San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Weekend Getaways near Madrid

San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Source:M.Peinado (Flickr)

Weekend Getaways near Madrid

If you’re in Madrid and looking for a place to take your weekend guest or just looking to get out of the city for a couple of hours, the town of El Escorial presents a great opportunity for escape. The historical Royal Palace and Monastery here are located only about 45 minutes outside of Madrid, but the laid back atmosphere and rustic setting feel millions of miles away from the bustle of life in the city. Take a step back in time and enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the nearby city of San Lorenzo de El Escorial perched at the foot of Mt Abantos in the Guadarrama mountain range.

The way to get to El Escorial from Madrid by car is to take the A-6 motorway until you get to Las Rozas, then turn off onto the M-505 road; or alternatively, take the A-6 and turn off onto the road M-600. It is also possible to go by bus from Madrid to El Escorial. These connections from the capital are largely cheap and direct and takes about 1 1/4 hour. The departures are fairly frequent and you can find a bus to catch from 10 o’clock in the morning and onwards to approximately 17.30 in the late afternoon, according to the GoEuro travel search site, where you also can get tickets.

The Escorial – Palace fit for Royalty

The Escorial was the primary residence of the Spanish royal family, so it’s no wonder that the palace and grounds are so well maintained. The palace itself – with a layout of what is thought to be based on biblical descriptions of the Temple of Solomon – dates back to the 15th century and shares many interesting design similarities with other prominent Spanish palaces, such as the Alcazar in Seville and Granada’s Alhambra. The palace is open for tours and has a many points of interest; Pantheon of Kings, for example, is the final resting place of all the kings in Spanish history. The grandeur of this area holds quite an impact.

The palace was commissioned by King Phillip II who was one of Spain’s most popular historical figures and champion of the Spanish Armada and the Counter Reformation. The presence of the monastery in the castle grounds is representative of Phillip II’s desire to eradicate Protestantism in Spain and champion Catholicism. While this religious fervor had an impact on the way that the palace was built and decorated, it no longer pervades the space, which now houses a secular university.

The palace library includes close to a million books, the oldest of which dates back to 400 A.D. Considered one of the first modern libraries in Europe, some of its collection are on display for visitors, including stunning illuminated manuscripts. For visiotrs who interest lie in art, the palace also houses a significant art collection featuring works by Borges and other European masters like Titian. The frescoes painted on the ceiling of the library are meant to represent the liberals arts and they grant an air of old fashioned elegance.

San Lorenzo del Escorial – Panoramic Views and Nature

Looking to spend the day in San Lorenzo del Escorial? Spend your morning exploring the palace, grounds and library then head through the park, stopping of course for a picnic lunch, towards the Casita de Infante. The Casita is a hidden gem for photographers who will fall in love with the view of the Escorial as well as the gardens in the Casita. The summer palace has expansive Italian style gardens and is situated on the outskirts of a beautiful forested area. Though it is often neglected by day trippers and locals alike it is worth a visit if only for the views it offers of the rest of the village. Weekend getaways near Madrid have never been easier nor more relaxing.

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