Visit to El Escorial Monastery, near Madrid, Spain

El Escorial monastery is an ideal day trip destination from Madrid, Spain. We arrived at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial from Segovia during our onward journey to Madrid. It is located south of Segovia and North West of Madrid. After the night halt at Segovia and a scrumptious breakfast we were fully charged for another day of site-sight-seeing of Spain. The plan for the day was El Escorial to Toledo which is further south of Madrid and then drives back northwards to Madrid for night halt. Segovia to El Escorial, a distance of 55kms we covered in cool 45 minutes!

El Escorial is one of the Spanish royal sites and plays multiple roles of a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. There are 2 monuments of Escorial spaced 5kms from one another. We skipped visiting the royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat. We chose to spend couple of hours at the royal monastery.

While the visit itself was good I still regret including it in my itinerary.

And that is because they did not allow photography. Today when I look back and try to recollect what I had seen my mind is blank. While I spent 10euros per person i couldn’t bring anything back and that is so disppointing. I wouldn’t recommend visit to El Escorial to tourists short on time or cash.

El Escorial Spain

El Escorial interiors 3

History of El Escorial

Philips II built this monument to honor his father Charles V’s wish for a religious foundation in which he was to be buried beside his wife, Isabella of Portugal. They chose the site at the foot of the Guadarrama Mountains, 2 km from the town of El Escorial. The monastery is also called as The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial as it was dedicated to San Lorenzo de la Victoria, in fulfillment of a vow made by Philip II to atone for the destruction of a church dedicated to St Lawrence at the Battle of San Quintín in 1557.

Why I chose to visit El Escorial

  • It is one of the largest religious establishments in the world (about 206m by 161m). Construction of El Escorial began in 1563 by Juan Bautista de Toledo, a Renaissance Spanish architect.
  • Most impressive is the El Escorial library, founded by Philip II. This museum houses a rare collection of more than 4,700 manuscripts.
  • Add to these highlights the fact that it was declared a UNESCO World heritage site 1984 made me include this site in my itinerary.

Architecture of El Escorial

The royal monastery is a mammoth monument of really huge dimensions! The first glance of it stupefied me. You need a good wide angle lens to capture it all in one frame. The façade doesn’t have any major sculpted works yet in its plain looks the royal monastery manages to leave a lasting impression on your minds! The gray granite exteriors make it look more like a fortress than a monastery. Inside there are several rooms housing several different themes.

El Escorial royal gardens indranipicsEl Escorial corridor

Here and there walking through the passages, where security guards weren’t present and where other tourists too were clicking I have taken some pics. But these pictures don’t give any idea of the splendor or somberness of the interiors of the rooms.

Royal Pantheon

I particularly remember the Royal Pantheon that is the resting place of 26 kings and queens. There was an eerie silence inside. The tourists were all quiet! The Kings of Spain of 4 centuries rest in peace here and only those queens who have mothered the Kings rest here. Rick Steves mentioned this as the rotting room in his book!

Other Rooms to See

The Museum of Tapestries was colorful I vaguely remember though none of the works displayed there is in my memory. The Museum of Paintings was burst of colors. The Kings’ apartments are all filled with paintings. The royal gardens looked so well maintained, reminded me of the castle of Segovia.

Finally, the library’s collection consists of more than 40,000 volumes! It is located in a great hall 54m in length, 9m wide and 10m tall with marble floors and beautifully carved wood shelves. This library in those days was a Renaissance statement of power, majesty, prowess, and intellectual world leadership. It was designed for both the preservation of the old and discovery of the new. I wished I could take some pics here.

El Escorial interiors 2El Escorial interiors 1

The Basilica here has stunning interiors. Again no pics. The altar is well decorated. I read up at wiki that: Behind the altar is a three-tiered altar screen, made of red granite and jasper, nearly twenty-eight meters tall, adorned with gilded bronze statuary! Not to be disappointed I have the pic of two towers flanking the church.

