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Day Trip to El Escorial
El Escorial was built by King Philip II between 1563 and 1584. The architects were Juan Bautista of Toledo and his assistant Juan de Herrera. Philip II wanted to have a mausoleum for his father Charles V. The building was also meant to remember the victory of the Battle of San Quentin in Picardy against the French king Henry II. The battle occurred on Aug. 10, 1557, the feast day of San Lorenzo. That is why the name of the monastery/palace complex contains the name of San Lorenzo. Philip II also wanted to have a necropolis to put the remains of his parents, his own remains, and the remains of his descendants. Today the pantheon contains the remains of the Spanish kings over the last five centuries. This pantheon is located under the floor of the Basilica. The monastery now has Augustinian monks.
Philip II took great interest in building the monastery/palace. He was the person who chose the site. The construction took 21 years and the King closely oversaw the progress of the project. He insisted that the best materials be used and he brought the best European artists to decorate the palace.
The building used gray granite and looks very austere, more of a fortress than a palace. The ornamentation is minimal. The place is huge, in the shape of a quadrangle, 224 m by 153 m. Each corner has a square tower, topped by a spire. In the 18th century King Charles III had one wing remodeled into the Palace of the Bourbons, which was decorated with tapestries and had lush furniture of that period.
The palace has a Gallery of Paintings, which is very good and you can see paintings by very famous artists, such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Luca Girodano, Ribera, Zurbaran, El Greco, and Van der Weyden (who painted the very moving painting of the Calvary). There are Chapter Rooms decorated with paintings by Titian, Bosch, El Greco, Ribera and Velazquez. The Royal Pantheon has the burial vaults of all the Kings of Spain since Charles V. What is interesting is the Polygonal Mausoleum in the 6th chamber, because it looks like the top of a wedding cake.
The Basilica is very impressive. The main altar is very high and is done in marble and jasper, with paintings by Tibaldi and Zuccaro. There are a total of 45 altars. One of them has a wonderful sculpture of Christ on the Cross by Benvenuto Cellini. There is an impressive vault fresco painted by Luca Giordano called the Exodus of the Israelites. There are also praying figures of Charles V and Philip II with their families, done by Leoni.
There is a Library which has 45,000 books from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as 5000 manuscripts in Arabic, Latin, and Spanish. There are many windows, so this salon is full of light. The vaulted ceiling has beautiful frescoes done by Pellegrino Tibaldi in the mannerist style, similar to Michelangelo’s style. The Library is the most beautiful part of the palace. There is also a very long gallery called the Gallery of Battles, which has very long paintings of battles. The vaulted ceiling frescoes are done in the Roman style.
The base of the walls (zocalo) is decorated with beautiful ceramic tiles to a height of about 3.5 feet. The design is of acanthus leaves done in blue and white. It turns out that these are tiles from Talavera de la Reina in Toledo. The acanthus leaves were used for decoration since Roman times.
Winter (October to March) : 10-17H. Closed Monday.
Summer (April to September) : 10-18H. Closed Monday.
B. By Train
One can take the Cercanias train to El Escorial using the C3 Line. El Escorial is 49 km away from Madrid and cost is low. Cercanias is like a commuter train so buy ticket at station. from Madrid you can take the train from the Carcnais platforms at Atocha station or SOL or Nuevos Ministerios or Cahmartin stations. You can look up times and find a map of the line with other detail on :
The train leaves one at the bottom of the hill and one needs to take the bus to the top of the hill and walk to the El Escorial Palace.or it is about a 30 minutes walk.
For details of El Escorial train station :
C. By Bus
The company Herranz Buses leave from the bus station at the Intercambiador de Moncloa which is a large mainly subterranean transport hub serving Metro lines 3 and 6 plus local buses.
Journey time around one hour. Times are on Herranz web site :
and read this from August 2015
Restaurante El Caserio
Reina Victoria, 2 (one block away from the palace, beside the Plaza de la Constitucion).
The restaurant has a menu costing 25 euros that is terrific. The food presentation is wonderful, service is very good, and the food tastes heavenly. Try the croquetas as the first dish.
More info on here