Royal Monastery San Lorenzo de El Escorial
For many centuries, the Spanish kings were a mobile crew who floated between more than a dozen palaces they had built in the region around Madrid. Some were hunting lodges and pleasure palaces, others, like the Royal Monastery at San Lorenzo de El Escorial, were more sobering affairs meant to display both religious devotion and royal majesty, since its crypt is the burial place of more than four centuries of Spanish kings and queens. Celebrated for its pure Spanish Renaissance architecture and stellar art collection, the scale of the entire complex is staggering. A visit to El Escorial, built between 1563 and 1884 and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides an enjoyable day outside Madrid.