Grand Via
Glasshouse in Park

Intro | Arriving/Getting Around | Lodging | Eating | Shopping | Museums | Entertainment | Travel Store

Introduction

Once again I would like to extend a warm welcome to GoingEuro.com. I have included travel guides (in the Travel Store) that I like to use, along with restaurants, accommodations and shops that I am partial to; in addition to, web sites that I found useful or just interesting. I have also assembled a diverse assortment of information from getting into Venice from the airport to where to buy an authentic Venetian mask to take home as a souvenir of your trip.

Arriving and Getting Around Madrid

The metro (Line #8) goes into Madrid from the Barajas airport. It takes about 25 - 30 minutes, costs 3 Euros and drops you off at Nuevos Ministerios station, which is a little north of historic center, where you can connect to other metro lines that go into the city center. I was staying near The Prado Museum, instead of the metro I used the RENFE urban rail network Circular line 1 (or I could have used Circular line 2 going in the direction of Arabjuez). It was two stops and took about 10 minutes and cost a little less than 3 Euros. From Atocha train station I walked to my hotel near The Prado Museum. You can purchase tickets the RENFE office once you exit the metro at the Nuevos Ministerios station. There is also an information office there as well just in case you have any questions about transportation. When I was leaving I took a cab to airport because it was a Sunday so I figured traffic wouldn’t be bad and it is more direct. Of course you are paying for the convenience since it is considerably more than the metro.

The main tourist office is located at 27 Plaza Mayor ((north side) where you will have access to their website and the city’s database. You can also download map of the metro to your mobile phone. www.esmadrid.es. You can also surf the Internet for 15 minutes at no charge.

With the Madrid Card Cultura you get admission to 50 museums and sites including The Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and El Escorial. You also get discounts at participating restaurants. A pass valid for 72 hour costs 42 Euros. www.esmadrid.com. There is also a 24 hour and 48 hour pass as well.

Top of Page

Lodging

The Radisson Blu Hotel, Calle Moratin 52 is on a quiet square, the Plaza de Plateria de Martinze off the Paseo del Prado across from The Prado Museum. Although a business type hotel the rooms are a distance size. I even had king size bed and a small balcony. The bathroom was modern and had one of those large overhead shower heads that really wake you up in the morning. There is free wireless and a fitness center. After a day of museum hopping and sight seeing I would spend a relaxing hour relaxing in the sauna. When you come back to the hotel just be sure to ask the front desk to make sure the sauna is turned on. You can’t beat the location, nearby is the Prado Museum, the Atocha train ( where you can catch a train to Toledo and El Escorial station) and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia are a 10 minute walk away The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is 5 minute walk, perfect location for those who will be spending a lot of time visiting the main museums. Even Palacio Real (all the way west) is within walking distance. It took me something like 20 or 25 minutes to get there from my hotel. There are also numerous restaurants and tapas bars in the neighborhood. I prefer this part of town because the proximity to the major museum, restaurants and less crowded and chaotic than other parts of town including the Grand Via. And I got a great deal through Expedia. It cost me $1,300 per person including airfare and hotel for 9 nights.

When I find a hotel I like, I check on PricelineEurope just to make sure I am getting the best price.

PricelineEurope.com - Discount Hotels in 53 Countries Worldwide

Top of Page

Restaurants

Baco Y Beto, Calle de Pelayo 24 (Chueca), Tel: 91 522 84 81 Cuisine‎: Tapas. Open Monday – Friday 8pm – 1:00am Saturday 2:00 – 4:00pm and 8pm – 1:00am. Metro Station: Chueca. This friendly  tapas and wine bar was by far my favorite in Madrid. I liked dinner so much I went back for lunch the next Saturday. The food was exceptional. Small, not many tables so it can feel a bit crowded, but you can’t beat the food, service and jovial feel. Our waiter told us when we had ordered enough food. We wanted to have another dish, he advised us that it would be too much food. Prices were quite reasonable. If you go for lunch on Saturday try to arrive around or after 3:00pm. People in Madrid don’t eat lunch early.

El Mollete, Calle de la Bola 4 (Centro), Tel: 91 547 78 20. Metro Station : Santo Domingo. Cuisine : Tapas. Cozy space, reservations are a must and they don’t accept credit cards. Great space – it’s an old charcoal cellar. Incredible dishes at a great price.

