The Versailles comparison might be a stretch, but it really is magnificent!
Each room is beautiful. Each ceiling is a work of art. Each hand-painted wall is amazing. All the chandeliers are stunning. Symmetry abounds. The doors are gilded and lovely. The windows and mirrors direct and reflect light. The corridors are stately. I have never walked through a historic building and could truly imagine what it was like when it was inhabited until now. I love that the exterior of the building is blue, evoking serenity and peace. Queluz (pronounced kay-luge) is a real treasure.
The history of this 18th century palace is interesting for several reasons. The first is that construction, which took place over the course of 32 years and under the direction of several architects, began in 1747 and stopped temporarily due to the 1755 earthquake when laborers were needed to rebuild Lisbon. The earthquake, however, proved to be a catalyst in urban design and some of these new ideas and concepts were incorporated into the palace when building resumed in 1758. As an example, long low buildings employing enfilades were built. Enfilades are buildings where the doors of each room are aligned with the doors of the connecting rooms along a single axis, providing a vista through the entire suite of rooms. This type of construction is more structurally stable than a single high block building. It was also one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe.
Another reason this palace is so interesting is who inhabited it. The palace was built as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza, who later became husband and then king consort to his own niece, Queen Maria I. It also served as a discreet place of incarceration for the queen as she descended into madness in the years following Dom Pedro’s death in 1786 when he was only 35 years old.
The entrance fee was €10 each, which included access to all the palace grounds and gardens. It was totally worth it. Unfortunately, the larger of the two formal gardens in the scale model below, was closed because they are working on it. However, everything else was open, including a botanical garden.
I took the liberty of marking the image below to help you understand where the rooms are in the palace. We began in building #1 and made our way around to building #4. We did not go into the other two buildings that are not marked. We learned that a part of the palace is used to house visiting dignitaries. I assume it would be one of the two buildings that were not open to the public.
After passing through the gift shop (which is how you enter and exit the palace), this is the first room you see in the building marked #1 above. It clearly sets the stage for all the stunning ceilings and walls to follow.
As mentioned before, the design of the palace employed the use of enfilades, which you can see in this next image. All the rooms off this long corridor face the smaller of the two formal gardens, called the Malta Garden.
This is the room to your immediate left in the image above; a gracious sitting room with another beautiful ceiling…
…which is next to another lovely sitting room with yet another pretty ceiling…
…which leads into a spectacular ballroom!!
And this ballroom, leads into another where musicians would be playing on a raised platform.
And that beautiful music room terminates into this lovely little salon, which I suppose must have been used for more intimate musical evenings. If you scroll back to the long corridor shot from earlier you can just barely make out this painting at the end of the perspective. Hopefully, this helps to provide a sense of scale.
Just around the corner and to the right of this salon is a beautiful chapel. While it might be hard to grasp from the pictures, it isn’t very large and has a raised platform in the back where royalty would sit during mass. Once again, the ceiling is amazing. The space is quite dark so I tried to lighten the images so you can see the spectacular detail.
We backtracked through the small music salon and entered into building #2 which is a series of bedrooms, sitting rooms, and a smoking salon. The first is the bedroom and sitting rooms occupied by the queen.
An adjacent bedroom with another exquisite ceiling and a sweet cradle tucked in the back were next.
The bedrooms were followed by another sitting room and the Smoking Room where games were played after dinner. The game box and game pieces were made from teak, lacquer, and mother of pearl.
The 18th century tradition of consuming exotic beverages like coffee, chocolate and tea led to the creation of specific rooms for this purpose, which is why this room is called the Coffee Room. (I wonder what someone from that time would think of the fact that coffee, chocolate and tea are about as common as water these days! I’m also curious…do you think two people actually fit on that chair together? Where would you put your knees? Perhaps, there was a more practical purpose. Could it be where you would place your tea cup and saucer while you were sipping?)
And speaking of tea cups and saucers; there was an entire room dedicated to porcelain service sets. These two in particular caught my eye. In one, each item had the view of a different location such as the Luxembourg Palace and St. Charles Church. The second set was devoted to sipping chocolate.
