One of the typical Xmas activities that “madrileños” enjoy is to visit Nativity scene exhibitions (“belenes”). There are thousands all over the city, in every church there is one and in almost every office of any organization, both private and public, another one is exhibited. And most have expanded visiting schedules and free entrance during the month of December and until January 7 (Three Wise Men day).
In many cases, the exact opening dates of each “belén” are not officially confirmed until the same day the visits begin, usually by December 1-15 and generally coincides with the opening dates of the previous year. It’s advisable to seek confirmation if you intend to go before the 15th. In addition, bear in mind that in some cases, long queues are formed to enter, it’s advisable to come first time in the morning or afternoon.
If you want to search for districts, here you’ll find almost all the “belenes” on display this Christmas.
Below you will find a list of the most spectacular “belenes” and which, by the way, all (except the last one) are in the Distrito Centro and can be visited the same day following a route of about 4 hours, the order of this list can serve as a guide to organize it.
Xmas 2019. Belén napolitano del Palacio Real
The Nativity Scene of the Royal Palace of Madrid has its origin in the Nativity Scene of the Prince initiated by Charles III for his son the Prince of Asturias, future Charles IV and continues to grow in number of figures until today.
The “belén” of the Royal Palace of Madrid is open from 6 December to 7 January 2019, with opening hours from 10 am to 6 pm (last access at 5 pm) and free admission.
Xmas 2019. Belén del Convento de las Carboneras
Behind the Plaza de la Villa, in the Plaza del Conde de Miranda nº 3, is the traditional Belén de las Carboneras. This is how the Convent of the Jerónimas Nuns, located in that corner of Madrid, is popularly known.
Its usual location is a lattice room that shows a crib (“Misterio”) and a Three Wise Men Cavalcade, with beautiful Baroque figures made by Antonio José Martínez. Although it is very small, it is worth a visit.
It is opened from December 6th until January 8th, with visiting hours from 8.30 to 13 hours and from 16.30 to 19 hours. It is open on Sundays and public holidays from 9.30 to 13h and from 16.30 to 18.30h a.m. Entrance is free of charge.
Xmas 2019. Belén de la Basílica Pontificia de San Miguel
This is a popular monumental Nativity scene of the image-maker José Luis Mayo Lebrija designed by María Dolores Criado de la Brida
The Basilica of San Miguel is located in the street of San Justo nº 4 next to the Archbishop’s Palace, in the heart of the area known as Madrid de los Austrias.
Starting December 1st to January 19th. Visiting hours are from Monday to Friday, from 11:00 to 12:30 and from 17:30 to 20:30. Saturdays and Sundays, from 17:30 to 20:30 h. Admission is free.
Xmas 2019. Belén de la iglesia de San Ginés
In the Church of San Ginés (calle Arenal nº 13) there is a Baroque crib with life-size dress figures, by Antonio José Martínez Rodríguez.
It can be visited from December 14th to January 12th, with visiting hours from 9 to 13 and from 18 to 21. On Sundays and public holidays in the mornings it’s open from 10 am to 2 pm, maintaining the same timetable in the afternoons as the rest of the days of the week. Entrance is free of charge.
Xmas 2019. Belén de la Comunidad de Madrid en la Puerta del Sol
It is located in the Real Casa de Correos de la Puerta del Sol (current headquarters of the Community of Madrid), with entrance on the side of the building on Calle Correos.
With more than 500 figures, it is traditionally made by the Association of Nativity Scene Makers of Madrid, and each year has a special theme.
It is open from beginning of December to 5 January, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. On 24 and 31 December the crib will be open until 6 p.m., and on 1 January it will be closed. Admission free of charge.
Xmas 2019. Belén del Museo de Historia de Madrid
In this museum (Fuencarral nº 78), from December 18th until February 3 it’s exhibited a Neapolitan nativity scene from the 18th century. The crib consists of 50 articulated figures, and can be visited free of charge from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 8 pm.
Xmas 2019. Belén de la iglesia-Basílica de Jesús de Medinaceli
The “belén” of the Church of Jesús de Medinaceli (Plaza de Jesús nº 2) is a baroque Crib with life-size dressing figures. In an adjoining chapel there is a popular Nativity scene.
Open from December 19th to January 10th, visiting hours are from Monday to Thursday from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm and from 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm; and Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 8.30 am to 14 pm and from 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm. Free entrance.
Xmas 2019. Belén del Ayuntamiento en Palacio de Cibeles
This is a popular nativity scene with about 250 figures of the artist José Luis Mayo mounted by the Association of Nativity Scene of Madrid. Open from November 24 to January 7.
Visiting hours are every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on 24, 25 and 31 December and 5 January, which closes at 2 p.m.; 1 and 6 January is closed. Free entrance but you need to download the invitation in the link above.
Xmas 2019. Belén del Hospital de San Rafael
It is the oldest solidarity crib in Madrid. With a surface area of more than 35 square metres, the Monumental Nativity Scene of the Order of Saint John of God (Herreros de Tejada nº 3) has been on display since 1940. Each year is different, since it is not always conformed by the same figures, due to the enormous amount of images available.
From December 10th to January 12th. The opening hours are from 11 am to 1.30 pm and from 4.00 pm to 8 pm. On the 24th, 25th, 31st and 1st the opening hours are shorter.
The fundraising is to finance the Albergue de San Juan de Dios.
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Image via @realessitios (Patrimonio Nacional)