El Original, Calle de las Infantas 44 (Chueca), Tel: 91 522 90 69. Metro Station: Chueca. Cuisine: Regional dishes from around Spain. A modern white décor with an organic natural ambience complete with what appears to be trees sprouting up from the floor. On my first visit I had a pre-fix lunch – appetizer, entrée and desert that was great value and my lunch was delicious. I was so happy with the service and good I decided to go back for dinner. I actually had 11:30pm dinner renovations (yes, they do have dinner late in Madrid). For an appetizer I had an assortment of fried nibbles in oil, one was a tuna and spring onion croquettes with a boletus mayonnaise and another was a Breaded Mussels with zucchini. For my main dish I had veal cheek stew in red wine that was out of this world. Given the excellent service and the prices given the quality of the food, I would definitely eat here again.

El Rincón de Esteban, Santa Catalina 3 (Huertas), Tel: 91 429 92 89. Metro Station: Banco de Espana. Cuisine: Spanish. Just a few bocks west of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. On the walls there are photographs of notable people who have eaten at the restaurant and an eclectic assortment of items you might find in someone’s Living Room strewn about giving it a homey feel. For my main course I had the roasted lamb shoulder that was heavenly. This is one of their signature dishes. To start off with I had the asparagus from Navarre in two sauces, which was really good. Wines could have been a little cheaper, but compared to what restaurants in New York charge for wine it was pretty reasonable. At the end of our meal the waiter brought out a complimentary digestive. Not quite as strong as Italian grappa, but pretty darn close. Definitely helps with the digestion of food. I had a nice quite enjoyable evening. I liked the food and the service was great.

El Rincón de Pelayo, Calle de Pelayo 19 (Chueca), Tel: 915 21 84 07. Metro Station: Chueca. Cuisine: Traditional Spanish dishes and original dishes as well. Casual and friendly service. They offer a great value lunch, 3 courses (including house wine) for 10 Euros. I stopped in for lunch and I had the rabbit and thought the portions were generous.

Hotel Ritz, Plaza de la Lealtad 5 (Paseo del Prado), Tel: 91 701 67 67. Metro Station: Banco de España. King Alfonso XIII wanted Madrid to have a world class hotel to rival those in London or Paris, so in 1910 the Ritz Madrid was born. Today it is still one of grandest and most expensive hotels in the city. Each of the 158 rooms is decorated in a different style. Fortunately, they offer a lovely traditional afternoon tea complete with clotted cream and scones in the Lobby Bar for 30.40 Euros, so you are able to enjoy the opulence of the hotel without paying an arm and leg. Reservations can be made via their website.

La Dolores, Plaza Jesús, 4 (Huetras), Tel : 91 429 22 43. Metro Station: Antón Martín. Cuisine‎: Tapas. Popular neighborhood tapas bar. Friendly service, food was good and reasonable. I really liked the beer from the tap they served. One dish in particular I liked was the fried shrimp in oil.   

La Taberna del Capitan Alatriste, Calle Grafal 7 (La Latina - off the Plaza de Puetra Cerrada), Tel: 91 366 18 83. Metro Station: La Latina or Tirso de Molina. Cuisine: Spanish. I stumbled on this restaurant while exploring the La Latina/Lavapies barrio (neighborhood) south of the Plaza Mayor. There are five dinning rooms each with a themes plus the bar area. I was seated in the dinning room named after Philip IV. I sat facing his portrait. I started off with the red sausages of Navarra and for my main dish I had the lamb hock, which was delicious. Large portions, so two people can easily share one appetizer. Not a cheap restaurant, yet the food and service were worth it. It’s perfect if you are looking for something a little fancier than a tapas bar. Large portions, two people can easily share an appetizer. Menu is posted on their website.

Los Gatos, Calle de Jesús 2 (HuertaS), Tel: 91 429 30 67. Metro Station: Antón Martín. Cuisine‎: Tapas. Open Sunday – Thursday from noon – 1:00am and Friday and Saturday from noon – 2:00am. Every time I walked by (my hotel was nearby) it was always full of people and while I was having dinner I noticed most of the people were Spanish. The food was good and reasonable, yet I felt like I was being treated as a tourist. Our waiter let us order too much food and I wasn’t happy with the price of the wine. I would go back, but I would start off by ordering a couple of dishes then if I am still hungry order more. I would also keep an eye out for what they locales are drinking and order what they order as far as the wine is concerned.  

Mercado de San Miguel, Plaza de San Miguel (Centro, near the Plaza Major) is a historic iron and glass covered market originally built at the early 1900’s. It has been restored and has 33 individual vendors selling everything from cheese to oysters to wine to deserts.  Perfect for lunch or a late evening snack. . Variety and the quality of the food at reasonable prices make it one of my favorite places to eat in Madrid. 

