Just 15km (10 miles) north of the city center in the tiny town of El Pardo, surrounded by a magnificent expanse of protected -- and alas largely private -- parklands filled with deer and birdlife, is the palace where General Franco lived and performed his duties as head of state for 35 years (till his death in Nov 1975). Originally a 15th-century hunting lodge, it was enlarged by Charles I (whose son Philip II added many important art works), badly damaged by a fire in 1604, and rebuilt by 18th-century architect Francesco Sabatini. The frescoes, paintings, and tapestries displayed in its salons today date from this and the following 2 centuries. An additional highlight is the elegant little theater built for Maria Luisa of Parma, Charles IV's Italian wife, where -- it is said -- Franco used to enjoy watching films that he himself had banned for moral or political reasons. The charming gardens are also a delight to wander around, and just a 5-minute stroll away you can visit the Convento de los Capuchinos (Carretera del Cristo; tel. 91-376-08-00; free admission; daily 9am-1pm, 4:30-9pm) and see a splendid Baroque wooden sculpture of Christ by Gregorio Fernández.