This is a story about visiting someone’s private home. While the door was opened I could just get in.
This is a real palace.
You may need as much as two weeks to get to know Lisbon for real. You would need that time to discover diverse historical neighborhoods, viewpoints, parks, squares, staircases, museums, the castles and palaces of Sintra, the coast around Cascais and also the southern side of Tagus… So, this guide is intended to tell you something about intriguing out of the box experiences to have in Lisbon.
After writing about the light effects that are possible only at the Tagus waterfront, I will move to another part of the city. So, when it started raining, featuring a full rainbow above the northern parts of Lisbon, I went to the subway station Baixa-Chiado, took the blue line, and exited at the Jardim Zoologico station. After some short moments of feeling lost (although I had been in that part of the city before!), I found a taxi, that took me right next to the Monsanto park (that’s the name of that park, nothing to do with anything else that has the same name), in front of the Fronteira Palace.
Lisbon has many palaces, many of them serving today as museums, event venues, embassies, ministries or other government institutions, hotels etc. But the Fronteira Palace is still owned by the noble family that started building it as early as in the 17th century. Beautiful entrance façade is only the beginning of this amazing experience.
The Mascarenhas Family, that holds the title of Marquises of Fronteira and Alorna, still lives in this palace, having one part as a proper residence, while another part is opened to visitors and rarely used by the owners. The library is absolutely lovely, but since I respected their no photo policy, I don’t have any pictures taken inside the palace. I just have a picture of the view from the library window, I believe that book lovers will right now be aware how fantastic is this place. Dear reader, I think you should just go and see these interiors!
The whole visit was guided, in Portuguese, English, and French subsequently. The Battle room is an artistic masterpiece covered in many historical azulejos painting, telling the stories about the Portuguese independence from Spain in the 17th century. The Mascarenhas family supported that cause, basically.
What is “azulejos”?
A painting made of ceramic tiles. Simple as that.
One of my favorite curiosities about this house and family is the story of Stroganoff. A lady from this family married to a man from the famous Russian noble house of Stroganov. Her husband had some specific problems with his teeth, a condition that was quite common at that time, so he could not consume the foods that are hard to chew. According to historians and our guide, she invented the Stroganoff dish, making the beef apparently softer. The dish was named after the family, and adopted by French cuisine with the family name, that was slightly changed afterward.
Interesting, isn’t it?
After seeing the magnificent staircase, library, battle room, living room, dining room, intimate salons, the whole group moved to the gardens. Gardens are also absolutely full of azulejos and sculptures of all kinds, containing also some exotic features. The real star of these gardens is a black swan.
So since I’m not a princess and I don’t have any palace, I can just pass by one, visit it, and ask, “is anybody home”? At that moment the family was at their other, rural property because it was Saturday. They have a foundation and they also support arts and research. They seem to be lovely people 🙂