The Escorial ("Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial" i.e. Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial) is a residence of the Spanish kings and a monastery. It is located in the small town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial,about 45km northwest of Madrid at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. El Escorial was built between 1563 and 1584 under the reign of king Philip II of Spain, based on a design by Juan Bautista de Toledo. It consists of the large basilica of San Lorenzo el Real, and a number of wings used for the king's apartments, a library, a college, a refectory and other purposes. The Escorial has a quite austere layout, probably an expression of the religious fervour of the era. It has the shape of rectangle sized 224m by 153m. El Escorial is a popular tourist destination, about 45 minutes by car from Madrid, and receives more than 500000 visitors per year. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.
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