This 16th-century building was restricted for 200 years to women of royal blood. Its plain, brick-and-stone facade hides paintings by Francisco de Zurbarán, Titian, and Pieter Brueghel the Elder—all part of the dowry the novices had to provide when they joined the monastery—as well as a hall of sumptuous tapestries crafted from drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. The convent was founded in 1559 by Juana of Austria, one of Felipe II's sisters, who ruled Spain while he was
in England and the Netherlands. It houses 33 different chapels—the age of Christ when he died and the maximum number of nuns allowed to live at the monastery at the same time—and more than 100 sculptures of Jesus as a baby. About 30 nuns (not necessarily of royal blood) still live here, cultivating their own vegetables in the convent's garden. You must take a tour in order to visit the convent; it's conducted in Spanish only.
Pl. de las Descalzas Reales 3, Madrid, 28013, Spain
Jan 31, 2008
This place was a massive rip-off. Their hours are lousy, they only admit people in small groups at a time, they make you sit around forever while they deign to get around to starting tours (which are in Spanish only). The only good things you get to see are the main staircase (which is surrounded by frescoes), some Rubens-inspired tapestries, and some minor paintings of nuns and royalty. They do not show the chapel, choir, or any of the major paintings
in the Spanish/Italian or Flemish rooms as part of the tour. A long wait for very little worthwhile.