Well worth a visit. As a senior, I paid only €3 for admission (regular ticket is €6). Then I bought a small guidebook for only €1.
The place is gigantic, although not as big as Versailles (nor as elaborate).
With about 1 km. of hallways, and room after room, it's a bit overwhelming.
The highlight, for me, was the magnificent library. The custodian (an older lady who could not speak English), let me look at a law book, printed in Venice in 1626. In its day, the library was considered one of the finest sources of knowledge in Europe.
Also of interest was the friary, which could accommodate 300 monks. They had their own kitchen, infirmary, apothecary and chapel, so close to the beds that the patients didn't need to get out of bed to go to mass.
Another bonus: photography is allowed at no cost.
I arrived just as it opened at 10:00 am, and, surprisingly for August, there were no crowds. Allow yourself about 2 hours for a reasonable look around.
From outside the monastery impresses for its size; from inside it's the richness of the used materials that call our attention.
Built in the years when the gold came in tons from Brazil, it is the perfect monument to the useless ways of spending fortunes.
It's a long walk, visiting all the palace.
The most remarkable thing is that the luxury placed in the building is not followed inside: many large rooms, well decorated, good artworks, but not the richness I expected.
Anyway, the contrast with the eastern side, where, for nine months, I was on of the more than 2000 training officers, is absolute!
Immense, rich, millions spent for... what? It is the greatest monument of the Portuguese baroque, and that is useful nowadays, when tourism became an important industry. But when Europe started the Industrial Revolution couldn't king João V find a better way to use the gold from Brazil?
Well, it's done, and it's there.
The church and the royal palace are very beautiful, the carillon is famous (unique in the world), the library one of the most important of Portugal, and those 10% of the building justify the visit.
The Basilica occupies central location in the vast complex of the monastery. The building of this Basilica was in fulfillment of a vow by the King, D. Joao V, if his wife bore him a child. The construction began in 1717 after a daughter was born to the Queen.
The palace and the convent flanks the Basilica on its left and right sides. This Basilica was built to impress, and it can be seen in the precious material and objects that decorate it. There are the six pipe organs made of gilded Brazilian wood and two carillons composed of an amazing 92 bells done by Flemish bell-founders, which constitute the largest collection of historical bells in the world. Fifty-eight (58) statues by major Italian artists of the 18th century decorate the chapels inside the Basilica. Notable, too are the altarpieces made of jasper in the chapels in the transept. Also, the giant candleholder in the choir, which has seven lamps spouting from the mouth of seven snakes. The cupola, in rose and white marble is exceptionally beautiful.
The interior of the basilica is quite muted, and I had the feeling that its beauty, and especially the colours and the luster of the marble and other material in the walls, floor, and ceiling would be better appreciated if there were more light. But of course the architecture does not allow windows on any side, so the only natural light comes from a few windows built into the cupola.
The Basilica is very much in use for the usual services and rites so visitors are advised to be respectful and discreet.
We got to Mafra from Lisbon - by train to SIntra and after - by bus from Sintra to Mafra and I must say I'd prefer to spend one more day in Lisbon, Sintra or on the oceanside. The travel takes too much time (I'm not sure we chose the best way yo get to), and there is nothing to see except the Palace. Palace is huge, but except some authentic furniture - nothing to see, At first you have to wait in the lobby, then they collect the group of tourists (individual excersions are impossible), then you follow guide (she speaks only Portugese and don't let you even to read some explanations in English, because she almost run and closed the door of the room right after she left it). So after some attempts to concentrate on the exhibitions almost all non-Portugese tourists just looked at the windows - it was interesting because in the garden there was the training of Portugese militariens. I was wonder that the girls in uniform are in one row with boys)))
The impressive Mafra National Palace was commenced in 1717 in the reign of D. João V. This Baroque Palace when finished was enlarged to include 880 rooms and 330 cells for its monks. It also includes a small hospital and pharmacy, and a prize library. The Palace was inaugurated in 1730 with a celebration that lasted eight days that included some of the 52.000 workmen who had been involved in its construction.
During its long history the Palace has been mainly used by the Royal Family as a home when hunting in its adjoining forest for deer and wild boar. The monastery was abandoned in 1834 after the dissolution of all religious orders. The Royal quarters were last used by King Manuel II as an overnight resting-place on his escape to England in 1910 aboard his yacht moored at the nearby port of Ericeira.
Opening hours: 10am til 17pm (last entry at 16h30pm)
Closed on Tuesdays
The visit costs 4 €
D. João V (1689-1750) was the King that ordered the construction of the Palace.
In October 1708 he married Mary Anne, daughter of Leopold I, thus strengthening the alliance with Austria. The series of unsuccessful campaigns which ensued ultimately terminated in a favourable peace with France in 1713 and with Spain in 1715.
The rest of his long reign was characterized by royal subservience to the clergy, the kingdom being administered by ecclesiastical persons and for ecclesiastical objects to an extent that gave him the best of rights to the title "Most Faithful King".
Created in between the National Palace and the Tapada de Mafra this garden has the ability to join these two values, the architectonic and the ecologic.
As a baroque garden it has wide walkways in order to be possible to walk while talking, admiring the garden and it's statues.
The entrance is free and the garden is open everyday from 9am til 17pm
Malveira is a small village located 8Km distance from Mafra. In this village, up in the hill we can find several windmills.
This small temple is dedicated to Saint André, but even if it's small, it has a heavy look due to it's romanesque-gothic style, dating back from the 13th century.