Tips for visiting El Escorial and its World Heritage monastery


Escorial Monastery in the Sierra de Madrid

In a tourist trip to Madridof several days, you can not miss a excursion to El Escorial.

Sure you already know its imposing monastery It is the main attraction of the beautiful town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, on the slope of the Sierra de Guadarrama from Madrid, just 53 kilometers from the capital.

He El Escorial MonasteryIt has been considered as the Eighth Wonder of the World and declared World Heritage for Unesco.

El Escorial Monastery from Mount Abantos

You may know that it was built by order of King Philip II between 1563 and 1584, on the one hand, to commemorate the Battle of San Quentin, and in turn, to be used as royal pantheon of the Spanish monarchy.

The huge building, which extends over an area of more than 35,000 square meters, is located on the slope of Monte Abantos, and was raised in a land that was in the vicinity of one then small village.

So that you can locate it, that village corresponds to the current town of El Escorial, the first city you access from Madrid, while the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial It came later and spread around the monastery.

To see its privileged location at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama it is best to do it from the nearby place known as theFelipe II chair.

Escorial Monastery in the Sierra de Madrid

All information in detail

  • How to get to El Escorial
  • Curiosities history El Escorial monastery
  • The best thing to see in El Escorial and its monastery
  • USEFUL TIPS for your TRIP

How to get to El Escorial

Apart from by car, to go to visit the monastery that is close to Madrid You can do it on your own by public transport.

Here you have the information about how to get to El Escorial by train or bus.

You also have the option to sign up for Tour to visit the monastery of El Escorial with the company of a Spanish guide.

This visit will take you all morning and you will also go through the Valley of the Fallen.

Curiosities history El Escorial monastery

Of the huge dimensions of the Monastery of El Escorial, It will give you an idea to know that after its construction in the 16th century in a record time of only 21 years, it became the largest building in all of Europe.

Cloister in the monastery of El Escorial

The project was initiated byJohn the Baptist of Toledo, who was architect of King Philip II , although later other architects intervened, among them, Juan de Herrera, which gave its name to the Herrera architectural style that characterizes the majestic building.

Indeed, when you arrive before the El Escorial Monastery, you verify that it is a building of imposing monumentality, but of very austere lines, in an intermediate step between the Renaissance style and the neoclassical style.

The building houses, on the one hand, a Augustinian monastery, but also other different rooms, in some cases, of great historical and artistic value.

Also, the so-called Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial It encompasses various buildings and royal gardens that are located around the monastery building, which you can also visit, as is called Prince's House.

The main facade of El Escorial Monastery it is that of the west side, and behind them the axis of this monumental complex is opened, which is the Courtyard of the Kings, and after crossing it, you will reach the Basilica.

Escorial Monastery in the Sierra de Madrid

The best thing to see in El Escorial and its monastery

The center of your excursion to El Escorial It will be the visit of the monastery, although I anticipate that if you have time, it is worth taking a walk through the streets bordering this great monument.

For you visit of the Monastery of El Escorial you must enter through the north facade, where the lockers are located.

Palace of the Bourbons in El Escorial monastery

Although you can make the visit on your own, only if you sign up for the highly recommended Guided visits You will have the opportunity to visit, first of all, the rooms that are known as the Palace of the Bourbons.

Gallery of the cloister of the Patio de los Evangelistas in El Escorial monastery

This set of rooms shows the characteristic style of decoration of the dynasty of French origin, and especially highlights its many tapestries.

Palace of the Austrias in El Escorial monastery

Then you will visit the so-calledPalace of the Austriasor Felipe II House, which was once used as a royal residence.

Totally different from that of Bourbons, these palatial rooms stand out for the great austerity of their decoration.

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It was the royal residence during the stays of Philip II in El Escorial, and among other dependencies you will see the bedroom of the king and the spectacularBattle Room, from my point of view, one of the most prominent corners of the whole monastery.

There you can see the huge paintings that cover the walls of one side of the room in which numerous battles of the time are depicted.

Gardens in the monastery of El Escorial in Madrid

Paintings Museum in El Escorial monastery

You will also see the Chapter Rooms, in whose design the painter Velázquez, which in their day were used by the monks.

In this succession of rooms they house a Museum of Paintings, with important works of Velázquez, El Greco and Bank, among others.

But, without a doubt, the two most important rooms of the Escorial Monastery, are the historical placePantheon of Kings and the library, corners that justify the visit of the interior of the monastery.