Cafes/Wine Bars

Café Belén, Calle de Belén 5, Tel: 91 308 27 47. Metro Station: Chueca
Hours: 3:30pm-3:00am

Mama Inés, Calle de Hortaleza 22, Tel: 91 523 23 33. Metro Station : Chueca.
Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 10 :00am to 2 :00am and Friday and Saturday till 3:30am.  

Café Acuarela Café, Calle de Gravina 20, Tel : 91 522 21 43 Metro Station : Chueca
Hours : Sunday – Thursday from 11:00am – 2:00am and Friday and Saturday till 3 :00am

Top of Page

Museums, Art Exhibitions and Gardens

Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado National Museum) has one of the best collections in the world and probably the greatest number of works by Goya and Velázquez in the world. Surprisingly they also have over 90 works by Rubens. The extensive collection covers from the 12th century to the 19th century. Most of the works come from royal collections of the Spanish monarchs. Today they are owned by the state. After 6:00pm Tuesday – Saturday and after 5:00pm on Sundays admission to the museum is free. If you are going on the weekend or during high season try to get to the museum a little before 9:00am (opening time) so you can be one of the first ones in the ticket line, which is located on the north side of the museum (south of the Plaza de la Lealtad. You can also purchase tickets online via their website. During the busy season it probably is a good idea to purchase tickets in advance since the museum is popular. There are two metro stops nearby, Atocha and Banco de España.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum) has an impressive collection of over 800 works of art spanning the 13th century to the 20th century with exceptional pieces from every period. There are works by Canaletto, Caravaggio and Titian. There are Flemish, Italian, American paintings and French Impressionism. There is a lot to see and appreciate, so one visit may not be enough to see everything or at least see everything at a leisurely pace. The museum is open till 7pm Tuesday – Sunday. On the ground floor eight rooms are devoted to modern and contemporary works. With the Madrid Card Cultura you do not need to go to the ticket line. You just walk up to the entrance to the galleries and the check the card to make sure it is valid. Extremely convenient since this a popular museum and can get quite busy. You save time by not having to wait in the ticket line. Here are just a few paintings they shows the range and depth of the collection: Bramantino's The Risen Christ (ca.1490), Carpaccio's Young Knight in a Landscape (ca. 1510), Caravaggio's Saint Catherine of Alexandria (ca.1598), El Greco's The Immaculate Conception (ca. 1607-1613), Jan Jansz Can Der Heyden's Corner of a Library (ca. 1710-1712), Canaletto's View of Piazza San Marco Venice (ca. 1723), Gris' Seated Woman (ca. 1917), Chagall's The Gray House (ca. 1917), Picasso's Harlequin with Mirror (ca. 1917), and Beckmann's Still Life with Yellow Roses (ca. 1937).

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Reina Sofia Museum and Art Center) showcases Spanish art from 1900 onwards. Originally it was a hospital constructed in the 18th century. In the 1990’s the building was transformed into a museum. In the mid 2000’s an modern extension opened. Designed by Jean Nouvel it houses a bookstore, café, library administrative offices and a few exhibition rooms. The rooms are off an enclosed gallery the wraps around an open courtyard in the middle of the building. All the rooms are pretty sparse and there is little architectural detail of interest. The focus is on the art itself. And the biggest draw is Picasso’s famous painting Guernica. He painted it after Franco had the German air force to bomb a village in Basque country in 1939. Around 2,000 people (civilians - mostly women and children) were killed. It’s a pretty intense painting when you read about the bombing of this small village, especially considering this was a civilian target as opposed to a military installation.

Museo Sorolla (The Sorolla Museum) was the home and studio of Joaquin Sorolla, a Spanish Impressionist painter active from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. He primarily painted portraits and landscapes and his style is compared to the American painter John Singer Sargent. Originally this was his and studio. After his death his wife donated the house to the state and in 1932 he was opened as a museum. In addition to his paintings and gaining insight into how he lived and worked, there is a beautiful garden Sorolla designed himself.

