Although it is not in the same city, the monastery of El Escorial is always on the list of things to see when traveling to Madrid. Located in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 60 kilometers from the Spanish capital, its walls not only house art, but also part of the country's history.
In order to enjoy the attractions of this monumental complex you will need information on how to reach the town. The most convenient option is to hire an organized excursion, although if you prefer to go on your own you will not have any problems, since the public transport links are really great.
1. The best way to get there: an organized excursion
In order to see all that El Escorial has to offer, it is very interesting to have a guide to explain each of its corners and the history of the site. If we add to this the convenience of having transportation from Madrid and not having to worry about getting tickets to the monument, you can understand why organized tours are the best option to visit the complex.
Option 1: Half-day excursion to El Escorial Monastery and Valley of the Fallen
The easiest tour that leaves from Madrid to visit El Escorial is this half-day tour that also includes a stop at the Valley of the Fallen.
The El Escorial complex, called "the eighth wonder of the world" by some for decades, was built in the 16th century by order of King Philip II. The monarch's intention was to commemorate the victory of San Quintín against the French, a triumph that took place on the day of San Lorenzo in 1557.
Philip II also intended the complex to house the mortal remains of his parents and his own when he died, as well as those of the following Spanish kings.
Although it is often referred to as a "monastery", it is actually a complex in which you can visit various parts. Together with your expert guide, you will tour the Habsburg Palace, the mausoleum of the kings and princes, the basilica and the chapter house.
To complete the tour, you will also visit the controversial Valley of the Fallen, built as a memorial to those who died in the Spanish Civil War. Although the place is not without controversy, it is a place where you will receive information about the conflict that took place between 1936 and 1939.
- Why I like this option: the convenience of getting on a bus in Madrid and not having to worry about anything to visit El Escorial makes it the best option for those who do not want to waste time looking for how to get there on their own or how to buy tickets. In addition, the fact of having a guide allows you to have a deeper understanding of what you are seeing.
- Recommended if... you do not want to miss El Escorial but prefer to do it in a comfortable and carefree way.
Option 2: Day trip to El Escorial Monastery and Toledo
One of the most interesting day trips from Madrid is this one that combines the Monastery of El Escorial with the beautiful city of Toledo.
By combining these two destinations you will be able to save a lot of money compared to visiting them separately. In addition, you will not have to worry about all the practical aspects of such an excursion, from transportation (as you will go in a comfortable and modern bus) to the purchase of the different tickets.
- Why I like this option: the opportunity to visit two of the most interesting places in the whole country in the same day is an option not to be missed. With transportation, tickets and a guide, you can be sure that everything will be perfect and there will be no setbacks.
- Recommended if... you don't want to be aware of public transportation schedules so you can visit both places in one day.
Option 3: Day trip to El Escorial, Valle de los Caídos and Toledo
The most complete option is this one that combines El Escorial, Toledo and the Valley of the Fallen. These are three visits that would be impossible to make if you wanted to do it by public transport, since you would not have time to visit all three places.
In addition, you would not be able to do it by private car either, both because of the difficulties of finding good parking in Toledo, as well as the need to be aware of the schedules of each monument so as not to find any of them closed.
- Why I like this option: it offers the opportunity not to miss anything in three essential places for anyone who spends several days in Madrid. The presence of a guide makes it possible to get more out of the tour by receiving information about what you are visiting.
- Recommended if... you want to make the most of your time in the Spanish capital without having to worry about studying in detail the schedules of public transport and monuments.
2. Train, the cheapest way to go from Madrid to El Escorial
For those who prefer to visit El Escorial on their own, the train is the cheapest way to do it. The railway infrastructure of the area will also allow them to do so quite easily.
To get to El Escorial by this means of transport you only have to take the C3 commuter line. This leaves from the stations of Atocha, Chamartín and Puerta del Sol, three places that are very easy to get to because of their central location and because they are connected by line 1 of the city's subway.
Although it is always advisable to check the timetables beforehand, you will normally find trains every hour. The journey to El Escorial station usually takes just over 1 hour and the price is just over 4 €.
Once at El Escorial station you will have to walk about 15 minutes to get to the monastery or, if you do not feel like walking, take the bus that connects the station with the monument.
3. The fastest way to get to El Escorial from Madrid: by bus
If you prefer to give more importance to the speed in reaching your destination, possibly the bus is the best way to get to El Escorial. From the Moncloa Interchange it only takes about 50 minutes to reach the town.
The price is a little higher than the train, but the difference is not too relevant. For a little less than 5 € each way you can make the trip.
