Day Tour

El Escorial Palace: Renaissance Splendor (4 Hours)

Context Travel

Madrid, Spain

Valid for Travel Now Through: 22 Mar 2019

El Escorial Palace: Renaissance Splendor (4 Hours )

Madrid, Spain

Tour Features


  • Culture, History & Arts
  • Sightseeing



Recommended Ages

12 and Above

Activity Level



Located a short bus ride from Madrid, the monarchical complex of San Lorenzo de El Escorial—situated on a hilltop with stunning views over the Spanish landscape—is critical to understanding Spanish power and politics in the 16th and 17th centuries. A sprawling, palatial complex, El Escorial occupied a central role in Spanish political history as a seat of power outside of the urban center of Madrid, and in this way provides an interesting contrast to Versailles and other rural royal residences throughout Europe. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's a major must-see attraction.

Our half-day excursion to El Escorial begins in Madrid, with a bus ride (45 mins) out to the site. Along the way we'll look at the figure of Philip II of Spain, who founded the complex in 1563 as a monastic foundation serving as pantheon for the Habsburg dynasty—specifically as a burial place for his father, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and other members of the royal family. The direct involvement of Philip II in the project has been discussed by historians at length, and we'll look at some of these interpretations as we tour the site.

Once on site we'll explore the residential quarters, the monastery, and most major buildings. We'll have ample opportunity to explore and discuss the layers of meaning within the complex, which came to symbolize both the international prestige and the private beliefs of a monarch who ruled over a vast empire. Religion and politics are linked together at El Escorial, reflecting the convergence of the spiritual and the secular in the politics of 16th-century Spain.

Our visit will also include the Library whose holdings rival those of the Vatican in number and importance, as well as a collection of Flemish, Italian, and Spanish paintings, and two eighteenth-century recreational lodges for the royal family.

At the end of the visit participants are free to remain and continue exploring on their own and will be provided with instructions for getting back to Madrid.

An optional visit to the fascist monument of the Valle de los Caídos, another short bus ride from the monastery of San Lorenzo, may be included in the excursion, but will entail an extra hour. This basilica, built within the mountain and surmounted by a monumental cross, is the burial place of Francisco Franco and Primo de Rivera. The controversial building of what was supposed to be a monument to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) may be compared and contrasted with the monumental site designed by Philip II in 1563.

About Us

The Context vision is to create an atmosphere—a context, if you will—for curious travelers to engage with local experts; to give them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight to the casual visitor; to invite them off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and heritage that make these cultural capitals amazing. With no more than six people, you'll participate in an intimate, hands-on, conversational experience. No Tour Guides - Our docents are first and foremost scholars or specialists, with MAs, Ph.D.s, or other terminal degrees in their fields of study.

Insider Tip

Contact your Virtuoso Travel Advisor for insider knowledge to help enhance your experience.

Terms & Conditions

Context walks can be cancelled up to 48 hours prior to the walk with an 85% refund. Within 48 hours all reservations are final and cannot be refunded. Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather. If you are running late for your meeting with our docent, we ask that you call to alert us so that we can relay the message to the docent. No shows are treated as last-minute cancellations and are non-refundable. Cancellations within three business days need to be made by phone to the emergency number provided in your confirmation email. Cancellations within three business days made via email or by calling our U.S. 800 number may not be honored. Other terms and conditions may apply.

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By: Joe C

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2018

Without question they did a superb job.
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"The Great European Tour"

By: MJ

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2018

The trip was our first experience with Context and it was amazing!
Travel Advisor:  Donna Peacock
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By: Shari

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2018

The 6 person maximum of Context tours really made for an intimate learning experience. The docents they get to lead the groups were top notch!
Travel Advisor:  Kelly Millington