Ajuda National Palace, Lisbon

The Ajuda National Palace of Lisbon, has a scenic location at the top of a hill in the center of the Ajuda parish. From its attractive vantage point, the city’s main historic center and the Tejo River offer a fabulous view for all visitors. The major route leading to the palace is the Largo da Ajuda to the east. This elegant residence, built for Portugal’s royal family, is also accessible via Rua dos Marcos on the property’s western side and by the Calçada da Ajuda northward. The extensive palace grounds and gardens include the Jardim das Damas (Lady’s Garden), the Sala da Fisica (Physics Hall), the large Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden) and the Torre do Galo (Rooster’s Tower or clocktower).

This massive palace structure is an excellent example of neoclassical style architecture in Lisbon. It has four major divisions and the structure’s general shape is an unusual rectangle of irregular dimensions. The four palace wings front on a spacious quadrangle paved in native calçada, all in varied shapes of geometrical forms. Each palace wing has a different purpose and function. The northern wing is dedicated to exhibitions of the Instituto de Museus e Conservação (Institute of Museums and Conservation) along with the Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico (Institute for Architectural Management and Archaeological Heritage). There are also some exhibits from the Secretaria-Geral do Ministério da Cultura (General Secretariat of the Ministry of Culture) on display here. In addition, both the Ajuda Library and a gallery for viewing related temporary displays are found here.

The palace interior has a main hallway comprised of elevators and elaborate staircases. This central corridor has a network of connecting halls that serve as convenient links to other areas of the palatial residence. Included on the first floor are the Archer’s Hall (Sala dos Archeiros) and the Hall of Order (Sala do Despacho). The Archer’s Hall is brightly decorated with colorful paintings of the victorious Portuguese military and metal shields of shining gold adorning its windows and doors. The high vaulted ceiling of the hallway displays the Portuguese Royal Coat of Arms as painted by José da Cunha Taborada. This room serves as the primary entrance for palace visitors. Beneath the flat vaulted ceiling of the Hall of Order, the King held state functions and carried out royal duties. All the skillfully created ceiling paintings are the fine artistic work of Cyrilio and Taborada. This room includes a handsome stove/fireplace of elegant black marble from Italy as well as a flowered frieze, ionic columns and a table displaying a brilliant top of red velvet.

On the second floor of the major palace structure there are three impressive Roman arched windows shielded by guarding balusters. The ornate decor includes an attractive garlanded frieze along with six Tuscan-inspired ionic columns. Outstanding highlights of the second floor are the King’s Painting Workshop (Atelier de Pintura do Rei), the Queen’s Portrait Room (Sala do Retrato da Rainha) and the Throne Room (Sala do Trono). The entrance chamber to the King’s Painting Workshop displays King Carlos’ art works. The ornate workshop includes a guarded staircase and ornate window frames with arches and canopies of imitation parapets. In the Queen’s Portrait Room is a large portrait of Maria Pia in a luxurious ball gown, and the room’s walls are lined with rich red silk. The large Throne Room is located in the palace’s south tower. Its ceiling exhibits the Virtude Heróica in honor of Miguel of Portugal as well as a decorative bronze and crystal chandelier. Thrones of King Luís and Queen Maria Pia stand beneath a beautiful red canopy. Lush red velvet chairs are major appointments, and the room’s large windows invite clear, natural light to brighten and accentuate the entire space.

Ajuda National Palace continues to be a major site of high interest for all visitors to Lisbon. With its richly furnished rooms of great historic and artistic value, the palace will always be of primary significance for displaying, honoring and celebrating the rich history and cultural heritage of Portugal.