El Escorial basillica

Timings of visit to El Escorial, Madrid

The Monastery and Royal Palace
October – March: 10,00 – 18,00
April – September: 10,00 – 20,00

Tickets for El Escorial, Madrid

Tickets can be purchased at site. 10 euros per person. There was some student concession for kids.

#Elescorial trivia1.  This monument is considered the 8th wonder of world by Spaniards

#Elescorial trivia2. The plan of El Escorial is an inverted griddle pattern. The symbolic side to this is that the gridiron was used as the dreadful instrument of torture when St. Lawrence was martyred (according to a well-known legend, he was slowly roasted!).

#Elescorial trivia3.  The estimated doors more than 1,200, windows going over 2,500 and the corridors running up to 16 km inside the palace!

El Escorial door

#disappointing travelfact1. No photography allowed. I wish they allow photography inside excluding just the Royal Pantheon

 #disappointing travelfact2 Yet another disappointing fact is that it was hard to find budget friendly restaurants

 

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43 Responses

  1. Jeevan says:

    Sounds truly remarkable although it looks simple, plain and neat architecture! The ceiling paint works is quite marvelous… Glad u able to take some photos despite the prohibition

  2. eileen says:

    Wow, this monastery is simply gorgeous. Beautiful photos and tour. Enjoy your day and the weekend ahead!

  3. Marcia says:

    Wow, love this! I can definitely understand why Spaniards consider El Escorial the 8th wonder of the world. Another place to visit, hopefully soon!

  4. It is so impressive. Looks impenetrable. I love the garden, is that considered English garden?

  5. Amazing , Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Grand and gorgeous. shots are very nicely taken. wish one day i will visit this place.

  7. Beautiful photos,. and nicely written too..

  8. I have been to Madrid two times and I haven’t been able to visit El Escorial. Last time, we decided to do day trips to Segovia and Toledo. I have heard there is a palace close to Segovia (La Granja). Apparently, that one is not that touristy and it is very beautiful.

  9. Magnificent architecture…no wonder it is an eighth wonder for Spaniards.

  10. Ami says:

    Beautiful beautiful place….and the history associated with it. Loved the tapestries and the whole legend of the resting place of Queen mothers and King. Intriguing indeed.

  11. budget jan says:

    I hate arriving somewhere only to find that photos are not allowed. I don’t see the problem if you don’t use a flash. It’s pretty difficult to blog about a place without photographs. No being able to find affordable food is also difficult. The hedges in the garden look very close together, but beautiful just the same.

  12. Rekha says:

    Lovely paintings and looks like an interesting place. Loved all of your captures.

  13. Arun says:

    This place, rich in history is so interesting, but no photography is disappointing!

  14. dNambiar says:

    Striking buildings. The murals on the ceilings are quite a sight too.

  15. Mridula says:

    I also sulk around places where photography is not allowed!

  16. Gorgeous. I just love these Spanish frescoes…

  17. Facts of doors, windows and corridor is interesting.

  18. 26 Kings and queens :O

    Beautiful clicks especially I love the paintings on ceilings .. colourful it is.

  19. Namrota says:

    So vintage! It’s really unfortunate that photography isn’t allowed.

  20. Gorgeous pictures. Well narrated with historical background:)

  21. Cool half day trip from Madrid- i have to say I’m tapped out on monasteries after a year in Italy and spending time in so many in France and Northern Spain but we are always looking for ways to escape the city for the day so we have El Escorial on our list just to see something different! We’ve done Aranjuez (not impressive), Toledo (nice), Segovia (awesome), and hiking up in the forest/mountain areas only an hour away (really awesome! clean air! so needed after Madrid)

    how long are you in Madrid?

    • Indrani Ghose says:

      Hi Brooke, thanks for the wonderful elaborate comment. You have done a lot of traveling there. This visit is from 2015. And yes I agree Segovia is awesome!

