When I think about to my favorite parts of Portugal, I reminisce about the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, the beauty of Sintra, the gorgeous rock formations of Lagos, and the royal refinement of Quelez Palace. This last destination was the greatest surprise of them all, especially considering that I almost considered not seeing it at all.
A 17th Century palace that has held many generations of kings and queens, its grandeur is amongst the finest I’ve ever seen. Though it could be described as the little cousin of Versailles, it offers a far better visiting experience than the more famous palace because Quelez Palace is almost entirely cleared of visitors!
How to Get There:
The palace is a short drive from Lisbon (Google maps says about 20 minutes). However, my mother and I chose to arrive there via the same train line we used to reach Sintra.
When getting off the train, we were a bit concerned that we had gotten off at the wrong stop. After all, the area in which we got off looked a bit rough-and-tumble, so there was no way that a grand palace was nearby, right? We asked for directions and were immediately pointed down a street.
Quelez Palace had the benefit of being the area’s only tourist draw. That meant that even non-English-speaking locales quickly understand that we were looking for the palace and were able to direct us using their hands. Because the palace is essentially a straight walk from the train station with very minimal turns, getting lost is pretty tricky.
Why You’ll Love Queluz Palace
Lack of Crowds: There’s zero crowds and, if you encounter the luck we had, you’ll find only a few tourists wandering about. This means that you can absorb the splendor of large dance halls with no one around. Those wanting to shoot photographs or pose amongst the royal elegance will find themselves in heaven.
Why is it empty? Firstly, no travel groups or tours that I’m aware of go inside the palace. You may encounter tour groups stopping in front of palace gardens to take shots of the exterior, but they never even enter the interior of the grounds. Their foolish loss is your gain!
Secondly, Quelez Palace seems to be overshadowed by other nearby castles like the Penha Palace.
Thirdly, the fact that the surrounding community is a working-class-residential-neighborhood may mean that it’s on less tourists’ radar. I guarantee that the Quelez Palace would be much more popular if positioned within Lisbon or Sintra.
Elegance: As someone who has been inside the grand (and crazily crowded) halls of Versailles, I would not hesitate to say that
this palaceis almost as equally as sophisticated. The lack of furniture adds to the charm, as visitors can behold the decorative walls, ceilings, and floor without distraction.
The Gardens: The palace is surprisingly huge, and this is especially true of the gardens. There are fountains, small hedge mazes, trees of all sorts, and pretty flowers. It’s not necessarily as refined as some of the other ones found in Europe, but the fact that guests can wonder without interruption or crowds gives the palace gardens the aura of an unearthed secret. And isn’t that a childhood fantasy every adult wants to fulfill?
The guides: While there, we passed an intern who sat there bored out of his mind and without anyone to which he could talk. I threw him a bone and asked him a simple question about the palace. What followed was an enthusiastic twenty-minute conversation about the dark history of the Portuguese family, the country’s complicated relationship with Brazil, and more. The intern was earnest and eager, and his gusto was infectious.
Did you go to the Quelez Palace and have a different experience than me? Alternatively, do you have any questions this Portuguese treasure? Let me know in the comment section below!