stones in the form of a rectangular plant, highlights the beautiful image of the Virgin. In addition, the baptismal font and the altarpiece of the old temple of Santo Domingo (16th century) stand out.

On Avenida de Andalucía is the Church of San Antón (18th century). It has a curious elliptical floor plan and a graceful façade with a belfry finish. Next door, in the Parque de los Álamos, is the Convento de los Capuchinos (17th century). It was once an oil factory and home and today is the headquarters of the Municipal Library and Archive.

One of the most relevant urban elements to see in Alcalá la Real is the small and beautiful Pilar de Los Álamos (1552). It is a landmark that links El Llanillo with Paseo de los Álamos. Such a monument represents in relief allegorical motifs, such as the coat of arms of the city, referring to its position as a key and defense of Castile.

Alcalá la Real
Alcalá la Real

Must see

Interior of the Abacial Main Church
Alcalá la Real
Palacio Abacial in Alcalá la Real

Practical Data


Alcalá La Real 37° 26′ 42″ N, 3° 56′ 49″ W; Castillo de La Mota 37° 27′ 35″ N, 3° 55′ 45″ W


Jaén 71 km, Granada 55 km, Sevilla 212 km, Madrid 400 km.


Municipal parking in the heart of the city, in Alamos street.


917 m-1029 m (Castillo).


22 870(2012).

These are the main festivities to be seen in Alcalá la Real: La Candelaria (February 2), Night of the Drums (in honour of Saint Joseph, March 18), Holy Week, Day of the Cross (May), Night of Saint John (burning of the witch at the stake, June 23) and the Festivities in honour of Our Lady of Mercy (August).

Here are more important events to see in Alcalá la Real: Feria chica (San Antonio, June 13), Etnosur Encuentros Étnicos de la Sierra Sur (third weekend of July), Real Feria de San Mateo (from 20 to 25 September).

Pottery, Glass, Oil-based cosmetic products.

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