Eyes open: when the President is the building, a green flag with the national arms is hoisted
Fit For Kings
Once the official residence of the Portuguese monarchs, since the installation of the First Republic after the 1910 revolution Belém Palace has been home to the Presidents of the Portuguese Republic. When it was first built in the sixteenth century it offered King Manuel I of Portugal some peace and quiet, set apart from the chaotic confines of the city centre, for his gentleman scholar pursuits.
Today it is much the same: its soft pink façade sits high up on a gently sloping hill, facing onto the Tagus river. Strolling through its beautifully manicured gardens is a perfect respite from city life. You won’t miss the statue of Afonso de Albuquerque, standing atop a 20 metre pedestal. As a masterful 15th century Portuguese general and empire builder he was instrumental in Portugal’s ascendance as a global power.
All in the Timing
Within the palace the Presidency Museum tells the story of the Portuguese Republic and its leaders using a fascinating collection of photos, portraits and gifts received from other world leaders. The palace itself opens only on select days, but its well worth timing your visit to coincide with them: its luxurious rooms have been furnished by Portugal’s finest artisans for centuries.
Another thing worth coinciding your visit with is the ceremonial changing of the guards. Next to the Pátios dos Bichos ramp every 3rd Sunday of each month at 11 o’clock the Belém National Palace guard of honour conduct this stately ceremony. With horses, rifles, frilly outfits and a martial band, you can enjoy a bit of pomp and pageantry, even if the Royals no longer live here.
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