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Mafra National Palace

Mafra National Palace

Mafra is a small, sleepy town around 50km north of Lisbon. I remember on my first visit here thinking that it was quite an unremarkable, but not unpleasant, little town. Then, bang! Suddenly I was looking at the most enormous, ornate building I'd seen anywhere in Portugal.

Built as a convent in the early 18th century this was one of the biggest buildings in Europe at the time. At the time it served as both a Franciscan monastery and a royal palace. The real reason it was built in the seemingly obscure town of Mafra is it is close to very good hunting grounds in the nearby forests.