Even people who LOVE city life sometimes need a break. A moment away from the rumble of car engines and the squeals of buses, the crowded and packed public transport systems and the constant motion. Having access to nature, space, and fresh air is a must, especially if you’re living in a city long-term.
Madrid is no exception, and it’s fantastic because of the amount of hiking that is very accessible, less than an hour from the city center.
Start the Day | Spanish Breakfast
Not that anyone NEEDS an excuse to eat a Spanish breakfast, a day of hiking is an extra good reason to fuel up with food in the morning at a classic cafeteria in Spain. Some of my favorite moments have been in cafes in Madrid, sipping a cafe con leche drinking a freshly squeezed orange juice, and eating either a pan con tomate OR a sandwich mixto con huevo (ham and cheese with egg, drool). La Taberna de Moncloa is close to the metro/bus station where buses to El Escorial leave from, and their menu is pretty impressive with a lot more options than the typical cafe.
Getting There – Bus from Moncloa
To get to El Escorial from the city, take the 664 or the 661 bus from Moncloa. If you get to Moncloa on the metro, you’ll have to walk to the bus station portion, which is within the same complex. There are signs to guide you.
The Hiking Route – La Silla de Felipe II/The Seat of Philip II
The hike known as the Seat of Philip the II is a fairly easy one, without too much incline. It’s more of a brisk walk than a serious hike, but it offers some beautiful views and lots of winding trails through trees in the forest. The actual “seat” is in the rocks from the top of these rock steps, which offer a panoramic view of mountains and forest, with the skyscrapers of Madrid far off in the distance.
I visited in the springtime, so a lot of beautiful wildflowers were blooming and everything was green. May is a great time to visit Spain – most of the heavy rains have passed and temperatures are warm without being stifling hot. Even if it’s not a particularly hot day, bring water, as the air in Madrid is really dry and you can get dehydrated quickly.
Bonus – there’s a bar at the “seat” part of the hiking loop – great to stop at for a beer if you get thirsty along the trek.
Lunch | Paella at Taberna del Corcho
In the main plaza of the city of El Escorial, there are several restaurants with terraces to choose from for lunch. In true Spanish fashion, we decided to go all out with a big meal to reward ourselves after walking around for a few hours. Beers, a salad, and sharing a giant paella was all fantastic and the cherry on top of the perfect day trip out of the city. Everything was great, and the weather was perfect – it was warm in the sun but with a cool breeze.
This particular restaurant, Taberna del Corcho, has good service, a beautiful interior, and a really nice patio/terrace if you prefer outdoor seating.
El Escorial – The Monastery
I toured the Monastery in El Escorial, the “Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial” back in 2014, and since the focus of this trip was on the outdoors, we didn’t do another tour inside. It’s still cool to walk around the grounds and marvel at the exterior of El Escorial. The architecture of the building is impressive and if you have the time, it’s definitely worth a tour of the inside.
If you’re living in Madrid or visiting for an extended amount of time and have the time to escape the city, I highly recommend a visit to El Escorial and a hike in the mountains here. The air is fresher, it’s quiet, and it offers a whole new perspective to the city of Madrid and central Spain.