One day tour to El Escorial Monastery + Valley of the Fallen + Toledo
Combine 2 excursions in the same day and save. Visit 3 historic and gorgeous places, each from a different era and with a different style. In the morning, we will get to know two important monuments: the Real Monasterio de El Escorial and the Valle de los Caídos. In the afternoon, we will visit Toledo, which was the capital of Spain until 1561.
Visit to the Monastery of El Escorial
The excursion begins with the visit to the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, a monument of the most splendid Spanish artistic heritage. Awaiting us there is an historic complex built between 1563 and 1584, where we will visit its most impressive rooms: the Palace of the Habsburgs, the Royal Pantheon, the Chapter Room, the Basilica and the rooms of Felipe II.
El Escorial is impressive, since it is the great monument that embodies the period of maximum Spanish power during the 16th century. Here the Spanish monarchs and their direct descendants, from Carlos I (1500-1558) onward, are buried, and you will be able to see their tombs in the Pantheon of the Infants and the Pantheon of the Kings.
When visiting El Escorial, you will understand why it was considered the eighth wonder of the world in its day. You will see that in the centre of this enormous complex is the Basilica, situated in front of the Palace of Kings.
Everything in San Lorenzo del Escorial is related to the monarchy, including its very origins as building commissioned by Felipe II (1527-1598), a king whose political expertise and religious fervour united his passion for art, the height of which was reached in this building charged to Juan Herrera.
The result is lavish, something that you will rapidly experience yourself during the visit, especially in the Chapter Room where paintings by Titian or Velazquez hang, and where there are many more by Zurbaran, el Bosco or Tintoretto. In other words, El Escorial in itself is and was an attractive museum, although some of those works are currently displayed in the Prado Museum.
However, the ostentation of this part of the Monastery contrasts with the austerity of the lodgings of Felipe II, which you will also see during your visit.
In short, this visit to the monastery and palace of El Escorial takes you directly to Spanish history, where glamor, art and religion reached their maximum expression. Therefore, it is not strange that San Lorenzo is one of the places that attract the most tourism in the country.
Something similar happens with the next destination that our excursion will bring you to: the Valley of the Fallen.
Visit to Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen)
The reasons are quite different, both for the art that it displays and for the historical period and conditions under which it was built. The complex of the Valley of the Fallen is a much more modern monument, since this lavish work was built between 1940 and 1959 in order to honour the memory of those who had fallen during the Spanish Civil War. Any Spaniard knows that this monument has a clear political tint, linked to the victors of the war and with Francisco Franco, whose remains are buried in the Basilica itself.
Regardless of political ideology, it is interesting to visit the Valley of the Fallen in order to get to know one of the country’s historic episodes and to appreciate the art that was developed during those years in Spain.
The excursion includes entrance to both the Basilica and to the Valley of the Fallen, whose most emblematic image is the enormous cross of rock, about 150 metres high, visible from different locations in the Madrileña Mountains.
Precisely, that mountain range so close to the capital is the natural space that you will cross following the itinerary of this excursion. It is a place where nature reigns in contrast with the urban environment of Madrid. Therefore the very road taken on this excursion to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen is yet another reason for doing this visit.
Upon returning to Madrid from the excursion to the Monasterio del Escorial and the Valle de los Caídos, we will have free time until 3:00pm, when the excursion to Toledo begins
Trip to Toledo
On this excursion to Toledo from Madrid, get to know the most important monuments of the three civilizations that coexisted at a time in this city: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
We will walk through the streets of Toledo and visit the most important temples that remain of these three religions, which shared this location in peace and harmony, making Toledo “the city of three cultures.”
We will begin our tour at Mirador del Valle (Valley Lookout), from where we can contemplate the entire city surrounded by the Tajo River, and look at some of the most provocative monuments, such as the Alcazar or the Cathedral.
Upon beginning our walking tour through the historic centre of Toledo, you will see that it maintains almost precisely the same structure of streets and houses as in the 16th century, when it was the capital of the Kingdom.
The walk through this labyrinth of narrow, steep and cobbled streets, typical of Toledo, is not optimal for people with reduced mobility, for whom we do not recommend this tour.
The first stop of our tour will be the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where the Council Hall, Episcopal Palace and Cathedral of Santa Maria are located.
Among them, the most spectacular is the Cathedral of Santa Maria, an impressive Gothic building from the 15th century, crowned by one sole tower instead of the usual two. During the tour, the guide will reveal the reason for this curiosity and will clarify any doubts about this UNESCO World Heritage city.
Another outstanding point on our route is the visit to the Santo Tome Church in order to contemplate the masterpiece “The burial of Count Orgaz” by El Greco.
During our walk through the old Jewish district, we will stop to get to know the old Santa Maria La Blanca synagogue, a temple in Arabic style whose construction was commissioned by the Jews to the Moors in the 12th century.
We will finish our excursion to Toledo from Madrid in a damascene workshop and store. Damascene is the art of decorating steel objects by embedding gold or silver threads. In the store you can buy, in addition to damascene objects, souvenirs typical to the area, such as replicas of the old swords and armour.
It is a good place to buy memorabilia after this intense visit to Toledo, where in just one afternoon we will have gotten to know the most representative places of what was considered the “city of three cultures.”