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The Monasterio de El Escorial in Madrid

By Alín Durán |

Travel to Madrid and plan a visit to the impressive complex of the Monasterio de El Escorial.

As you know, one of our favorite destinations in DINKtravelers is Spain. In previous articles we’ve  showed you places with amazing history and incredible architecture, such as the Cathedral of Seville, the Chapel of Granada or the Real Monasterio de las Huelgas in Burgos. This time, we’ll take you to a place in the outskirts of Madrid: the Monasterio de El Escorial.

What is El Escorial? 

The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is visited every year by over 18,000 travelers. This is not surprising given its symmetrical and imposing architecture, its gardens and its history, which make it a great tourist attraction in Spain.

The word “Escorial” refers to “escorias”, which are the leftover metals from metalworking factories in the surroundings. It was also named San Lorenzo after King Phillip II, who ordered the construction of this architectural work, celebrated his first victory against the French army the day Saint Lawrence was commemorated.

San Lorenzo de El Escorial History

The Monasterio de El Escorial was built as a monastery for the Hieronymites. Apart from having religious functions, the monastery was a hospital and a place where they carried out charity work. It also housed the Royal Library and was home to the young men who wanted to study at the Seminary School which prepared all the future members of the clergy.

When Was El Escorial Built?

The construction works of the Monasterio de El Escorial began by orders of Phillip II in 1563 and ended in 1584. Two architects were in charge of the construction of the huge monastery. Juan Bautista de Toledo designed it, and Juan de Herrera was in charge of the construction. The latter created a particular architectural style known as herreriano, making reference to his last name. The construction material they used for most of the construction was granite, which was abundant in the area.

El Escorial, a World Heritage and a National Treasure

The Escorial was listed as World Heritage in 1984 and as Historic-Artistic Monument of Spain in 1931. DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, invites you to visit the most emblematic World Heritage sites and to discover their cultural value.

Visit El Escorial 

Before entering the site, enjoy the different perspectives of the building’s facade. Move as far away from the entrance as possible. Stand near the corners of the premises’ perimeter to take pictures of the whole building. If you have a wide-angle lens, this is the moment to use it. Take into account that on the southern facade you will find a pond that’s perfect for great photography perspectives. Other attractions you will find are the gardens of El Escorial. You’ll love their Italian style with straight-line designs.

For  5 more euros, visit the Prince’s House, and for 3 euros, the House of the Infante (Spanish prince). You can buy your tickets here.

El Escorial Library

Phillip II lived at the Monasterio de El Escorial from the Holy Week until autumn, so he decorated the place with tons of art works. In your visit you’ll find paintings of Charles I of Spain and his son Phillip II, as well as several embroidered tapestries. Then, you’ll get to visit the Royal Library of El Escorial which reflects Phillip II’s passion for culture. It houses 40,000 books from Spanish and foreign authors. But apart from the collection, the 54-meter-long hall is worth visiting in itself. All the vault is covered with frescoes by renowned painters, and the bookshelves are decorated with portraits of Spanish monarchs. The most popular one is that of Phillip IV painted by Diego Velázquez.

El Escorial Royal Courtyard

When you visit the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, visit the King’s Courtyard. This way you’ll be able to see the sculptures dedicated to the six kings of Israel: Josafat, Ezequias, David, Salomon, Josias and Manases. The courtyard was named after them since it is said they participated in the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

On the left wall, near the windows, look for a stone engraved with a black cross. That was the last stone placed during the construction of El Escorial in 1584.

How to Get to El Escorial from Madrid? 

The easiest way to get to the Monasterio de El Escorial from Madrid is by train, from Atocha station (45 minutes), Chamartín or Príncipe Pío stations (30 minutes). Once you get to El Escorial station, take the bus. Here you can check the schedules of the train Madrid-El Escorial.

If you don’t want to take the bus, simply take the train in Atocha Cercanías Station. After 13 stops you’ll get to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Walk down to Santa Rosa St. and then continue along Avenida de los Reyes Católicos until you reach El Escorial. It’s a 20-minute walk. Train tickets cost between 4 and 6 euros.

El Escorial Opening Hours & Entrance Fee

The Monasterio de El Escorial, including the Palace and the Gardens, opens at 10:00 h from Tuesday to Sunday. All these places are included in your ticket, which costs 10 euros. For 4 more euros you can get a guided tour. Another option is to rent an audio guide for 3 euros and visit the place at your own pace.

We recommend you take the train in Madrid as early as possible. Take into account that El Escorial closes at 18:00 hfrom October to March and at 20:00 h from April to September.

Now you know more about the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial,  don’t forget to visit it while you are in Madrid. We are sure visiting El Escorial will be a great experience and you’ll discover a lot more about Spain.