San Lorenzo de El Escorial
The building and running of the Monastery made it necessary to build other buildings around it. The first house of trades, Primera Casa de Oficios (that currently has several exhibition rooms) and the second one, Segunda Casa de Oficios (which is now home to a Shrine to the Virgen de Gracia) had several palace rooms, and the Casa de la Compaña (now the university Real Centro Universitario Escorial - María Cristina) was used by the Order of St Jerome.
This landscape remained until the Bourbon royal family took over the Spanish throne from the Hapsburgs. Charles III started to turn San Lorenzo de El Escorial into a Royal Site and Charles IV finished his vision. The needs of an itinerant court depending on the time of year caused the town’s growth. The court would go to San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the autumn to go hunting –one of the main royal hobbies.
The Casa de Infantes (Princes and Princesses Lodge) and the Casa del Ministerio de Estado (the Prime Minister House) and the Casita del Príncipe (the Prince’s Lodge, or Lower Lodge) and the Casita del Infante (the Young Prince’s Lodge, or Upper Lodge). All these spectacular sites make up the Monastery and Royal Site of El Escorial that was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984 and of Outstanding Universal Value in 2014.
To the north, the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial expanded to serve the Royal Visits. The Casa de las Columnas (House of Columns) and the Mercado (public market) selling different produce and items, the Real Coliseo Carlos III (Royal Coliseum declared Heritage of Cultural Interest) providing the court with entertainment, the Casa de los Infantes (Princes/Princesses’ Lodge, declared Heritage of Cultural Interest) that was home to the children of Charles III and their families, the Casa de los Duques de Arcos (House of the Dukes of Arcos) and Casa de los Duques de Medinacelli (House of the Dukes of Medinacelli), as well as the countless houses to let for those who accompanied the monarchs and other buildings make this Historic-Artistic Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial a unique setting that was given the Heritage of Cultural Interest status in 1971. Another building worth visiting is the Cocheras del Rey (the King’s Coach House) where you will find a very interesting Coach Museum.
The abundant wildlife, with the Pine Grove of Abantos and the Woods of La Herrería –both rated as Heritage of Cultural Interest– and the vast countryside protected by the Natura 2000 Network provide a rich natural setting for the Monastery and San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
Spread across San Lorenzo de El Escorial, you will find many unique trees from the Community of Madrid, including horse chestnut trees, cedar trees, Spanish fir trees, Japanese pagoda trees, chestnut trees, etc.
A few authors have written that Philip II would go up to the Silla de Felipe II (Philip II Seat) to drink in the splendid view of the Monastery and its surrounding area.
In the Luis Ceballos Arboretum, you will be able to visit the magnificent Live Museum of forest species with over 250 trees and bushes from the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands, as well as its spaces devoted to forest culture and learning about flora and fauna as you discover different species along the different theme paths. The Insectpark is devoted to the huge and varied universe of insects. The micro-fauna Museum is home to live species and scientific collections of butterflies, invisible insects, curious bugs and hair-raising creatures (spiders, tarantulas, scorpions, etc.). This is the ideal place for a family outing.