  22. Miriam says:

    Amazing the feeling I had when I went to this place, the beautiful stone edification, the roofs, the details. While I was there they had an exposition of “El Greco” these painting inside of the building was just beautiful. The Surroundings of El Escorial are definitely a beautiful place to take a stroll.

  23. Crisp and concise information. Love monuments of Spain. They have a certain quality about them that is difficult to describe. Nice post

  24. Blair Villanueva says:

    The Museum of Paintings is truly stunning! Colors are so vivid and lively, it would be perfect backdrop for your portraits (that is, if they would allow).

  25. Christina says:

    I had thought about visiting El Escorial as a day trip from Madrid when I was in Spain but my plans fell through. Looks like a massive complex. It is disappointing indeed that no photography was allowed inside. I agree, taking pictures definitely helps me remember places more.

  26. Ami says:

    Sad that photography is not allowed. The Pantheon sounds interesting . Definitely a place I know I would have enjoyed

  27. I have never been to madrid, it is a place that is high up on my list. The Basilica looks amazing, the ceilings are gorgeous. Great pictures, thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  28. I have never been to a monastery and would love to visit this place. But then i have never been to Spain either. So, this ones on my list of places to see while in Spain. 🙂

  29. Tom says:

    I love your honesty about the place, the pros and cons, and not just about the photography ban but about the cost and lack of good nearby eating places. Blogs too often simply rave about a place without the downside practicalities, so thanks much for that.

  30. Jenn says:

    I am not sure about Spaniards considering that the 8th wonder of the world, I would say it is more true about people from Madrid. I have been there before but I never felt like entering the palace. I thought it was a bit too “imperial” for me. Anyway, nice post!

  31. Veronica says:

    I was always wondering how did they manage to do those amazing drawings on the ceilings?! They are breathtaking!
    And those gardens are a dream… Someday I want to have a house with a very big garden.
    You took beautiful photos.

  32. Ana says:

    Loved the architecture of this monastery and would love to visit here as it looks so peaceful! I visited the last monastery in Lumbini, Nepal a few years ago, where Lord Buddha was born and that was amazing!

  33. We can guess from the few mural painting you shared that the interior must have been exquisitely remarkable. Agree it is disappointing when you don’t get to click pictures which are the actual souvenirs we bring back 🙂 Madrid is on the list and we will make sure to visit this monastery.

  34. verushka says:

    El Escorial sounds amazing ! and so beautiful.I dislike places with the no photography rule.The rotting room sounds very interesting.Love that it is a UNESCO site.Thanks for sharing this.

  35. I’m sorry that there were so many restrictions against taking pictures. It’s also a bummer that there weren’t more budget friendly restaurants. But the photos you do have are beautiful! I would love to see El Escorial and visit for myself.

  36. Love the pictures, even if they don’t allow them on the inside. I’d probably start with the El Escorial library. I would love to be surrounded by that many books. Everything else can wait 😀

  37. suanlee says:

    You’re adding more and more reasons to visit Madrid! The architecture is understated but full of history. I can imagine there would be a few sore necks when painting the ceilings though!

  38. Paola says:

    Wow, it’s such a huge building!! I was really impressed by the ceiling frescos. Never heard about it, but definitely a must see in Spain!

  39. This monastery looks fab! I loved Barcelona and always wanted to head to Madrid. You have solidified that wish more so I think I will need to book a ticket 🙂 Monasteries are such peaceful places and your pictures back up my theory!

  40. Tamshuk says:

    I love reading about monasteries and palaces, but this place is quite pleasantly different. The architecture and the interiors especially are eye-catching. Kudos to you on finding El Escorial.

  41. Shane Prather says:

    I am bummed I only made it to Barcelona while in Spain. This looks like a stunning location with a lot of beauty.

  42. sophie says:

    What an incredible place to visit: so rich in history! That garden is just so well kept and beautifully manicured!

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