This cloister outside Burgos has seen a lot of action. Built in the 12th century in a richly ornamented style, it was once a summer palace for Castilian royalty, as well as a retreat for nuns of royal blood. Inside, the Gothic church is built in the shape of a Latin cross. Despite unfortunate mixing of Gothic and baroque, it contains much of interest -- notably some 14th- and 17th-century French tapestries. The tomb of the founder, Alfonso VIII, and of his queen Eleanor, the daughter of England's Henry II, lie in the Choir Room.

Thirteenth-century doors lead to the cloisters, dating from that century and blending Gothic and Mudéjar styles. Despite severe damage to the ceiling, the remains of Persian peacock designs are visible. The beautiful Chapter Room contains the standard of the 12th-century Las Navas de Tolora (war booty taken from the Moors). The Museo de Ricas Telas is devoted to 13th-century costumes removed from tombs; these remarkably preserved textiles give you a rare peek at medieval dress.

The monastery is 1.6km (1 mile) off the Valladolid road (the turnoff is clearly marked). From Plaza Primo de Rivera in Burgos, buses for Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas leave every 20 minutes.