Everybody goes to Sintra. But why don’t you visit Mafra? From Lisbon Airport it’s only a bit more than a half an hour drive. And by the way, Mafra is close to Sintra. So go to this little town! Mafra welcomes you with a breathtaking view of a huge palace.
Besides that, in Sintra it’s overloaded with tourist, in Mafra you walk through the palace like you are the king and queen yourselves, without having to share the rooms with tenths of others. I particularly enjoyed the many photo-opportunities in the Royal Palace and Convent of Mafra.
The baroque building accomodated not only kings and queens, but monks, as well.
Many Franciscan monks lived and died in this Royal Convent. Luckily the areas, such as the infirmary, kithchen and pharmacy are open to the public.
But the most impressive part of the Royal Convent is still to come: the magnificent library. The monks possessed over 36.000 books.
Wandering through the palace and convent you understand why I recommend Mafra vividly. Sintra is just a smaller sister. The massive building of Mafra with 1200 rooms, 4700 doors and windows, 156 stairways and 29 inner yards and courtyards left me astonished. And I am not the only one. Nobel Prize -winner José Saramago wrote “Memorial do Convento”, explaining the origin of this eighteenth century building. “Memorial do Convento” became “Baltasar and Blimunda” in the English version. The love story of Baltasar and Blimunda is set in a period Portugal suffered severely from the Inquisition.
But nowadays nothing reminds us of the pain the Inquisition inflicted. Mafra is a lovely town with rows of pastel coloured and tiled houses.
In front of the main entrance of the palace you can have lunch at the square. The bakery on the corner, Polo Norte, has excellent pastry, bread and a simple lunch menu (sandwiches, quiche, soup). Try also the ‘macarons’. They are delicious!
Close to Mafra you will find a 800 acres wildpark: Tapada de Mafra. In ancient time Portuguese kings used to spend days hunting in the forest. Nowadays visitors run, walk, bicycle in the park. And if you want to become a falconer, you follow a workshop learning how to train a bird of prey.
But perhaps you are not interested in falcons, but in bees. In that case, you choose the apiculture-workshop and learn all about bee-culture. Or you rather want to learn to shoot like a medieval warrior? Then go to archery. Horselovers perhaps want to explore the park on the back of a horse. Possible, as well. And in case you are thinking of getting married: the surroundings are magnificent for a wedding. Wanting to leave the urban stress and sleep in a forest? Rent one of the rooms and wake up in the park.
Still not convinced? Stay in Sintra and don’t go to Mafra…
Palácio de Mafra
9.00h -18.00h (latest entry 17.00H)
closed on Tuesdays!
Terreiro D. João V, 2640 Mafra, Portugal
Telephone: +351 261 817 550
Free parking in the neighbourhood of palace
Do go to the site of Palácio de Mafra for up-to-date information about festivals, opening hours etc.
Website: Palácio de Mafra
Wild park Tapada de Mafra
9.00h – 17.00h
as far as I know, open all week
Tapada Nacional de Mafra
Portão do Codeçal
N 38º 57.884, W 009º 18.162
Offices – +351 261 817 050
Reception – +351 261 814 240
Website: Tapada nacional de Mafra
In case you want one of the workshops: make a reservation in advance! Other activities (like exploring the park on the back of a horse) are scheduled as well. At the site Tapada Nacional de Mafra you can find this information.
‘Do you like Portugal’is the English version of ‘Zin in Portugal’ (Dutch). Do you have a particular interest in Portugal? Wanting to visit Portugal? Follow writer’s Esa Caldas blogs by subscribing (right, in the corner you see a ‘follow/volg’-button). And no, you won’t get any spam.
Or like ‘Do you like Portugal’ or ‘Zin in Portugal’ on Facebook. So you won’t miss any new tips, stories or places to see and to stay in that lovely country in Southern Europe: beloved Portugal!