Day Tour

El Escorial Palace: Renaissance Splendor (4 Hours)

Context Travel

Madrid, Spain

Valid for Travel Now Through: 01 Feb 2021

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

Context Travel offers cultural and historical tours and activities led by deep subject-matter experts in over 50 cities around the world. With coverage of lesser known locales as well as main city sites, our experts take clients through in-depth, thematic topics to help them get to know a city more deeply. The tours are designed to be the ideal environment for learning – they are conversation-driven private experiences that are structured, but never scripted.

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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Italy trip

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

Context Travel: One very good tour, one medium good tour

By: Rob

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2019

We had two tours, one entitled "Intro to HK: Colony to Financial Powerhouse" and the other "Kowloon Street Food Tour". The first had an architectural as well as historical framework, which was worthwhile, and our guide was very earnest and enthusiastic. We liked her very much. Our second tour, ostensibly a "Kowloon Street Food" got a little off track onto some political topics (reference is made in the description to discussing "local issues") but we made clear to our guide that we much preferred to spend our limited time checking out the street food and markets, and leaving politics and history aside. (Every guide prior to this had given us a similar capsule history of HK.) In fairness to our review of the guide, my wife and I were extremely tired by the time of our evening tour, and had to conclude the tour early, and we do not fault our guide in any way for our "running out of steam". Our guide was nice, though he made a couple of comments that might have been better left unsaid.
Travel Advisor:  Rachel Dicker

Context Tours

By: DHunt

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2019

We were highly impressed with context tours. Each guide was very knowledgeable and the private group setting allowed us to really spend time and enjoy each site without feeling like we were part of a herd. Further, the guide is interactive, not just dictating into a radio with information.
Travel Advisor:  Nathan Cripps