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Lying some 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Madrid, the royal monastery of El Escorial, built between 1563 and 1584, is one of Spain's grandest buildings. King Philip II founded the monastery to build a mausoleum for his father, Charles V, and the royal vaults contain the graves of most of the Hapsburg and Bourbon monarchs over five centuries. This Pantheon of Kings lies beneath the impressive domed basilica with its 42 altars and magnificent high altarpiece. The monastery's religious treasures are housed in two chapter houses. The enormous complex also served as a royal palace, and you can visit the royal apartments, the sumptuous Palace of ...

Lying some 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Madrid, the royal monastery of El Escorial, built between 1563 and 1584, is one of Spain's grandest buildings. King Philip II founded the monastery to build a mausoleum for his father, Charles V, and the royal vaults contain the graves of most of the Hapsburg and Bourbon monarchs over five centuries. This Pantheon of Kings lies beneath the impressive domed basilica with its 42 altars and magnificent high altarpiece. The monastery's religious treasures are housed in two chapter houses. The enormous complex also served as a royal palace, and you can visit the royal apartments, the sumptuous Palace of the Bourbons, and admire the splendid library and art collections. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is surrounded by the town of San Lorenzo del Escorial. A few miles away, El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), is an underground basilica and monument topped by a huge cross rising 492 feet (150 m) high. It was built as a memorial to the Spanish Civil War dead by General Franco, who is buried behind the high altar.

Donna Dailey
About the Expert

Donna Dailey is the author of Thomas Cook’s Ireland driving guide, coauthor of DK’s Back Roads Ireland and several other titles, as well as the author of Thomas Cook’s HotSpots Costa Blanca and a contributor to AA Publishing’s Key Guide Spain.

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Donna Dailey for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, early summer, autumn