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Monasterio y Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial
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El Escorial and Valley of the Fallen from Madrid
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El Escorial and Valley of the Fallen Tour from Madrid with Optional Toledo or...
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Private Day Tour of Madrid Higlights with Visits to Escorial Monastery and...
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Reviewed 3 August 2014

Impossible to describe - this palace is so full of so much! The paintings include Titians, Tintorrettos and others. You can see the stool that Phillip II had to prop his gout-ridden foot up on, you can also visit the library which has some of the most amazing ancient books, some of which are on show - the illuminations are stupendous. If you can, you really should come here - try and get to the ticket office at 10am on the dot then, as we did, you have the entire place to yourself!

2  Thank surreytravels
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 26 July 2014

The majority of the construction of this extremely large, extraordinary granite marvel was completed by the time 1600 rollled around. It is big, really really big.

Plan to spend part of the day with a professional tour guide and also try to schedule time to take a more thorough look in a more non-rushed way. Time is needed to process it all.

The most impressive room, for us, was the library. A tall, arched ceiling is covered in the most magnificant painting representing the 7 liberal arts. It was the first modern library in all of Europe and the great volume of books number nearly one million (400,000 bound books and 500,000 documents on rods). The oldest date to about 400 A.D. Most of the very ancient books and rods are in temperature controlled rooms for security (so they are not on display). The books are turned with their pages facing us, as opposed to the binding on the spine facing out. The page edges form a solid surface themselves; they are gilded gold and the book/volume/location numbers are recorded there (sort of like a reverse-spine). The reason for this method of storing the books allows them to "breathe". The ceiling has an earth sphere "Armillary" sphere, it is called. The earth is depicted as the center of the universe.

Another eye-opening and educational part of the tour took us to the royal crypts. The "Royal Pantheon" holds 26 coffins which are very intricate and impressive tombs. These beautiful dark funerary urns (proper term), so beautiful in their decorated green marble. They hold the remains of 26 kings of Spain. Two adjoining rooms are bone-drying rooms where, after 20-30 years, the king's remains will be deemed ready for transfer to their own separate crypt. But there is a problem now; all the spaces are taken and there are no more places to hold anymore urns.

Other mausoleum rooms contain infants' remains and the crypts include one shaped like a big, round wedding cake and it holds the remains of babies from Austria and France. The individual stories relate childhood illnesses, accidents, and families' sadness.

The Basilica of St. Lawrence also contains the Chapel of the Doctors (I don't know why it is called that, it just is). The outside of the Basilica shows St. Lawrence (4th century martyr) at the top, holding a grill in one hand and a palm frond in the other. He sadly met his death on this apparatus. His martrydom is recorded both on the building exterior and on the Basilica's high altar (right about in the very middle area over the altar). The whole picture is very moving; the Saint's expression is inquiring, innocent, and thankfully free of pain.

In the Chapel is a crucifix that was carved out of white Carrara marble by a true master (Cellini, carved most likely in 1562). It never was intended to be made public, as it was created by the artist for his own personal tomb. It was originally completely naked and circumsized; the modesty covering was added by the Monks.

The art work, the rooms occupied by then-living royalty, the story of an aging and dying king lying in his bed right off the main altar, the glorious Hall of Battles (that room, alone, needs a good 45 minutes to take in everything, the battle scenes are a look back in time), the furnishings, and remember to read the little note cards of explanation at each little view area. See? A lot of time is really needed.

This was probably one of the most important, educational, inspirational, and memorable places we visited in all of Europe. It really is a must-see on anyone's agenda.

4  Thank on_the_go_98765
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 July 2014

This Monastery provides insight into the mind of Phillip II. While there are interesting decorations, it’s hard to separate the building from the man. He built himself a "retreat" of modest luxury where he stared at paintings of Jesus on the cross, saints and martyrs usually suffering pain or imminent death. Phillip lived a "model" life taking good care of himself and “suffered” by decorating with artwork of OTHERS in pain. His reign oversaw wars and persecution of those who didn't recognize Phillip's emulation of the mercy, forgiveness and love of Jesus. So, it's not the happiest tourist site.

1  Thank AnneMcD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 July 2014

This was a side trip from Madrid. El Escorial is easy to reach by taking a bus #664 (fewer stops)or #661. The trip takes just under 1 hour and cost 4.20 per person (buy tickets on the bus).
The monastery itself is well worth the visit. The primary purpose of this monastery is as the royal burial place. Majority of the kings and some of their children who never became kings or queens are buried there, and you do get to see the mausoleum. In addition, an audio guided tour takes you through the museum, Habsburgs Palace, Basilica, and Library. Museum is rather small, but it does contain some significant paintings. I was particularly impressed by the library. Don't expect this to be as glamorous as the Royal Palace in Madrid, the two have completely different functions. People who rate this low obviously had some other issues from the beginning and/or some preconceived expectations. Go with an open mind and enjoy. No photos allowed inside, but this is pretty common. You can't take photos in any of the Royal Palaces nor art museums such as Prado. If you must have photos of the inside, buy a small book from the gift shop for about 9 Euros.
While there is no food service in the Monastery, there are several restaurants a short walk outside of the monastery walls. It helps to know at least a bit of Spanish because unlike Madrid it's more difficult to find English speaking waiters, but the restaurants do have menus in English.

6  Thank conquistador2003
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2014

El Escorial was built for King Phillip II of Spain from which he directed the Counter Reformation in his attempt to return Europe and the world to what he regarded as the one true faith. It is has a cold grandeur, more a holy fortress than what other monarchs were building in that era. Religion and the Spanish monarchy are practically the only themes represented in the artistic embellishments. There are hundreds of reliquaries on the various altars and holy books on all sides. Phillip II had the place designed to house himself, his family remains and to serve as a monastery. For a time much of Europe and all of Central and South America were ruled from this place by the Spanish monarchy, so it has great historical significance. When the Hall of Battles is open the visitor is treated to amazing paintings depicting Spanish military might. Overall it is an interesting contrast between absolute devotion and military power. It is quite easy to reach El Escorial from Madrid by extremely comfortable buses that leave frequently from the Moncloa Metro station and the fare is only 4.20 Euros each way.

3  Thank Dallasbirder
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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