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El Escorial

By Meg West - Sun 28th Apr 2013

The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, or Escorial to its close friends, was originally constructed in 1559 under Phillip II of Spain as a monument to Spain’s role as a centre of the Christian world. He enlisted the help of Juan Bautista de Toledo to design this building which would function, at once, as a monastery and royal palace. The Roman Catholic King also intended El Escorial to become a centre for learning to aid his Counter-Reformation campaign.

As a result, the impressive architecture and sheer size of the building speak for themselves so if you aren’t interested in the history you still won’t be disappointed by your view! This World Heritage Site is all the more enhanced by its austere setting: a bleak, semi-forested and wind-swept landscape at the foot of Mount Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. Plus, in addition to the monastery’s explicit functions, the building houses masterpieces by artists such as El Greco, Velazquez and José de Ribera along with many priceless manuscripts to catch your eye.

Located about 45 km northwest of Madrid, it is accessible by bus (7€ return) and entry to the monastery will cost you 5€.

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