Museo Lázaro Galdiano (Lazaro Galdiano Museum) is a small museum created by a businessman by the name of Lázaro Galdiano who had a passion for collecting just about everything especially Spanish art such as works by Goya and Velázquez along with works by other artists such as El Greco, Tiepolo and Hieronymus Bosch. Over his lifetime he assembled a diverse and elective collection of paintings, furniture and decorative items. He constructed this house in the early 1900’s to showcase his collection. The beautiful two story central hall used as a music room/ballroom. Despite the opulent interior the manageable size of the house doesn't make it overwhelming like like the Royal Palace. Subtle details, yet beautifully carved moldings, parquet floors and ceiling paintings that pay homage to Galdiano’s favorite painters. You could actually live in this house today and not feel like you were living in museum. The collection includes a selection of Mrs. Galdiano’s jewelry along with her collection of fans. In addition to paintings, furniture (there were a couple of fine desks including a 16th century desk crafted in Germany with an intricate marguetry), there is an assortment of antique weapons, medieval ivory, silver, antique textiles, ceramics and porcelain (including a few Limoges pieces from the 16th century) . Outside there is a small garden that surrounds the house and includes with rose bushes that create a convivial setting to rest a bit before venturing out into the hustle and bustle of Madrid’s streets. Admission is free on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the guide book is only in Spanish, but they do have an audio guide in English. If you are staying near The Prado the easiest way to get to the museum is by bus. The number 27 bus stops in front of The Prado Museum. You get off at Glorieta de Emilio Castelar and walk east on Calle del General Oraa until you come to Calle de Serrano where you turn left and walk north (the museum will be on the east side of the street).

National Museum of Decorative Arts (Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas), Calle de Calle Montalbán 12. Tele: 91 532 64 99. Metro Station(s): Banco de España or Retiro. Near the Parque del Buen Retiro and the Prado Musum. Originally established in 1871 as the Industrial Arts Museum. In 1934 it moved into this palatial mansion built in 1878 for a Duchess. The empire staircase made out of marble and the Italian mosaic floors survive. On display are two reconstructions kitchens, one is decorated in 18th century ceramic tiles from Valencia. On the second floor there is a mockup of a 17th century bourgeois house – a salon (living room), bedchamber, an oratory and kitchen. In addition, there is a diverse collection of furniture (tables, chairs beds and clocks) and other decorative items including glassware and ceramics. I was out and about on a Sunday morning taking photographs and happened to be in the area around 10:00am and from what I read in my guidebook the museum sounded interesting. Open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:30am to 3:00pm, Sunday from 10:00am to 3:00pm and also on Thursday from 5:00pm – 8:00pm. There is free admission on Sundays and Thursday evenings.

Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Art) was established by royal decree in 1744. Charles III purchased a Baroque palace and asked architect Diego de Villanueva to draw up plans to convert palace for academic use. The permanent collection includes works from the 15th to 20th century. There are works by Rubens, Bellini and Zurbarán (just to three artists represented).

Fundación Juan March, Calle de Castelló, 77 hosts temporary exhibitions and classical concerts. It's located south east of the Museo Lázaro Galdiano. When you leave the Museo Lázaro Galdiano walk south along Calle de Serrano, make a left when you get to Calle del General Oráa and walk along this street until you get to Calle de Castelló where you will make a right and start walking south. It’s about a 10 or 15 minute walk depending on your pace. Once you are finished visiting the Fundación Juan March you can walk south to Callde Jose Ortega y Gasset and make a right and start walking back towards the Paseo de la Castellana. Along this street there are now high end shops and boutiques.

Real Jardin Botanico (Royal Botanical Gardens) was laid out in 1781 under Carlos III. Juan de Villanueva, architect of The Prado, helped with the design. There are around 30,000 species of plants, shrubs and trees. There is a nominal entrance fee, but admission is included with the Madrid Card Cultura. The entrance is located on the Plaza de Bravo Murrillo, which runs along the south side of the Prado Museum. After visiting the Prado Museum a visit to the garden makes a nice respite. You can sit and relax, listen to the birds chirp away and think about what you’ve seen or perhaps just reflect on the beauty of nature. On the pedestrian street Cuesta de Moyano, along the south side of the Real Jardin Botanico, there are a group of bookstalls. Although most of the books are in Spanish it’s still wonderful to see in this digital age of Nooks, Kindles and iPads actual books and booksellers.

Parque del Buen Retiro is a large park near The Prado Museum. Within the park there are following points of interest:

Palacio de Cristal - built to house tropical plants for the 1887 Philippines Exposition. Modeled on the Crystal Palace in England. Today temporary art exhibitions are held.

The Palacio de Velazquez - built for the 1884 National Exhibition of Mining, Metal, Ceramics, Glass and Mineral Water industries. On the outside of the building there are some lovely ceramic tiles. Temporary exhibitions are held here.

