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About half-way between Lisbon and Sintra lies one of the most overlooked palaces in the region. However, the National Palace of Queluz is so lavish and detailed, it’s often referred to as the Portuguese Versailles.
We visited the palace as stop on a day trip to Sintra. Arriving at the palace for opening, we enjoyed a peaceful walk through. Plus, we still had plenty of time to visit everything we wanted in Sintra too.
I’m writing this article for a dear friend whose curious about Portugal. So the photos are from an older trip, before the repainting of the palace. However, the information is accurate at time of writing. I hope to return to the National Palace of Queluz one day, to see it in a refurbished state and update the photos.
A Little History On The National Palace of Queluz
Built in 1747, and expanded in several stages, the National Palace of Queluz has an elegant mix of baroque, rococo, and neoclassicism.
Originally, the future King Consort Dom Pedro III built the palace as a summer retreat. After King Pedro’s death in 1786, the palace served as an asylum of sorts for Queen Maria I as she descended into a tortured madness.
In 1794, the National Palace of Queluz became the permanent residence of the royal family. That is until 1807 when the French invaded Portugal in the Napoleonic Wars. The royal family escaped to Brazil only a day before Napoleon’s troops entered Lisbon.
In 1910, the palace was designated a National Monument and became a member of the Network of European Royal Residences in 2013.
Getting To The National Palace of Queluz
On a day trip from Lisbon, we took the train to Queluz-Belas station on the Sintra line. From the station, it was about a 15-minute walk to the National Palace of Queluz.
If driving, use the A37, IC19 route from Lisbon to Sintra. Take the exit for Queluz-Palácio, then follow signs for Palácio Nacional de Queluz.
I’m happy to report the building has since been repainted to a lovely shade of blue, it’s original color. It looks much nicer than these photos show. Though, trust us when we say, the beauty of this visit is behind those large wooden doors.
Touring The State Rooms
Even freshly painted, the building’s rather boring facade gives few clues to the grandeur and opulence of it’s interior. There’s around 26 rooms for view on the tour, each room lavishly decorated.
One of the most spectacular rooms is the Sala das Mangas, a long narrow elaborately tiled hallway. These brightly painted Portuguese tiles, called azulejos, are found on the interiors and exteriors of many buildings throughout the country.
Much of the floor in the palace is made with a highly polished red brick. This lends an interesting rustic feel, though doesn’t detract at all from the magnificence.
Religion was important to King Pedro. He made sure one of the first rooms completed was the Chapel (1752). It consists of a single nave, an octagonal chapel, and a choir.
The Music Room is another popular room on the tour. Completed in 1759, it too is one of the oldest rooms in the palace. Used for concerts, this room is elegantly decorated.
Embellished with gold-leafed mirrors, ornamental hangings, several large vases, and two throne-like chairs, the Hall of Ambassadors once held concerts for King Pedro and Queen Maria.
Look up. Though several paintings adorn this room, one stands out. The painting in the center depicts the royal family attending a concert. As you stand underneath, it looks almost 3D. Be sure to listen to the audio guide for more fascinating observations about this painting.
In general, the palace is full of antique art, and the painted ceilings definitely deserve a look. There’s one particular ceiling which stands out in my memory. With green painted hexagons, it looks like framed tiles. Listening to the audio guide is how I learned it was painted to look 3D.
Yes, that’s right, there’s more than one “throne room” in this luxurious palace.
The Gardens Of The National Palace of Queluz
It is well worth getting a combined ticket for the palace and gardens. It’s also worth mentioning, if you plan to visit the attractions in Sintra, look into a multi-site ticket as it can save you quite a bit.
Though you may not have time to stroll the full 40 acres, there are some highlights not to miss. As you enter the gardens via the Lions Staircase, the wild animal cages are just underneath. Sadly, these cages once held lions, monkeys, and tigers.
Like an outdoor museum, several fountains and hundreds of unique statues decorate the garden paths.
Though the palace’s outdoor facade facing the gardens is phenomenally beautiful, I’m intentionally not including too many photos since the palace has been cleaned and repainted. Hopefully you can see past the deteriorating paint and can imagine its splendor refurbished.
The Tiled Canal is a must see. Covered in intricately designed tiles of sea scenes, the canal is part of the royal recreational area. They would block the waterway to fill the giant pool to row boats along the canal. Can you imagine?
In the central area of the canal is the Lake House. Here the queen would hold summer concerts with her orchestra. Who else wishes their backyard parties were this awesome?