Built in the 17th century and intended as a hunting lodge for the first Marquis of Fronteira, that’s the palace Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira.
How did it come to this? After the 1755 earthquake, this palace became the residence of the de Fronteira family, as their house in downtown Lisbon was badly damaged.
Today the palace is inhabited by the 13th Marquis de Fronteira. The family lives on the ground floor and on the first floor of the right wing, built in the 18th century.
When you visit the palace, you will hardly notice that people still live here. For this reason it is not possible to walk through the house on your own. There’s a guided tour every half hour, showcasing the rooms on the first floor and the terrace and gardens.
It is highly recommended to go on a tour here. The tour is completely in English and therefore very easy to follow. It starts on the ground floor near the fountain, where the family came home after a hunt. Next up are the stairs to the 1st floor where the library, ballroom, dining room, living room and recreation room are, which have many Portuguese azulejos (tiles), loaded with Dutch accent.
Many of the azulejos have those typical blue colors we know from Delft Blue tiles. Many of the tiles in this palace were actually made in the Netherlands and shipped to Portugal as puzzles, put back together in the palace and glued to the wall.
It’s really nice to hear what the tour guide has to say about the symbolism of many of the tiles. Most of these we wouldn’t have figured out ourselves.
The tour also includes a visit to the terrace and the chapel. The terrace itself is also an exhibition of azulejos (with loads of pictures of cats) and also the seven classical planets, associated with a god.
The chapel is quite small, especially the entrance is remarkable. Between the ornaments and decorations are pieces of dinner plates that the king has eaten during a visit. The king of Portugal used to eat with the Marquis and the king’s plate cannot be used a second time. Consequently, the plate was destroyed and used to decorate the chapel.
This palace has not just one but three different gardens, beautifully laid out next to the terrace and the house, including the gallery, the middle part (Arabic garden) and the French garden on the lowest floor.
After about 50 minutes the tour ends at the terrace and the chapel, where you take the stairs down to walk to garden number two. This is a nice garden if it is a hot day (like during our visit) to get a little refreshment. There are many trees and also a seat that overlooks the lower garden.
Don’t miss the gallery with the pond in front of it. The gallery consists almost entirely of azulejos with busts of all the kings of Portugal on the landing between the two stairs.
The tour is fun to do with kids. It is all in English and especially when they’re a bit older they can follow everything themselves. Our toddler was especially busy lying on the floor and looking at the beautiful ceilings. When she got a bit impatient we got her things to search for on the ceiling, like a rooster, an owl, a child with the moustache, a vase and so on.
The azulejos were also fun to play “where’s wally” with. If you come here with a baby, then a baby carrier will come in handy, but please note that the stairs in and around the palace and the gardens make it so that using a buggy can be a bit difficult.
Way out of the crowds of tourists
This really is a beautiful and nice palace to go to. It is located just outside the centre of Lisbon and close to Monsanto.
The palace is a nice place to leave the busy city behind and enjoy the gardens and the palace, with all of its beautiful azulejos.
Where to find Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira
Address: Largo São Domingos de Benfica 1, Sete Rios
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 9:30 a.m – 1 p.m | 2-5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday limited tours are given. Check the website for the current times.