How to Enter Escorial for Free
How to visit Escorial for free? What categories of people can see the palace-monastery in the suburbs of Madrid without spending money? When is the best time to come to Escorial to get a free ticket? As well as a description and history of the architectural complex.
It is well known that El Escorial is one of the TOP 5 main attractions in Spain. Therefore, literally every foreign tourist strives to visit it.
Despite the fact that the cost of the entrance ticket in 2023 is low, we will give some tips on how to get inside the El Escorial for free. And what are the best days to do it?
Free Admission to Escorial
As indicated on the official website of the museum, the following are entitled to the benefit:
- Children under 5 years old
- All visitors without exception on May 18, International Museum Day. And also October 12, National Day of Spain, without distinction of nationality (except for Casa del Príncipe D. Carlos y del Infante D. Gabriel)
- Large families with accreditation in the Official Family Book of Spain with or a similar document from the EU and Latin America, holders of a residence or work permit of these nationalities
- ICOM members
- Official tourist guides
- Professors with a card of the teaching staff
- Disabled people with accreditation. The accompanying person also has free access
- Individuals receiving unemployment benefits
Also you can visit Escorial absolutely free at certain times of the year:
Wednesday and Sunday from 15:00 to 18:00, free admission for citizens of the European Union, residents and holders of a work permit in this territory and citizens of Latin America. The offer is limited to a guided tour, free tickets to Escorial can only be obtained at the box office.
Wednesday and Sunday from 15:00 to 19:00, free admission for citizens of the European Union, residents and holders of a work permit in this territory and citizens of Latin America. The free offer is limited to a tour without a guide, you need to get a ticket only at the box office
More details – on the official website: tickets.patrimonionacional.es/en-GB/informacion-recinto/1/san-lorenzo-del-escorial.
There is an opinion that San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the eighth wonder of the world. Naturally, it is most common among the Spaniards! After all, every nation on the planet considers one of its own architectural ensembles worthy of this high-profile title.
However, in this case it’s not far from the truth.
The El Escorial in plan is a rectangle measuring 207 by 161 meters. Built from massive granite blocks. Initially, inside were the monastery of St. Lorenzo, the royal palace, the church and the Pantheon.
The length of all corridors of Escorial exceeds 24 kilometers
In total, the complex has 9 towers, 16 courtyards, 13 chapels, 86 internal staircases and 1860 rooms. And, they say, no one could count the windows with extreme accuracy, there are about 2680 of them here.
The complex was laid on April 23, 1563 during the reign of the Spanish King Philip II. And they built it in a record short time for that time: in 1584.
It took 21 years for everything. And this is much less than the Palace of Versailles, comparable in scale, demanded at one time.
History of the Escorial
The event, in honor of which the building was built, was the victory of the Spanish army over the French at Saint-Quentin during the Franco-Spanish war. It was won on August 10, 1557, was the first military success in the reign of Philip II and happened on the day of St. Lorenzo. As you know, a Catholic saint and a Spaniard by origin.
It is believed that the Escorial project was developed by the chief royal architect of Spain, Juan Bautista de Toledo. At the dawn of his career, he worked in Italy, taking part in the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral.
It is likely that the architect had to take into account the numerous wishes of the monarch Philip II. So the king can be counted among the co-authors of the complex.
De Toledo died in 1567, never having seen the completion of his most significant building. He was replaced by an equally great master, Juan de Herrera. The name of the latter is associated with the style of Spanish architecture, the so-called herreran, erreresco.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is designed in the Herreresco style. And it is the most striking work of the architects of the Spanish Renaissance.
The main masterpiece of Escorial is the Library – its premises are located directly above the main entrance. In terms of the number of rare books collected (about 45,000 editions of the 15th and 16th centuries, and, in addition, more than 5,000 handwritten manuscripts of the Roman, Arabic and Castilian eras), it is second only to the collection of the Vatican.
Also in the Escorial are paintings and frescoes by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Giordano, Velasquez, Zurbaran, El Greco, Ribera, Goya, Bosch and Dürer. You can see statues carved in marble (Christ by Benvenuto Cellini) and in bronze (statues of kings) by father and son Leone and Romeo Leoni.
The local Reliquarium is also interesting from a historical point of view. It contains about 7,500 relics – fragments of the skeleton of the saints of the Catholic Church.
Facades and Halls of the El Escorial
The monastery-palace complex is oriented to the cardinal points. The main, western façade overlooks a vast area, its central part is designed as a giant two-story and 12-columned portico.
Through the gigantic front door, visitors enter the so-called Court of the Kings. And at its opposite end they see the entrance to the central part of the entire structure: the Basilica of St. Lorenzo.
To the right of it are the buildings of the Escorial Monastery proper. To the left are the seminary rooms.
Behind the basilica, the entrance to which is also indicated by a portico, is the royal tomb. And behind it is the palace of Philip II.
This monarch, known for his extreme piety, insisted that his chambers adjoin the altar of the temple. Therefore, in old age, the king could attend Mass without getting out of bed – the door from the bedroom goes directly to the choirs
Tourists are especially eager to look at the bedroom of Philip II and his study, where all issues of war and peace in Europe were decided. But they are nothing but extreme minimalism, not remarkable. The gloomy and warlike king spent little on himself.
Another thing is the Escorial library. An extensive room, the vault of which is painted with beautiful frescoes by Pelegrino Tibaldi. It serves as a storage place for more than 40 thousand volumes, most of which are completely unique.
Here, even books are placed especially – with the spines inside, in order to preserve the bindings. True, the exhibition mainly presents copies. The originals are in storage!
To the left of the basilica is the Bourbon Palace, where the kings of this dynasty lived during their stay in Escorial. The windows of their apartments face north and, partially, east.
To the right of the basilica, around the courtyard of the Evangelists, are the monastery premises. Part of the eastern facade is occupied by the Pantheon of the Infantes (where all the princes and princesses of the Spanish royal family are buried).
As already noted, the western and northern facades overlook vast paved areas. Near the southern one there are vast regular, so-called Monastic Gardens, laid out on the direct orders of King Philip II.
Adjacent to them is the beautiful Convalescent Gallery (Galería de Convalecientes).
The northern and southern facades are completely devoid of architectural excesses and represent a severe, straight, literally fortress wall. Unless numerous windows brighten up its severity a little.
Opposite the eastern façade there is another garden – Royal. The windows of the private apartments of Philip II look out exactly here.
Not far from the main building is a small country palace of King Charles IV, Casita del Princip. Built back in his time as heir to the throne. His car is architect José de Villanueva, builder of the Prado Museum.
How to Get to the Escorial
The city of the same name, which arose at the palace-monastery, is located approximately 45 km northwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid. You can get from the latter by bus routes 661 and 664, departing from the Moncloa Interchange station. Or by rail, from Chamartín or Atocha train stations.
The trip will take about an hour. The advantage of the bus is that its final stop is only a 5-minute walk from the monastery. The railway station is a 20-minute walk away. Those who do not want to climb up the mountain will have to use the local bus.
Opening hours and prices 2023
The Escorial is open to the public on all days of the week except Mondays. From 10 am to 6 pm from October to March, from 10 am to 8 pm from April to September.
The cost of the entrance ticket to visit the main complex is 12 € (2023) for adults and 6 for children 5-16 years old. Citizens under the age of 5 enter El Escorial for free! Downloading the audio guide to your smartphone costs 4 €.
An additional 5 will have to be paid for entrance to separate palaces: Casita del Príncipe, Casita del Infante.
Admission in El Escorial is free for everyone on the following days:
- International Museum Day 18 May
- October 12 National Day of Spain