Madrid Day Trips: Five Reasons to Visit El Escorial

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love Madrid, but sometimes I just need a break from the city. Ya know? Fortunately, there are lots of easy day trips from Madrid. Like visiting El Escorial!

Visiting Madrid? Don't forget about the many marvelous day trips, including El Escorial!

As part of my recent four-day weekend, I knew I wanted to do a day trip from Madrid but wasn’t sure to where. I’ve already visited Toledo (twice), Segovia and Alcalá de Henares. This year I have a list of the cities and villages near Madrid I want to visit.

I decided to visit San Lorenzo de El Escorial, just El Escorial for short. El Escorial is one of several historical residences of the King of Spain. Located 28 miles northwest of Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, the royal complex includes a monastery, basilica, palace, pantheon and library.

Drawn by both the history and incredible natural setting, more than 500,000 visitors make the day trip to El Escorial every year. Be one of them! Here’s five reasons I think visiting El Escorial is the perfect day trip from Madrid:

1. It’s close.

From Madrid’s Intercambiador de Moncloa bus station, it took just one hour to reach the San Lorenzo de El Escorial bus station. The buses to and from Madrid run frequently. Going both directions, I simply showed up at the bus station and didn’t wait more than five minutes for the bus to depart.

How to get there: Take bus 661 or 664 from Madrid’s Intercambiador de Moncloa bus station. You’ll arrive at the San Lorenzo de El Escorial bus station one hour later.

2. It’s affordable.

Visiting El Escorial was affordable, and by affordable, I mean cheap. If you have an abono joven (Madrid’s monthly metro card for 26 and unders), the trip is covered. El Escorial is located in the C1 zone. If you don’t have an abono, the trip costs 4.20 euros each way. Still not too bad.

Bonus savings: Students with a valid id can purchase a discounted ticket to visit El Escorial for just 5 euros. A full price ticket costs 10 euros.  

Don't forget to squeeze in a day trip when you're visiting Madrid! Check out El Escorial!
The monastery was impressive, to say the least.

3. It’s gorgeous.

If you derive an inordinate amount of please from autumnal colors (and who doesn’t?!), I highly recommend visiting El Escorial in the fall. The vibrant oranges and yellows of the changing leaves left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Yay for October! I can’t attest to the beauty of El Escorial during other seasons, but based on what I’ve seen, I’m sure it’s something special to behold year round.

4. It’s relaxing.

Initially, I had some reservations about visiting El Escorial on a Saturday. The last thing I was in the mood to do was fight my way through crowds. Slow walkers, strollers and school groups can really kill my vibe. Everything turned out just fine though. More than fine! El Escorial is super spacious, which means it can accommodate a lot of visitors without compromising its chill country feel. Explore at your own pace without the fear of being violently pushed aside by someone trying to snap a selfie.  

Don't forget a day trip when you're visiting Madrid! Check out El Escorial!
Next time I visit El Escorial, I plan on doing some hiking. Can you see the mountains behind me?

5. It’s got options.

Not into hunting tapestries or religious paintings? Seen enough Spanish churches to last a lifetime? You can still visit El Escorial! El Escorial isn’t a one trick pony. If you’re not feeling the monastery, you can wander in the gardens, hike in the mountains or explore the quaint town just down the road. I imagine this won’t be my last trip to El Escorial this year. I’m hoping to get back before winter to do some hiking!  

Have you ever visited El Escorial? What’s your favorite day trip from Madrid?