Mafra is one of my favorite day trips from Lisbon. Besides having a fantastic Palace, the city has gorgeous nature, a basilica, a library that Belle would die for, great places to eat AND bats (yeah…you heard me right, these guys would give the bats in Austin a run for their money). If you’re coming to Lisbon and don’t feel like dealing with the crowds you will encounter when you visit Sintra, Mafra could be the perfect Lisbon day trip. Mafra is a mere 18 miles (a mere 35 minutes by car) and it’s a lovely ride. Let’s explore all the other reasons why you’ll love taking a day trip to Mafra.
Lisbon Day Trip: Mafra
Mafra is a darling little town with one of the biggest and ostentatious palaces in Europe, the Palácio Nacional de Mafra. The complex includes a huge park, a gorgeous basilica, a ridiculous library and gardens that seem to go on forever. Since the Palace is the main attraction, we’ll start there.
Palacio Nacional de Mafra
This 18th Century castle doubled as a convent and as the home of the Royal family. It’s huge. How huge? 1,200 rooms huge. Sadly, when you visit you only get to see a tiny portion of the castle, but let’s be honest here, it’d take way too much time to see the whole place.
When we visited there were a few rooms that really left an impression:
The Library. This was by far my favorite room. Remember that scene in Beauty and the Beast where she sees the library? I swear that was based on this library.
The Antler Room. Way too many animals were killed for this room. It seems every object here was made of a dead animal; chandeliers, chairs, tables…you name it, it is made of a dead animal. This room would put Eric Trump to shame.
The Hospital. BeauneThis reminded me so much of the hospital at the hospices de . Perhaps all the great memories I have from Burgundy made me like this room so much. If you haven’t been to Beaune, this is a great room to visit, especially if you have kids. It’s an awesome learning tool.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Palacio de Mafra?
This is one of the most affordable palaces to visit. Unlike Sintra where you will pay upwards of €25, the entry for adults here is €6, kids are free, and if you are a Portuguese resident you get in free with your residency card. It’s open from 9 am-6 pm, but closed on Tuesdays.
I guess you could consider this part of the palace, but I like to separate them because they’re both so big. The gardens are right behind the castle. This gorgeous park sits right next to the city center for everyone to enjoy. The garden is styled in the baroque style, so it is quite lovely. There’s also a really cool area called the Horta dos Frades (The farm of the brothers) where you can teach kids about medicinal plants.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Jardim do Cerco?
It’s free! How cool is that! The gardens are open from 9 am – 5pm (Oct-Mar) and from 9 am to 7 pm (Apr-Sep).
If you have a car (I highly recommend a car for a visit to Mafra), you can also spend time at the Tapada da Mafra. These were the hunting grounds for the royal family and have become a haven for nature lovers. If you’re into flora and fauna, you will see plenty here. If you’d like to learn archery, you can do so here. Want to learn beekeeping, this is your spot. You can even stay at the country home in the tapada, it’s quite affordable.
Festivals in Mafra
Mafra is a great city for festivals, so you could plan your trip around these. What kind of festivals? Here are a few:
- The Sea Urchin Festival in March
- The Octopus King Festival in May
- The Bread Festival in July
- In’Cantate Music Festival in July
- The Surf Film Festival in August
- The Folklore Festival in September
Mafra’s town centre is pretty, with a relaxed ambience and a good selection of restaurants and cafes, ideal for a long lunch.
How to Get to Mafra from Lisbon
We usually just drive and have never had trouble finding parking. If you don’t drive (or just don’t want to), you can take a bus from the Campo Grande bus station. The bus takes about 40-45 minutes and tickets will cost you around €7. For timetables and up to date fare information click here.