Visitors to Madrid cannot help but be awed by the modern architecture that coexists with historic structures. World-famous for its Prado Museum and the gorgeous Parque del Buen Retiro, a true sightseeing jewel is just a day trip away: El Escorial.
What is El Escorial?
El Escorial is a Renaissance-built monastery that was first commissioned in 1558 under King Philip II. Entrusting the construction to Juan Bautista de Toledo, the monarch secured the services of a gifted architect who worked on Palazzo Farnese with Michelangelo. Since its beginnings, the building also served as a necropolis, reliquary, repository of books and museum for priceless works of art. In addition, El Escorial features breathtaking grounds, which are well worth the exploration.
Where is it and how do I get there?
Situated in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the town is about 30 miles northeast of Madrid. The easiest way to get to the monastery is via the A-V1 to the M-600. The traveler who prefers public transportation can sit back and relax by taking the #661 from Madrid’s Intercambiador de Moncloa. Another option is the train (C-8) that travels from the Atocha station to the El Escorial stop in about one hour. If you choose the latter option, remember that there is still a slight hike from the train station to the monastery.
When should I visit El Escorial?
Avoid weekends, since these are traditionally tourist days. The venue is closed on Mondays. Hours of operation for the rest of the week are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; during the summer season the hours are extended to 7 p.m. Plan to arrive right at opening time, since the grounds are so extensive that it will take the entire allotted time to visit each room, enjoy all the artworks and also partake of a leisurely snack in the gardens.
Insider’s guide to enjoying the venue
The cost of attendance is 10 €. A guided tour costs an additional 7 € but it is a better idea to either rely on a guide book or rent an audio tour for 4 €. Traipsing along with other tourists after a hurried guide is not my idea of a good time and if you are at all a history buff, you understand perfectly well what I mean.
Although children of all ages are welcomed, use discretion when visiting the necropolis or the reliquaries with an impressionable preschooler. Moreover, remember that there are plenty of exhibits that frown upon loud noises — most notably the library.
Bring a backpack. Remember to include a light jacket, sunscreen, snacks, water and a map of the venue. Wear hiking boots or comfortable walking shoes. Since you will be entering houses of worship, be mindful of proper attire.
Contrary to most tours, start outside and enjoy a tour of the gardens. Madrid is known for its stagnant, hot summer temperatures and walking in the gardens before noon is bearable. Attempt it after noon at your own risk.
Head inside around high noon. Do not be surprised if you need a jacket; the stone structure filters out a good bit of the heat and it gets pretty cold, especially in the necropolis. Head out to Plaza San Lorenzo 2 for lunch or dinner at Fonda Genara, Restaurante San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
Calle de Juan de Borbón y Battemberg in 28200 San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Madrid)
Tue. through Sun. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
91 890 59 03