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The Ajuda National Palace

The Ajuda National Palace (2)

Glimpsing this impressive national monument, nobody would guess that less than two centuries ago, a wooden residence built by King José I of Portugal was located in its very place. 

If it is hard to imagine this ostentatious king of the time in this way, a brief explanation will set the story straight. In 1755, during the reign of José I, an earthquake floored Lisbon and destroyed the city centre’s royal residence. Following these events the king developed extreme claustrophobia and moved to Ajuda, far from the city centre and with much less seismic activity. What’s more, his fears of the consequences of another earthquake made him order that the new royal residence be made of wood. 

However, what was meant to be a safe building was destroyed by fire in 1795. Immediately, building of a new palace started but this was affected by interruptions, changes of architect and various financial problems. So it was not until 1861 during the reign of Luis I that the Ajuda Palace became the focal point of the royal family and its court. 

After the birth of the Portuguese republic almost half a century later, the Ajuda Palace was converted into a history museum.

A visit today to the studies, corridors, halls and salons of the palace, designed as they were in the neoclassic style, gives you a glimpse into the opulence of the Portuguese royal family at the end of the 19th century. Luis I and his wife, the Italian princess Maria Pia di Savoia, not only regained use of the palace but went to great expense decorating it.

Excess in luxury and opulence is everywhere to see, from the Sevres porcelain, crystal spiders and silk covered chairs in the enormous dining room on the first floor, to the neo-gothic engraved furniture in the king’s painting studio. Another example is the “Saxon” room which was blessed because it was a gift from King of Saxony to Maria Pia, and whose furniture is decorated with Meissen porcelain.

Luxurious examples of gold, decorative art and jewels from the Portuguese crown are some of the other attractions of a visit to this impressive palace.

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