Photo of El Escorial

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 Escorial's 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 painted 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 in the Chapter houses and include paintings by Titian and José Ribera. El Escorial is home to a large collection of paintings including Flemish, Italian and Spanish paintings. Notable amongst them is 'The Martyrdom of Saint Maurice' by El Greco.

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 also 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.

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.

If El Escorial has given you a taste for palace complexes then visit also the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Madrid guide, and the Madrid Province guide.

See also Find El Escorial hotels

Map of El Escorial and places to visit


El Escorial places to visit

Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso

Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso

The Royal Palace is a stunning royal palace with superb formal gardens.

Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso guide


Segovia is situated on a rocky outcrop and has an amazing Gothic cathedral and a Moorish castle which dominates the city.

Segovia guide


Madrid is the beautiful capital of Spain with some of the world's best art museums.

Madrid guide


Avila is surrounded by the best medieval walls in Europe. Punctuated by 88 towers the wall is truly amazing.

Avila guide
Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares

Alcala de Henares is one of the oldest university towns in Europe

Alcala de Henares guide
Museum of Archeology and Paleontology of Alcala de Henares

Museum of Archeology and Paleontology of Alcala de Henares

The Museum is free to visit and has some interesting exhibits.

Museum of Archeology and Paleontology of Alcala de Henares guide