Best seen early or late in the day to avoid the crowds, the sumptuous and wonderfully atmospheric Palácio Nacional largely dates from the reign of Dom João I (1385–1433), making it the oldest surviving palace in Portugal, though sadly, after the fall of the monarchy in 1910, most of the surrounding walls and medieval houses were destroyed. Embellished by a series of monarchs – notably Manuel I (1495–1521) – the palace displays a range of architectural styles from Moorish tiles to Manueline decorations and Gothic battlements.

On the lower floor of the palace, you’ll pass through the beautiful Sala dos Cisnes (Hall of Swans), a reception room named after the painted swans on its ceiling, and the Sala das Pegas (Hall of Magpies). The story goes that Dom João I had the room decorated with as many magpies as there were women at court, implying that they were all magpie-like gossips after he was allegedly caught canoodling with one of the servants. Best of the upper floor is the gallery above the palace chapel. Beyond here, a succession of state rooms leads to the Sala das Brasões, a dazzling domed hall embellished with 72 coats of arms representing Portuguese nobility. Finally, back down on the ground floor, don’t miss the kitchens, whose roofs taper into the 33m-high chimneys which are the palace’s distinguishing features.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Portugal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The 10 best beaches in Portugal

The 10 best beaches in Portugal

For many travellers, Portugal is synonymous with images of golden sun-baked beaches. And with a generous 1700 kilometres of coastline, there’s enough sand for…

28 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

Heading to the Portuguese capital this year? Lisbon’s accommodation scene has exploded in recent years, so there is no shortage of places to stay, from histor…

14 Mar 2017 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
Portugal travel tips: 10 things you need to know before you go

Portugal travel tips: 10 things you need to know before you go

With its stunning beaches, friendly people, unspoilt countryside and tasty local cuisine, Portugal is, unsurprisingly, one of Europe's most popular travel des…

01 Feb 2017 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month