La Rosaleda del Retiro (Rose Garden) – located at the southern end of the park.

Estanque (lake) – boats can be rented and there are other activities including puppet shows when the weather is nice (late spring, summer and early fall).

Top of Page

Entertainment

In Madrid – English language magazine published monthly that has art/cultural and entertainment listings. Good resource for what’s going on.

EsMadrid Magazine – geared for tourists. There are listings of concerts, theater, dance and exhibitions.

Auditorio Nacional de Música, Calle del Principe de Vergara (Northern Madrin), Tel: 91 337 01 40. Metro Station: Cruz del Rayo. Home of  the National Orchestra of Spain and the National Chorus of Spain.

Café Central Madrid, Plaza del Angel 10 (Huertas), Tel: 91 369 41 43
Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 1:00pm to 2:30am and Friday and Saturday from 1:00pm to 4:00am.  Live jazz.

Teatro de la Zarzuela, Calle de los Jovelllanos 4 (Paseo del Prado, right around the corner from Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza), Tel: 915 245 400. Metro Station: Sevilla. Venue for dance.

Teatro Monumental, Calle de Atocha 65 (Huertas). Tele: 91 429 12 81. Metro Station: Antón Martín. Concerts, home of the RTVE Symphony Orchestra.

Teatro Real (Royal Theater), Plaza de Oriente (Centro), Tel: 902 244 848. Metro Station: Opera. Operas, classical music and ballet.

Top of Page

Shopping

Antigua Casa Talavera, Calle de Isabel la Católica 2 (Centro), Tel: 91 547 34 17. Metro Station: Santo Domingo. Hours: Monday - Friday from 10:00am to 1:30pm & 5:00pm to 8:00pm and Saturday from 10:00am to 1:30pm. Sells ceramics produced in Spain. I purchased two tiles based on designs from the 18th century that were made in the Valencia region. I am using them as trivets . I wanted a souvenir that was actually made in Spain to remember my trip.

Top of Page

Short Trips Outside of Madrid

If you only have limited time to see places outside of Madrid I definitely recommend seeing Toledo and El Escorial.

Toledo

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art there is a painting of Toledo by El Greco. I have a reproduction print of this painting hanging above my desk. I knew one day I would want to see Toledo in person because of the connection to El Greco was of my favorite painters. Walking out of the train station I must admit I was a little disappointed because the unattractive modern buildings, not such much the train station built in the early 1900’s, which I thought was quite attractive; however, once I actually walked up the hill into the historic center I was thought I walking into a painting by El Greco. There are some beautiful old buildings in Toledo including the cathedral and several museums.

Toledo’s Tourist Board has a website with information about the museums, art galleries and a calendar of events. The main tourist office is located across from the cathedral on the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

The Museo de Santa Cruz, Calle Cervantes 3, is housed in a 16th century hospital. Open Monday - Saturday from 10:00am to 6:30pm and on Sunday from 10:00am to 2:00pm. This collection of Renaissance and medieval art including Flemish tapestries from the 15th and 16th centuries, is displayed in four wings that are in a shape of a Greek cross. Magnificient setting for medieval and Renaissance art including paintings, tapestries and ceramics. The Assumption (1613) by El Greco (one of his last painting) is still in the original altarpiece. Off the beautiful cloister is several rooms devoted to ceramicsfrom all over Spain.

Work on the Toledo Ccathedral (entrance is on Plaza del Ayuntamiento, across from the ticket office/gift shop) in the 13th century and the last vaults were completed in 1493 to become what we see today - a Gothic extravagance. Open Monday - Saturday from 10:30am to 6:30pm and on Sunday from 2:00pm - 6:00pm. In the Sacristy there is an excellent art collection including works by Titian, Goya, Van Dyck and El Greco’s masterpiece The Denuding of Christ along with El Greco’s series of the twelve apostles, which would look great in my dining room. Not sure what to say about “El Transparente” behind the main altar except to say it is really something else. It’s several stories high and composed of marble, jasper, bronze and alabaster; in other words, everything except the kitchen sink. It shows the Apotheosis of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. According to the brochure “considered the pinnacle art work of the Spanish Baroque”. Sculptor Narcisco Tomé created it in 1729-1732. To add a little more dramatic effect Narcisco had a skylight installed in the ceiling to bring some light in. Moving onto something that is well - a little less extravagant - are the beautiful amd more subtle carved choir stalls in wood and alabaster. The craftsmanship really is quite incredible. I thought the High Altar polychrome Reredos of Christ’s life like El Transparente was a bit too much, yet it is beautiful in its own unique way. In the Chapterhouse there is a lovely Mudéjar (Moorish Arab decorative influences) ceiling and 16th century frescoes by Juan de Borgoña.I enjoyed my visit immensely even if I thought some of the art work was over the top. You can't help but to be bolded over by the building itself. Afterward my visit I was walking around the outside admiring the architectural details such as the carvings and was amazed by just how big the cathedral is and the time and energy the masons and craftmen must have put into it. By the way, definitely opt for the audio guide, which provides great insight into the building and the works of art held within. They did not offer a guidebook in English.

