The Mafra National Palace, which once served as a Franciscan monastery, was one of the largest buildings in Europe when it was built in the 18th century. In 1717, King João V built the palace to celebrate the birth of his daughter. Its Baroque and neoclassical architecture draws from both German and Italian influences. The massive complex in total covers nearly 38,000 square meters, with around 1,200 rooms. The facade of the palace alone is 220 meters long. Visitors will find the structure divided into four areas today: the palace, the convent, the basilica, and the library.
The marble and dark wooded library holds a collection of over 35,000 leather-bound books from the 14th to the 19th century. The basilica is another marvel, with eleven chapels, six organs, and one of the largest domes in the world. The Royal Apartments are divided into king and queen’s chambers, each with rooms ornately decorated with period furniture and artwork. At the edge of it all lies dense forest that once served as royal hunting grounds.
Mafra National Palace sits 28 kilometers outside of Lisbon. Buses bound for Mafra depart from Ericeira, Sintra, and Lisbon’s Campo Grande station. The admission cost is €6, or €2 for the basilica alone. The palace is open from 9 am to 6 pm, with the library open from 9:30 am to 4 pm. It is closed on Tuesdays.