Visit El Escorial
El Escorial lies 56 km to the north west of Madrid in Madrid Province.
El Escorial is a massive palace-monestry complex built for Felipe II. It is one of Spains most visited monuments with more than 500 000 visitors arriving every year. El Escorial is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore El Escorial
El Escorial sits on top of a hill surrounded by the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. El Escorials pale walls contrast with its grey roof rising from which are several towers and cupolas. Seen from a distance it is an absolutely magnificent sight.
Built between 1563 and 1584 its very simple, unadorned style led to a new architectural style which was copied throughout Spain. El Escorial was started by Juan Bautista de Toledo but finished by Juan de Herrera.
The massive complex contains a palace, a monastery, a mausoleum and a phenomenal library.
At the main entrance is a massive statue of San Lorenzo in whose honour the monastry was built. From here enter the library with its incredible painting ceilings and a collection of more than 40,000 books including Felipe II's own personal collection.
Outside is the Patio De los Reyes with statues of six kings of Israel on the Basilica opposite the library.
The Basilica contains an impressive altarpiece and a number of notable statues and sculptures. Its large cupulo was inspired by that of St Peters in Rome.
Many of the treasures of El Escorial are housed tin the Chapter houses and include paintings by Titian and José Ribera. The Panteon contains funeral urns of many of the Spanish monarchs. In a seperate room the bodies are placed to decompose for 20 years after which the clean skeletons are laid in the magnificent tombs. Royal children are in a seperate Panteon (Panteon de los Infantes) in a tomb which resembles a wedding cake.
The Royal Appartments include Felipe II's very simple rooms plus the more lavish appartments of later monarchs.
El Escorial contains a monastery which is still active today and so cannot be visited by the public.
The town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is pleasant and has a number of bars and restaurants.
Museums in El Escorial
The museum contains works by Spanish, Flemish and Italian paintings.
Where to visit near El Escorial?
The lodges of Casita del Principe and the Casita del Infante were both designed by Spain's Neoclassical architect, Juan de Villanueva. They are both worth a trip and also have attractive formal gardens. The Casita del Infante offers wonderful views of the El Escorial complex. It is here where the current King Juan Carlos lived as a student.
The Sierra de Guadarrama mountains have lots of beautiful stretches and are great for walking.
If you have not already visited Madrid then this really is a city not to be missed. It is beautiful and has fabulous art galleries and a very special night time ambience.