San Lorenzo de El Escorial Monastery, partial view of the exterior
San Lorenzo de El Escorial Monastery
Nature, history, art and culture. A expert, unhurried blend of these elements makes San Lorenzo de El Escorial a unique place, one which holds marvels for travelers’ eyes as well as their other four senses. A town just 50 kilometers from Madrid that is well worth discovering.
Any valued work of art requires time to be completed. As such, San Lorenzo de El Escorial has five centuries of history behind it, a long process of development intimately linked to the royalty and history of Spain.
Here you will feel yourself part of a history that was, during the reign of Felipe II, the most important center of political power in all of Europe. You can admire, from the main esplanade, the austerity and equilibrium of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo, the crowning achievement of Herrerian architecture which became a model for many later Spanish and European constructions. This site, the only one of its kind in the world, brings together church, palace, monastery and royal pantheon.
Venture inside and be seduced by the majestic cupola of the Basílica, the Patio de Reyes (Courtyard of Kings), or by the sumptuous Palace of the Bourbons. Experience the unique sensation of entering the library with its 40,000 books, or the royal pantheon, a beautiful room of marble and jasper that houses the tombs of all Spanish monarchs since the 16th century.
Luxurious tapestries, frescoes, beautiful codices and oil paintings comprise an enormous collection of priceless works of art. It won’t be long before you realize that that you are inside one of the most important museums in Europe.
This imposing construction begun by Juan Bautista de Toledo and finished by Juan de Herrera, is breathtaking for its sheer size (the initial construction was built on an area of more than 33,000 square feet), as well as for its combination of visual grandeur and equilibrium that dominates the entire site.
The Monastery is not everything
After delighting your senses with one of the world’s greatest architectural marvels and after passing through its noble rooms, you can loose yourself in the streets and passages of San Lorenzo. There you’ll discover the typical Sierra-style architecture in which granite and slate feature prominently.
There are noble facades and quiet, small plazas with shops of all types where you will find an endless array of restaurants in which to discover the signature delights of the local gastronomy. Or, if you prefer, you might relax and savor a cup of coffee on any one of the town’s many café patios.
San Lorenzo’s grand atmosphere is always readily apparent, especially in summer when it fills with students and puts on all its city finery to host the summer courses run by the Universidad Complutense of Madrid.
A complete escape
But San Lorenzo de El Escorial offers many more surprises. Monte Abantos and the Guadarrama Mountains provide an unparalleled backdrop for your favorite outdoor activity: hiking, climbing, routes on horseback or on bicycle and more. There are also numerous nature trails, such as the Bosque de la Herrería trail where you will discover the same natural beauty as Carlos III enjoyed centuries before on his hunting expeditions. These are singular surroundings that, together with the monastery, have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
You might also visit the lovely small palaces of Casita de Abajo and Casita de Infante, or perhaps take in the best view of the area from the famous Silla de Felipe II (Seat of Felipe II), from which the king followed the progress of the building of the Royal Monastery.
Naturaleza, historia, arte, cultura. Todo ello, en un conjunto monumental único, con excelentes accesos por carretera y tren de cercanías, le permitirán hacer una escapada inolvidable desde la capital de España con toda comodidad y rapidez. A un paso de Madrid, un tesoro único, una ciudad de reyes.