Built in the seventeenth century as a hunting lodge for the first Marquis de Fronteira, D. João de Mascarenhas, a hero of the Portuguese War of Restoration, this beautiful palace is located on the edge of Parque Florestal de Monsanto, in Largo de São Domingos de Benfica.
The Palace was enlarged in the eighteenth century, in a “rocaille” style, and remains in the family to the present days. Currently, is the residence of the 13th Marquis de Fronteira, and is possible to visit some of the rooms, the library and the garden.
The majestic garden, of about 13 acres, is breathtaking for its amazing details and design. In a day full of the beautiful Lisbon light, this sumptuous Italian gardens will make want to stay forever, so you better schedule your visit with enough time to enjoy so much beauty. Wondering through the garden you’ll get lovely views of the statues, buildings and plants, finding a photo opportunity at every turn.
The visit may begin in the chapel terrace and the Terrace of Arts, both overlooking the Venus Garden. The Terrace or Gallery of Arts is almost entirely covered with tiles, blue, white and manganese, where punctuate niches with statues and busts. Stone benches and flower pots contribute even more for the tranquil beauty of the place.
Step into the Garden of Venus where you can find a great diversity of plants and flowers, and also the Tank of Ss, so named for its form, that stands in front of a small pavilion called Casa do Fresco. This House of Freshness or of Water, has a fountain in the center and served as a refreshing secluded place to rest in the warm days. Its facade is adorned with stones, shells, broken glass and pottery pieces. It is said that these pieces are the remains of the chinaware that was used in a banquet in honor of the King, that were broken into pieces so it could not be ever used by no one else.
Around the tank you can find stone benches covered with tiles depicting several themes, from fishing, to mythological figures, and including “monkey business” (“macacarias”) with fable like imageries of monkeys playing the parts of doctors or music teachers with cats as patients and pupils.
From the Venus Garden, walk to the Gallery of Kings, that is over the Tank of Knights, before you descend to the Formal Garden of the seventeenth century. The large tank on the southern limit of the Formal Garden, presents decorated tile panels at both levels. At the higher level you can find a gallery with decorative niches containing busts of Portuguese kings. At the water level, the tiles depict the family’s ancestors knights, reflected in the waters of the large tank. The tank has big fishes and a pair of black swans. Although beautiful and full of grace, you must beware of the feisty black swan for it acts like a regular guardian of the thank.
The interior of the palace can be partially visited in a guided tour held in English, French and Portuguese. The guides have a deep knowledge of the history of the family and the building, and are more than willing to answer your questions. The interiors are rich, especially the Hall of Battles, with its beautiful panels of blue and white tiles with scenes of the War of Restoration, and the Dinning Room, adorned with Dutch tiles and with frescoes and portraits of the Portuguese nobility. Is also possible to visit the Library situated in the Logia overlooking the formal garden, some decorated rooms and the chapel. You are not allowed to photograph the interior of the house.
Palácio Fronteira has an unique collection of seventeenth century Portuguese tiles, even more important for it is practically the only one in which the tiles are still in situ, particularly outdoors. Take your time to admire the Dutch tile panels of the dinning room, the tiles of the Hall of Battles in which are narrated eight battles of the Wars of Restoration (1640 -1668), the tiles on the tank of the Knights, the copper-plated tiles on the Gallery of Kings, possibly of Spanish origin, the polychrome panel “macacarias”, on the benches that surround the tank of Ss, and all the tiles of the Terrace of Arts.
To get there you can take the subway to Jardim Zoológico station and from there walk about a mile to the palace (I really don’t advise it) or take the Bus 770 (Carris). Alternatively you can opt for taking a taxi, its only a short ride from the city center.
Largo de São Domingos de Benfica, 1
Phone: +351 21 778 4599
Opening Hours and Ticket Prices:
October to May: (Monday to Saturday) 11am and 12am
June to September: (Monday to Saturday) 10.30am 11am, 11.30am and 12am
House & Garden – 7,5 € | Garden – 3 €
Maria Lisboa owns her own travel blog, The Wanderer’s Chronicles. If you enjoyed this piece, visit her website for more great articles!