The ducal palace in the small town of VILA VIÇOSA, 17km southeast of Estremoz, was the last residence of the Portuguese monarchy. The dukes of Bragança established their seat here in the fifteenth century and for the next two centuries they were on the edge of the Portuguese ruling circle, but their claims to the throne were overridden in 1580 by Philip II of Spain. Sixty years later Portuguese resentment erupted and massive public pressure forced the reluctant João, eighth Duke of Bragança, to seize the throne; his descendants ruled Portugal until the foundation of the Republic in 1910. Despite a choice of sumptuous palaces throughout Portugal – Mafra, Sintra and Queluz are the most renowned – the Bragança kings retained a special affection for Vila Viçosa. Dom Carlos spent his last night here before his assassination on the riverfront in Lisbon in 1908, and it was a favourite haven of his successor, Manuel II, the last king of Portugal.
It’s a pretty town, dominated entirely by its palace – and by the coachloads of tourists who descend upon it for a quick visit before being whisked off again. Because of that, it’s actually quite a pleasant place to spend the night, with an unhurried small-town atmosphere that survives the daily imposition of visitors. As at Estremoz, marble is the dominant building material: the road from Borba, 5km away, is lined on either side with enormous marble quarries, and in town everything, from the pavements to the toilets in the bus station, is made of the local stone.Read More