Looking to escape the many tourists in the city centre and Belém for a while, and still visit some of the best historical sights in Lisbon? Then Palácio Nacional da Ajuda is definitely a great choice to go see!
The national palace of Ajuda is certainly not less grand than other palaces in the area, such as Palácio Nacional de Queluz, located just outside Lisbon.
History of Palácio Ajuda
During the 1755 earthquake, many buildings in Belém and Ajuda districts remained unharmed. Paço da Ribeira, at that time the main palace of the Portuguese royal family, was completely destroyed, so the king decided to have a new palace built on top of the hill in the Ajuda district.
The royal family lived in a temporary residence until the construction of this new palace was completed. However, this never happened as a result of Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal. This was the last official residence of the royal family.
Great palace, but not finished
When you stand in front of the palace, you can only conclude that it is really, REALLY big. It is so big that we had to use the panorama setting on our cameras to get the whole palace in the frame.
But what you see now is only a small part of the original plan. Palácio Ajuda was meant to become one of the largest palaces in Europe, with gardens that would run all the way down to the Tagus river.
A lot happened in the palace’s history
In 1807, Napoleon invaded Portugal and the Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil. As a result, the construction of the palace came to a standstill and it was never completed as planned.
In 1838, King Luis I and his wife Maria Pia de Sabóia moved into the palace during his reign.
In 1910 Portugal became a republic and Palácio Ajuda was closed to the public until 1938. Since 1938 it has been serving as a museum.
Two floors of the palace are open to visitors and you simply don’t know where to look. The interior is just so beautiful and richly filled with furniture, sculptures and extravagant decorative art.
The walking route takes you through different rooms with different functions, such as the music room, the porcelain room and the ambassador’s room.
The rooms (or sometimes rather halls) that have made the biggest impression on us are the Throne Room, occupying the entire south wing, and the dining room with its crystal chandeliers, silk-covered chairs and sculptures on the side of the room.
This dining room is still regularly used for state visits and other important presidential ceremonies.
Museum, Ministry, exhibition
The western facade of the palace is finally being built and is expected to be ready by 2020, with a permanent exhibition of the Portuguese crown jewels, one of the world’s largest collections of its kind.
In addition to the museum and the permanent exhibition, the Ministry of Culture is also located in Palácio Ajuda.
After a visit to Palácio Ajuda, don’t forget to visit Jardín Botánico de Ajuda, the botanical garden just on the other side of the road, no more than a comfortable 10 minute walk away. You can buy your tickets in the botanical garden itself. Unfortunately there are no combination tickets available.
Where to find Palácio Nacional da Ajuda
Address: Largo Ajuda, Ajuda
Opening hours: Thursday through Tuesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Closed on Wednesdays