At this point we transitioned from building #2 through a corridor that connected the old royal residence to new buildings (#3 in the scale model). The multicolored azulejo glazed ceramic tile panels in the corridor date from 1784 and depict the four seasons and the four continents along with scenes from classical mythology, singeries, and chinoiseries. The 1764 blue and white wainscoting illustrates hunting scenes and daily life.
What follows is a specific series of rooms for the purpose of receiving nobles, having them wait, and then finally entering the Ambassador’s Room. As we walked through and arrived at the Ambassador’s Room, we were duly impressed. The first of the three images below is called the Torch or Guard Room where nobles entered the palace followed by the Private Room where they would wait. The third of the images below shows you how the rooms are connected. It is impressive that each room in the palace has a unique chandelier.
And then there is the spectacular Ambassador’s Room! Wow! It has had several names over the years such as the Room of Columns, the Evening Music Room, the Vases Room and Throne Room. At either end of the room are throne canopies bound by mirror work columns. They were reserved for the king and queen and the “princes of Brazil” because they were the heirs to the throne. Once again, the ceilings are amazing!
The rooms in building #4 (on the marked scale model) are all situated in the center of this building with windows and doors that lead to either the large formal garden or to the palace grounds. It begins with the Dispatch Room where the king would hold ministerial meetings and send dispatches.
That room was right next to the Ladies-in-Waiting Room where they would gather and wait to receive their orders from the Queen. Note the Murano Glass chandelier. The Ladies-in-Waiting Room directly connects to the Queen’s Dressing Room, which is stunning!
This is the Queen’s Dressing Room. The ceiling design mimics a basket weave which echoes in the floor as well. The imagery on the walls reflect scenes of 18th century children’s toilette.
Just around the corner is a dining room. Interestingly, it was not terribly common to have dedicated rooms for dining prior to the second half of the 18th century. Where the table was set could vary. This room is particularly beautiful and is called the Picnic Room. The ceiling is a honeycomb structure and the paintings on the walls reflect ladies and gentlemen sitting down to enjoy a casual meal while out hunting. They depict different seasons of the year. Note that the table is set to consume chocolate (the porcelain service is the same as in the earlier image I shared – I just noticed that!!).
The last room I feel is important to share is the king’s bedroom. It was where Dom Pedro I was born and died at the age of 35. The room appears to be round, but in fact is square. The optical illusion is due to the ceiling treatment and the floor design.
We transitioned down a gorgeous staircase to a lower level and out onto a terrace where we stopped to get a gelato and an espresso. Once refreshed we explored the palace grounds and gardens. Even the ceiling in the stairway is gilded and pretty!
Once outside, you can see the exterior of building #4, which includes tables with umbrellas outside the cafe.
The staircase above leads down to a canal. More than 100 metres (330 ft) long, the walls of the canal are decorated with tiled panels depicting seascapes and associated scenes. This is the largest of a series of canals in the gardens bordered with chinoiserie-style azulejo tiles. Fed by a stream, the sluice gates to the canals are only opened in May. During the 18th century, the canals were the setting for garden parties during which fully rigged ships would sail in processions with figures aboard in allegorical costumes.
We decided to skip the labyrinth garden planted with grapefruit, orange, tangerine, and pomegranate trees and walked to the botanical garden next. The botanical garden was built between 1769 and 1776 (when the United States of America was just being established!). The garden has four greenhouses for its collections of European, African, and American plants. This was also where they grew pineapples, a rarity destined only for the royal table. A series of lead and stone sculptures flank the central water feature.
As we wandered through the manicured paths back to the palace, we passed by the “waterfall” which wasn’t turned on, but was pretty impressive nonetheless. It can be seen from the palace on a direct axis point through the large formal garden. It was the first artificial waterfall to be constructed near Lisbon.
And finally, we saved the beautiful gardens and facades of the palace for last.
We enjoyed every minute we were at Queluz Palace and hope you enjoyed this overview. It is certainly a feast for the eyes! We would love to return to see it again. It’s nearly so overwhelming, I’m sure we missed details the first time through.
Next week will be a bit of a surprise because we haven’t decided what or where we plan to go. (I hope we figure it out soon…!)
Until then please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.
From Portugal with love,