If you plan to visit Lisbon, you should not only think of emigrant favourites such as Cascais and Estoril, but also of the beautiful city of Mafra. Filled with shops and restaurants along the promenade and arena, visitors and locals alike gather here to treat themselves to ice cream in spring and summer and chestnut floats in cooler weather. The gardens of generations of royals can be visited today, and the beautiful park of the Jardim de Cerco Palace hosts annual bread festivals, music concerts and other local events.
Mafra is a traditional Portuguese city that houses one of the largest and most extravagant palaces in Europe, the Palacio de Mafra. It is located 30 km northwest of Lisbon and is a pleasant excursion from the city. Forty minutes by car from Lisbon is the town of Mafras on the west coast of Portugal.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mafra is also known for the magnificent Mafra National Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, 29 km northwest of the centre of Lisbon, it is a municipality of the city. Other attractions in the town include Tapada Nacional de Mafras, a closed wildlife and game reserve and Ericeira World Surf Reserve, the second largest in the world.
History of Mafra and Mafra Royal Palace
In 1717, construction of the monastery and the Mafra National Palace began by order of King Joao V in honor of the birth of his first child, heir of the future King Jose I. The monastery and the palace are both pleasant, and the city of MAFRA is only 40 kilometers from Lisbon and offers a worthwhile sightseeing experience. This guide provides an introduction to the city, including sightseeing details, travel information and advice for a day trip to Mafras.
The Mafra National Palace, paid for with Brazilian gold and intended to fulfil a religious promise, became a symbol of monarchical wealth and power. When King John V began to build the palace there were only a few small settlements and monasteries, but in the 19th century the population of the town began to grow. Under Queen Mary II, a military contingent was established in the monastery, which began to change the region.
When King John V commenced the construction of Mafra Palace in 1717, the Chief Architectural of the Kingdom, Joao Frederico Ludovice wrote: “Mafra was only a few villages that crowded around the palace. When King Joao V began the construction of a national palace in the city in the same year, he left a lasting legacy. In the 19th century, the population outside the palace began to grow, but the city remained a rural community, an aspect that continued into the 20th century (https://internationalliving.com/countries/portugal/mafra-portugal/)
The Mafra National Palace remained until 1910 a royal residence when King Dom Manuel II was forced to flee after the establishment of the Portuguese Republic. The Mafras Palace was built in the 18th century by orders of King Joao V (1689-1750) to fulfill a vow he had made to the heir of his marriage to Maria Ana of Austria and cure a serious illness at the Royal monastery. It is a important baroque monument in Portugal. The building of the Royal Mafranes is one of the most remarkable works of King Jao V and illustrates the power and reach of the Portuguese Empire.
The huge royal building of Mafra was built by the Portuguese King Joao V in fulfillment of a vow he made to God to grant him a heir to the throne. Consisting of palaces, monasteries and churches, it is one of the largest historical buildings in Europe and a must for visitors to the greater Lisbon area. In 1711, the monk Antonio Sao Jose, a Franciscan born in Cheleiros, a great believer in history linked to Mafra’s centuries-old fertility rituals, recommended that the king swear an oath and build a monastery in the city so that his wife, Queen Maria Anna of Austria, could give birth to the child he longed for.
Words like massive, monumental, gigantic, colossal and huge do not describe the scale of this baroque royal palace. Mafra Palace was financed by the immense wealth of the subsequent Portuguese colonies of the 18th century, but its construction bankrupted the state. The main attraction of the city is the outstanding palace, but there are few other sights that go beyond a visit to the city.
Mafra’s baroque royal palace was built in 1717 to celebrate the birth of King Joao V’s daughter and included a monastery and a basilica. The king wanted the latter to compete with the grandeur and splendour of the Spanish Escorial of St. Peters in Rome, but at that time it seemed like a huge project that would never be completed. On 5 October 1910, the Mafra Palace was the scene of an episode of the Republican Revolution that took place in Lisbon.
The revolt was crushed by the military, resulting in hundreds of people being held in local jails. King Manuel II fled the coup in Lisbon and sought refuge in the Mafra Palace. The next day they left the palace by car and travelled with his mother and grandmother to the coast of Praia do Pescadore in Ericeira, where the royal yacht, the D. Amelia, took them into exile in Gibraltar.
How to get to Mafra from Lisbon
From Lisbon you can take the Mafrense bus that leaves from Campo Grande bus station. From there to Ericeira, a 20-minute bus ride away, Mafra is a continuation of the bus service from Lisbon to the city.
Where to Stay in Mafra – Mafra Hotel
The Mafra Hotel has 25 rooms, which makes it modern, cozy and beautiful, but it is characterized by its location in the center of Mafras and its services, such as free parking and a breakfast buffet served in the morning. The 40,000 square metre building houses a Franciscan convent with 300 deep fryers, an infirmary in Campo Santo, an elliptical hall, a capitular hall, a literary and dramatic hall, stairs and a dining room. The palace is a cultural centre and music school that regularly sponsors concerts, plays and other events.
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