A secret world of astounding artistic treasures which trace Spain's royal history.
If you walk out of the rear door of the El Corte Ingles department store near the Puerta del Sol, you would most probably not notice the building that you pass on your right. Stop right there and look again. It may be low key from the outside, but you'll be amazed at what's inside. Still home to around 20 nuns, Descalzas Reales is also one of Madrid’s most intriguing museums. It dates back to the 16th century and gives a fascinating insight into the Habsburg royal family, who reigned in Spain for nearly two centuries, from 1516 to 1700. Originally a palace, it was turned into a convent by Juana, King Philip II’s sister. The daughters of other royal and aristocratic families joined the order – and a lot of rather valuable donations followed over the years. Some of these are now in the Prado museum, but you can still see paintings by El Greco, Titian, Rubens, Velázquez and Zurbarán, and sculptures by Pedro de Mena and Pompeo de Leoni.