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Outside Madrid in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, El Escorial, commissioned by Felipe II and built over 20 years in the late 16th century, is severe, rectilinear, and unforgiving—it is one of the most gigantic yet simple architectural monuments on the Iberian Peninsula. The Royal Monastery is in the town of San Lorenzo del Escorial, about one hour away from Madrid, and it makes a great half-day side trip from the capital.