Around Madrid: a Day Trip to El Escorial

by Faye Davies

El EscorialCloser than Segovia and less mercenary than Toledo, El Escorial makes an absurdly easy day trip from Madrid. Go when it’s fine and you can combine nature, culture and fine dining in the time it takes to reach the front of the queue at the Prado. Well, almost.

As the train draws you into the foothills of the Sierra, it’s hard not to be awed by the prospect of the town’s main draw, the sixteenth century monastery. Best visited at 3pm when the Spaniards have fled for lunch, this austere building still houses many of the masterpieces selected by Velasquez for Philip IV, including Titian’s Last Supper. Leave enough time for the basilica, which makes most Spanish cathedrals look like theme parks.

When hunger strikes, avoid the photo-flaunting restaurants and head for Plaza de la Constitución, favoured by the locals. La Clementina (no. 9) serves high quality modern Spanish food, with the option of sitting outside when it’s sunny.

The tourist office opposite the monastery is helpful and friendly, and can provide details of other attractions, as well as walking routes. The most popular takes you up to La Machota Alta and back again, on a two-hour trek though pine forest – the perfect antidote to three glasses of Rioja.

Trains leave from Atocha every hour, Cercanías line C-8a (see Renfe site). Adult return 5.50€. Monastery entrance (without guide) 8€. See here for opening hours. See the map below for El Escorials location, north-west of Madrid:


About Katie

Katie is an English teaching assistant working at a bilingual public school in the center of Madrid.
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5 Responses to Around Madrid: a Day Trip to El Escorial

  1. david fernández giles says:

    i agree. many people dont realize how close is the countryside to madrid. its beautifull here, with amazing sunsets.

  2. marina says:

    El Escorial is placed at in a very special location at the foot of the Avantos mount. Also in clear days you can see Madrid from the viewpoint located next to the entrance of the monastery gardens, which are small but nice… and the entrance is free.

  3. Pingback: Learn Spanish » Pleasures of the Province: a Day Trip to El Escorial

  4. Pingback: Highlights and Tips from a Semestre Studying in Madrid - Notes from Madrid

  5. Julie E. says:

    Just made a trip to El Escorial/Valle de los Caidos and wanted to add some transport info. We took the train but the train station is a little over 1 km (slightly uphill) from the monastery and we had to take the local city bus that came once every 30 minutes. It’s possible it could have been more direct to take an interurbano bus from Madrid, no. 661 I believe (from intercambiador de Moncloa station) because the El Escorial bus station is in the heart of San Lorenzo del Escorial (city) and near to the monastery.

    Then the best way to get to el Valle de los Caidos via public transport would be to catch the bus that leaves from the El Escorial bus station at 15:15 (no. 660-A). Tickets can be bought starting at 14:45. It returns from Valle de los Caidos at 17:30 and takes you back to El Escorial.

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