Updated Friday, 10November2023 - 10:01

  • Share on facebook
  • Share on twitter
  • Send by email

To mention San Lorenzo de El Escorial is to allude to a stately enclave with centuries of history. However, the claim of its great monument, the Royal Monastery of El Escorial was erected by Philip II, which is one of the most visited within the Community of Madrid. Today, more than five centuries later, this vast construction still looks towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site, because San Lorenzo de El Escorial not only has such a magnificent building, but also houses more points of interest, including the surroundings of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Along with San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the Community of Madrid brings together four other enclaves considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Landscape of Light in the capital; the University and historic centre of Alcalá de Henares; the Cultural Landscape of Aranjuez; and the Montejo Beech Forest. Therefore, San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the fifth place, within the Community of Madrid, that stands out for its great artistic, cultural, historical and natural value that you should visit on your stay in Madrid of several days.

The Eighth Wonder of the World

Ordered to be built on April 16, 1561 by order of Philip II, the Royal Monastery of El Escorial is the recognition of the victory of San Quintín, which took place on the day of San Lorenzo in 1557. The monarch wanted to erect a mausoleum in memory of his parents, Charles I of Spain and Isabella of Portugal, and of himself, and that was the germ of a monument that, in the past, came to be baptized "eighth wonder of the world". Now, from word to deed it took 21 years to see the end of such a work erected. Begun by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo in 1563 and continued until its completion by his disciple Juan de Herrera in 1584, upon the death of the former in 1567, within this historic-monumental complex the Patio de Reyes, the Basilica, the extensive Library, the Pantheon of the Kings and the Pantheon of the Infantes stand out. the Palaces and the Chapter Houses, among others.

©Community of Madrid

In fact, surrounding the monument is the Garden of the Friars and the Gardens of the King and Queen, which offer views of the pond, the orchards and the Bosque de la Herrería, a landscape of great scenic and natural value that extends around the Monastery and which then served as the royal hunting ground of King Philip II. On the one hand, there is also the Casita del Príncipe, intended for Charles IV when he was still Prince of Asturias, surrounded by a landscaped area dominated by boxwood hedges, redwoods, conifers, an arch of cypresses and a pond that irrigates the gardens; on the other, the Casita del Infante, built for the Infante D. Gabriel de Borbón, son of Charles III as a pleasure house, with flowerbeds of roses, conifers and a careful ornamentation of vases and fountains. Both buildings began to be built in 1771, with the neoclassical designs of the architect Juan de Villanueva.

San Lorenzo de El Escorial and its history

Beyond the work that is one of the greatest attractions of a visit to El Escorial, the municipality itself has a Historic-Artistic Complex of great value. Starting with its Casas de Oficios, made up of two buildings, which arose due to the need to house other palatial dependencies. They currently house the House of Culture and the Tourist Office, one, and the Chapel of Laborantes and the Integrated Center for Musical Studies "Padre Antonio Soler", the other. Continuing with the majestic Royal Coliseum Carlos III, an eighteenth-century court theatre by the architects Jaime Marquet and Juan Villanueva, declared an Asset of Cultural Interest that currently houses a varied offer of theatre, music and dance and is home to several festivals in the Community of Madrid. Until we reach the Casa de la Compaña, a building built between 1590 and 1597, under the project of Francisco de Mora, a disciple of Juan de Herrera, as dependencies of the religious order formed by the Hieronymite community that was to take care of and maintain the Monastery. Since the <>th century, the building has housed the Escorial-María Cristina Royal Centre for Higher Studies in honour of the Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Habsburg-Lorraine who saved this space from abandonment.

Surroundings of El Escorial: wild enclave and memorial

Beyond the obligatory visit to the Monastery itself and the city that gives it its name, the steps should take you to the aforementioned Bosque de la Herrería through the Paseo de Carlos III, of great natural beauty. From there it is easy to reach the so-called Silla de Felipe II, a viewpoint carved into a granite boulder at the foot of Las Machotas, two mountain ranges in the Sierra de Guadarrama, which was apparently the point from where Felipe II observed the progression of the work he ordered to be built. Sitting on its stone is a regression to other times and offers fantastic views of the monumental complex. Redoing the path, you will also come across the Real Club de Golf La Herrería in this area, a space founded in 1966 and intended for recreation nestled in a unique monumental, natural and landscape complex.


Adjacent to this grove is also the Pinar de Abantos, an expanse of picturesque landscape dotted with specimens of oaks, maples, horse chestnuts, lime trees and the occasional cherry tree. Its natural attraction invites you to take some of the four signposted routes to admire its surroundings, from the El Romeral dam, the viewpoint of La Casa Rústica, continuing to the Parque de la Fuente de la Teja or Miguel del Campo Forest Park, visit the Fuente de la Concha and reach the Luis Ceballos Arboretum. The latter is an environmental education centre, a 3.8-hectare living art museum where you can admire tree specimens and many other species that will delight lovers of mycology and ornithology.

Finally, and to close your visit to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, you have the option of visiting the Valley of Cuelgamuros, a monument erected by the dictator Francisco Franco and formerly known as the Valley of the Fallen. Currently, this space seeks to become a place of recognition, commemoration, remembrance and homage to all the victims. Today it is a place that invites recollection, at least because of the peace that surrounds it thanks to the large ecological and biological reserve in which it is located.

Make the most of your visit

A visit to San Lorenzo de El Escorial doesn't have to end here. The municipality itself offers you a platter to enter the Sierra de Guadarrama, declared a National Park in 2013. With almost 34,000 hectares, of which more than 21,000 are in the Community of Madrid, the Sierra de Guadarrama is a lung that stands out for its rich biodiversity. In addition, it is possible to enjoy multiple outdoor activities (hiking routes, horseback riding, mycology days, astronomical experiences, etc.) while admiring its extensive pine forests of the albar variety, cirques, lagoons and granite rocks. What's more, it's possible that on this path in the heart of the Guadarrama National Park, you'll end up going to the Manzanares el Real to admire, not only its historic center, but especially its fortress-palace. Considered one of the most beautiful and best preserved on the peninsula, it belonged to the Mendoza family, who enjoyed the absolute confidence of the Catholic Monarchs.


And if you still have strength left and already back to the capital, another unmissable stop for the shopping days that are coming or simply to give yourself a break or rather a treat, is Las Rozas Village. This luxury brand outlet has become one of the go-to places to get away at some point during your multi-day trip to Madrid. The space is located in the open air, with a pedestrian street with more than 100 boutiques where you can take advantage of discounts of up to 60% on top brands, as well as put the icing on the cake in one of its restaurants and thus close the Madrid day with the best taste in your mouth.

Made by UE Studio

This text has been developed by UE Studio, creative branded content and content marketing firm of Unidad Editorial, forCOMUNIDAD DE MADRID