One curious fact about Lisbon is that there are few palaces in the center and many in the outskirts of the city. Before 1755, Lisbon was an overcrowded place where pestilence could quickly spread. So, the royal family and the aristocrats liked to build palaces away from the crowds, in places where the air was pure.
King John I built the Sintra town palace in 1415, which became a perennial favorite of the royal family. King John V used the riches from Brazil to finance the construction of an imposing palace in Mafra in 1717. Dom Pedro de Bragança, a prince who married his niece, Queen Dona Maria I, erected an exquisite palace in Queluz in 1747.
We are lucky that all these palaces were built away from the capital. In November 1, 1755 a massive earthquake destroyed much of Lisbon, including the royal palace at Terreiro do Paco and many other architectural jewels. From the rubles of the earthquake, the Marquis of Pombal, King Dom José’s powerful prime minister, created a new city where large avenues replaced the meandering medieval streets. The old ornate palaces gave way to the simpler but sturdier buildings that we still see in the downtown district.
If you visit Lisbon, make some time to travel to its surroundings to experience the palatial riches of a time gone by.