Portugal’s regent residences – Ajuda and Belem Palace
Whilst visiting Queluz Palace, I was sure to have found the most opulent residence in Portugal.
Today, I was proved wrong.
Ajuda National Palace, just a stone’s throw away from our quarters in Belem, was the visualized definition of royal residence.
All heavy drapes and an abundance of aristocratic imagery.
If you have little time in Lisbon, I would recommend to focus on the historic centre in Lisbon’s western district.
Most of all, on Ajuda Palace.
Palácio Nacional da Ajuda
Location: Largo Ajuda, Belem, Lisbon.
Admission: The entrance is 5 Euros, plus 1 Euro for an info brochure (optional and the English version is a rather poor summary of the Spanish brochure).
Construction of the Palácio started after royalty had lost their palace in the big earthquake and tsunami in 1755. A large piece of land stretching from Belem to Ajuda Hill was acquired to move further up the hill and farther away from potential danger.
However, instability caught up.
Due to various economic and political postponements (royal family fled to Brazil in 1807 to escape the invasion of Napoleonic troops), it wasn’t until 1862 that, for the first time, the palace became a real royal home. Housing King Luis I (1838 – 1889) and Queen consort Maria Pia of Savoy (1847 – 1911).
Maria Pia created a comfortable habitat during her 48 years of residence, following all trends and advancements of the era. Oriental room, winter garden, drawing room and the most modern upgrade of bathrooms, featuring running water – cold and hot!
Despite her efforts, the palace was never completed but under a constant architectural conflict between builders and clashing concepts.
Building plans started out in baroque-rococo, resulted in neoclassicism and ended when the royals were forced to leave their home on the days of the October Revolution of 1910.
The Portuguese First Republic was established and constitutional monarchy deposed – by that time already shaken by the assassination of son Carlos I, also known as the Martyr King of Portugal, and grandson Luís Filipe, on the streets of Lisbon in 1908.
On a side note, King Manuel II (son of Carlos I and brother of Luís Filipe) was the last Portuguese king ascending the throne, with a turbulent and only two year period of reign.
In 1910, Maria Pia left Portugal with the rest of the royal family into exile, on board the royal yacht to Gibraltar, the UK and Italy. Manuel II, called The Unfortunate, died in England, leaving no heirs behind.
Monarchy ended and we entered.
The unfinished side of Ajuda Palace. About half the structure stands on the hill and screams ruin.
Surprisingly imposing once you enter.
Greeted by perfectly carved marble statues guarding the entrance.
Followed by 37 rooms of splendour.
The ministerial audience chamber.
The music room.
The exotic winter garden with a fountain, ornate bird cages, nice glass-work-imitation-grapes and oriental lamps.
The Saxe porcelain room.
The dining room.
The formal dining room.
The King’s studio.
The pretty chair.
The Queens room. Hi!
The throne hall.
The ambassador’s hall. The most impressive room, evoking surreal movie images.
The blue room lined in silk. Has faded.
Just another room to make more room for the fancy seating set.
I looked at this table for some time until I realized that the images were not painted on but elaborately put together using extremely fine inlaid work.
Overwhelmingly many statues, mirrors, paintings, tapestry and frames.
Drape holder. Much detail in every room.
Not just a lamp. Flowers of light.
How many chandeliers do you see?
Walk the rooms with us before exiting the incredible times of monarchy.
Moving on to the next palace. Because Portugal made a fortune with discoveries, spices and slaves.
With the introduction of democracy other palaces gained more important roles.
The official residence of Portugal’s presidents since 1910 is Belem Palace.
Palácio de Belem
Location: Praça Afonso de Albuquerque, Belem, Lisbon.
The palace was created in 1559 and expanded in the 18th century by King João V.
Presented as the living quarters of Portugal’s presidents, today’s man on duty prefers to occupy it solely for representative reasons and office work. We were told that the current president, lives about 10 minutes from the original palace.
One gallery houses portraits of every Portuguese president.
Admission: 2,50 Euros. You can only visit the President’s Quarters on Saturdays. On other days (except Mondays) you can still see the adjacent Presidency Museum.
In my opinion, not worth time nor money, unless you are a die hard fan of the Portuguese Republic and its presidents, or have an interest in the awful presents from other world leaders. All signs and explanations are solely in Portuguese.
Turtle shells. Top of the no-go presents list.
More creepy gifts.
Most of the time, it does feel very good to be a Johnny average commoner.