Sinagoga del Tránsito/Museo Sefardi, Calle Samuel Levi. March – November open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00am to 2:00pm and from 4:00pm to 9:00pm and the rest of the year closes at 6:00pm. Built in the 14th century as a synagogue, after the expulsion of Jews in the 15th century it became a Christian church. Restored and now a museum dedicated to Sephardi (Spanish Jewish) culture. The interiorcombines elements of Gothic, Islamic and Hebrew geometric motifs. There is also a small museum with Jewish artifacts including costumes, religious objects and manuscripts. I definitely recommend a visit and not just for the architecture, the history of Spanish Jews is fascinating. After the visit you realize how short sighted the Spanish were by expelling a group of people for an irrational fear or loathing who added both culturally and economically to the overall society.

Igliesia de Santo Tome, a few minutes walk away from the Museo Sefardi. Inside is El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.

I only spent a day in Toledo so I didn’t have a chance to see everything. I hadn’t realized there was so much to see. And these days I prefer not to rush. One day I will go back and see what I missed and revisit a few places that I really liked including the Museo de Santa Cruz.

To get there by train take the Renfe (Spanish national railways) high speed AVANT rail link that leaves from Atocha station. The trip takes about 30-35 minutes. There is assigned seating so be sure to get there early enough to get a seat or book in advance via their website, which has an English version with a time schedule and faire information.

Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de Escorial)

Built by Phillip II as a royal retreat and to house the burial crypt for the Spanish monarchy; in addition to, housing a monastery and apartments for members of the royal court. Basically, it’s a small city complex complete with workshops. Several villages were leveled to build it.

Basilica – an interesting point, the townspeople and servants were not allowed into the main part of the church during services. They stood (I doubt they were provided seating) in a smaller area right when you walk into the church under the choir. Apparently the king did not want to worship with the common folks.

Library – established by Philip II and the first public library in Spain. The 16th century ceiling frescoes were done by PellegrinoTibaldi who on his return to Italy was appointed architect of the Duomo in Milan. On display are a number if illuminated manuscripts that really are works of art. The time, patience and skill that must have gone into these little masterpieces.

Museo de Arquitectura – chronicles the building of El Escorial. On display are tools, equipment used in construction and scale-models of the complex along with architectural drawings and diagrams.

Museo de Pintura – 15th, 16th and 17th century Italian, Flemish and Spanish paintings. Theses rooms on the ground floor were originally used in the summer months by Felipe II. I would imagine they would have been quite cool.

Pantheons – marble and bronze from floor to ceiling and final resting place of the Spanish monarchs. Rivals Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel in Florence except Michelangelo’s design is more tasteful. Those little golden Cherub wall sconces are just a bit on the kitschy side.

Chapter Houses - there is a Last Supper by Titian and Diego Velazquez’s Joseph’s Bloody Coast Brought to Jacob

Hall of Honor - on display Flemish tapestries and El Greco’s The Martyrdom of Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion.

The Royal Apartments of Phillip II - simple and rather austere when compared to the Bourbons lavish apartments constructed in the later 1700’s and early 1800’s. Although, not as opulent there are nonetheless some lovely features including beautiful 16th century intricate wood inlaid crafted in German in Ante-Chamber of the King. The apartments of Phillip II are included with admission; however, guided tours of the Bourbon Apartments are given on Friday afternoon and Saturdays. Reservations can be made by calling 91 890 59 02/5.

On the property there is a pretty good café that sells sandwiches, coffee and so on. A guidebook in English is available and an audio guide in English is available. I usually get the audio guide because it's easier to listen while you are looking at something. I like guidebooks to take home to consult later and as souvenirs.

To get to El Escorial take the C8 Cercania (local train network). The trip takes approximately one hour. Trains leave from Atocha or Chamartin stations. Iinformation including time schedules can be found on Renfe’s (Spanish national railways) website (there is a version in English).

 

Oriente Square
Birds eye veiw of Toledo