Pantheon of Kings in El Escorial monastery

This impressive area of El Escorial monastery located under the Main Altar of the Basilica, houses the Graves of the Kings of Spain of the dynasties of the Austrias and the Bourbons.

Pantheon of Kings in El Escorial Monastery @ Photo: Bocachete

He Pantheon of Kings of the Escorial It is a large circular high-rise room built in the 17th-century Baroque style.

Next to that stay you can also see the Pantheon of Infants, which was ordered to be built in the 19th century by Queen Elizabeth II.

In this area enabled to house the tombs of the many relatives of the kings, the tomb stands out with the spectacular lying sculpture of Don Juan of Austria.

Library of the Monastery of Escorial

The library was created by himself King Philip II, who wanted to collect all the books that were published in Spain.

In fact, theKing Philip IIHe issued a decree in 1612, which should be sent to that library a copy of each book that was published.

Library of the monastery of El Escorial

In parallel, to theLibrary of the Monastery of El Escorial, also known as theRun off, collections of manuscripts and old volumes that were being acquired were incorporated.

The result is that the library has come to have up to40,000 volumes and incunabula from very different origins, such as Latin, Greek, Arab codices, etc ... but especially from the 15th and 16th centuries.

In youvisit to the Library of the Monastery of El EscoriaWhat you are going to see is the spectacular main hall.

With 59 meters in length and 10 in width, what is undoubtedly going to get your attention is itsgreat vaultdecorated with frescoes painted byTibaldi Pellegrin, with allegorical themes of Renaissance style.

The sides of this great room are covered by some imposingnoble wood shelves, like oak, mahogany and cedar, which were designed by the monastery's own architect,Juan de Herrera.

Stairs of the cloister of the monastery of El Escorial

During your walk through the library you can appreciate the thousands of incunabula that are distributed through the aforementioned shelves, one of the most precious being the one of the Cantigas de Santa María fromAlfonso X the Wise.

Another very prominent element in the room is the spectacular tolomic sphere fromPhilip II, of the year 1582, in which you can see a representation ofthe earth as the center ofUniverse.

Stairs of the Cloister of the monastery of El Escorial

Another highlight in the visit of the monastery is the grand staircase which opens in the main cloister of the monastery, known as Courtyard of the Evangelists.

From the same cloister you will be struck by great decoration withfrescoes on the roof of the stairs.

Paintings of the Stairs of the Cloister of the monastery of El Escorial

I recommend you go up to the first landing to appreciate this decoration.

The main staircase of the Cloister it was built byJohn the baptist, with the characteristic initial branch that is then opened in two branches to reach the second level of the cloister.

On the main staircase stand out their52 granite steps, each of them performed in one piece.

Thefreshthat decorate the ceiling of this enclosure represent different motifs and were painted at different times.

Basilica of the monastery of El Escorial

Thus, along with frescoes of religious themes, such asthe glory and thelife of Jesus Christ, there are other non-religious topics such asBattle of San Quentin or the construction of one's ownEl Escorial Monastery.

In this way, along with images ofthe Virgin andangels, you can also see those of the kingsCarlos V andPhilip II, and also toCharles II, who a century after the construction of the staircase commissioned its decoration with new frescoes.

Among the artists who participated in the different periods in the realization of the frescoes stand outTibaldiandLucas Jordan (Luca Giordano).

Courtyard of Kings and Basilica monastery El Escorial

He Kings Courtyard It is the main open space that you find in a large complex of El Escorial monastery.

Basilica of the monastery of El Escorial

On your visit you will leave through the door that opens on the north facade and that takes you to this large courtyard which is the Basilica of El Escorial.

Inside you will be struck by its very thick columns and the large dome 95 meters high.

It also highlights the great altarpiece of High altar designed by himself Juan de Herrera.

With a great austerity in its decoration, almost nonexistent, this basilica will convey a great sense of robustness.

Courtyard of Kings in monastery of El Escorial

In sum, one essential visit, together with Toledo visit, if on your trip to Madrid you have a minimum of time.

More information about the Monastery of El Escorial

- Panoramic views of the Monastery of El Escorial from the Silla de Felipe II

Panoramic views of the Monastery of El Escorial from Mount Abantos

Pantheon of Kings in the Monastery of El Escorial

- How to visit the Monastery of El Escorial: schedules, entrance fees