The last bus back to Madrid from El Escorial does not leave until about 22:30, so if you want you can spend the whole day in the town or at least eat in one of its restaurants. In any case, I advise you to confirm the schedules before making the trip.
Also note that the frequency of buses is lower on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Thus, the first bus does not leave until 8:00 a.m. and the departure frequency is 30-45 minutes.
When you arrive at the bus station of San Lorenzo del Escorial you will have to walk for about 10 minutes to get to the entrance of the monumental complex.
4. Going to El Escorial by car from Madrid
Personally, driving around the city of Madrid has always been a nightmare for me because of the heavy traffic. Also, considering all the options available to visit El Escorial (both with organized tours and by public transport) I would not recommend using the car to get around.
However, if you have traveled with your car you should know that the journey only takes about 50 minutes, to which you have to add the possible delay due to traffic.
The easiest route is to leave the city looking for the A-6. Then, at exit number 47, take the M-600 road, which leads directly to El Escorial.
Of course, it is also possible to rent a car to make this route. Here is a small list of the rental companies you can use, but remember that prices are approximate, as they depend on several factors:
- Sixt: if you are looking to pick up the car in the city center (such as Atocha or Plaza de España), a one-day rental will cost you about 95 €.
- Record Go: with pick-ups at Atocha, this company has very interesting offers. If you are lucky, you can find a car for only about 40 €.
- Europcar: prices and conditions are very similar to those of Sixt and also has several pick-up points in the city center.
- Budget: this cheap car rental company can be a good solution. From about 70 € you will be able to have a vehicle picked up at Atocha station.
Cab to go from Madrid to El Escorial
I will not deny the convenience of taking a cab to take you to your destination. However, each way can cost you about 85 €, so it is not a very convenient option.
5. Historical locomotive to El Escorial
There is another way to visit El Escorial that can be really interesting for many, especially for those who have gone to Madrid with children.
Thus, from the Príncipe Pío station leaves every morning the so-called Tren de Felipe II It is a locomotive of the twentieth century that makes the journey in about 50 minutes. During the trip there are activities enlivened by actors dressed as the monarch who gives his name to the train.
The experience is completed with free entrance to the complex or with a guided tour of the site where you can see the most important areas. Depending on the package contracted, prices range from around 15 € to 23 €.
Comparing the different options to visit El Escorial from Madrid
- Between 53 and 86 € with tickets included and several visits
- Advantages: Transport included, entrance fees included and several different options.
- Disadvantages: Adjusting the time to the guide's indications
- About 4,10 € + entrance fees
- Advantages: the price and frequency of departures.
- Disadvantages: Having to go to a station in Madrid and having to worry about buying tickets.
- Around 4,30 € + tickets.
- Advantages: it is fast and comfortable
- Disadvantages: having to buy the tickets separately and having to find the bus stop in Madrid.
- Rent from about 40 € (with offer) + fuel + tickets
- Advantages: the flexibility offered by the car
- Disadvantages: the traffic in Madrid and having to buy tickets on your own
- Felipe II train
- between 15 € and 23 €.
- Advantages: traveling on a historic train and having a guide.
- Disadvantages: you must adhere to the timetable established for the entire visit.
But really, is it worth going to El Escorial from Madrid?
It is never easy to answer this question, since inevitably the interest in visiting a place has a lot to do with one's tastes.
In general, I would recommend you to make the visit, since the artistic and historical value of the place deserves it. Of course, as long as your stay in Madrid was 4 days or more, because if less days you will have to eliminate some points of interest of your tour of the capital.
Tips for visiting El Escorial
I hope that with this article you have a clear idea of how to get from Madrid to El Escorial. To complete the information, here are some brief tips to make everything go as smoothly as possible:
- Visiting hours to the monastery are from 10:00 to 20:00 from April to September (closed on Mondays). The rest of the months it closes two hours earlier. Please note that you can only enter the monastery up to one hour before closing time.
- You should expect to need between 2 and 3 hours to do the whole tour.
- You can enter the monastery for free on Wednesdays and Sundays between 15:00 and 18:00.
- Unless you have previous knowledge of the place, I advise you to do the visit with an expert guide.
- Do not miss the rooms of the Battles, the Portraits of the Palace of Philip II, the frescoes of the Library and the Chapter Rooms.
- To see the Casita del Príncipe and the Casita del Infante you must go with a guide.
- There is a public parking under the Plaza de la Constitución for those arriving by car.
- It is interesting to go to the Silla de Felipe II (50 minutes walk from the complex) to have the best views of the monument.