A Visit to El Escorial

A Visit to El Escorial

Situated on the southern slopes of Mount Abantos, San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a quaint town located about 50 km from Madrid. The town is best known for its palace, known as the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial or Monasterio del Escorial. A visit to El Escorial is one of the best day trips from Madrid. 

In this post, you will find everything you need to know for a visit to El Escorial. 

How to get there 

You can get there by car, but check the costs for the toll roads. Another option is by train from Atocha. The ride takes about an hour and from the train station, you will have to walk 10-15 minutes. 

The easiest way to get there is by bus from Moncloa. Bus 661 runs from Moncloa to El Escorial every 15 to 30 minutes during weekdays. From the bus station, you will have to walk for 10 minutes. 

You can also take a guided tour from Madrid.  

Opening Hours and Tickets 

From October to March: Open from Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
From April to September: Open from Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am – 7 pm

You can book tickets online or buy tickets at the ticket office. The price for a ticket is 12 euro. Children under 5 years can enter for free.

History 

Known as the largest Renaissance building in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most important historical sites in Europe and is the largest monastery in all of Spain. 

El Escorial was commissioned by King Philip II in 1563. It was built to commemorate the Spanish victory over the French in the 1557 battle of St. Quentin in Picardy. King Philip II wanted to create a Necropolis for his dead parents and upcoming descendants, which has been followed by most Spanish kings who have been buried at El Escorial. 
 
It was designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo, a prominent Renaissance architect who had spent much time in Italy but who sadly did not live to see the completion of the project. Juan de Herrera took up the project and completed it after Toledo died in 1567. Construction began in 1563 and was completed in 1584. The complex took 21 years to complete and houses the remains of most of Spain’s kings as well as a museum, library, basilica, and art gallery. 
 

Things to see at El Escorial

The Basilica: The basilica is one of the country’s best-known examples of Renaissance architecture. The exterior of the building is characterized by its grand scale and simple, symmetrical design. The interior, meanwhile, is elaborately decorated with marble walls, carved woodwork, and stained glass windows. The basilica also houses the remains of Several Spanish royals, including King Philip II.  

The Library: The library is one of the largest and most important libraries in Spain. It was founded in 1561 by King Philip II and contains over 45 000 books and manuscripts. The library contains a variety of Baroque artworks and architectural features, also a number of rare and valuable books, including a first edition of Don Quixote and a signed copy of Columbus’s travel diary. 

Royal Palace of the Bourbons and the Palace of the Austrias: In these palaces, you can see the rooms where the royals lived in. The rooms are decorated with beautiful paintings and tapestries. 

The Hall of Battles: This hall is one of the largest and most impressive rooms in the palace. Built by King Philip II to commemorate his military victories, the hall is decorated with a series of massive paintings that depict scenes from famous battles. The paintings are accompanied by inscriptions that detail the events that took place. Each painting tells a story of heroism and sacrifice, and together they provide a fascinating glimpse into the history of warfare. The Hall of Battles is an impressive testimony to the power and glory of the Spanish Empire. 

The Royal Pantheon: This is a mausoleum. The pantheon was built to house the remains of the Spanish royal family. It is a large, octagonal building with a domed roof. The interior is decorated with marble and includes a number of tombs. The most notable tomb is the one of King Philip II, who was the ruler of Spain during its golden age. The pantheon also contains the remains of other members of the royal family, including Queen Isabela and King Charles V. 

The Garden of the Friars: The Garden of the Friars dates back to the 16th century when it was created by King Philip II. He took a personal interest in these gardens and made sure they were always well taken care of. He assigned skilled gardeners to tend the plants. Today, the garden is home to a wide variety of plant life, including many species of flowers and trees. From here you have stunning views of the surrounding mountains. 

Things to know 

  • Photography is prohibited in much of El Escorial.
  • El Escorial is always cold, being amidst the mountains. 
  • Try to visit early on weekdays to avoid big crowds.
  • Large bags are not allowed inside El Escorial. Free lockers are provided for bags. 
  • Take at least a half day to visit El Escorial.
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