What is it?
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a municipality in the northwest of Madrid. It is also referred to as El Escorial de Arriba, in order to be differentiated from the neighboring village El Escorial, which is also known as El Escorial de Abajo. The town is mostly famous for its royal monastery, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
How to get there?
The simplest and least expensive way to get to San Lorenzo de El Escorial is by taking a bus from Moncloa station in Madrid, to which there is a direct metro connection on line 3. Buses 664 and 661depart from the Moncloa bus station with an interval of 30 minutes maximum, depending on the time of the day during which you choose to travel. A one way ticket (as of 2015) costs €4,20 and can be purchased when getting on the bus itself. The ride takes about an hour.
What to see?
The royal monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the number one thing you should see upon your arrival. Upon the order of Charles V of Spain, the 16th century Renaissance building was built with the purpose of serving as a religious foundation and pantheon where the Spanish royalty was laid to rest since the monastery’s completion in 1584. The monastery holds a collection of paintings, furniture, ancient maps and royal porcelain. The royal library and basilica on the grounds of the monastery add to the variety of things to admire while you walk through the old building. A regular ticket costs € 10. Discounts for students between 18-25 may also be available, so don’t hesitate to ask. Don’t forget your passport and student ID as proof of student status.
Other interesting sights include the Silla de Felipe II and the Casita de Príncipe, an 18th century residential building in the Parque del Príncipe, only a few meters away from the monastery and its adjacent Jardín de los Frailes. Meanwhile the beautiful landscape surrounded by mountains makes a great place for hiking tours.
Lastly, despite its dark history, the Valle de los Caídos (the valley of the fallen) is a popular sight for the history- interested traveler. Built under the Franco regime in honor of those who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War, the basilica and monument are best to be reached by bus 660 from the bus station in San Lorenzo de el Escorial. You are likely to see the enormous cross in the mountains on your way there.