/ The Madrid Guide
Madrid — By Nellie Huang on March 26, 2010 at 4:34 pm
Filed under: , ,

Escape from Madrid: Historical Town of el Escorial

With a whole week of Easter holidays approaching, it’s time to get out of the city to explore abit, leaving the skyscrapers and traffic behind. Just 45 kilometres away from Madrid stands the Spanish royal site of El Escorial.

Hidden obscurely in the town of San Lorenzeo de El Escorial, the royal site consists of two main complexes that function as a monastery, royal palace, museum and pilgrimage school. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, and is extremely popular as a day-trip from Madrid.

What to See

Of utmost importance in Spanish history and culture, el Escorial is the architectural testimony to the power of the Spanish monarchy and the Roman Catholic religion. The two main complexes are known as el Real Monasterio de El Escorial (The Royal Monastery) and La Granjilla de la Fresneda (The Hunting Ranch).

The complexes spread throughout a massive area, it usually takes one day to explore the entire site. Main highlights of el Escorial include the Patio de los Reyes (the building’s main facade), fresco paintings in the Hall of Battle and the Panthenon of the Evangelists where a beautiful European-style garden lays.

The Royal Monastery was built by King Felipe II to house the remains of his parents, Carlos I and Isabela from Portugal. Don’t forget to visit the crypt where most Spanish kings are buried. The basilica is also worth a visit – located in the central building of the complex and well-known for a dome that resembles that in the St Peter’s basilica in Rome.

Side-trip: Valley of the Fallen

Most visitors who make the trip here also include a visit to the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), just 9.5 kilometers away. Although it is rather difficult to get to, many travelers make a point to see the monumental valley for its historical significance.

A colossal basilicia is poised atop a spectacular valley, constructed into a mountain and topped by a towering granite cross. The main draw of this site: it was built by the notorious Spanish dictator General Franco for his own burial ground and in memory of the dead during the Spanish civil war.

The atmosphere here might be rather somber as modern-day Spaniards struggle to come to terms with the destruction and millions of deaths caused by the ex-leader of Spain. You can join a tour to learn more about the country’s troubled history and how it is linked to this monument in particular.

How to get to el Escorial:

  • The fastest way is by the Cercanías, with regular departures from Atocha, Chamartin and Nuevos Ministerios.
  • By bus, you can take number 661 from Moncloa Bus Station.

Getting from el Escorial to Valley of the Fallen:

  • Catch bus 660 from El Escorial’s bus station. It leaves every half hour and stops at the gate of the memorial. From the gate, it is a few kilometers’ walk to the monument itself.
  • There is one bus a day that goes all the way to the monument. It leaves from the Plaza de la Virgen de la Gracia in the town centre of El Escorial at 3.15pm, returning at 5.30pm.

Information for visitors:

Entrance fee: 8€ for basic unguided tour; 10€ for guided tour.

Opening hours: (October to March) Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm; (April to September) Tuesday to Sunda 10am-7pm

Website: www.sanlorenzoturismo.org

Photos used with permission of Alphis Tay.

Source: Wikipedia

Leave a Reply


Leave a Trackback